Today’s strip comes from the first of the deleted scenes from Return of the Jedi. It would have preceded Threepio’s and Artoo’s journey to Jabba’s Palace. The scene features Vader walking back to his hyperbaric chamber and using the force to call out to Luke. Luke is busy constructing his lightsaber in a cave on Tatooine in advance of his plans to rescue Han Solo. At the end of the scene, Luke activates his green saber with a wonderful surround sound hum that conveys its power. It was included as one of the many deleted scene bonus features of the Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray] release. If you don’t own it, but would like to, then please buy it using the link above. We get a small royalty from Amazon so it helps support this site.
Leanne feels this deleted scene destroys the impact of Luke’s daring escape from the Sarlacc beast in the Pit of Carkoon. This is where we first see the green lightsaber light up in the finished movie, followed by Luke killing practically every member of Jabba’s gang aboard both the skiff and sail barge. I’m sure that is one of the reasons the cave scene was left on the cutting room floor. No, not because a two and half year old Leanne was giving the director advice, though. I’m talking about the lessened impact of the lightsaber reveal. The other reason, which is just as likely, is that Vader’s telepathic intrusion into Luke’s mind is cringe inducing. I love James Earl Jones’ voice, but the way he bellows “Luuuuuuke!” repeatedly is unintentionally hilarious. It’s like a nagging parent calling up to their kid’s bedroom to do their chores. It’s just weird.
Fittingly, it’s lightsaber discussion time. Recently Charles Wright, one of the most devoted 501st Legion members I know, was elected as Commanding Officer of the Terrapin Base, Rebel Legion here in Maryland. As it so happens, I had interviewed him a few months ago for a blog about his work and his lightsaber building. An interview I’d been withholding for the debut of this very strip!
Secrets of the Lightsaber with Charles Wright
If you love Star Wars enough, you can bring it to life not only for yourself, but also for the enjoyment of others. Charles Wright is the Commanding Officer (Executive Officer at the time of this interview) of the Rebel Legion’s Terrapin Base here in Maryland, USA. He was also the winner of the “Best Costume” award at Annapolis Comic Con 2013 , a con we attended not long after we first met. Charles is a builder of custom lightsabers which was one of the reasons I wanted to talk to him about a feature for our blog. Not only does he build them, but he also performs as part of the Saber Guild’s Kaiburr Temple group. Actually, I genuinely doubt there is much that Charles can not do if he puts his mind to it. He doesn’t have his own hyperbaric chamber like Vader, I checked!
BMS: What was your first memory of Star Wars and how soon did you know you were a fan?
Charles: My first memory of Star Wars was the first release of “Empire Strikes Back”. I remember the Snowtroopers bursting into the hanger to stop the Falcon from taking off and setting up the E-Web Cannon. I knew from there, it was fandom! Despite other Science Fiction franchises coming and going, Star Wars had always held a warm place in my heart which grew with the release of Episode I. I remember being on the web, watching the trailer over and over again.
Then a year after Episode III, I planned on having a Jedi costume made, my first plan was the lightsaber. I scoured home improvement stores, getting pieces for the coveted icon of geekdom and made my first “static hilt” saber, which I still have on display in my collection. Then I found out about putting electronics in them and making them light up. I hopped on this and made my first electronic Lightsaber, which I dubbed “Vera” (named after Jayne Cobb’s favorite gun in Firefly).
My next step was the costume, and while doing the search I found the Rebel Legion who dress up in “Good Guys” costumes and do charity work. That’s when I think I found my motivation to really put things together. I used to be a very timid wallflower kinda guy and was way overweight, I’d spend my weekends stuck to a computer screen and didn’t do much outside the home. The Rebel Legion was my inspiration to break from my shell…I even dropped 50+ pounds to do this! Some old members of Terrapin Base probably recall my first event where I just stood there, too nervous to mingle. The CO at the time came to me and encouraged me to get out there and have a good time, socialize and just enjoy. From there, it became my passion, and I’ve had 5 approved Rebel Legion costumes, 2 approved Saber Guild costumes and more on the way! I’ve been using my fandom to bring happiness and well-being to my new Empi…ahem… the community!
BMS: Sounds like Palpatine should watch his toes. Where do you get those shiny weapons of yours?
Charles: Most of my ‘Sabers are built or converted by me. I only own two lightsabers built completely by another Sabersmith. One major resource for me is The Custom Saber Shop. They have a huge selection of parts, tools, services and supplies for the Lightsaber enthusiast. Some of their stuff is even “plug and play” for the most part, so it is easier for the casual or inexperienced builder to make their own Lightsaber! The more complex electronics are explained in various forums to help make your ‘Saber the way you like it with just enough bling!
BMS: How many lightsabers do you own?
Charles: I think I lost count. About 12, depending on what I’m upgrading, overhauling, or making from scratch. I plan on making some more of different designs both seen and unseen in the Star Wars realm of the imagination. I even have an unorthodox lightsaber build that may take some time to figure out, so until it’s being built, it’s “hush hush”!
