In just a few days I'll be making the ritual trek back out to the Orlando airport to pick up my old friend Ben. He's better known on the internet as @Jedijunkie. While he may not have the social media numbers of a lingerie model, in his corner of the galaxy, he's as well known as it gets.
While we no longer live in the same state, Ben has made sure that his goal of covering his whole body with my drawings is ever progressing. The only difference these days is that he arrives to his appointments by air rather than four wheels, fitting for his chosen subject matter. He now descends from the icy planet of Connecticut on convention week to not only add to his collection of Star Wars tattoos, but to also reconnect with the surprisingly large network of his cyber fans. Occasionally he also ends up adding to his trophy room, which at this point has to look like a tattoo competition episode of Hoarders.
Ben's tattoo ideas have evolved over the many years we've been working together on his unique tattoo body suit. Portions started as an Imperial propaganda poster, then flowed to a night time forrest assault staging scene, to a backpiece space battle over the New England coast, to what has become a bevy of easter eggs involving other Speilberg favorites. With every step of the project there has existed humor, joyous cooperative design, and a harmonious flow from one part to the next.
The great difference that the all powerful Jedi Junkie brings to the table is the innate charisma of a showman. On the surface, Ben is very reserved and endlessly polite . He's the embodiment of the gentlemanly traits that only your grandparents can recall. But whether he is at a Star Wars convention or a Taco Bell drive through, he becomes the stuff of legend. When he takes his shirt off Saturday at MegaCon, the floor will again tilt his way, and the greatest tattoo shop brand ambassador becomes part of the show itself.
To put things in perspective, we once attended a Star Wars convention called Celebration. It's a traveling show that only finds itself in the US every couple of years. When it last visited Orlando, Ben took on a new level of niche celebrity status. For one, he was interviewed by three large TV networks. One of his interviews for ABC had him internationally announce the first trailer for the (at the time) upcoming Star Wars film from my tattoo booth. He was approached by the owner of the famed Rancho Obi Wan, the world's largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia, where Ben had to decline being purchased for the museum. Ben then walked across the stage of the tattoo judging competition, where not only did he win first place, but caused the convention space to explode with thunderous applause. That meant the most to me, because my wife was finally present for one of those special moments usually reserved for dinner table story time.
Ben has become far more than the best type of tattoo customer. He's a brand ambassador, a tireless pitch man, a constant source of inspiration, a fountain of information, and the friend that was there when the phones weren't always ringing for appointments. He was there when I moved my business 1200 miles from where anyone cared about old Phil Morgan. He stood beside me at countless conventions when just "trying to get my name out" felt dire to my family's financial future. Now the times are good, made better by the familiar presence of the famed Jedi. You might have already seen him in some strange corner of the internet, but seeing him in person is another thing altogether. You can find him at MegaCon, this February 3rd and 4th. Just follow the crowd.