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The Force Will Be With Them. Always.

For these Star Wars creators and collectors, there is no try.

Article by Don Seaman

Photography by John Agnello & Phillip Barone

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

The automatic doors whoosh open as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper lead Princess Leia down a stark white hallway. Along the way, small eyes peer out, taking in the dramatic scene.

It’s the best day of their lives.

Michael Maloney, his daughter, and a small group of friends had made another visit to a children’s hospital in full Star Wars regalia. “You can't put a price on seeing that joy, that excitement when kids see R2D2 or a Stormtrooper coming down the hall. It's priceless,” the occasional Stormtrooper admits. And having his young daughter by his side (as Leia) allowed him to demonstrate a life lesson: what giving back is all about. “l vowed then and there that I’d always go with a full-face covering mask. The kids wouldn’t want to know that their Stormtrooper had tears welling up.”

It’s a shining example of why Star Wars can be a positive force (forgive me) in our world, from a certain point of view.

Like the movies, the Star Wars fan universe includes a wide swath of different groups. You’ll find collectors, creators, cosplayers, fan fiction writers — all devoted to that galaxy far, far away.

Michael is a creator. He’s built his own R2-D2 that’s so realistic that you almost imagine he has a clone of Kenny Baker inside. It’s been certified by Lucas Films as “screen authentic” and registered with them so they can dispatch him off to charity events with R2 in tow.

Although technology and social media have vastly improved the creators’ capabilities, there’s still a high price to be paid for parts, sometimes so authentic you’d swear they weren’t made on this planet. So Michael has taught himself to solder, sew, and any other skill necessary to create his fully scaled Star Wars droids and costumes. “It’s allowed me to skip buying a specific piece for a droid that would probably cost well over $1,000. I can make the same thing for a hundred bucks if I do it myself.”

It's an investment that pays off for the joy it brings him — and others — when he brings them out to conventions, charity events, and just plain showing off with some national Star Wars creator groups he belongs to, like the 501tLegion, Mandalorian Mercs, R2D2 Builders, and Droid Builders. This is serious fandom where realism is not only expected, it’s sanctified. 

That fully functional lightsaber or Millennium Falcon might still take more than just 3D printing and other 21st Century technology breakthroughs. But if it’s possible, this devoted set of humans might just make that jump to hyperspace. After all, what’s AI if not a droid without a body?

Collectors in this universe might have thousands of figures and models it may have taken years to acquire. They might have started with a giveaway from a McDonald’s Happy Meal and progressed to a deep dive into eBay, scouring flea markets, and conventions to find rare pieces of Star Wars memorabilia. Some have so much that their homes are bursting with figures, displayed everywhere, spilling out far beyond their mancave. The perfect example of this is one reader, Bill, who collects 6-inch Star Wars figures with his son.

Another local collector has a remarkably supportive and patient wife. In Joe’s house, his Star Wars collection is even part of their dining room display. There’s nothing confirmed that his dinner music includes a playlist from the Mos Eisley Cantina, but it would certainly set the mood. His collective set of lightsaber hilts, statues, and movie props probably fits in well in decorative place settings.

In this universe, you’re not always just a creator or only a collector. There isn’t a Star Wars version of Ying/Yang, Jedi/Sith dynamic. Joe happens to be both. “I belong to certain online forums that discuss what the real-life parts are, and what was used to make certain weapons and tools from the movies. If there’s something I’m really interested in and can do it, I’ll make it. Sometimes, though, a company will come out with such a great, screen accurate item that I just have to buy it.”

No matter which side you fall into — Empire, Rebellion, Jedi, Sith, creator, collector, cosplayer, reenactor,  Wookie… there’s a place for anyone who might be on a journey to complete their own Kessel Run in this universe. Here, nobody’s too short to be a Stormtrooper.

Just don’t ever say “Luke — I am your father.” They’ll find your lack of faith…disturbing.

That fully functional lightsaber or Millennium Falcon might still take more than just 3D printing and other 21st Century technology breakthroughs. But if it’s possible, this devoted set of humans might just make that jump to hyperspace. After all, what’s AI if not a droid without a body?

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