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Warren Mundell explores life-size fascination with ‘Star Wars’ as a member of Havoc Squad

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 15, 2017

It all started when Warren Mundell was 5 years old.

He was in diapers when “Star Wars,” later subtitled “A New Hope,” hit theaters, but with the release of sequel “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, the first film had been re-released and Mundell saw both movies in theaters.

“Everything was pretty much downhill from there,” he said with a laugh.

After that initial encounter, “Star Wars,” in its many forms, followed Mundell as he grew up.

He played with “Star Wars” toys and played the franchise’s video games with friends as a child, and as a teen, his interests grew to include “Star Wars” novels.

All the while, Mundell saw each of the subsequent movies that made up the original trilogy and, beginning in 1999, the prequel trilogy.

Now an adult, Mundell still follows the franchise and adds to his collection of figures by looking through local stores and at events like the Inland Northwest Toy Show Classic in Spokane Valley.

Among his most noteworthy finds? Stumbling upon a set of figures of Max Rebo, Sy Snootles and Droopy McCool, aka the Max Rebo Band, from “Return of the Jedi” (the original version, mind you, not the 1997 special edition of the movie) at a toy store in Everett .

“I wasn’t going to screw around with that one,” Mundell said. “I got them right there and then.”

But beyond figures on shelves, Mundell’s interest in “Star Wars” has manifested itself in a big way.

You might even call it life-sized.

As a member of the 501st Legion, Mundell creates costumes modeled after characters that appear in the “Star Wars” franchise. He then wears those costumes while participating in a variety of events around the region.

The 501st Legion is a worldwide organization for costume enthusiasts looking to share their love of creating costumes and “Star Wars.”

By wearing their costumes to events, both “Star Wars”-related and otherwise, the group hopes to promote an interest in the franchise while also raising awareness of and funds for local charities.

Garrison Titan is the Washington state-based portion of the 501st Legion, and the Eastern Washington faction of Garrison Titan, to which Mundell belongs, is called Havoc Squad (http://havocsquad.garrisontitan.com/havoc/).

Mundell first became involved with the 501st Legion while in the Air Force and stationed in New Jersey.

He’d attended conventions and made costumes in the past and was interested in creating a “Star Wars” costume. A chance encounter with two members of the New Jersey garrison set the ball in motion.

“One of them happened to be one of our membership liaisons and one of our main costume makers, so he was able to help me get set me up with my first one,” Mundell said of the first costume he made. “I still got the costume. Unfortunately I have to retire it because it’s gone through a lot of wear and tear.”

Mundell’s main costume is a biker scout, although he said many members of the 501st Legion have more than one costume. Mundell has also worked on a stormtrooper costume.

The time it takes to complete a costume depends on the complexity of the costume and the person’s budget. It took Mundell about three months to complete his first biker scout costume, and he mentioned a Havoc Squad member who took about a year to put together a Darth Vader costume.

Mundell said his costume doesn’t involve a lot of plastic, though he does have to create some of the soft parts – a flight suit, cummerbund, vest – that the biker scout costume requires. There are also modifications to be made to a pair of boots and gloves.

When members do need to buy plastic parts for their costumes, Mundell said they go to a specific vendor for kits.

“We’ll take them like a model kit and cut the extra pieces off, sort them out, fit them, glue them, attach them the way we need to and be very meticulous with these items,” he said.

Each garrison’s membership liaison is responsible for approving each member’s costumes and ensuring they are as accurate as possible using what’s referred to as the costume reference library or the costume reference listing.

Legion members and non-members alike have access to garrison forums detailing the specifications of each costume, and members are available to answer questions for non-members building their own costumes.

“We are sticklers for detail,” Mundell said. “We want to make these costumes look like they stepped right off the movie screens.”

With their costumes approved, members of the 501st Legion take part in a variety of community events.

Recently, members of Havoc Squad made an appearance at the American Childhood Cancer Organization of the Inland Northwest’s holiday party, and in the summer, a few members presented Shriners Hospital with money they raised at Lilac City Comic Con before visiting children in their hospital rooms.

On Black Friday, Havoc Squad members helped Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson in Spokane Valley with its Toys for Tots drive.

In February, Havoc Squad will help the Spokane Symphony with its “The Music of Star Wars: The Symphony Awakens” concerts, and in April, Garrison Titan will once again take over a portion of Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con to create the “ ‘Star Wars’ Experience.”

At the 2017 convention, the garrison raised more than $23,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital from donations given at the “ ‘Star Wars’ Experience” and its “Blast A Trooper” fundraiser, in which children and adults donate money to shoot helmeted characters with Nerf darts.

Havoc Squad is also available for private events like weddings and birthdays, but in those instances, they ask the person who requested the appearance to make a donation to charity.

“We really hit hard on the charity aspect of the organization,” Mundell said.

Mundell suggests those interested in costuming, “Star Wars,” charity work or all of the above check out their local garrison (https://www.501st.com/).

On the eve of the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the second film in the sequel trilogy, Mundell, who is seeing the movie with a friend Saturday, is excited for the future of the franchise.

He said he’s always had an open mind when it comes to “Star Wars” and its storylines and expects to see more films, animated content, comics, books, video games and even theme park rides in the future.

“I would not be surprised if it keeps going after I pass on,” he said.

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