Shortly after Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, Cartoon Network announced that its Star Wars cartoon series, The Clone Wars, would soon come to an end with its fifth season. The news was disappointing to fans: while the series had a rocky start, it was firing on all cylinders by the time it hit its fourth and fifth seasons.
Even more distressingly, it was clear that there was quite a bit more left on the cutting-room floor. Lucasfilm had already been hard at work on a sixth season, and eventually completed and finished a shortened 13 episode season for German network Super RTL and Netflix in 2014. Over the years, the studio had teased some of the work that they’d come up with, and in 2018 at San Diego Comic Con, creator Dave Filoni revealed to a shocked room that they would be bringing the series back for a final, seventh season on Disney+.
While one of the arcs would be a long-teased final battle that would close out the series, one of the arcs of the season had been hinted at for years already: the Bad Batch, aka Clone Force 99, a sort of special operations unit comprised of clones that had come out of the cloning process with some advantageous mutations. There was Sergeant Hunter, the group’s leader, Wrecker, a commando who was larger and stronger than the rest, Crosshair, the unit’s sniper, and Tech, their brainy technician.
After years of waiting, the Bad Batch arc kicked off the show’s seventh season with a four-episode arc, introducing the team to the show’s regular characters as they underwent a special mission to locate Echo, a clone who’d been presumed dead, but who had been captured and tortured by the Separatists. Shortly after that final season debuted, we learned that we’d soon be seeing the members of Clone Force 99 again: Lucasfilm and Disney were spinning the characters off into their own show, The Bad Batch, which debuted on May 4th.
While the news was exciting for fans of The Clone Wars, it was also exciting for a handful of Star Wars cosplayers who had built their own versions of the costumes. As with most Star Wars costumes these days, a handful of dedicated cosplay groups popped up on forums and on Facebook, allowing members to share resources, tips, and generally encourage one another as they worked to complete their costumes.
For Hunter Smoke, Star Wars costuming was already a life-long hobby. He had been dressing up as Star Wars characters for Halloween since he was a kid, and transitioned over to prop replicas thanks to the Replica Props Forum. When The Clone Wars aired, he was immediately drawn to the Bad Batch’s leader. “How could I pass up the opportunity to dress as a Star Wars character I share a name with?” While he was initially skeptical of the group (He was “hoping that they wouldn't be too over the top”), he fell in love with them, particularly Hunter’s “strong independent and loyal character traits,” and the callbacks to 1980s action movies.
The costume proved to be challenging — Smoke notes that when he began building the costume in 2020, nobody was making kits of the armor, unlike the regular rank and file clones. “I had to do a lot of custom fabrication,” he explained “I started with an animated Republic Commando kit and then had to do significant resculpting and rebuilding on top of the stock parts using scrap plastic and auto body filler.” He had to go out and rebuild and make some pieces of his own, such as the shoulders, and forearm ridges, getting help from friends in the 3D modeling community to print them up.
Smoke isn’t the only cosplayer to tackle Hunter. John Rodriguez explained that he had been long interested in clones — his first costume was a Clone Wars clone trooper, and loved seeing the Bad Batch in the first part of the season. “I absolutely love their rag-tag attitudes. I also like how they're all so different, from the other clones and from each other. I really appreciate the diversity in Star Wars lately and sort of see myself in him physically. I also love the character's assertiveness and ability to take the initiative, something I admire.” He ended up picking Hunter, and after waiting to see if someone would produce a kit for the armor, he ended up buying a raw Hunter armor kit, and set about modifying it and painting it to be screen accurate.
Willem Nieborg explained that he was immediately drawn to the Bad Batch when he first saw the unfinished episodes online, long before they were completed for Disney+. For him, Crosshair held the most appeal: “I always tended to like sniper characters in movies and video games,” he says. “I loved the stealth aspect as well of these characters. So seeing a sniper character in dark gray and black armor was immediately appealing to me.”
He ended up relying on 3D printing for all of his armor, discovering the files for the armor online. “I started out by printing everything on my Creality CR-10s, from there I had to make modifications to the armor as the files weren't 100% accurate to what you see in the show. It was nothing large, just trimming off certain pieces or adding material to certain parts to fill them out. 3D printed armor is very fragile, so when I first started working I would use a fiberglass resin to reinforce the pieces and smooth out the layer lines that are present on new prints.”
From there, he spent hours sanding, and once that was completed, he consulted the official guides that Starwars.com released last year to help complete the paint. “I love the sleek, dark design of the Crosshair most of all. His helmet is also my favorite of the Bad Batch members because it's so unique. The crosshair symbol over his right eye just pops and looks super clean in relation to the rest of the helmet.”
Jeremy Bartic explained that he got his start costuming two years ago, thanks to seeing cosplayers at San Diego Comic Con. After building a Captain Rex costume, he decided to move onto another member of the 501st: Echo. The character had been introduced early in the series, eventually becoming an Advanced Recon Commando before appearing to die midway through the series. In the Bad Batch arc, we learned that Echo had survived and was being used against the Republic. Bartic explained that he wanted to do a clone trooper that nobody had done at that point as a personal challenge. “After building fan favorite Rex,” he said, “I really wanted to challenge myself and see if I could construct a suit that was so drastically different from any of the other clones.” When Echo was introduced to the Bad Batch at the end of that arc, he had a very different costume than the others, requiring considerably more sewing and fabric than sewing or plastic.
Bartic started with constructing the helmet, and explained that he’s been working on learning how to use templates to build armor with EVA foam, and has been working on modifying other parts from existing clone armor that’s already out there. He notes that he was a little surprised to see that Echo will get a completely new costume in the series: “Essentially, I'm building a costume that was in one episode of The Clone Wars,” he said. Nevertheless, he’ll be continuing his project, and will eventually move on to build Echo’s new outfit as well.
Echo also holds some personal meaning to Bartic: the character was seriously wounded, and when he returns to the Republic, is missing some limbs, something he could relate to. “what I really appreciated about Echo was his perseverance once reuniting with the clones,” he says. “My wife developed disabilities in 2007. Her health has gone down hill since then but I have seen her keep picking herself up and doing what she can despite her limitations. In some ways Echo reminded me of my wife and I thought it would be nice to represent those with challenges when trooping with the 501st.”
Speaking with Smoke, Rodriguez, Nieborg, and Bartic highlights an appealing element about the characters: while they’re all clones, they’re all unique in their own way, and each carries with him his own personality, skillset, and unique bit of armor that makes them stand out from their brothers in arms. While the classic Imperial Stormtrooper is a popular costume with 501st cosplayers, The Clone Wars and now The Bad Batch has introduced a whole host of new characters that stand out with their own paint schemes and personalities, something the new series promises to continue.
All of the builders explained that what was most exciting to them was the prospect of new adventures for the characters, and particularly, how the Bad Batch handles the end of the Clone Wars. Rodriguez explained that he was hoping to see a bit more of the “transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers and how it developed from the clones point of views,” as well as some of the connections between The Clone Wars and another recent Star Wars project, The Mandalorian. Smoke echoed that, noting how “rough [Season 7] was on the clones and seeing their internal conflicts will be really interesting from a character development viewpoint.” Nieborg noted that the series represents the opportunity to answer some long-standing questions that he’s had: “I'm hoping to see the clones get phased out by stormtrooper recruits. ‘What happened to all the clones?’ is a question that's been in my head for years.”
The Bad Batch is streaming now on Disney+.