Interview with Thomas J Spanos

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

 

Interview by: Geek Girl broodingventress

I approached Thomas J. Spanos of the 501st Legion for an interview as his costuming skills are astounding. I met him at Celebration 6 in Orlando and stood in awe of his costumes. He very graciously answered my questions that I had for him.

1. When did you first start costuming? Good morning Thea and thank you for your interest. In my family, Halloween costumes were always home made. Both of my parents helped. My first Star Wars costume was a Jawa; my Mother sewed robe out of burlap and blacked my face with burnt cork. My Father welded two dash board lights to some olde glasses for the eye. At six years old in 1977, I was a tall Jawa.

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

2. What drew you to costuming in the first place? Early on, costuming became a form of self expression for me. A friend from my Kendo class first introduced me to the concept of the Rebel Legion and 501st Legion costuming clubs. I was intrigued by the level of detail the members sought to obtain. This inspired me to make my first convention level costume.

3. What was your first costume? For the sake of this interview, my first full-blown, all-out costume was The Clone Emperor. I made this costume, lightsabre and holocron for my first convention, Star Wars Celebration II in 2002. My holocron, features a translucent sculpt of Jedi Master Boda Baas and the voice of the Ask Zandar electronic game. The sabre was my own design and sculpt, lost wax cast in Aluminum and fitted with an electroluminescent blade. I won 1st Place (Master) in Villain category in the CII costume contest. Three years later I was surprised to find an illustration of myself as The Clone Emperor in the Star Wars Insider for an article on the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

4. Do you have a favorite? They say you always remember your first. To this day I use The Clone Emperor as my avatar name in communities online. I will add that I am honoured to have my likeness used by Jan Duursema for Imperial Knight Ganner Krieg in the comic series Star Wars: Legacy. I later made my own version of the armour which was used for reference in later issues of the comic. Owing to the popularity of the series, I received one of the coolest honours a fan could dream of; at the SW 501st Celebration IV dinner in 2007, Derryl Depriest of Hasbro informed me personally that I would have my own action figure as Ganner Krieg.

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

5. Which was the trickiest or most difficult costume to complete? I do not consider any of my costumes complete. There is always something to improve. After my heart surgery, construction of my DURGE armour parts kept me active during recovery. It was my first foray into fibre glass and hard armour, but not my most challenging to date. That piece is the subject of question 10.

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

6. Favorite convention? My favourite convention is Dragon**Con. I do not care about celebrities (unless they are approachable) and I see enough industry promotion everywhere else. I like to see real fans and costumes made by hand with love. Dragon**Con is a family, a homecoming. It is a place to see the efforts of other artists that we have followed online in person and to celebrate.

7. How did you get involved with the 501st? I thought I was supposed to. At Celebration II I was dressed as The Clone Emperor and heard that the 501st had a fan table there and was signing up new members. I presented myself to the two troopers manning the table and was greeted with disgust. They had never heard of the Expanded Universe, much less The Clone Emperor and told me to "take my made-up Jedi Costume to the Rebel Legion." The Rebel Legion politely responded that my costume was a "SW villain" and that I should be applying to the 501st. So I redoubled my efforts by applying online after the convention. And was denied. In my third attempt I contacted the club founder Albin Johnson who approved my application as a recognized version of the Emperor. Since 2002 I have been an active member of the 501st, creating the current logos for the 501st itself, The Midwest Garrison, The Flagship Eclipse Detachment, and the beloved R2-KT project. I served as the Legion Web Deputy for three years before becoming the Legion Membership Officer for four years. Currently I am the Detachment Leader (Liaison) for The Flagship Eclipse and I maintain the Hall of Eternal Legionnaires in memory of 501st members that have passed away.

8. What makes you love the Star Wars Expanded Universe so much? Love. Interesting. Yet I suppose that is the correct word. It is something I am passionate about. Some of the characters I like most appear in some of the worst stories. But then some of the Expanded Universe is better conceived than the movies from which they were inspired. Some folk have a hard tyme with the Expanded Universe. They had their fill of Star Wars at the movies and don’t really want to hear about anymore. I understand. But I want more Star Wars and the Expanded Universe has been fertile. From a costume point of view the EU offers a chance to bring the characters that interest me most to life. I never considered a costume validated by others. I do not need folk to recognize the character for it to be a success. I strive to make an excellent costume. If folk like it, so much the better. If not, that is OK too. I costume for myself.

9. Tell us a bit about Flagship Eclipse? The Eclipse was the name given to the black clad personal Super Star Destroyer of the Clone Emperor in the Star Wars saga “The Dark Empire.” The Flagship Eclipse was the name I suggested for the 501st’s Expanded Universe Detachment. Detachments in the 501st Legion are separate communities that discuss related costume interests, advise new costumers, and make recommendations on costuming standards to the 501st membership team. I reasoned that this Imperial vehicle from the beyond the Star Wars movies would be the perfect name for a community focused on gathering the interests of those who find inspiration in the Expanded Universe. Along with our logo, I coined our motto; “The Flagship Eclipse: Expanding the Star Wars Universe one costume at a time.”

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

10. Darth Bane is one of my favorite characters, and one of your most well known costumes. What were some of the challenges involved with that? In college I took several years of Entomology as an elective. I had always admired the forms of insects and wanted to learn more. The first image of Darth Bane (Star Wars: Secrets of the Sith, Lucas Books, 2000) captured my imagination. The official and licensed art for the character featured jewelry-like carapaces of “orbalisks”–the insect-like organisms that made up Darth Bane’s living armour. I felt a more aggressive design for their appearance better sells the character’s believability. I began work on the costume in 2006. I had the helmet and orbalisks sculpts completed later that year. But a solution to turn the dozens of castings of individual organisms into a wearable armour eluded me. I diverted my efforts to complete my Imperial Knight armour and resumed Darth Bane construction in 2008. That year I decided to use the castings I had made to make full armour pieces instead of the scale mail solution I had been struggling with. The first tyme I wore the costume was in 2010. That year I won my first Best of Show in the Star Wars Celebration V Masquerade.

Interview with Thomas J Spanos

11. Do you have a future project on the go and which one is on the ultimate wish list? Yes. I have both. I always have designs on improving my existing costumes. I want to rebuild most all from scratch. I am working on a few personal projects, for friends at the moment. And I do have an ultimate costume desire. For seven years now. I cannot talk about it though. I prefer to keep a tight lip until the piece is nearly completed. I become giddy every tyme I think about working on it.

12. Would you have any advice to someone who is thinking about getting into cosplay? First, I put on my Batman costume and have them dress as Robin. As they start to ask about cosplay, I slap them across the face and say “It’s costuming.” In all seriousness, I recommend to costume for yourself. Not for a costume contest, not for public recognition, not for anyone else. You are the one wearing your costume. Choose your costume based on what makes you happy. And keep following that inspiration.
Be well.
-- Thomas Spanos, The Clone Emperor (SL1876)
Photo Credits:
DURGE was Matthew Crowley
Xizor was Nathaniel Fremont
The Holocron and Sabre were taken by Thomas J Spanos
Bane by Photo Knight
TCE Art Andrews
ganner kreig by Patrick Riley
jawa by Mother

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September 01 2013



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