Go to any Comic-Con event around the country and you will find the convention floor crawling with them. They are cos-players. The urban dictionary defines a cos-player as “a person who dresses up like a character from a manga or anime series, a movie, a video game etc.” You will see people dressed up in costumes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Friday the 13th movie. You’ll find them dressed as their favorite comic book heroes that range from the Man of Steel, to the Caped Crusader, to Captain America. Both the masculine male heroes and the alluring female icons are represented. Princess Leia to Wonder Woman, Laura Croft Tomb Raider to Cat Woman. Disney princesses like Ariel and Belle are always somewhere in the crowd too. And these costumes are not some flimsy, shoddy looking thing they picked up at a variety store like those that pop up at Halloween. These costumes are crafted with great attention to detail and authentic look and feel. To some degree or another, a cos-player takes on the persona of the character he or she dawns the costume of, and so you can say that to some extent these, for the most part adults, are caught up in fantasy and make believe. You might say they don’t just like to go see a movie, they kinda like pretending to be in the movie too. To some critical outsiders these cos-players may be looked upon as wasting time, or self absorbed, or nerds. They may think they are all of the above at the same time. That may be a harsh perception and is probably off the mark. It certainly can’t be said of all those engaged in cos-play.
One of the perennial and ever present characters seen at a Comic-Con convention, not only in the US but around the world, is the Stormtrooper from Star Wars. Often you will find these Armor Clad antagonists of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca marching around together in a group at a rather menacing gait. But it would be wrong to categorize these guys, and often gals, as typical “cos-players”. You would probably be more accurate to call them “Cause-Warriors”.
More often than not the people inside these Trooper costumes are members of the 501st Legion with local Garrisons around the world. What is especially awesome about the tens of thousands of members that belong to this unique association is what they do with their costume time. In addition to good fun association with one another, they give! They will make small appearances and large appearances, they will march community events or big parades and it is most always tied to a fundraising event for a well known charity or a small child needing help with medical bills or just a lift. According to a site that tracks the charitable activity of the 501st garrisons around the country, “Bad Guys Doing Good” at 501stlegioncharity.com, in 2012 direct contributions to charity were $168,988 and contributions to charities through partnered efforts were over $14.3 million. In 2013 direct contributions exceeded $262,000 and the total amount through partnered efforts reached nearly $33 million. Hardly a waste of time. An article by Amy Ratcliffe at Nerdist.com is a worthwhile read and gives great example and information on the work and detail and causes that the 501st get involved in. The Huffington Post reported that one 501st member, Jacob French, marched across Australia, at times in armor, to raise money for the well known children’s charity Starlight Foundation.
In an article entitled “Empire Gives Back”, CNN reported on a charity event that raised money for a local Make A Wish Chapter in Florida. 501st member and organizer Chris Romines came up with the idea that invited artists, actors and members of fan clubs and the 501st to redesign stormtrooper helmets, 50 in all, that were then auctioned off. The project took two years to put together and produced some remarkable and amazing helmets that raised over $50,000. A real treat was that “Star Wars” creator George Lucas attended the auction. The CNN article quotes Romine as saying; “We may be geeks, but we’re geeks with a heart”.
The next time you see a Stormtrooper in a Comic Con convention, or participating in a march as part of a parade or in a mall, don’t think of them as wasting time, or as the villains, think of them like you do the idea of the Super Heroes that are being represented. And certainly don’t think of them as merely cos-players, think of them as Cause Warriors.