Thanks for checking out my blog for another fun interview! Today, I’m having a conversation with Nathan Seekerman from the Star Wars Steampunk Universe, aka the SWSU. Some of you are probably more familiar with his alter ego, Captain “Solo” Seekerman. He’s a very dedicated cosplayer and sci-fi fan who participates in a lot of charity work. The SWSU takes all of our favorite characters from the Star Wars films and gives them an elaborate steampunk appearance. How can we ask for more? Star Wars and Steampunk in one package. It’s a beautiful thing! Thanks for joining us, Captain.
Q: Some of us aren’t familiar with the Star Wars Steampunk Universe. What should we know about it?
A: The Star Wars Steampunk Universe is a charitable cosplay group. Therefore, our members donate their time and are not paid cosplayers. Our goal is to support a broad number of charities without becoming tied to just one specific area. It was three years ago when we were discovered by Lucas Film Ltd. and given permission to be the only charity group who was approved to use the trademark name Star Wars as part of our group name. From then on, we were assigned a contact at LFL to help us offer our support to charity events. This also has allowed us to raise money for those charities and we can boast several thousands for 2016. It’s our hope to do even more in 2017.
Q: I know the SWSU runs charity work sometimes. What causes do you support?
A: We have supported some of my favorite charities like the Salvation Army that gave food and clothes to my grandmother when she was a child in great need. Other charities have included Deaf Awareness, ALS Fundraiser, Autism Awareness, Boys and Girls Club and even Make-A-Wish invited our group to come out and support their annual events twice last year.
We are based in SoCal, so we have done events as far North as Turlock and all the way South to San Diego. With members living in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, it has been possible for SWSU to attend multiple events in one day. Another great event was the STEM Fair which supports creativity and technology among our young students.
Q: How big is the SWSU? Do you have a lot of members from various areas?
A: We are still growing with 20 members in SoCal, but we have new prospects coming into the group all the time. The process is simple, - We ask that you create a Star Wars Steampunk mashup and come join the group with no expectations. If you have a fun time and enjoy our camaraderie, then we hope you will join us again. We are mostly organized via Facebook Forum where we post all our events and Facebook messaging lets us communicate quickly during hectic conventions should there be a media request. And when we first meet someone at a convention or online, we tell them about our charity events as the priority because Comic Cons are best promoting what we do.
From the members, we look for interest and creativity which has led to some really great dynamics. We include siblings, parents with kids, and a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Some have a background in theater. Others are writers and myself, a programmer. Therefore, we combine our collective skills and help each other with ideas or improvements. I really enjoy talking about circuit board programming via Arduino or Plector Labs with my fellow member, Cog Bane.
Q: Who created the SWSU? I’m sure it started as a really interesting concept from a specific person or group.
A: I was attending “Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium” on the Queen Mary and met Chris Canole or Dude Vader. He suggested we pose together for photographers, since we could be opposing characters. Dude Vader was facing off with Airship Captain Seekerman, when a photographer said, “Hey, are you Steampunk Han Solo?” and Dude Vader said to me, “I told you this was going to be fun!”
He was right, and we continued into the weekend acting out Solo eluding Vader all over the ship. His idea was so strong that we organized a group of cosplayers to create Star Wars Steampunk photoshoots at a Train Museum. Kansas Johnson took all the photos of Baron Von Maul (Shaylor Duranleau), Slave Leia, Lady Sith, Luke Steamwalker (Esteban Sandoval), and Lando Chronos (James Graham). Some characters have stayed and others have come to join us like Sabé Sprocket (HotNerdgirl) Ahsoka Gira (Poppy Appleton), Cog Bane (Treb Padula), Lady Fett and Sir Chewy of Bacca (Rebecca and Matt Eusey).
Q: Let’s get to know your identity as Captain “Solo” Seekerman. Would you mind explaining the details about your steampunk persona?
A: When I created the character, I was thinking about ex-military as an homage to my grandfather’s service in WW2. The allure of airship pilots is where the military cap for my character originated. After deciding on the cap, then I started to outfit the character with a belt, boots, jacket and vest. With a military background, the Lanard X8 gun made sense and if an airship captain becomes a smuggler, then he might need a quick get-a-away with wings.
The wings took over six months to build because I had gone through many iterative ideas. Eventually, I found that an air driven system would be exciting and audiences could imagine they were steam powered! Then it was time to fabricate and a few months later, it needed lights too!
So my ex-military, airship captain is a smuggler who travels the world for adventure. Switching that description to the Millennium Falcon traveling the galaxy was not a far stretch, so I enjoy supporting the SWSU as their steampunk captain.
Q: I love your costume. The wings are so impressive. Did you hire a costume designer or was it the DIY approach?
