There are many costume organizations throughout the world that list bounty hunters on their roster. The Fighting 501st legion even boast an entire division of Jango & Boba Fett costumers. There is one organization; however, where fans of the Fetts and their Mandalorian brethren can craft their own custom suits of armor and join hundreds of other costumers like them at events all over the world: The Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club. The BFFC had a chance recently to talk with Novall Talon, leader of the organization.
To begin with, tell us a bit about yourself including how long you have been a member of the BFFC?
Well, my real name is Tom. I've been part of the Boba Fett Fan Club since August 7, 2007, so over a year or so now. I'm also the founder of the Mandalorian Mercs costume club and also go by the character name Novall Talon or Mand'alor the Uniter. I'm the senior PC/Network tech at my work and spend my free time blacksmithing and practicing Kung Fu. I have a lady mando who captures a majority of my free time also, and a couple ferrets that love getting into trouble.
How did the Mandalorian Mercs come to be?
The idea of Mandalorian Mercs started as a player association in Star Wars Galaxies back in 2005. It was originally a group of Mercenaries, bounty hunters, and just not nice people. I decided to take my in-game character an extra step and get myself some of the new Mandalorian armor that had just been introduced. Once that happened, everyone else wanted some...so we would make regular runs into the Death Watch Bunker and make them. Pretty soon I had just about all of my men and women suited up in mando armor. In 2006 after seeing many different looking mandos at Dragon*Con, and seeing how they were just kind wandering around aimlessly, I decided that I wanted to bring my SWG character to life, and that we needed a home in the real world. April of 2007, the first Mandalorian Mercs website and forum went live. In December of 2007, we thought it would be a fun idea to start our own little charity to give back to our local communities. From that the "Help a Verd'ika Fund" was born. This is a charity fund that we work towards raising money for all year, then dispense that money to our chapters who go and buy toys for children in their area who won't get a Christmas. It's a very fun and sometimes emotional event, but it's worth every moment of the work we put towards it. We also help large charities like March of Dimes, Make a Wish, ALS Association, and other various charitable organizations.
So how did you become "Mandalore the Uniter"?
How I become Mand'alor is a good question. I never called myself that, I was only the chief of our original NC/SC chapter here in the U.S. at first. Much of it surrounds the fact that I did get Mercs started, and that I did the initial work in creating a home for those who wear custom mando armor. Sometime in the summer of 2007, our members started labeling me as the Mand'alor, but I still refused to call myself that because in Star Wars that is a title that carries a whole lot of respect. In early 2008, the members voted to call me "Mandalore the Uniter" for uniting custom mandos from around the world under one banner. At that point I just decided to go with it. I am a firm believer in "lead by example". I'm the first one up at events and conventions to armor up in the mornings, and I'm usually the last one to kit-down in the evenings. I have many personal motto's, but the two I live by constantly: You can't lead the best if you can't be the best & Nothing is given, everything is earned.
Well said. According to the site, the Mercs are now at over 200 official members worldwide. What do you think about that?
I didn't expect Mercs to grow this fast this quick, but I did expect us to grow into a sizable club. There are many many custom mandos out there in the world, even some that have still not yet found Mercs...but I know that one day they will "Heed the call of Mandalore" and help Mercs fulfill it's duty and place as the world's premier Mandalorian costume club. We have had our struggles however, and still have a few more hurdles to get over...but all in all I am happy with how things are going so far.
According to Wookiepedia, there is an entry for a "Murdered Mandalore" some time before Jango Fett takes the title. There have been rumors that this person and Novall Talon are the same, is this true? If so, is it canon?
The "Murdered Mandalore" character is something that I tied my mando character to shortly after accepting the "Mand'alor the Uniter" title. I figured that the character needed a place in Star Wars that was relatively untouched by stories but open so that Novall as a character isn't stepping on the toes of what is already written about. Taking a nameless spot like that put Novall out of the mando civil war, clone wars, Empire, Rebellion, Vong wars, and every other major event that would raise questions. There's very little mando history in those few hundred years before Jaster Mareel, just some mentions...and hopefully Novall is a character that helps explain what brought the mandos back together before the civil war. As to becoming canon, well I can't really say about that. Sure it would be a great honor, but it's not really in my hands for something like that to happen. The legacy of Novall is carried on by men and women around the world who have fun putting on armor and calling themselves "Mandalorians" at events. You don't need to be canon for that.
Although we can probably guess, what initially made you a fan of Boba Fett?
The armor. I have always loved Mandalorian armor...it just kicks so much shebs.
