If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know that I love Star Wars. Not only that, I wear and make Star Wars costumes. Yeah, it’s not something a whole lot of people do – but thanks to the internet, it’s not as odd as it once was.

I’ve done a few costumes, but the one that gets the most attention is Darth Vader. I’m really proud of this costume, because I made it. Mostly. There are a few things that I didn’t make, or couldn’t make. Like the helmet. I bought that, but I’ve done so much work to it that I don’t really consider it ‘off-the-shelf.’ My wife sewed up the cape – which, by the way, is over 27 feet from tip to tip at the bottom. I quilted vinyl and made it into the undersuit. I used PVC board to make the chest armor. The shoulder bells I crafted from some t-ball helmets. It’s made up of a lot of different media, and I worked hard on it. It’s not 100% accurate. It’s a sort of amalgam of Vader suits, taking parts of each one that I like. A lot of people who make Vaders go after a specific one – like the ANH version with the widows peak helmet. Each movie has a different Vader. Sometimes within the movie the Vader changes (example – during the duel in Empire Strikes Back, the cheeks were clear plexiglass so that the stunt man could see), so for me, I just wanted to take various aspects that I liked from each suit and applied it to mine.

After making the Vader, I realized that as cool as it is, it’s also a bit of a curse. Vader’s always in demand. Vader never gets a break. Vader sometimes is how you’re introduced. “This is Toby. He’s Vader.”

One of my good friends had made a Vader – and is actually how we got to know each other. We both were members of theĀ Sith Training Temple and would often consult each other on various methods on scratch building Vader. When I moved to San Marcos, he contacted me and let me know he lived nearby. We’ve been great friends since. One of the first times we got to meet and hang out, he told me how glad he was that I was there to take over Vader! I didn’t understand at first because I had only worn mine a few times. It wasn’t long before I knew exactly what he was talking about. Once a Vader always a Vader. And you don’t get to give it up until you’re replaced by another Vader. It’s like some sort of Dread Pirate Roberts where it’s fun while it happens, but you’re so relieved when someone else can take over.

For the most part, it’s great to be Vader. One of the first events I did as Vader was at the Special Olympics in San Antonio. The guys out there were great and I had such a wonderful time. I can’t express how awesome it was to see those kids and their families just get a kick out of being able to hang out with the Star Wars gang. It’s one of those feelings that just really warms you heart – to know you were able to brighten their days – lives – by just sharing your love of Star Wars.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. The first Halloween I wore Vader was interesting. My friends and I were in the parking lot of Hastings in Waco, Tx, getting ready to be part of the costume contest/midnight release of Episode 3. As we were suiting up, some jerks drove by and egged us. Not fun at all. And my cape didn’t smell good all night! They got my friend’s car, and we were quick to clean it up to keep it from ruining the paint.

And apparently something everyone things is “original” is to say, “Luke, I am your father!” This is the most annoying to me because first of all, that’s not the saying. It’s what Chris Farley said in Tommy Boy. The actual quote is, “No. I am your father.” It’s just a pet peeve of mine, because I hear it about a bazillion times every time I suit up.

But even though I’ve had a couple of bad times, they were nothing compared to the good times. Getting to march in the Fiesta Flambeau parade made me feel like a Rock Star. Being part of the CF walk as both Vader and a Stormtrooper was incredible. Getting to watch Fanboys at the Alamo Drafthouse as Vader (one of 4 that night) and hanging out with the writer, Ernie Cline. And even “invading the quad” at Texas State is a blast.I know I’ve helped raise money and awareness for various charities, but I have never kept up with it. A hundred here, four hundred there, it all adds up and really benefits the charities – but it’s not the numbers that keep me going.

It’s the smiles.