March 2, 2007
Story by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)

If you're familiar with the cast from the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars on Cartoon Network, then you should be very familiar with the bounty hunter known as Durge. Or, are you up to speed on your Expanded Universe characters? If so, more than likely you'll know who Prince Xizor is from the novel Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. I've had the incredible pleasure and honor of meeting up with Thomas Spanos, the man who has brought these characters to life with his phenomenal costumes.

And with great pleasure I present to you this one-on-one interview with Thomas Spanos.

How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

Before Star Wars I played with Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, GI Joe and Matchbox cars. Then one summer, I remember taking a very inaccurate red plastic space shuttle with me when my folks brought me to see this "Star Wars."

I left awe struck. I had never experienced anything like the movie before. Granted I was only 6, but I think it is safe to say no one had experienced such a complete space fantasy before Star Wars.

My appreciation for Star Wars started that day. It grew with the remaining elements of the trilogy, but waned in the subsequent years. When Hasbro revived the Star Wars toy line, my interest was rekindled. I did not collect but I was enthralled at the new quality of the toys. When the FX Emperor Palpatine hit the shelves they had me.

When did you acquire your first costume, and what was the first costume you owned?

My Folks teamed up to outfit me as a Jawa in 1978. At age 7 I was a tall Jawa. My hooded robe was made of an itchy burlap, sewn by my Mother. My Father soldered a pair of dashboard lights to the frame of an old set of glasses. We blacked my face with burnt cork. In a tyme when most kids were content to wear printed vinyl suits with plastic face masks I had the coolest costume ever!

How did your decide to create Durge, the Clone Emperor and Prince Xizor?

Now that is the question. Or rather questions. I do not select a character lightly. Each costume takes a considerable investment both in tyme and resources to create. I select characters that I can relate to, understand and become passionate about.

The Clone Emperor will always be my dearest project, the one effort that sent me head first into this crazy but inspiring hobby. I am a keen admirer of the Emperor and I was intrigued when I found Hasbro's Clone Emperor action figure. This in turn lead me to research the story behind the character's appearance, (my first introduction to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.)

In 2002 I was visiting a friend from my Kendo club. Emily showed me her fan made electroluminescent lightsabre. I had never seen something so cool before. Emily then suggested that I might want to attend a convention with her, Star Wars Celebration II. I had never been to a convention before and the thought of interacting with hundreds of costumed enthusiasts excited me. I knew I wanted to have my own costume, and The Clone Emperor would be my inspiration.

Xizor, the Dark Prince, came as a challenge from SW Celebration II convention. A few folk who were not familiar with the Clone Emperor had guessed the my costume was meant to emulate the appearance of the reptilian crime-lord. Xizor and The Clone Emperor are not a lot a like, by any standard. After the convention I researched the Shadow of the Empire, and realized I needed to make a statement of just how different the two characters really are.

A year and a half later, and after I had joined the ranks of the 501st Legion Costuming Organization, I wanted to try my hand at making armour. I was looking seriously into the Dark Trooper suit when the first images of the Clone Wars Bounty Hunter DURGE began to circulate. Upon inspection, the armour for DURGE and the Dark Trooper bore many similarities. I decided to turn my efforts on creating DURGE because I wanted to do a character that was fresh enough in the SW fanbase that folk might actually recognize the costume.

Since joining the 501st Legion, what is your most memorable moment and why?

This might sound sour, but hear me out. At SW Celebration II, I was made aware of the 501st and their fan table. Both concepts were entirely new to me. I heard that they were recruiting, and I was interested to see what the club was all about. However, the reception I received was less than inviting. I felt like a punk-rocker trying to enter a frat party. The trooper on table duty--yes I know his Legion ID to this day still--turned me away. He said the Legion had no place for custom Jedi. I explained that my costume was in fact the spirit of the Emperor resurrected in a clone body. That seemed only to confuse the trooper. I went away feeling snubbed, but determined. I worked on my costume, and continued to hammer on the virtual 501st door by e-mail. Eventually, Albin answered and invited me in.

I suppose it would have been more pleasant to just sign up that day at the SW Celebration II convention, but having to work for my membership made it mean more to me.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on Darth Bane as he appeared after leaving the tomb of Freedon Nadd, and Imperial Knight Ganner Krieg.

What made you decide to work on those?

When I first saw the illustrated interpretation of Darth Bane from Star Wars: Secrets of the Sith, I was taken back. His living armour and his helmet--which protected Bane from the rest of his armour--captured my imagination. I have wanted to work on Bane since before I finished work on Xizor.

I really have no choice in my making of Imperial Knight Ganner Krieg. I met the character's co-creator, Jan Duursema, at a convention in 2005. I was very impressed with her work, and she was interested in my costumes. She happened to take a few head shots of me for "future reference." Last year Jan contacted me to ask if she could use my likeness as the basis for a new SW Character for a new SW Comic line. The character was secret. I was delighted by the opportunity. The character turned out to be Ganner Krieg, and Ganner is turning out to be a character that I can very much slide into.

Have you ever been contacted by Lucasfilm to do any type of work for them, and if so what have they asked you to do?

No contact with Lucasfilm other than the flip-flop with the Rose Parade. Best not to talk about it.

Besides collecting Star Wars items and costuming, are there other talents you possess?

While I wound not consider "collecting" to be a talent per say, I do feel "costuming" encompasses much of my skills. When I costume, I start by drawing and painting my subject, over and over again. In creation I seek out new techniques to expand my repertoire. I love to sculpt and solve problems. I enjoy sewing and fabrics.

I also love to dance. When I finally do complete a costume, it is an occasion to dance.

Aside from the costumes that you own, what is your most prized Star Wars collectible that you have in your collection?

Alright. It is true. While I don't consider myself a collector, I do have a sizable collection of SW dolls. OK, action figures. I only said dolls because I know it makes some folk uncomfortable.

My favourite SW item is not a collectible at all. It is a stained glass portrait of Darth Vader my Father made for me after the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back. The, portrait appropriately enough, is of Darth Vader.

As you can clearly see, Thomas Spanos is one devoted person to the Expanded Universe. He puts in 110% into each and every one of his Star Wars costumes, so they're as accurate as they can possibly be. I'm not sure if anyone has ever tried creating the Durge costume, but if they have I'm sure it doesn't come close to what Thomas Spanos has created.

To see the photo gallery containing 12 photos click here.

If you would like to see more photos of his various Star Wars costumes, click on one of the links below.