Hero Behind the Mask: Joe Mignano

There are a lot of great people out there and I recently got to meet one of those great people through becoming a leader in Outer Rim Brigade. Joe describes himself as a man with many hats. And he is that! If he isn’t helping fellow Star Wars nerds in varying capacities he is working on a Star Wars podcast! Get to know this great man and show some support. Joe, thank you for your positive attitude and inspiration! –Mala
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Name: Joe Mignano

Location: Southern California

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
That’s a long story! Basically, after my wife passed away a little over a decade ago, I embraced a lot of the things I enjoyed most in life, as a sort of means of coping with the loss. I immersed myself in Star Wars, whereas before I was a fan but didn’t have many Star Wars things. I started collecting books, autographs, etc. Then, thanks to social media (which at the time was pretty much Myspace), I learned about conventions like Comic Con in San Diego, and groups of costumers that not only wore Star Wars attire, but also used their costumes for charitable purposes. I never knew at the time that there were such things, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. It’s a part of my life to this day.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
Getting to be the Star Wars figure that I always wanted to be as a kid, and being able to use that live action figure for a good cause, especially when it involves doing something positive in the lives of children, really keeps me motivated to contribute all I can, as much as I can, as often as I can, even if I’m not often able to.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
I really don’t remember! I think, technically, it was at Comic Con in San Diego, in either 2007 or 2008. I had a silly little campy YouTube show at the time called “The Dark Side Chats,” in which I’d often wear a custom Sith get-up, and of course talk about Star Wars. It was my first foray into podcasting, which over the years would also
become a favorite pastime of mine. Star Wars podcasting, of course.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
I only have two outfits, believe it or not. I have a custom Sith and a Darth Sidious (prequel era, before Palpy got scarred for life by that traitor Mace Windu). Of those, I’d have to say I love my custom Sith, since it’s very non-restricting, breathes easily, and is rather comfortable. Plus, it’s something I concocted on my own, which gives the costume its own sort of uniqueness.

Most memorab photo Mark Edwards photography 189697341_zpstrydwoas.jpgle CAUSEplay moment(s): There are so many. But I’d have to say that one of my most favorites was while I was wearing my custom Sith, and I was working a table for The Dark Empire at an event, which is something I don’t really do anymore (I’m more involved with the 501st Legion these days). I had started something up called HoloNet Audio Dramas, one of a few Star Wars podcasts that I do, in which I narrate well-written short family-friendly Star Wars fanfiction, and set it to music and sound effects – the idea being not just to have a fan audio presentation (sort of like fanfilms, but audio only), but to also target that media toward fans that may be blind, have difficulty reading, etc.

On this particular occasion, a blind woman was led to the table I was at, and her hand was gently guided along that props that were on display. Without any hesitation or guesswork on her part, she knew what a lightsaber hilt was and what a Sith holocron was. I described the outfit I was wearing to her, and let her feel the material. I was amazed at the expression her face made as she took in the details of the display pieces and costume fabric with her fingertips.

I then offered her a free audio disc of HoloNet Audio Dramas material; it had about ten stories on it, and I used to give them away regularly. She later told me that she thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories, and “seeing” what we had on display; she really experienced Star Wars in a way that she hadn’t before. That did it for me! I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve given out close to 1,000 audio discs since, before retiring disc distribution last year. I still give free ones out on rare occasion, and I always think of that particular encounter with a blind Star Wars fan when I do.

What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them?
Hillsides children’s group home (an orphanage), is a cause that I’ve supported since 2011, having organized a Star Wars Day event for the kids there each year, now twice a year. I actually wrote a blog about it on the Star Wars website (link: http://www.starwars.com/news/celebrating-5-years-of-star-wars-at-hillsides-child-care-facility) , and it was mentioned in the Bantha Tracks section of the January 2015 issue of Star Wars Insider. Organizing an event like that for kids that depend on so much from volunteers means a lot to me, and I think it’s the reason why volunteers like us volunteer to do what we photo 1398881_10151840662688241_1116444032_o_zpsifute0zi.jpg do.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
The silliest thing I’ve ever done was probably be Santa Sith one Sithmas, a long time ago…

Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
I’m inspired by all of the people that volunteer their time and efforts into not only enjoying w
hat they do, but using it to give back, as well. The story of Albin Johnson, his late daughter Katie, and a baby girl once known as Princess Leah when she was alive were and still my biggest inspirations.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Always be professional, but also have fun! If you aren’t having fun, then you’re doing something wrong.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Hillsides every August is the single-most event that I look forward to, and also in December.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
Costumer. I think “cosplayer” is a term best describing a person that wears a costume for playful purposes, whereas a “costumer” doesn’t just wear a costume, they make it themselves and use it for a purpose beyond play.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
My custom Sith, or a very primitive version thereof.

What is your dream cosplay?
I’d like to do one or two more of the many fun outfits that are worn in the 501st Legion, and I’d really like to make some type of bounty hunter outfit at some point. The Royal Guard costume is really calling to me, but I’m also not sure if I want to demote myself from Emperor just yet. photo BrutalOne_zpsbvxlvdrm.jpg

How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
Ironically enough, I think through podcasting. Although Dark Empire Radio is now its own entity, it once was the official podcast of The Dark Empire costume club, and I served as it’s main voice for a number of years, as well as the first PR Officer of that particular club. I’m now happily involved co-hosting and post-producing the 501stCast, the official podcast of the 501st Legion.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I wear many hats. Security guard, park ranger, voice over guy. I guess it all depends on which hat I’m wearing at the time.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
If “philanthropist” were an occupation, I’d love to list my everyday job as that. I dream of being able to freely give as much as possible, without the hindrance of having to work hard to be able to.

Tell us something random about yourself: I love cheesecake. Immensely. Some say too much; I say hardly enough.

Star Wars or Star Trek: I love both, but it’s the Wars that inspired me to do what I do. It’s all about the Wars!

Marvel or DC: I loved Super Friends as a kid, so DC when it comes to old school comics. But, Marvel all the way otherwise!

Favorite Comic Series: Dark Empire, the FIRST “expanded universe” or Legends comic from Dark Horse!

Favorite Comic Character: Darth Talon. I’m a Sith. A male Sith. It was only inevitable.

Least favorite comic character and why? The rabbit fellow in the old Marvel Star Wars comics. I can’t remember his name, and probably for good reason.

Favorite Book: Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide, by Ben Burtt, with illustrations by Sergio Aragones. Think Mad Magazine and Star Wars together, and learn a bit of Huttese in the process. Major win!

 photo Joe Mignano 73 Front_zpss4ughjsa.pngFavorite Video Game: Battlefront II from 2004. Nothing comes close.

Favorite Convention: Celebration 6 in Orlando, Florida in 2012 was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had at a con. I’ve also enjoyed going to ConNooga in Tennessee, and San Diego Comic Con in years past. Alas, I’m conventioned-out anymore!

Affiliations (clubs or groups): 501st Legion, Saber Guild, The Dark Empire, Outer Rim Brigade

Facebook: facebook.com/lordbruticus

Twitter: @mignanojoe

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Hero Behind the Mask: Scott Loxley

I have had this interview for a while and it is finally the time to share this great story and adventure with you. One reason I picked today is May 4 is just around the corner and what better way to say “May the Fourth be with you” than an interview featuring a Stormtrooper!

Remember how I mentioned in one of my first blogs that the ways to CAUSEplay is only limited by your imagination? This weeks feature demonstrates this! Scott Loxley is walking around Australia (19,000 miles) in a full Star Wars Sandstrooper costume. Now for those of you who wear armor, Star Wars or any other genre, you know what it is like to wear it at a con. Now imagine walking the distance this guy has, and will by the end of his journey. Personally, I will never complain about being too hot or uncomfortable at a con again! You may be asking why is he doing this? Simple, for the children at Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. But I will let him tell you more in his own words! If you are interested you can donate on his behalf here. Scott’s goal in $100,000 and he has reached $57,662.25 of it!  You can help him toward his goal too!   Make sure to follow him over the next few months as he completes this 18 month chapter of his life!  He has had some pretty amazing stories too!  Like surviving a snake bite because of his armor!

