Stormtroopers- for most of us, they’re those forgettable extras from Star Wars, minions for the heroes to cut through in the dozens.
For over 13,000 people across the world, however, those characters in the shiny white armor were the basis for something much more.
In 1997, Albin Johnson and Tom Crews created ‘Detention Block 2551,’ a simple geocities site for people to upload photos of their fan made stormtrooper costumes. At the same time, a man named Arnie DeHerrera created ‘Stormtrooperland,’ and the three began corresponding. Scott McArthur soon joined the ring, and was the one to design the original logo.
Early on, the Legion was based solely on costumes of the original stormtroopers. However, as time went on, the group began costuming as other villains from the Star Wars universe. And while members originally only attended sci-fi conventions or the release of a new Star Wars film, people began looking for more frequent reasons to meet. It was then that the Legion as we know it today came to be- ‘Bad Guys Doing Good.’
In 2007, the Legion attended the Tournament of Roses Parade, with George Lucas as the Grand Marshal, where he and Albin Johnson, the founder of the 501st, discussed the future of “Vader’s Fist,” as it was known then. Lucas and Johnson came to an agreement: Lucasfilm would give the 501st limited use of its characters, so long as members of the Legion never used their costumes for personal gain.
Nowadays, the Legion is a force for good, attending charity events around the world. Although they do not accept payment for their appearances, they do encourage whoever is hosting the event to donate to a charity in the Legion’s name.
In order to join the Legion, there are a few requirements: you need to be at least 18 years old, you need to own at least 1 professional-grade costume, and you have to have a valid e-mail address. That’s it. After that, all that is required of members is to attend events at least once a year.
After all is said and done, the 501st stands as an example of what people can do when they put their passions together with a person’s capacity for kindness.