“That’s got to be the worst Darth Vader costume I’ve ever seen,” said my friend who shall remain nameless because I wouldn’t want anyone to think Jason Fry was ever mean-spirited.
We were at San Diego Comic-Con 2012, walking through the pedestrian-clogged lobby outside an exhibit hall in the convention center. The thin young fellow in the Vader costume was standing against a far wall, holding an oversized plastic bag, presumably filled with Comic-Con loot. I could only guess his age, but I would have wagered the top of his head-concealing helmet was considerably less than six feet. His helmet was an inexpensive-looking plastic replica that appeared excessively large in proportion to the rest of his body. He wore a long-sleeved T-shirt emblazoned with Vader’s armor, and a thin black cape dangled at his back like a listless sheet on a clothesline. Between the helmet and shirt, his pale neck was exposed.
My friend wasn’t done with his critique. “It’s fine being five-foot-five,” he said, “but I’m sorry, you can’t be Darth Vader.” Then he sighed. “Maybe the 501st Legion has spoiled me. I can’t even look at a Vader unless it’s a high-quality costume on a guy tall enough to wear it.”
“I’m not spoiled,” I said as I stepped around something resembling My Little Pony. “I love seeing anyone wearing a Star Wars costume. And consider Vader from a little kid’s perspective. To them, almost any guy in a Vader costume is a giant.”
“You’re right,” my friend said, which I thought was a sign that he might not be completely consumed by the dark side. That’s what I always think when I persuade someone to agree with me.
Then I told my friend about how Dark Horse Comics’ tall honchos Mike Richardson (6’9″) and Randy Stradley (6’4″) once made an on-stage presentation with a Vader who stood 7′. Randy told me they appreciated that even though this particular Vader was perhaps taller than the “movie accurate” size, he was perfect for the presentation because he effectively towered over Mike and Randy. In other words, Vader can’t be too tall or too short, he just has to be taller than others. And to be fair, it does help if he looks fantastic.
Fast forward to three weeks after Comic-Con. I was surprised to receive an email from Mary Franklin, Sr. Events Lead at Lucasfilm, who kindly invited me to be a judge for the Costume Pageant at Star Wars Celebration VI. Why? Because Mary had already invited Randy Stradley, my longtime chum from Dark Horse Comics, and Randy encouraged Mary to contact me too. Ah, nepotism. Great stuff.
Do I have any experience judging a costume contest? Absolutely none. But I have read the contest rules and regulations, and I know this much: Randy and I will have our work cut out for us because we’ll be seeing a lot of fantastic costumes.
So, if you’re planning on participating in the Costume Masquerade, be assured that it’s only going to be great fun, and I actually like seeing Star Wars characters in different sizes. I’m already rooting for you.
Ryder Windham will be signing Star Wars books for DK Publishing at Booth #813 at Celebration VI.