Clone, Bounty Hunter, and Jedi–The Many Faces of Dakster

Dakster Sullivan's costumes
Dakster’s Trio \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

For the past three years I’ve been an avid Star Wars cosplayer. I’m a Clone of the Republic, a Jedi Knight, and I recently became a Bounty Hunter (who hunts clones…go figure right?). Each of these costumes has their own story and uniqueness about them that I love.

I was first introduced to the idea of Star Wars cosplay 10 years ago when I saw the 501st Legion suiting up outside of my Disney work location. Back then, I just thought they were cool and went about my life. After I was married, my husband and I both joked on and off about joining the ranks of the 501st Legion. We did some research and every time we saw what was involved, we ran the other direction.

Several years later, we attended Star Wars Celebration V. I was in awe over the 501st Legion room and the array of clone trooper helmets on display. It was then that I decided come heck or high water, I was going to join up.

Continue reading Clone, Bounty Hunter, and Jedi–The Many Faces of Dakster

My First 200 Posts and Here’s to 200 More!

Dakster Sullivan / Image: Dave Liew
Dakster Sullivan / Image: Dave Liew

While writing up Comic Book Corner last week, I noticed I was only three posts away from 200 on GeekMom. Wow! It feels like only yesterday when I checked my spam folder to find an email from a GeekMom editor asking me if I wanted to join up with them. I was floored that 1.) if I hadn’t checked my spam folder that day I would have missed out on one heck of an opportunity and 2.) I had been selected out of what I can only assume, was a ton of letters asking to join up.

Since then, I’ve had some amazing experiences and opportunities to write about everything I’m passionate about, from comics to products to life experiences. I’ve also had the chance to interview celebrities and alike.

I’ve been thinking back about my favorite experiences so far, and just in case you missed any of them, I’d like to present to you with my favorite posts that I’ve had the pleasure of writing this past year and a half.

The first post I think of when I think back to the past year in a half is my first successful post, DC Comics New 52: A Newbies Point Of View. Before we moved to Wired, there were some really cool comments from encouraging to trolls on this one. The trolls made me realize that jerks occur in all walks of life, and geeks are not immune to having to deal with them. The friendlier comments encouraged my new love of comic books and some of them even backed me up against the trolls.

A few days after it was up on the site, one of my fellow GeekMoms realized that DC Comics was sharing it on their social networking sites. I had a total geekgasm (is that a word?). This write-up led to me looking DC Comics up at Megcon in 2012, where I talked with both Tony Bedard and Dan Didio about my experiences as being a newbie reading comic books.

Another post I’m rather proud of is more recent. Women in Technology: Get With the Picture was inspired by a post I saw on CNET about women in the technology field. I guess you can say I disagreed with the author to the point that I decided to point out what I thought the problem was in terms of the lack of women in STEM related fields.

I had no idea how well it would take off until I woke up to find that, after only being live for an hour, it had already been tweeted over 80 times. Later, I saw it take its place on Wired’s main page (a huge honor). Comments continued to come in months after the post went live and we had a mix of loud dissenters, as well as men and women who politely either agreed or disagreed with each other. If my memory serves me correctly, this post took me the longest, at over three months, to put together the way I wanted it.

Interviews are always fun, but for a while, I was a bit too intimidated to talk to anyone, so I conducted them all through email. This is probably one of my biggest regrets, because after speaking with Cort Lane this past January, I realized doing interviews over the phone wasn’t so bad. It was my interview with Hoon Lee and Kelly Hu that finally put me at ease when it came to talking to actors on the phone (Hoon Lee did his Splinter voice for me and I made it one of my phone alerts!).

After shooting the breeze with both of them, I realized that they were people just like me and I was able to show that in both of my interviews with them. Looking back, I would love to have a chance to redo some of the other interviews I’ve done including Yuri Lowenthal and Axel Alonso. I’ve also been on the lookout for other people I’d like to interview, and now I jump at the chance to talk to people who help bring my favorite characters to life.

