Costumed superhero offers a helping hand in the Downtown Eastside

Originally posted:
By Laura
Prv0729N Thanatos6m.jpg
Baziuk, The Province
He wears a green-faced mask, a black hat and black eye makeup.
A black tie with skulls and crossbones, and patches on his black shirt sleeves.
A heavy artillery sits around his waist, with a flashlight, multi-tool and evidence-gathering kit.
He is Thanatos, a real-life superhero who helps out the less fortunate of the Downtown Eastside.
“I represent death,” the 62-year-old says, sitting in a shaded area of the Mountain View Cemetery. “I give life to the dying.”
The man who calls himself Thanatos, who was born in California and trained for seven years in the army, has spent the last 14 years helping the homeless around downtown Vancouver, giving them food and water, and talking with them.
About three and a half years ago, he was speaking with a police officer overseeing a meth addict was being taken to hospital.
Thanatos said the officer quipped, “These people have nothing to look forward to but death.”
“That stung. That hurt me,” Thanatos recalls. “I said, ‘Then death better start looking out for them.’”
than03So he created a costume and character, Thanatos, representing the Greek god of death, and has been handing out packets with a plastic sheet, a blanket, clean socks, bread and water to the homeless ever since.
He pays for the kits himself, costing about $40-$50 for 10 kits, and gives them out about once a month.
“It just seems to be the thing to do,” he says.
The homeless aren’t afraid of him, he says. “They’re great. They accept me.”
He modelled his alter ego after comic book heroes like the Green Hornet, and is part of a 150-strong group of fellow costumed do-gooders around North America, called the Real-Life Superhero Project.
Just like him, they dress up in goofy outfits and spread positive messages around their neighbourhood.
“I’ve done what I did all my life,” Thanatos says about his work with the city’s homeless. “Nobody ever cared about what was going on around me.”
But now that he walks the streets dressed as a made-up comic-book hero, the public, and the media, have taken notice of the people he helps.
“What I’m doing is much more important than who I am,” says Thanatos. “It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference in the world.”
And he says the police largely leave him alone.
But the main reason Thanatos sports his eye-catching getup is to inspire others to do the same good deeds in the community.
“It’s about self-empowerment,” he says.
Other superheros in Canada have followed suit after hearing about his efforts, he says, such as Polar Man in Nunavut, the Maple Defender in Toronto, and Anonyman of Saskatoon.
“It’s like a ripple effect,” he says, likely with a smile underneath his mask.