CLEVELAND (WJW) — There’s a new superhero on the block: Cleveland’s own friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
You may have seen him late-night in The Flats or downtown.
Or maybe you’ve gotten a Saturday night Uber ride from Deadpool — another local “superhero” making city life a bit more fantastical.
Cleveland Spider-Man is a 20-year-old Cleveland native — who has asked FOX 8 to protect his “secret identity” — a Marvel Comics fan and self-described “huge nerd.” He said he bought his Spider-Man costume earlier this year as a collectible.
But once he started wearing it around town for fun — chatting up streetwalkers, posing for selfies and backflipping off the streetscape — some kind of magic happened. The suit — and the persona and larger-than-life image it represents — took over.
“I love you. … I’ve watched Spider-Man since Tobey [Maguire] on VHS,” one woman told him.
Late-night Flats-goers were confused at first, he told FOX 8 — then word of his appearances spread.
“I heard my friend talk about you,” said someone else.
A 6-year-old girl kicked her shoes off and ran up to him at the park. She’d just had a Spider-Man-themed birthday party, he said.
“And I missed it? Are you kidding me?” he played along, before posing for a photo.
While patrolling Terminal Tower, he said he was approached by a man who felt compelled to tell him what Spider-Man meant to him. He said he came to America as a boy, and started learning English by watching Spider-Man cartoons on Saturday mornings.
These brief interactions have become precious to him, he said.
“It was such a magical moment to look at him,” Spider-Man told FOX 8. “One thing I feel people don’t quite understand: These moments mean so much to them, whether it be, ‘I loved your movies’ or ‘You’re my favorite hero.’
“Being able to be the one to fill the suit and be in that moment with them is one of the most magical things I’ve ever experienced.”
The man behind the webbed mask said he thinks the superhero, the alter-ego of the New York City teenager Peter Parker — created in 1962 by Marvel Comics legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko — is so widely beloved because of how relatable he is.
“He’s just like you, the ‘high school kid.’ He gets picked on. He struggles for money. He lives with his aunt. He’s looking for a job,” he said. “He’s one of the most humanized characters to exist.”
While Iron Man is a billionaire and Captain America is a serum-enhanced super soldier, “Spider-Man is a kid who was in the right place at the right time, and he became this symbol of hope. He is us in the suit,” he said.
Cleveland Spider-Man documents his exploits on Instagram and TikTok, where he connected with others donning heroic personas around Cleveland: one playing Spider-Man successor Miles Morales; another driving for Uber as Deadpool.
Since Cleveland Spider-Man started wearing the suit a couple months ago, he’s been contacted to appear at birthday parties, and other local cosplayers and photographers want to collaborate. He’s also considering getting into charity work.
“Anything I can do, I will do it for this city,” he said. “It’s never been my intent to be paid … it’s always been to spread joy.”
‘Deadpool is your driver for tonight’
Seven-year Uber driver Scott Hughes said he’s been doing rideshare gigs for the last three years as “Deadpool Uber Driver,” pulling up in a black-and-red Dodge Avenger with seat covers and steering wheel to match Marvel’s comedic anti-hero, and in full costume, complete with plastic katanas strapped to his back.
“Deadpool is your driver for tonight,” Hughes tells them. “My customers — they love it. … They laugh, they scream, they cry.
“We weren’t expecting you to be in the full suit. … You’re the coolest Uber driver ever,” they tell him.
Hughes also suits up for birthday parties and the charity group Heroes United 4 Kids in Ohio. This October, he’ll be in Lakewood for an event providing Halloween costumes for kids.
Hughes does a couple dozen Uber rides per night on Fridays and Saturdays (he usually takes the mask off while driving) and makes “good money,” he told FOX 8.
He’s trying to start a personal chauffeur gig with his Deadpool persona, driving around parties or escorting them around town — the “Deadpool Carpool” one of his friends called it. After a chance meeting one night with Cleveland Spider-Man, the two want to start collaborating on TikTok, he said.
The Willoughby man said his wife wonders, “What are you doing at 51 years old?”
“You dress up and you make an experience with people so they can have fun,” he said. “It makes me feel good too. It puts me in a good mood. We see kids in downtown Cleveland. They’ll high-five me.
“If they’re in a bad mood or good mood, they say I really made their nights. When I go to charity events, I make kids smile. It makes me feel good,” Hughes said. “I like to give back to the community. People seem to love it and they get a good feeling out of it.
“That’s why I love doing it.”
This is the second story in a three-part series. Click here for more.