BMS: Can you explain the basic components of a lightsaber and how you replicate these in the real world?
Charles: The basic components of a Jedi’s Lightsaber are the emitter, the control matrix, generally one or two focusing crystals, an activation switch, a power cell, and the hilt itself. In our world, the emitter is a Light Emitting Diode (LED), a regulating device (Resistor or Sound Card) takes the place of the control matrix, and a battery is the power cell. Our lightsabers are essentially sophisticated flashlights that run off a simple LED diagram that I learned back in Middle School shop class. The only difference from then and now is that lightsabers are a little more powerful (technically, class II lasers, I think), some have sound and some have flashy effects! Several people have made lightsabers that actually have the facade of a working crystal chamber when turned on. Younglings go crazy over them and it just reinforces the majesty that is the Jedi and Star Wars.
BMS: What’s more fun to play, a Jedi or a Sith?
Charles: That’s a good question! With the Sith, I can really let go of some inhibitions, step out of character and be a real evil guy on the field. At the Bowie Baysox this year I was a Sith who became outnumbered when my Sith comrade was wounded. Myself and the fight coordinator came up with the idea that I Force-push the Jedi and run through them to escape, knocking my recovering comrade over to leave him for the Jedi to deal with.
On the other hand, I like being a Jedi because of the symbol they represent. They are the light of the universe. They do good and ask for nothing in return. They’re something to look up to and aspire to be. Selfless, quick to act, giving and defenders of the weak and helpless.
BMS: I remember you commissioning Leanne to draw the EU character A’Sharad Hett for Annapolis Comic Con. You wore that costume at the show and ended up winning the Best Costume award. How did you create the look, including the makeup?
Charles: A’Sharad Hett was my first “Face” character I ever made. He was created for the Dark Horse Comics telling of the Clone Wars saga. I liked the story of a human raised in the Tusken Raider culture, a normally xenophobic race. He has a rich and interesting history to him, including his deciding to go unmasked (a big taboo in the Tusken culture is to show ANY flesh) to teach Anakin Skywalker a lesson about prejudice.
I was already portraying the Tusken Raider masked version of Master Hett for the Rebel Legion and 501st, but I wanted to expand my skills in costuming. I had spent some time studying A’Sharad and mapping out his tattoos off the artwork from various artists. The tattoos were so complex and symmetrical! I had ordered theatrical make-up and just started hand drawing the tattoos on my face over and over. Some fellow members of the Rebel Legion had helped me with advice on proper brush techniques to get the lines crisper and common household baby powder to help the tattoos stay longer.
I had bought a wig and extensions to make his hair and long ponytail braid. His costume is a little sand stained, tattered in some places and his boots are a very primitive wrapped style. The highlight for me is the leather wrapped, tooth tasseled, fierce sounding lightsaber I built for this character. I have to thank my Father for making the belt which I only use for this character. It means a lot to me that he did that for me and it just adds to the sentimental value of the character. All in all, it took me over a year to complete the costume, it takes me at least two and a half hours to get into the costume, and I’m still finding new things to improve it.
BMS: Having been involved in both the 501st and Rebel Legions, as well as the Saber Guild, what is your proudest experience to date.
Charles: There are so many, it’s hard to choose. I’ve stood out in front of thousands and performed complicated fight scenes, I made appearances to help promote charities such as the Autism Society, Toys 4 Tots, Louie’s Holiday Hope, and Osteogenetic Imprefecta Foundation. It’s so it’s hard to single any one out. One time that really stands out for me is that I was present as Obi-Wan Kenobi with Old Line Garrison’s Jango Fett, Hank Askin, on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to present two children with tickets to Disney World for Star Wars Weekend. One of the young boys was a huge Star Wars fan who had Asperger Syndrome. His mother came to us after some time and explained that despite how he seemed, on the inside he was very excited to see us and that he normally wouldn’t talk to strangers like he was talking to us. I don’t think any of us had a dry eye seeing how happy the children and the parents were.
BMS: What does Star Wars mean to you, personally?
Charles: It’s hope. Hope that you can overcome insermountable odds if you put your mind to it. It’s hope that everybody has good in them, even the most villainous among us. It’s hope that, despite how bad things look, there’s always good in the universe. Star Wars isn’t just a science fiction adventure, it’s a lot of lessons planted in the story. Not to judge someone by their appearance, patience, trusting in your feelings, anger is easy to harness as a weapon…but doesn’t really solve anything.
BMS: Since this interview was conducted, Charles has completed a rebel pilot uniform with a Maryland Flag theme emblazoned on the helmet! I’d like to just say a word about how great it is to read Charles’ humble beginnings and the leadership role he now takes in helping participate and coordinate the Rebel Legion’s community efforts. Turning your hobby into something that touches other people is a rewarding experience, especially for those kids and families who get to escape the world for a few minutes through the power of Star Wars and its characters. Thanks, Charles!