The Rebel who?
You’re part of the 501st Star Wars group, aren’t you?
There’s another group of Star Wars costumers?
I’ve never heard of you.
Much like our movie counterparts, the Rebel Legion is an underground success for those that know about us. While hundreds of white-armored stormtroopers gather a lot of attention, the good guy costumers have also made their mark on Star Wars fandom. We may not be as well known as our Imperial sister organization, but as many people have pointed out, you need bad guys to have good guys, and vice-versa. The organizations are two sides of the same coin and we are both dedicated not only to our costuming, but to helping our communities through charity work and community service. Being invited to attend Lucasfilm events is a great perk as well.
While I am not a founder of the Rebel Legion, I have supported its growth since I first joined. I helped build up membership in my local base and I volunteered for many jobs in the Legion such as costuming judge, detachment commander, executive officer, merchandise helper, part of the charter rewrite committee, and all-around cheerleader. Last fall, the membership had enough confidence in me to elect me as the Legion commanding officer — or as I call it, the Head Cat Herder.
As the Rebel Legion celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, I’ve been asked by both members and non-members about how the organization came to be. By contacting former Legion commanding officer Ed O’Connell, I was able to track down the founders of the Rebel Legion and get some history about its beginnings.
Back when Albin Johnson was growing the 501st, many of the newly-formed garrisons of the Legion had space for those who wanted to show off their Rebel costumes along with their Imperial ones. These sections were referred to as Rebel Scum. However, in early 2000, the 501st Stormtrooper Legion as a whole voted to keep the group Imperials only. After the vote, members Tony “Double T” Troxell, Richard “Mookie” Fairbrother, Ed “Reaper” O’Connell, Ken “Lumwyrm” Ograyensek, and Doug “TK501” Fesko began working on a Rebels-only group. In December 2000, Troxell posted an announcement with the title “Rebellion formed against the Empire,” with a link to an EZBoard site for enlisting Rebel costumers. The Imperials had been warned.
Six months later, the Rebel Legion had nine bases: Central Base, Florida Base, Southern California Base, Midwest Base, Star Base, Evergreen Base, Georgia Base, Amsterdam Base, and Echo Base. With the opening of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the Rebels gathered many new recruits — myself included — in November 2002.
Between 2002 and 2005, the Rebel Legion saw a tremendous amount of growth that pushed us over 1,500 members and 30 bases worldwide. With that surge of members came a realization that the “old ways” wouldn’t work for such a diverse group. Up until then, our Legion charter had been similar to the 501st charter, but we found that as a different type of costuming group we needed a change.
The biggest change was the creation of the Legion costuming judges. These were members who had a great deal of knowledge about certain costume categories (Jedi, pilots, troopers, royalty, etc.), and were assigned to review applications in their area of expertise. This, along with creating a list of standards that the applicant needed to meet, helped make sure that all the costumes met a minimum level of accuracy. Because I had written the original standards for the Rebel Fleet and Endor Troopers, I was asked to judge that category.
In addition to creating the role of costume judges, the Rebel Legion also created detachments that provided support for the different costume categories. The detachment commanding officers were responsible for updating resources, helping with standards, and assisting new members who were making costumes in their particular category. The detachments not only promoted their categories, they designed and sold merchandise with the detachment logo. Bases were encouraged to have formal groups of detachment members with their own logos. There is no shortage of merchandise available for Rebel Legion members.
While many of the changes made during 2005 to 2007 caused long-standing members to feel the Legion was becoming too strict, having minimum acceptable standards gave us more consistency in our costumes and we found ourselves invited to more events. The 2007 gathering at Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles showed our phenomenal growth.
Today, the Rebel Legion has almost 4,000 members in over 60 bases around the globe. Just like in the movies, the 501st outnumbers us almost 3-to-1. However, over the years we have discovered there is room for everyone in this unique hobby. Many Rebel Legion members are also members of the 501st and Mandalorian Mercs as well as other costume clubs. But no matter which costume we are wearing, all of us are dedicated to serving in our communities and making the kids — both big and small — smile.
A fan since 1977, Donna didn’t discover fan groups until 2000 when she found an online Star Wars community called The Order of the Grey, a site dedicated to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. In spring 2002, she joined her local FanForce and volunteered as secretary. In fall 2002, she joined the Rebel Legion and helped rebuild the Southern California Rebel Base in 2004.
Donna is currently the elected commanding officer of the Rebel Legion.