Heeding the Call: Rise of the Mandalorian Mercs

The Mandalorian Mercs

Very few Mandalorian fans ever start out without being an aficionado of the first Mandalorian: Boba Fett. That’s where this story begins, with the “WOOSH” of a 7-year-old boy who’s lifting his Boba Fett figure out of a haphazardly made Sarlacc pit in 1985. Long before novels would bring him back in the Expanded Universe, Boba was very much alive for me.

In 2003 I had the great privilege of being part of the first online Star Wars game: Star Wars Galaxies. This game was a big dream come true for many Star Wars fans, because it allowed us to create our own characters and be part of the Star Wars universe. In 2004, my love for Mandalorians would drive me to start one of the game’s first Mandalorian-based player groups called “Mandalorian Mercenaries” or “MERCS” for short. If you had a job in the game that you just couldn’t complete, we were the group you hired. While donning our in-game Mandalorian armor, we would complete jobs for people that ranged from helping with missions to taking over towns. At this point in my life, while it was cool to play a Mandalorian in a video game, I had not given any thought to wearing the costume in real life.

Mandalorians in Star Wars Galaxies.

In 2006, my then-girlfriend (who coincidentally was part of MERCS in Star Wars Galaxies) initiated me into the sci-fi/fantasy convention scene by introducing me to Dragon Con. While taking in the convention I noticed a few people in Mandalorian armor costumes hanging out in various places. Each one painted differently, with different weapons and armor configurations. I took some time and spoke to them, asking them about their costumes and how they made them. I also asked if they were part of a group where I could learn more and the unilateral answer was “no,” however. they did point me to a couple great websites for information and resources on costume building.

After returning home from Dragon Con, I sat down and started doing some research on building my own Mandalorian costume. My major inspiration was the Mandalorian character I had been playing in Star Wars Galaxies — I wanted to make him “real.”  While doing my research on building the costume, I had learned that there was no organized costuming group strictly for “custom” Mandalorian costumes. Most of what we built back in those days was very similar to the Boba and Jango Fett costumes, without a whole lot of variation from those screen characters except paint. Non-Fett Mandalorian costumes were just referred to as “variants” by the bulk of the Star Wars costume community. While doing my research, I spoke to several other Mandalorian costumers who were interested in putting together a physical organization that others could join and learn about the costume, and Mandalorians in general.

In early 2007 I began writing down the framework for a Mandalorian-based costume organization that followed a similar framework from the Mandalorian Mercenaries group in Star Wars Galaxies. The first major hurdle was finding a name that worked well for a Mandalorian group, but wasn’t as long as “Mandalorian Mercenaries.” It just so happened that I had remembered an article from Star Wars Insider #80 by Abel G. Peña called “History of the Mandalorians” where he coins the name “Mandalorian Mercs.” So we had our name and a few interested individuals, now all we had to do was plan our first “invasion.”

The Mandalorian Mercs make their debut.

That first invasion would happen in June of 2007, at a convention called “AdventureCon” in Knoxville, Tennessee. Eight of us came together to troop the event, only three of us had Mandalorian costumes at the time. I think the most awesome thing about the whole experience was that people came from several states away to hang out, have fun, and talk about the idea of Mandalorian Mercs. One of the very first friends we made in the Star Wars community was actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in Episodes V and VI.

The original Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch, with the Mandalorian Mercs.

Not only did we get to meet Jeremy, but we also took part in an actual Star Wars-themed wedding where Jeremy was the Best Man…and dressed in an accurate Boba Fett costume! Now that was a real treat, and something I’ll never forget. I was also able to meet members of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion for the first time. I didn’t really know much about other Star Wars costume groups outside of the small world of Mandalorians, so it was great to meet fellow Star Wars costumers and learn from them.

We all left Knoxville with the idea that Mandalorian Mercs would become the home for Mandalorian costumes, but none of us knew how big it would actually become…

Tom Hutchens is the founder of the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club. You can follow his antics as “Mandalore the Uniter” on Facebook.

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