Scott, May the Fourth be with you on this journey and the next! –Mala
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Name: Scott Loxley

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
My daughter asked me to take her to a comic con event in Melbourne that started it all. I remember saying to her “what is that”? She laughed and proceeded to tell me all about it. It was another way for me to spend time with her so I agreed to go. It was there that I first heard of and saw the 501st Legion in action and was impressed by the work that these volunteers do for charity. It wasn’t until after we got home that my daughter told me she wanted to get involved in costuming and asked if I would do it with her, the rest is history.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
Every time I attend an event, be it as a Sandtrooper or Darth Vader with fellow 501st troopers, it gives me a great sense of wellbeing as we are all there for the right reasons and we are continuing to make a difference in our communities. I can’t see a time when I won’t be doing this.

Is this fundraiser your first CAUSEplay event? If not, what was?
As a 501st member, I have attended many fundraising events and look forward to many, many more. It’s quite easy to get addicted to helping those who in some cases can’t help themselves. That’s what the 501st do.

What is your favourite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and why?
I do enjoy wearing Vader but at the moment it would have to be the Sandtrooper (sand/desert version of a Stormtrooper). After wearing him non-stop for the last year on the road I have seen him appeal to pretty much everybody who stops me wanting their picture taken with him.
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Most memorable CAUSEplay moment: I have two moments,
1: attending my first 501st event as a Sandtrooper and experiencing firsthand the reactions of the kids, priceless.

2: when my wife, Sally Loxley, decided that she would also join the 501st and help me in raising funds for charity. Her costume is Emperor Palpatine, basically the boss of the bad guys.

Why did you chose Monash Children’s Hospital as a cause to support?
When I decided that I was going to walk around Australia, I was looking for a charity to get behind. I knew that one of our members worked at the Monash children’s Hospital so that made it a pretty easy decision in the end.

Your goal is to raise $100,000. How will these funds help Monash Children’s Hospital?
It will go towards buying new equipment that is always needed in hospitals. The hospital knows where it is needed and will make good use of the funds. I’m just happy that it gives them an opportunity to make a difference.

When did you start this journey?
I left Melbourne 2 November 2013 and should be finished by June 2015.
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What made you decide that walking 9000 miles was the best way for you to make a difference?
Sometimes in order to make a difference you have to be a little different and what better way to get people’s attention than to wear the iconic Stormtrooper costume. I use him at many charity events so why not take him on the road and try to reach as many people as possible.

At the time of this interview where in Australia are you?
(Monday 9 February 2015) I am currently passing through a little town in Northern Queensland called Mount Larcom. There’s not much here but I have found a picnic table and chairs amongst a few trees which will do me for the day.

Have you had support from the Star Wars costume clubs in Australia? If so what?
I could not tell you in a sentence the level of support I receive from the Star Wars community. I receive numerous messages every day from supporters both in Australia and overseas in almost every country around the world. It’s been amazing.

During your journey, what has been the nicest thing anyone has done for you?
I don’t think there has been one single thing. The people I continue to meet continually surprise me with their generosity. The longer the walk goes on, the more people are becoming aware of it and are offering support in varying ways whether it’s a room for the night, offering food or drink or are happy just to stop and have a chat.

Have you learned anything about yourself on this journey? What about the world?
I have learned patience. I have had no choice but to accept the things that I cannot change. I have also been given an insight to people around the world who donate via the Everyday Hero online donation page. People who live in other countries appreciate what someone else is doing in a country far away from them has been very humbling.
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You have set the bar high for yourself. Do you think you will do something this ambitious again?
Watch this space I guess. There’s always something to be done and a difference to be made somewhere.

When you get home what is the first thing you want to do?
Hug my wife and not let her out of my sight for the longest time.

Is there something in your daily life you miss?
Just a daily routine.

What do you hope people will take away from your example of selflessness?
The fact that any person who reads this is no different than me. We can all make a difference. You don’t have to walk around a country to do it. Just step out of your comfort zone and have a go.