Of all the interviews I’ve done, I would have to say the deepest interview I’ve done is with Pat Shand, the writer for Zenescope’s Robyn Hood comic book series. The most “interesting” would be a tie between Chubbs the Wampug and R2-KT.

I’m also a fan of using my GeekMom powers for good causes, and I did just that with Ian Keisacker. I first learned about Ian through the 501st forums after his father posted up asking members to help his son make his goal of $500 for a St. Baldricks fundraiser. I wasn’t sure how much a post would help Ian raise his goal, but I figured it was worth a shot. I reached out to his dad on the boards and after some research on Ian’s online diary, and after some emails back and forth with his dad, I had a post I was proud of.

This was the hardest post I’d written at this point and I had to stop more than once due to my keyboard getting wet from my tears.  It was hard, but in the end, it was worth it. Thanks to the readers and the 501st Legion for sharing the post on social networking sites, Ian not only raised his goal, he destroyed it and raised over $1,100 for cancer research!

My most personal post is definitely my Anxiety and the Geek post. Before GeekMom, I didn’t have the strength to talk about my personal battles, but I felt this one needed to be told. Through writing it and posting it, I learned I’m not alone in this battle and I have people in my life fighting it as well that are there to help me when I need them.

Comic Book Corner is something I’ve very proud of. For those of you who are not familar with it, Comic Book Corner is a weekly comic book segment that I put together, along with my fellow GeekMoms. Complete with a list of the weeks new releases, this is my baby and I use it to help spread my love of comic books. The idea came to me after seeing the book club posts on the site and I wanted something for those of us who preferred their comic book heroes over the classics. It’s taken off, and every week we have contributions from different writers and who give insight into what they are reading. This is a great place to find new comic book suggestions–and I’ve taken more than a few of them myself. Comic Book Corner’s Comic Books for Kids post was a very popular, and I highly recommend anyone with children to check it out.

New Fantasyland was my first major press event and I couldn’t have been more excited to attend. Being a member of the press for this event made it and an adventure all its own. It was an amazing, memorable experience. The post itself took me some time because I wanted to make sure I included everything I could to give you all a great picture of what happened for the three days I was there.

Another post that comes to mind right now is my write up on Reading Rainbow because it’s one of the first “Twitter fires” I’d seen. Searching for this post on Twitter, I found dozens of people had tweeted the post and included the last line of my post in their tweet, “But you don’t have to take my word for it…” This was really cool for me because it meant my last line did exactly what I wanted it to do–it got people’s attention (and being retweeted by Levar Burton was really cool, too).

Star Wars Weekends is one of the biggest troops that we do in the Florida Garrison (501st Legion), and this past year, I took the time out to give some amazing costumers a shout out with my Star Wars Weekends 2012: Awesome Costume Firsts post. It takes a lot of work and dedication to build these costumes, so I felt it only fitting that I show them off to everyone I could. I also wanted to give a special thanks to everyone that helped me pull off my own weekends first costume and felt there was no better place than on GeekMom.

The Deedpool Corps is nothing to special except for the fact that it let me learn about Squirrelpool–the deadly squirrel assassin member of the Deadpool Corps. I first saw this little guy in an advertisement for a collectors series that included him as a bonus figure. I reached out to Sideshow Collectibles to find out more about the character and what made him so special. In the process I learned a little bit more about this furry little guy who was cute, but deadly. Why does this make the list? Because I did it for pure fun. The pageviews were next to nothing compared to the other posts on this list, but that doesn’t really matter to me as much as how much fun I had writing it.

On top of of my favorite posts, I’ve also had some great experiences that I could never have had if I wasn’t a GeekMom writer. This past year alone I had the privilege to go to Megacon and Star Wars Celebration VI as a member of the press. I also had the chance to meet Mythbusters Adam and Jamie. I was also given an amazing Mother’s Day weekend at Gaylord Palms (my husband is still trying to find a way to top it this year) and I’ve reviewed some great products from ThinkGeek, Lego and Hasbro (to name a few). I’ve also taken a stand against bullying when some of my friends and fellow 501st Legion/Rebel Legion friends were attacked in a slideshow on a local news station’s website.

