In only the third month of the Mos Eisley Carinderia's young existence, I have had the privilege of interviewing interesting personalities, including a Sith Lord and a real Star Wars Concept Artist. Today, I get to feature TK-9849 (identity withheld upon his request), a Stormtrooper based in New York and head honcho of Action Figure Empire, a fairly new but very promising and entertaining blog dedicated to Star Wars collectibles, toy photography and reviews.
I have struck a friendship with this cool 'trooper, who beneath the armor, also has a charitable spirit. TK-9849 was responsible for the very successful Toys for Eli drive, which benefited 6 year-old Star Wars fan Eli Lana, who suffers from Franconi Anemia, a rare and life threatening blood disorder. Through his tireless efforts he was able to round up a big portion of the Star Wars community to pitch in and send packages of toys, to the delight of young Eli.
Here we try to get to know more about the man behind helmet:
Would you have an idea how many items are in your collection?
TK-9849: "Wow... hmmm. More than 300 figures that's for sure! Over the years I've spent thousands of dollars on figures. Probably too much money haha! I have a whole bunch of vehicles too. Always need more figures and vehicles. It's a healthy addiction I swear! :)"
If you had to give up all of them except for three, which ones will you keep?
"Seriously? Talk about the hardest choice ever. Ok well I'd have to say TVC Boba Fett, Episode IV Commemorative Tin Darth Vader (best vader ever made in my opinion) and Montross (best Mandalorian figure yet). But really--it's hard to say! As for vehicles there's no question, AT-AT (Shadows of the Darkside line), AT-ST (Legacy Collection), and Tie Bomber (Shadows of the Darkside line)."
When did you become a member of the 501st? How many troopings or conventions have you attended?
"I became a member of the 501st Legion last July and still have yet to attend an official troop. I live hours away from most of my fellow garrison members (Garrison Excelsior) and have been incredibly busy what with the blog, the toy drive, and work. So I am looking forward to attending one soon. I did "troop" my first time in public at a friend's Halloween party last fall and had a blast. I even won best costume and got a bottle of champagne. Definitely a lot of people geeking out over the armor that night."
What was the craziest thing that you ever saw during the conventions you attended?
"Hmmmm. I saw a pretty great screen accurate Boba Fett handing out fliers with a picture of Han Solo on them with the words 'Have you seen this smuggler?' Met David Prowse (body actor for Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew ( Chewbacca, who surprisingly was very rude to us), and laughed at Jake Lloyd (young Anakin) because he had that same grimace he always had in Episode 1 and was whining to his mother, who was there, to get him a drink. That kind of made the day for me. I've seen a lot of crazed fans dressed as anime characters with props, mostly swords, bigger than themselves made out of foam and cardboard."
How many Star Wars celebrities have you seen up close? Who were they?
"Didn't I just answer this? LOL David Prowse (Darth Vader's body actor), shook his hand and talked to him for a while, Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Jake Lloyd (Young Anakin), Hmmm I think that might be it so far. But hey that's cool! Plus the voice of Captain Tarkin (later Grand Moff Tarkin) is a fan on Facebook and i've talked to him a bit there so that's awesome too!"
You mentioned that your dad was once involved in the making of the Star Wars Galaxy of Fear books. Could you give us a few details about his work? How many books did he work on? When was this? Did you get a lot of Star Wars freebies?
"My dad is a sculptor, graphic artist, illustrator (technical stuff), and painter. He worked as a commercial artist in the 80s and 90s. he sculpted the models used in hologram production. He worked for companies like The Danbury Mint, Marvel, DC, Funimation, Hasbro, Mattel, Kenner, etc. He's done comic book covers for Spider-Man (he did the 30th anniversary hologram covers) and the hologram card series for Spider-Man, Bat Man, and Super Man. He worked on Dragonball-Z action figures, 2 failed toy lines (Visionaries and The Inhumanoids). He's done work for G.I. Joe, and the sports toys Starting Lineup. He sculpted the Visa dove on the credit card. Did covers for the Goosebumps book series, Kellog's Frosted Flakes boxes, National Geographic covers, and among all of that he did a few hologram covers for the Star Wars Galaxy of Fear series. The more of his projects I write the more I remember.
I did get a few things from his jobs, a Spawn action figure, he has a couple of original molds from some Star Wars key chains he did, and some G.I. Joe figures and other toys. He and I bonded over collecting comic books and toys. So despite not getting tons of freebies, oddly enough these companies don't really send much in the way of freebies. My Dad actually used to collect his own work at the stores lol. So collecting is in my blood I suppose. I did however get to go to Toyfare in Manhattan as a kid--which is pretty rare, in that kids aren't allowed. I was snuck in as an assistant to my dad's "toy studio" haha. What a blast!"
Your Toys for Eli Project was very successful in generating support from the Star Wars community. What are your thoughts and how fulfilling was it helping out a young Star Wars fan?
'Well we're still helping Eli. It's amazingly fulfilling! I never in my wildest dreams thought this toy drive would take off the way it did. Even now there's a stack of donations in the living room about 4 feet high. I wanted to be able to visit Eli in my Stormtrooper armor but he lives far away from us here, so I decided to do the next best thing. Now Eli has more Star Wars toys than most any kid, and he deserves them more than most any kids out there. It's enough just seeing him smile. I hope to continue helping young Star Wars fans in need for a long, long time :)"
Thank you for visiting the Mos Eisley Carinderia, TK-9849! We hope to see more of you, your great reviews and photos, and your charity work in the future.
To contribute to the Toys for Eli Drive or to get excellent toy reviews, go visit his website:
Action Figure Empire.
(Except for the Eli Skywalker graphic and Galaxy of Fear cover, all photos in this article were posted with the permission of TK-9849)