What is the silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I’m doing it now, lol.
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Who inspires you?
The 501st Legion and my wife.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Get into it. It’s been by far the best thing I have ever done. I can’t tell you how good it feels to make a difference. Ask a 501st Legion member, they’ll tell you.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
As long as people donate, It doesn’t matter. I remember walking across the Nullarbor plain and coming into a roadhouse and being told by the people that work there ” we heard there was a spaceman coming” as long as people donate I don’t care what they call me, and they donated.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
The current Sandtrooper costume I’m walking around Australia in now.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m an ex-Australian Defence Force member.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
If I could I would work for the 501st Legion so I could make a difference every day. At the moment I think that is my job, lol.
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Tell us something random about yourself: I have won State, National and World titles in cycling.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Isn’t Star Trek a courier company?

Marvel or DC: I lean more towards Marvel.

Favourite Comic Series: The Phantom.

Favourite Comic Character: The Phantom

Least favourite super hero and why: Aqua Man, apart from talking to fish, what does he do?

Favourite Book: I don’t have a single favourite, I enjoy history.

Favourite Video Game: I’ll play anything you put in front of me, but I like the first person games.

Favourite Convention: Armageddon is a favourite.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): I’m all about the 501st Legion. I’m a member to the Terror Australia’s Garrison’s Knightfall Squad. http://www.501st.com, www.monashchildrenshospital.org.

Please donate via ‘Everyday hero, Storming Australia’… https://newmonashchildrenshospital.everydayhero.com/au/stormingaroundaustralia

Follow my progress and video diary posts at: https://www.facebook.com/StormingAustralia
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Hero Behind The Mask: Adam AKA Splat

This week I want to introduce to member of the 501st Legion who is in this hobby for the right reasons!  As he states, he joined for the costumes but stayed for the charity.  A situation that happens to many who begin their CAUSEplay adventure.  It has been a pleasure to CAUSEplay alongside him!  I know he will always represent this portion of the costume community well!  –Mala

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Name: My name is Adam Cannon, but most, if not all of my costuming friends call me Splat (long story).

Location: Bountiful, UT

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
That’s kind of a long story but I’ll see if I can’t shorten it a bit. My wife took the family on a family outing to the Clearfield Boo-nanza back in 2007. While there I saw the 501st Legion (Star Wars costuming group). I got really interested because I’d wanted a Stormtrooper costume for as long as I could remember but had never heard there was a possible way to actually own one. When I dug a little deeper I found that the biggest aspect of the use of their costumes was charity work. In short, I came for the costumes but I stayed for the charity.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
It’s a great way to do good while having fun at the same time. The rewards for this hobby come in the form of hugs and high fives from the young and young-at-heart. If the compensation were monetary I don’t think it would be nearly as special or mean nearly as much. This is volunteerism in the truest sense of the word.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
My first involvement with costumes was just as helping out on the photography end for a fundraiser being done at a toy store but I was still involved and we raised a great deal of money and toys for Toys 4 Tots. My first event in a costume came from someone I’d never met before. They had an extra Stormtrooper costume and they let me wear it for a Provo First Night New Year’s Eve event. That portion of the event began and ended early as it was geared towards children.

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Toys for Tots 2013

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
I only have one costume at the moment so by default it’s my favorite 😉 . It gets lots of attention though, I think because it’s bright red and stands out a lot. It gives me the chance to interact with lots of people.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment :
I’d have to say my most memorable moment came fairy recently. I went to Idaho to visit some friends and help out at the Tree City Comic Con in Boise, Idaho. It was a very special interaction with an autistic boy and his mother. She was beside herself because I don’t think she expected to find a character who knew anything about autism. My son is high-functioning autistic so I had a few ideas about how to interact with her son. Luckily they worked.

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Idaho Statesman article featuring Adam

What is your favorite cause to support?
For me that’s a difficult question. The experiences you have at each event vary, and they’re special for various reasons. I think any costumer will go to any worthy charity that requests them.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I don’t think I’ve ever been requested to do anything strange for a specific cause. I did the ALS ice-bucket challenge in full costume (minus the helmet) because there was a group getting together to do it. If you’re with good people you’ll pretty much do anything to make it more fun. I will say though, that there was an MDA walk where a girl in a wheelchair wanted to watch me dance. She was so sweet and endearing I was only too happy to oblige. I’ll dance anyway if the music moves me. Just because I play a bad guy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it light 😉 .