As you can see, I get to have a lot of fun here on GeekMom.

Some of the posts I write might not always take off, but that doesn’t take away the fun I have in writing them or the pleasure I get from the positive or thought provoking comments you leave for me to read. As sad as it sounds, I feel like I’m waiting by the phone for a date after every post goes live. Why? Because I love hearing from our readers and I love that you take the time to write a comment or shoot me an email to tell me your thoughts.

So, thank you for taking time out of your day to read what we have to say here. It means a lot to us all to know you care enough to check the site, even if you don’t always agree with what we have to say.

I have some awesome things planned for this year, some of them coming up very soon after this post goes live, so please check back often. You never know what fun and amazing things myself and the other GeekMoms have in store for you. Cheers to my first 200 posts and all the things I’ve learned since starting. Here’s to another 200 more to come! 

Star Wars Weekends 2012 — Awesome Costume Firsts

SWW Logo 2012 / Image: 501st Florida Garrison
SWW Logo 2012 / Image: 501st Florida Garrison

This year at Star Wars Weekends, the 501st and Rebel Legion raised the bar.

Not only did we have our usually turnout of amazing costumes, but we also had some first time costumes. As one member put it, “We showed Disney that we can do more than robes and armor.” As a proud member of both the 501st and Rebel Legion, I would like to show them off. I know these members worked really hard on their costumes and making it to Star Wars Weekends was a huge accomplishment for them.

Dakster Image: Inside the Magic
Dakster / Image: Inside the Magic

This year I marched as Aayla Secura and it was an amazing journey from start to finish. The days I marched in my Jedi are by far my favorite of any this year. I’d been toying with the idea of building a female costume to give me a break from my clone for a while now. What attracted me to her the most was her look and attitude. She also appeared to be a pretty easy build (FYI, I was wrong…). The one thing I didn’t expect was all the attention I received.

It wasn’t until after we were at Star Wars Weekends that I found out not only was my costume a first for the event, but it was also the first time any member had attempted a body paint job like mine for the march. This costume took three months to go from idea to approval, and then several other people to help make it happen each time I marched.  I felt like I had my own little pit crew following me around. It was a lot of work, but in the end I am really proud to say I am the first Aayla Secura to march in Star Wars Weekends.

Everybody loves Chewbacca, but how about we give some love to another wookiee:  Tarfful! This full scale wookie is the work of Jason Rucci.
Continue reading Star Wars Weekends 2012 — Awesome Costume Firsts

My Journey to the Blue Side of Star Wars

Dakster and Sithari /  Image: Zach Winnermark
Dakster and Sithari / Image: Zach Winnermark

This past March I decided to embark on my first solo costuming project, Aayla Secura. I wanted it to be a total surprise to my squad, so I referred to it only as Project X on Facebook. It was quite the journey and a quick one at that. My animated clone trooper took five months and four people to help get it fitting me right. Since I wanted to march in Star Wars weekends, this costume had to be completed in less than three months and this time, it was all up to me, myself and my husband to make it come to life. It was a tight squeeze, but we were able to make our goal.

The day to reveal my costume at Star Wars Weekends arrived. We planned on putting the paint on me at home and then suiting me up the rest of the way at Disney. One problem…our airbrush system stopped working! After texting back and forth with our friend Zach, he finally told us to bring everything with us to the park and he would help us out there. As soon as we arrived I knew I was in good hands. Several of my friends were already aware of the issues and were ready and waiting to help me out. After fifteen minutes, Zach had us up and working.

Zach and Dakster / Image: Donna Sanders
Zach and Dakster / Image: Donna Sanders

Known by his friends as the Master Painter of the FLG, Zach took charge of my paint job and forty-five minutes later, I was all blue. Once my body paint was complete, a fellow Rebel Legion member, Otter, helped me get into one of the air-conditioned buses that Disney gave us to stay cool (thank you Disney!) to put on the rest of my costume.

The one major downside to this costume is the headpiece. It’s held on by pressure from the head wrap and after about thirty minutes, I was hating life. The positive attention I received from everyone really helped keep me in a good mood. I still felt the pain, but it was easier to handle with so many of my friends around me.

