He wasn’t going to wear it, but Brian Johnson had his Stormtrooper costume in the car, just in case.

He’d owned it for six years and never stepped out at a public event. But at Flagship Cinemas in Lewiston, at the midnight showing of “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” after he watched a few guys stroll in with brown bathrobes and toy lightsabers, he knew it was time.

Johnson, 27, changed in the parking lot.

“I walked up and down the line like I was patrolling it,” he said. Fans loved it. He loved it.

Maine has two members in the 501st Legion, a worldwide group of more than 3,000 mostly men who dress as infamous Star Wars villains for charity events, public appearances and just plain fun.

Johnson, of Auburn, is one. His brother, Alan, of Norway, is the other.

Brian is officially TK-1077, Alan TK-1680. (TK is a reference to a scene in the first “Star Wars” movie. Members pick their own unique number to go after it.)

Alan, 24, says they wore out untold video tapes watching the “Star Wars” movies as kids.

“I thought the coolest characters were Stormtroopers when I first saw it,” Brian said.

(Even though, he concedes, they died pretty easy and “they were terrible shots too.”)

Brian bought his first costume in 1996, when the brothers lived in Washington state. He had it in time for the re-release of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” but, “I was too nervous to wear it.”

Brian moved to Maine a few years later, where his wife, Louise, grew up.

During a visit in 2002, Alan acted as a wrangler for Brian when he and other Stormtroopers descended upon Camp Coniston in New Hampshire during Sci-Fi week and “kidnapped” a few YMCA counselors, to the campers’ delight.

Wranglers take pictures and make sure no one yanks on costumes, and when the troops are ready for a breather, wranglers clear a private room to unwind.

“They don’t like to be seen with their helmets off. They like to stay in character,” Alan said.

Brian thinks the wrangling experience got his brother hooked.

After Alan decided to move East, “I really wanted him to get into it so I’d have someone to troop with from Maine,” Brian said.

He sold his original costume and they spent hours this winter assembling two new ones from kits. Costumes start at $800, without the 501st discount, and don’t include the black body suit, blasters, gloves or white boots.

“It’s funny,” Brian said, “you think, ‘Where are you going to find Stormtrooper boots?’ but there’s a million places to get Stormtrooper boots.”

The iconic, imposing white helmets have a hard-hat liner inside. Some people customize them with fans to keep cool. Alan’s wiring a speaker system into his.

Visibility isn’t the best.

“Luke wasn’t kidding when he said, ‘You can’t see a thing in this helmet,'” said Brian.

They’ll debut their new costumes in North Carolina at the midnight opening of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” Thursday. Their brother, Alan’s twin, Kevin, is graduating this week as a Green Beret at Fort Bragg. They’ll be down to cheer him on.

Brian has appeared locally at a fingerprinting day at BJ’s Wholesale Club and with other troopers at the 2003 Maine State Parade. Most 501st New England Garrison events take place in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“I run the gamut with kids,” said Brian, who stands 6’8″ in costume. “I’ve had them cry, hide behind their parents,” others can’t wait to touch the outfit.

In public, he said he gets a lot of “where did you get that?” from adults.

Alan is a computer technician for SAD 43, Brian a computer technician for SAD 39, and they’ve already passed on their love of the films to the next generation.

Brian’s son, Gabe, 19 months, can say “R2,” “Star Wars” and “Stormtrooper.” (“Daddy taught it to him when I was away for a weekend,” quipped Louise.) Gabe was a Stormtrooper for Halloween at just six weeks old. Last year, they converted a bear costume into an Ewok.

Alan’s daughter, Kaylynn, 2, likes the new Cartoon Network’s “Clone Wars” cartoons. Her favorite is General Grievous, a deadly bad guy featured in the upcoming Episode III, because, in her words, “he’s got a pretty dress.”


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