Who inspires you?
This might sound cliche’ but I’m gonna say my dad. He volunteered for everything he could if it was to help someone else. This is a great way to emulate him while having fun at the same time.

Advice for CAUSEplaying:
Learn to have fun! If you’re in it simply for the glory of showing off your costume then I think you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong, many costumes are hand-made and deserve to be appreciated but if you’re worried that someone might breathe on your costume then you need to re-think your hobby because most of these events involve children. If it’s not CAUSE”playing” it’s probably more like CAUSE”working”.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
The next local event will involve multiple costume groups coming together at Hastur’s Comics on November 22 to support Toys-4-Tots. I’ve been to that event several times and it seems to get bigger every year. I look forward to meeting new people and re-acquainting myself with others.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
I’d have to say costumer. I think the term “cosplay” has developed a stigma that we’re just nerds who dress up for no apparent reason other than to win contests and attend conventions. There was a show on tv called “Heroes of Cosplay” that didn’t really do anything to correct any of those misconceptions. I only made it through one episode, and I have no idea if it’s still on but I couldn’t watch it.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
The first time I did an event in my own costume was on May 15, 2010 for a family who was trying to raise money to adopt a little girl from the Ukraine. They held a block party and all the activities were put on by the neighborhood. People paid to participate in the activities and they raised a significant amount. I don’t know what the total ended up being or if the adoption ever took place but it felt good to know I contributed to the attempt.

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Toys for Tots 2012

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I help in the shipping / receiving department of a warehouse that sells scrapbooking stuff. Eventually I plan on going back to school so I’ll add “non-traditional student” to my resume’.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I wish I had the talent to be a comic book artist. Maybe I could create a costume that would make it into this hobby. 😀

Tell us something random about yourself:
I think I’m in the top 5 oldest people to be involved in costuming here in Utah.

Star Wars or Star Trek:
I gotta go with Star Wars. I have nothing against Star Trek, I just think it might come down to something as simple as which one you were exposed to first. I’m also not sure that one would have necessarily existed without the other but I have latent memories of watching the Death Star trench run in the theater with my dad when it first came out (Yes, I am that old 😉 )

Marvel or DC:
I grew up on Spider-Man comic books, so if you’re holding a gun to my head I’d say Marvel, but both universes offer up some awesome characters.

Favorite Comic Character:
Spider-Man. He’s a person with real-world problems. I know every superhero has issues, but this is a High School / College kid who’s trying to juggle school, work, personal life, home life, etc. with the demands of helping others as Spider-Man, with the additions of the villains trying to take him down too. If there were a superhero that was a family man with a wife and a few kids I’d probably make them a favorite as well.

Favorite Book:
Can’t do it. That’s like picking a favorite child (although one of my children is definitely running 2nd right now 😉 ). I will say my least favorite was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. I never finished it because by about half way through it was too much of a chore to read. I still have no idea how it ends.

Favorite Video Game:
It was Call of Duty for a while before my account was hacked and I couldn’t level up so I stopped playing video games altogether for a while. When I came back briefly I played Skyrim. If I could get a good group of friends to play a closed group online it wouldn’t matter what the game was.

Favorite Convention:
If I’d had to answer this a month ago I’d have said Salt Lake Comic Con or FanX, but I went to Boise for Tree City Comic Con and had a great time there. It was much, much, much, much lower key, and for me that was part of the appeal, and the Idaho 501st people treated my friend and me extremely well. To be fair, I’ve never been to anything else. I don’t get out as much so I really only have a small sampling of conventions to compare.

Affiliations (clubs or groups):
Alpine Garrison (The Utah Chapter of the 501st Legion – Star Wars Costuming Group), but I have friends in all the groups. 😀

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Splattum

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Idaho’s Comic Con 2014

Added 3/25/15.  Adam recently made a nice YouTube video of cosplayers making children happy.  You can check out this great video here.

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Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! And adventures!! Or tell me about a CAUSEplayer or a group you think are making a difference! Email AdventuresWithMala@gmail.com with your stories!