The Birth of a Trooper - Armour Work-in-Progress Update 10

Other than the boots and thermal detonator, my suit of ESB stormtrooper armour is now almost complete!

The Birth of a Trooper - E-11 Blaster Rifle

Every good trooper needs a weapon, so while I've been working on my armour I've also been putting together my very own E-11 blaster rifle. I began with a stock Hasbro toy blaster that my grandmother gave me all the way back in 1998. Unfortunately, however, the unmodified blaster is a pretty poor representation of the real deal. Fortunately, DoopyDoos Collectibles makes a resin kit that allows you to convert the Hasbro rifle into an almost screen-accurate replica.

While most of the Doopydoos kit simply glues on, the existing muzzle and scope of the rifle had to be removed first. After this, it was just a matter of getting all of the pieces glued on. At that stage it began to look far more like a screen-accurate E-11!

Next up, I used a bit of bog to cover the screw holes and fill in some of the seams - and after a good sanding, the blaster was ready for painting.

The first coat of spray-paint was intended to get a nice even coverage of black over the whole rifle. I followed this up with a little bit of touch-up sanding and some hand-painting for those harder-to-reach spots. Once this was done, the rifle was given a final coat of spray-paint to give it an even colour and texture.

The finished product, with the silver detailing painted, the targeting reticule added, and batteries loaded!

The Birth of a Trooper - Finishing the Belt

This week I got hold of a canvas belt from Fredstar over at the Star Wars New Zealand Message Boards. With a bit of glue and velcro, the full stormtrooper belt was soon done!

The Birth of a Trooper - Finishing the Battery Packs

Like the knee plate, the battery packs are usually riveted in place. Again, however, I've managed to get a fairly good fixing using glue.

The Birth of a Trooper - Finishing the Knee Plate

The knee plate is usually riveted to the left shin, but this isn't required for 501st approval. For now, I've simply glued the knee-plate on.

The Birth of a Trooper - New Handplates

Astute readers will have noticed a discrepancy in my armour up until this stage - the handplates are from A New Hope, while the helmet is painted in The Empire Strikes Back colours. While this might seem minor, it is, in fact, incredibly important for screen accuracy and obtaining membership of the 501st Legion.

Fortunately, my buddy Matt over at Star Wars New Zealand had a couple of ESB handplates going spare. After a quick trim and the addition of some webbing they were ready to go!

Official Episode VII Casting Call Released has today released what it claims to be the official casting call for Star Wars: Episode VII. This might be dismissed as a mere hoax, but the fine folks over at have since contacted Lucasfilm and confirmed that the information is official. The casting call contains the following roles:

Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit. 

Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking. 

A late twenty-something male, fit, handsome and confident. 

Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit. 

A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit. 

Forty-something male, fit, military type. 

Thirty-something male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit.

It's an incredibly ambiguous list (no doubt intentionally), but it does give some very clear information about the age and genders of the main players. There's something else we can take from this casting call too: If it does contain a complete list of the main characters (barring those who will hopefully be reprised by actors from the original trilogy) then we shouldn't expect to see a couple of the main character from the post-RotJ EU - namely, Jaina and Jacen Solo. The pair are twins - just like Luke and Leia - and were there any intention to include them in this film, we'd expect to see both a male and a female role of the same age on this casting call. 

Doug Chiang and Iain McCraig to Work on Episode VII

Lucasfilm has announced that prequel-trilogy artists Doug Chiang and Iain McCraig will be returning to work on Star Wars: Episode VII.

This makes me very happy, as it means we'll be seeing some strong aesthetic continuity between Episode VII and those films that came before. Chiang and McCraig certainly produced some novel designs for Episode I, but they showed great skill in morphing these into shapes we were more familiar with as the Prequel Trilogy went on (see, specifically, the ARC-170 and Venator-class Star Destroyer). Hopefully Chiang and McCain will be able to do this again as they blend the characters and vehicles of the Original Trilogy with those of the upcoming episodes.

Lego Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Out DVD

Keeping the RotF DVD library up-to-date, this morning I picked up Lego Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Out for $19.99 from The Warehouse.

J.J. Abrams Talks Episode VII Production and Direction has provided us with some great new insights into Star Wars: Episode VII courtesy of the man himself, J.J. Abrams. Speaking at a conference several days ago, Abrams said that he and his crew will be moving to London at the end of 2013 for the new film. This seems to indicate that production will start in early 2014 - keeping in line with the tentative 2015 release date. isn't as optimistic, noting that even an early 2014 start date will leave "an enormous amount of work to accomplish to maintain a 2015 release date". The site is therefore speculating a fall / December release for Episode VII.

This would certainly be unusual. Star Wars has always been a summer affair - every previous episode being released in the month of May. In fact, Episode IV: A New Hope only recently won the Yahoo! award for "greatest summer movie of all time". My guess would be that Abrams & Co. will be aiming to get the film out in the same time period, but the fact that they've been coy about specific dates certainly shows some trepidation about how long the production process will take. While I undoubtedly want to see this move as soon as possible, I've no issue with waiting a few extra months in order to ensure the film is the best that it can be.

In another interesting excerpt, Abrams said the following about the new film and its effect on the existing EU material:
"I think that the thing is so big and so massive to so many people that the key to moving forward is honoring but not revering what went before."
This is a promising revelation. Many fans (myself included) fear that the new instalments in the saga will entirely disregard several decades of carefully constructed EU fiction. It's encouraging to know that Abrams at least intends to 'honour' this. While few of us expect slavish adherence to what has come before, it'd be pleasing to see the universe we have come to know and love paid some respect. The Clone Wars did an excellent job of this, covering an already well-documented period in the Star Wars timeline without laying waste to what had come before (the history of the Mandalorians excepted - that's a discussion for another time entirely). Here's hoping Abrams will do the same!

The Birth of a Trooper - Armour Work-in-Progress Update 9

There are only a few minor changes to the armour since the last work-in-progress update. Most notable is the addition of the ab details. Other than this, it's been a matter of minor adjustments to the webbing and armour joins.

Overall, the armour is fitting much better now, and I've managed to get the ab/kidney/butt plate section riding lower and tighter.

The Birth of a Trooper - Ab Plate Details

Having finished the body armour, it was now time to move on to some of the more fiddly jobs. First up was getting the details on the ab plate. After some hunting around, I found these domed buttons at my local Spotlight fabric store that were the perfect size.

I ground off the backs of the buttons, then gave them a couple of coats of Humbrol enamel paint in the colours recommended on the White Armor website.

After that, it was just a matter of gluing them on!

The Birth of a Trooper - Armour Work-in-Progress Update 8

Last night it was photoshoot time at the Imperial armoury! The body armour is now complete - all that's left is to finish the belt, stomach details, and knee adornments.

The strap between the cod piece and the butt plate came undone, so you'll notice those pieces misbehaving. Other than that, I was really happy with the fit. There's plenty of movement - including the ability to get up stairs!