Continue reading My Journey to the Blue Side of Star Wars

501st Legion and Me

501st logo

Some people dreamed of growing up to be a storm trooper and some of us actually made it there. Since February 2011, I have been a proud and active member in the 501st Legion also known as Vader’s Fist.

The 501st legion is a worldwide professional costuming club that specializes in the “bad guys” of the Star Wars universe. We never charge for appearances and have shown up to everything from charity walks to formal weddings. In the past 12 years, the 501st Legion has grown to more than 5,000 active members worldwide.

As stated in Article 1 of the Legion Charter“…The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…” 

Left to right: Zach Winnermark, Dakster Sullivan, Dave Young, and Yoda – Galactic Academy member. Attending Autism Walk 2011
Left to right: Zach Winnermark, Dakster Sullivan, Dave Young, and Yoda – Galactic Academy member. Attending Autism Walk 2011

There is no cost involved in applying or staying active in the legion. The bare requirements are being at least 18 years of age and owning a movie quality costume from one of the Star Wars films. The legion also accepts costumes from the expanded universe such as the books and video games. For a complete listing of costumes currently accepted by the legion, take a look at the visual guides.

To get into the legion is no laughing matter and for some it takes years of blood, sweat, tears and financial planning. My husband, Brian, has been working on a Jango Fett for the past year and he is still not done yet. Others have it a little easier and complete their builds (costume) in a matter of months. My animated clone trooper build took 5 months. With the expertise and guidance of Zach Winnermark, Dave Young and Shawn Oudit of the Florida Garrison, my clone trooper Denal was brought to life.

Since, I first received my helmet, it has been an adventure. I have learned patience, confidence and most of all I have made lasting friendships and touched the lives of children and adults. There is nothing like stepping out and seeing the look of amazement on a child’s face. It’s great to see the adults jumping up and down at our arrival as well.

Paul Button, Lake Eola Step it up for Down syndrome
Paul Button, Lake Eola Step it up for Down syndrome

Marching in parades is a fun past time of many troopers. Some parades we can be a little more relaxed and have fun with the spectators. In other parades we are instructed to act as a military unit (no waving or interaction with spectators). When the legion was invited to participate in the Rose Bowl parade in 2007, George Lucas was very specific on how he wanted everyone to look. To achieve a military look, he had all 200 legion members participating work with military drill instructors for 2 days.

For other events, such as Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios – Orlando, Florida, we might get together and decide to go military or just wing it. It takes a lot of skill and practice to pull it off.

Dakster and her son Brandon
Dakster and Brandon, Acme Comics Fundraiser 2011

My 6 year old son tells everyone that his mommy is a clone trooper. While marching in the motorcade during Star Wars weekends, I saw him jumping up and down from the side lines yelling “Mommy!” Sometimes he suits up as Captain Rex and troops alongside me. He is also very quick to correct people when they call me a storm trooper.

Conventions are another fun thing we participate in. There are many throughout the world that we attend. My home town favorites are Megacon, Dragoncon, Vulcan Events: Away Mission Orlando and Star Wars Celebration. Suiting up for these events is sometimes half the fun. At Megacon this past year I suited up in my hotel across the street and walked all the way into the convention center and then some to get to our booth. My total time suited up ended up being around four and half hours. It’s also interesting to see others have fun with their costumes and not always go movie accurate at events. My husband, for

Dakster and Brian
Brian and Dakster, Megacon 2011

example, only had his Jango Fett helmet completed around Megacon, so he improvised and trooped along side me as “Mob Boss Jango”.

Some of my favorite moments include talking to others while suited up. The first reaction of most people after hearing my voice is usually “it’s a girl!” One mom in an effort to explain why I sounded like a girl to her children said I was Princess Leia in disguise. My reaction is usually to laugh, but inside I’m proud. I worked hard to get to the moment of stepping out in front of the crowds and serving the empire and I hope to continue for a long time.

For more information and to find your local 501st garrison, please visit www.501st.com

Have you had a run in with the empire? Share your stories with us in the comment section.