A: The wings are a collaboration of many YouTube videos, some fabrication from designers, and my own creativity to make something unique. All the parts can be found online, so it’s just a matter of assembly based on what a person likes. I started over three years ago with this simple DIY tutorial - http://bit.ly/2j8qDBU. Since then, I’ve seen similar videos with even more detailed info, but in the world of Steampunk, there are endless options! For me, this was an expression of creativity that had no references to a comic book hero, so whatever I chose would be unique. Granted, it started out very simple with just a vest, boots, and an officer’s cap. The wings include fire extinguishers as jets and a jewel box holding a pocket plasma light
Q: What types of events do you attend?
A: For me and the SWSU, there are two kinds of events and all of them are volunteer. We attended several charity events in the month of December - Toy for Tots, Jefferey Foundation for Special Needs Kids, and the Shriner’s Hospital Toy Drive. The month before, we attended Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con (formerly Kamikaze Con) and the Palm Springs Comic Book Convention. Stan Lee is a particular favorite, since he signed the wings this year which became an invitation to do the Channel 5 morning News in San Diego with Stan Lee during the San Diego International Comic Con.
Ideally, we do events like the Wild West Steam Fest and the Oxnard Steampunk Fest where they asked us to judge the costume contest and we created custom charity patches. These patches are endorsed by Lucas Film Legal Dept. and are Copyright and Trademarked by LFL. This is part of our support from LFL as a sanctioned charity group who is invited to do events around SoCal like the Star Wars 1/2 Marathon happening in January.
Q: I’m more of newbie when it comes to cosplay. Do you have any advice for people who are trying cosplay for the first time?
A: We have one thing to offer all newbies - Please come talk to us or join us with your first cosplay. It’s our goal to encourage creativity and foster modern story telling. So much is online and getting over looked, but at a charity 5K or Comic Con, those creative souls will find kindred spirits who want to expand the creative process.
The most amazing creative places are the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) events or Maker’s Fairs. At these events, audiences are offered hands-on experience with electronics, CNC, 3D modeling, and laser cutting machines to help explore new ideas. Someone with little or no experience can see how these machines work and create something that day. These events are a cornerstone of steampunk creativity because it’s all about letting someone create whatever they want.
Q: How would you define steampunk? There’s no right or wrong answer. I just want to hear your opinion.
A: Steampunk is a mashup of two distinct elements - Steam is the power source in this sci-fi world and punk is the description of someone who is in a counter culture desiring change. Or the elevator pitch, “Steampunk is Victorian Science Fiction,” because we take many elements from the Victorian age and blend it into a gritty aesthetic that is intertwined with a Steam driven society. To make steam powered devices, it’s often akin to gears, oils, and exhaust of steam, so combining these elements gives you a rough and dark color palette that needs accents of color.
Notice I’m being intentionally vague, because in the end there is no wrong answer to Steampunking. You have to make it your own. I lean towards brass and leather elements, but always integrate some filigree or other textures in my Steampunk expression. Others have found that a Western slant is more to their liking. Our opinion - “There is no wrong answer, so give it a try.”
Q: It seems like steampunk is becoming more popular and inclusive. What are your thoughts about that phenomenon? Is it a good thing for steampunk to include a wide variety of people?
A: Steampunk will always find its way in and out of pop culture, since its inception back in the 80s. (This is a shout to a founding father of Steampunk, Tim Stone)
Q: There’s a never ending debate about the stylistic elements. Is steampunk a subgenre of science fiction, fantasy, or both? Again, I’m just looking for your opinion.
A: Steampunk can be a subgenre if it’s not the main style used, but our group is meant to portray a mashup of Star Wars and steampunk. But certainly both are science fiction because they are both fantasy worlds conjured from the imaginations of the participants. Unlike the 501st or other screen specific costume groups, we ask the person to find a Star Wars character and show us the steampunk version. Therefore, we encourage debate as a point of interest and allow others to find a character that fits their personality or design goals. This has made our group very friendly and welcoming to first time builders and even new members from other groups looking for something new.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Growing the group and offering a place that welcomes cosplayers who want to do a Star Wars steampunk mashup will always be a group mantra. In 2017, I hope we can do more fundraising patches and double the amount of money we raised in 2016. Seeing those dollars go to worthwhile causes is extremely rewarding. For me, I must finally finish my SteamTrooper cosplay!
That wraps up our interview! I think you’re a really interesting and unique guy who’s doing a great job in the world of cosplay. Kudos for your efforts and best wishes for 2017!
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. Nathan shared a ton of information about the SWSU, cosplay, steampunk, and more. His group brings a lot of positive things to the sci-fi community and I appreciate it. Please, leave a comment if you having anything to share about this post. Check out the links if you want to learn more about Captain “Solo” Seekerman and the SWSU. Maybe some of you will feel enticed to join their organization. Why not? They seem like a very open minded group of cosplayers who are using their creativity for good causes. Thanks for reading the interview and I'll write another interesting post next week.