Google "Ram Zerimar" and you'll find an assortment of fan art, pictures of his own home-made suit of Mandalorian Armor, and several book covers featuring our very own Boba Fett. What do we know about Ram Zerimar? The story goes that he is actually sniper in the U.S. Military named Ray Ramirez, and that through some turn of events ended up working with Karen Traviss. But who is he really? Through a chance of fate I discovered that he was still active on the Mandalorian Mercs forums while he is stationed in Afghanistan!
Ray, I must admit I'm a huge fan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!
You're welcome! Thank you for having me.
How and when did you initially become a fan of Boba Fett and are you a member of the BFFC site?
I've been a member of the BFFC for a few years now! I became a Boba Fett fan from the moment I saw him on screen. My uncles were all soldiers in the U.S. Army so it was a big influence. Boba Fett just jumped out at me because he wore OD green armor that looked like it had seen a lot of rough days. It had history but mainly, he just looked bad and was the part. He was like the G.I. Joe of Star Wars. It was an arguement on a playground in the third grade about who was going to pretend to be Boba Fett and who was going to be Chewie that made me realize I was already a die-hard Fett fan. It escalated into a fist fight and when it was said and done, I got to be Boba for the rest of recess. I know it sounds extreme now, all these years later, but I was a Mando at heart even then, and there was no way I was going to be a stinking Wookiee. I was swallowed by the detention sarlacc, but I made it out just fine. I also remember trading a Luke, Han, and Yoda for a Boba Fett figure that year. I still have it to this day.
That's awesome! So then the next question would be how you came about creating your alter ego: Ram Zerimar. Who is he and what made you want to create a suit of custom Mandalorian armor for him?
When I was stationed at Fort Drum in 1998, I was a member of the 4/31 Infantry scout sniper section. Our net code names were just our last names backwards and our last 4. That's where the Zerimar can from. When you serve in the military, your last name becomes your first name and everyone called me Ram. No one outside the Army ever called me Ram. Sometime around then the X-Wing Alliance game was out for PC and I signed in as Ram Zerimar. I've used the name for everything Star Wars. When I was younger I always said if I had a character in Star Wars it would be a super commando. Even though not much was known about them then they always fascinated me because I was into everything soldier. The few chances I had to role play, Ram Zerimar was my Mandalorian name. There is something about an exceptionally skilled soldier that everyone loves. I'm not immune to it either. I decided to build a set of armor after coming home from Iraq. I had missed every Star wars celebration to date and I swore that if I survived Iraq, Id go to the very next one. I never expected it to be so well received let alone become a canon character.
That is really the cool part. That's every fan's dream isn't it? How is it to become a canon part of the Star Wars universe?
I'm STILL not over it. I don't think I will ever be over it. It never gets old. It really hit me when I actually heard Boba Fett interact with Ram in Zaria's Bar in the audio book version of Bloodlines. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Here is my childhood Star Wars hero talking to my personal Star Wars alter ego as one of his 100 supercommandos. their best shooter at that. As a fan I couldn't imagine it be any better. Seeing other people enjoy what I did with the armor is also very very awesome. Seeing fan art is always such a compliment. Its really hard not to smile ear to ear when it happens. Not so long ago on the Mandalorian Mercs forums I saw a custom Ram Zerimar action figure. it made my whole month. Here in Afghanistan there isn't much to be happy about with guys dying all over the country. It was really awesome to see that, mainly because I never thought I would. I never had plans to make something like that.
Tell us what you can about your relationship and history with Karen Traviss. How did you originally meet her and become involved with her work on Mandalorian language, culture, and technology? To what degree are you still involved?
This is a long one. Well, I was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and the Republic Commando game was still in development. I'd try to keep up with news about the game every so often because it sounded like something really different and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of military detail was going to be in the game play. I found out that Lucas Books was having a tie in novel written for around the release time, and it was called "Hard Contact" and was going to be written by Karen Traviss, it would focus on the special operations aspect of the conflict between the Separatists and the Republic. I remember thinking to myself "How on earth is this woman going to know anything about Special Ops Troopers and make it sound convincing". I ordered the book anyway but didn't get to read it until I got home in January of 2005. WOW, was I wrong. It was not only the best soldier story I'd read in a long time, it was the best Star Wars story I'd read in a long time. I'd say I've read about 90+ % of the SW novels that have come out since Timothy Zhan started it all with the "Heir of The Empire" series, and this one really stuck with me long after I had read it mainly because I had just spent a year in combat on a 4-man sniper team, and the RC's operated in 4 man teams and I could directly relate to some of the events in the book through personal combat experience. Then a few months later, I received an Insider Magazine and I saw on the cover that there was a short Republic Commando Omega Squad story written by Karen Traviss. I got really happy and went straight to the story. Again I was thoroughly impressed with the level of detail in tactics and realism she brought to the Star Wars universe. She also introduced Kal Skirata, and you know as well as I do that any Mando fan loves Kal'buir. After reading those stories, I was left feeling appreciated. I remember thinking, "This woman really took the time and invested the energy to find the little details about what soldiers do, and she worked hard to get it right. It shone through in her writing and I felt like I had to say thank you for that. She knew what it was REALLY like.