As a fellow Merc and crafter of my own suit, I think your armor is incredible! How many versions of it have you made now?
I am finishing up my 3rd version of my armor now. I am hoping to debut it at Adventure*Con 2009, or SDCC 2009. It all depends on how much time I have to finish it up...it's been A LOT of work this time around, much more than the last. With every set I make, I learn something new or push the envelope I little further. This new set is entirely modular, and can go from heavy to light in about 5 minutes. I've tried to stay close to what was written and use magnets to keep my leg armor on. I also built a metal, working jetpack! No it doesn't fly, but it does have compressed CO2 that blasts out when I hit the button. As far as sets for other people, I've built 3 other sets and am working on another set for a Mercs member. In the local Mercs chapter I've helped build 5 sets, and hopefully inspired more than that around the world. I love teaching armorsmithing and the techniques to anyone willing to learn. I'm the only person on the east coast who makes metal mando armor the same way armor was made in the 1500s...with a forge, stump, hammers, and an anvil. Sometimes you'll see me teaching a mando armor panel at a convention, I like to spread around the knowledge...that's how you keep it alive.
What is something you have learned from Fett that you can apply to your every day life?
I'd say less from Fett and more from Mandalorian culture as a whole. Family is more than blood, something you finally start to get from Fett in "Bloodlines" by Karen Traviss.
As a leader in the fan community, what is your relationship like with Ka'buir (Karen Traviss) and Jeremy Bulloch?
I consider Karen to be a very good friend. We trade emails regularly on everything from armor to our mutual dislike for politicians. We are both ex-military, and have quite a bit of common opinions. Regardless of what anyone says about her books or writing style, she has brought more life and detail to Star Wars. Whether or not she continues to write for LFL after her current contracts are up I couldn't say, but regardless she will always be a friend I respect greatly. Jeremy is also a good friend, although we do not communicate as much as I do with Karen. His wife Maurine is a very sweet and outgoing woman, I'd say Jeremy would be in a pinch without her. Jeremy though is one of the nicest people you could ever have contact with, and he is a big fan of steak!
What is your favorite Fett line?
"He's no good to me dead."
What are some of your other favorite events from conventions with the Mercs?
Well, I have three favorite convention events that really stick out in my mind. The first one was AdventureCon in Knoxville TN, which was the first "official" gathering of Mercs as a club. There were four of us! That was big back then. The second was DragonCon 2007, where 20 custom Mandalorians marched in the Dragon*Con parade for the first time ever as one group. The third was the wedding of two of the Mercs members at SDCC last year. We did it mando style, and it was a very cool event!
That wedding event was featured on gaming channel G4TV and various other news sites around the internet, how did it come to be?
The mando wedding was awesome! Karen Traviss was at SDCC, and was able to provide translations for the wedding ceremony in Mando'a for the bride and groom. In the mando culture, the type of wedding we performed would not be a very social event...in fact to have more than the bride and groom there would probably be considered a little off. However, we wanted it to be fun for the couple as well as for everyone else, so we had to spice it up a bit. My mando'a is not that great. In fact, I guess you could say that I am more like Boba in the sense that he didn't know much if any mando'a either. I kept everything I said for the most part in basic, with a few mando'a words here and there.
What do you hope to see in store for Boba Fett in the future?
Well, I'm sure we'll see a kid Boba in the Clone Wars series. I'm hoping to see my good friend Daniel Logan take up the helmet in the Live Action series, and Karen Traviss has another Boba Fett book due out in the next couple years. We have a lot in store for us in the coming months and years!
And what is in store for the Mercs?
I hope Mercs grows! If we continue to grow the way we have, we will have around 400 members by the end of 2011. I think that says a lot for the popularity of Mandalorians and Star Wars in general. As Mercs grows, the organization adapts and changes as we learn new things and overcome obstacles. As far as a group who is mainly "custom" Star Wars characters, our armor guidelines fairly strict and straight forward. We've made the rules more strict over the last couple years to ensure that everyone's armor becomes something everyone can be proud of. We are also a Lucasfilm LTD. approved club like the 501st and Rebel Legion, and I hope that we get more events from LFL as time goes on, but I also enjoy the fact that we do fall under the radar of what they ask from the larger groups. Mercs members are much like their Star Wars counterparts in that we are independent and individualistic. In Star Wars you have Imperials and Sith, Rebels and Jedi...then you have Mandalorians. I know the Mandalorian Mercs will be around for a very long time.
Tom, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. See you at Adventure*Con in June!
For more information on the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club, check out the organization's website, mercs.firespray.net.