I decided to write a letter to the Star Wars Insider Magazine and I asked them to thank her for me for taking the time to get things right, and for bringing the realism that the Star Wars universe needed when it came to dealing with soldiers. I was surprised to see they printed my letter in the next issue of the Insider. It was the first time I had ever written to any publication of any kind, and there was my letter. They had passed on my thanks. A week or so later I got an email from the Star Wars fan club saying that Karen was trying to contact me. For some reason I wasn't getting her email traffic but she sent me a letter in the regular mail, and then her email situation got ironed out and we were able to correspond through email. We've been really good friends ever since, and she has really been a source of support and guidance for me over the last few years.
After a month or so of talking Star Wars and military life, and everything else, she told me she was working on the sequel to Hard Contact, called Triple Zero, and she asked me to read through the book and to give my opinion on the sniper scenes. That's when we talked about the ballistics and tactics and kit, and the Verp sniper rifle was born. I added my two cents and she went with it. She asked if I could be a beta tester for Mando'a when she was developing it. When she sent me the list it was only a couple hundred words long. You could have a conversation with it to a degree but it lacked a lot of the military words. I just helped to fill in a few tiny gaps. I [have] helped a few times here and there since then. My expertise is at her disposal.
That is incredible! Since your name was featured in her books, do you feel you have reached a certain level of celebrity amongst the Star Wars fan community, specifically costumers?
No, not really. I don't think celebrity is the right word. I certainly don't feel like one. I know quite a few people recognize the armor. They have an appreciation for the work I put into it and I'm glad for that. I've heard a lot of people find the Ram Zerimar armor inspirational and has made some people decide to build a set for themselves as well. I think that's great because I'm just returning the favor to the costumers that inspired me to do the same.
I'm just glad to have been and continue to be a positive part of whats going on, on "Mandalore". I've met some really awesome people because of whats happened in the last few years. I feel privileged to have contributed, and to know that people are taking positive things from the Mando culture even if it is representing a population of hardened killers. They can still be the nicest killers you'll ever meet. I'm happy that Ram is a character that doesn't get hated on. There are tons of haters out there, but my fellow Mando'ade have been nothing but respectful and appreciative. I'm grateful for that.
Do you ever get recognized in public by fellow fans or costumers? Ever sign an autograph or photo?
No, not really. I look different every few months. That's just habit, besides, the only con I ever went to was Celebration 4. I think I might have signed a little kid's Jango bucket as Ram once or twice. It was a ton of fun.
Why do you think a character like Boba Fett has so many fans? If you think about it, this one man with less than 5 minutes of screen time has now spawned an entire culture. It's absolutely astounding to think of just how huge this culture has grown in a few short years.
Boba brought with him a ton of flavor to the screen. Mystery and mystique are powerful character multipliers. Unlike a lot of other Star wars characters, Boba Fett told countless stories by just standing there looking hardcore. His armor tells stories, as well as makes you ask questions. The galaxy is a huge place, and his armor pretty much says "I've been around the block a few times, been there, done that, and I don't care who you are I'll take you out. Done it once, I'll do it again!". Not many can pull that off by just standing there. He struck fear into everyone around him and he worked for the top dogs. The heroes were afraid. Han was crapping his Corellian pants right before he got lucky and sent Fett flying. I think a lot has to do with the cool factor of his helmet and armor, but there is a heck of a lot more to Fett than that.
True that! So what is your favorite Fett moment from the movies, and favorite Fett moment from the EU?
I have a few favorite Fett moments from the films. The first being when he tailed Han after the Star Destroyer dumped its trash before jumping to light speed. I remember thinking "Wow, this guy is a pro!", he wasn't fooled, he was just as cunning as Han and he had experience. I really liked the scene in Return of the Jedi when Leia/Boush pulled the thermal and Fett whipped a lightning fast draw (even if the RF stalk was on the wrong side) it showed how fast and lethal he could be from a dead calm. This guys was all business. It was really cool to see him use his jet-pack for the first time too. It was like he was the ultimate soldier, and that was back then before even the mention of Mandalorians. My all time favorite EU moment was in Dark Empire when they made it official that he was back in business. I remember thinking there must be a catch to this, or this guy must be an impostor. But it was legit, and the man was back. I was really happy about that because all those years I refused to believe he was killed off. The guy was just too hard core, too crafty, too experienced to be done for. After that, i've been looking forward to all of Fett's new adventures. I havent been let down yet.
I remember when those comics came out too, HUGE relief! That was back around the time this site got started up. What is, in your opinion, something that we can take away from Boba Fett and his Mandalorians that we can apply in our own, everyday lives?
If there is anything that anyone can take from Boba Fett's character its this: NEVER, EVER QUIT. A quiter would have never made it out of a sarlacc. A quiter would have never made it through his childhood. The man is a machine and he makes the world around him bend to his will, not the other way around. No matter how bad things might get, one thing is for certain He wont quit. Mandalorians as a whole have a lot to offer in the way of positive traits that we can borrow from. Like equality between race and gender, loyalty, and strong family ties. But its also important to remember that it is a partial representation of a fictional warrior culture of a people predisposed to extreme violence, made for entertainment. We can find positives in there but we can't fool ourselves into thinking it's all good and dandy.
When you're not fighting for our country overseas, do you have a favorite Star Wars video game you have played if so what is it and why do you enjoy it?
If I had to pick one favorite game it would have to be X-Wing Alliance. I really loved that game. I liked the story, and even though the ship models were a little funky, I felt the game-play was pretty immersive. And you could fly a Firespray in it. Very cool. Republic Commando is a close second. And I really thought Bounty Hunter had some potential to be a shebs kicker. It was awesome to play as Jango and the cut-scenes were pretty cool, but the play felt rushed. I really would like to see a second try at it with Boba as the main character in a huge, multi-world, open ended Star Wars scum and villainy fest.
A sequel of Star Wars: Bounty Hunter featuring Boba Fett? Sounds like gold to me! Maybe someone reading will take note. Speaking of sequels, there is another post-"Legacy of the Force" series of books in the works also that could possibly feature the Mandalorians and at least one stand-alone Mando book to be written by Karen Traviss. Where do you hope to see the books and culture progress to in the near future?
I just hope that they don't fade into the background where they have been for years until recently. I'll always look forward to reading Karen Traviss' work. It's sure to be stuffed with gritty soldiering. She will no doubt treat them with the respect and attention to detail they deserve. I' will always like to hear about what they Mandos are up to but not at the expense of there integrity as competent elite soldiers. Not that some of the other writer are bad, their writing style and stories have broadened the Star Wars universe, but its hard to write about what you don't know about. In my opinion some writers just don't fully understand soldiering, or have a realistic concept of combat or its flow, as well as combat tactics. Tactics are what really kill it for me when I read characters that are supposed to be awesome soldiers making very fundamental basic mistakes. I just cant buy into that. As long as Mandalorians are portrayed as highly professional experienced guns for higher that are more than just guys and gals that wear cool armor, I'm cool with that.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Bulloch and he is absolutely the nicest man in the world with his fans. Have you ever had the chance to meet him, Daniel Logan or Temuera Morrison?
While at C4, I got to meet both Tem Morrison and Jeremy Bulloch. They both signed my helmet and they both really liked the armor. Mr. Morrison actually said it was the best Mando he'd seen to date and he also said he would have liked to have had a similar paint job. It was really cool of him to say so. I didn't get to meet Daniel Logan, though I did see him walking through a crowd.
Do you plan on attending events as Ram Zerimar in the future or have you retired the costume and character?
I'm currently deployed in the Middle East. It's a good chance I'll be working out here in the outer rim for a while. I'm not sure if I'll be making it to any [conventions] but I'd like to. It was a fun experience and I met some of the nicest people I [have] ever met in my life. (Much Love to the Dune Sea brothers and sisters!!!) The armor that made it out to C4 is pretty much retired, but I am working on a new set that will have much of the same flavor as the first. I'll show up as Ram again one day, but I'm trying to do my part in the war thats going on now as well as "make my way in the universe" as Jango would say. People seem to like the character even if he's had just a small part so i'll keep him around for a while.
Ray, on behalf of Aaron and the rest of The Boba Fett Fan Club staff, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I just wanted to tell you that you are living the dream every Fett-fan has had in getting to fight alongside our anti-hero. Your contributions to not only the Mandalorian culture, but to this country we call home can never be repayed. When I think of of my Mandalorian Heros, the last name Zerimar sits right up there with Fett sir. Oya!
It's been a pleasure and an honor. Thank you guys for putting together a great site for people to catch up on their favorite bounty hunter. Take it easy and stay safe. The universe is a dangerous place no matter where you are. - Ray