Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Superman complex

'The muscles are fake,' I said incredulously. 'You watched me put them on!'

You better be prepared to take a few shots at your ego when you wear the Superman crest across your chest.

“You’re not Superman!” a homeless guy seethed as I passed him wearing my Lois & Clark promotional jersey.

One look at my waistline should have told him that.

Superman and Jesus have more in common than the religious right would have you believe: both were sent from the heavens to save mankind, both have super powers and both elicit an irrational reaction from people. I learned this firsthand after I bought my Superman costume in 2002.

It had always been a dream of mine to buy a real Superman costume, and my last Halloween in San Francisco, I did. You see them every October. They’re padded with muscles and have little stirrups for your shoes. Think Tom of Finland meets DC Comics.

If you’ve ever been to the Castro for Halloween, you know it is wall-to-wall humanity, and I don’t mean that in the benevolent way. I was out with Elvis and Priscilla Presley, getting crushed by the angry crowd of gawkers when I had the bright idea to ask Priscilla, “What is it with these fucking heteros?”

That’s when I turned and saw what looked like a beach ball coming toward my face. Only it wasn’t a beach ball — it was a fist. It looked cartoonish in size and seemed to move in slow motion. The sound of it hitting my face was right out of the comics — THWAP!

My arms were pinned to my sides by the 100,000 or so people crammed into four city blocks. I watched my aggressor get carried away by the current of the mob. Some Superman I turned out to be.

The costume was cursed as far as I was concerned. Instead of helping me live out a fantasy, it reminded me, once again, that I am indeed not Superman.

I stored the costume cryonic-like, vacuum-sealed inside a Spacebag (as seen on TV) inside a suitcase, deep inside my closet. I would come across the cardboard nipples pressed against the plastic-like fingers clawing at the invisible skin of the Phantom Zone. The costume practically gasped for air when I pulled it out for my first Halloween in Vancouver.

“Can you read my mind?” my friend purred after I tied my cape around my neck. He became glued to me like toilet paper on a shoe.

“The muscles are fake,” I said incredulously. “You watched me put them on!”

I had a Superman wallet at the time and when I pulled it out to pay for my drink, the bartender said, “You really are Superman.”

Standing in the smoking room, shoulders slouched, drinking a beer, I looked like an off-duty pulp messiah. I might as well have been dressed as a bus driver. The costume attracted the attention of a guy in his 20s. He looked like Kurt Cobain before all the drugs — but high.

“If you’re Superman, then I’m Superboy,” he giggled, pulling up his hoodie to reveal a Superman shirt beneath.

“I’ve always looked up to Superman as a father figure,” he said. Then he started feeling my foam chest, making my real nipples hard.

Normally a guy in my shoes would take this for what it was: an offering from the sex gods on a silver platter. But all I could hear was, “You’re not Superman.”

“The muscles are fake,” I said, accidentally blowing smoke in his face.

He stepped back, self-conscious. “I’m going to stare at you from across the bar,” he said.

I wore the costume a few more times before I grew tired of trying not to get urine on the chest plate when I peed. I considered selling it on eBay but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then it just completely vanished from my closet, a victim of pot and feng shui.

Over the next couple of years I would come across pictures of myself wearing the costume. It surprised me how real the muscles looked, like I was on steroids. No wonder I was peeling guys off me! I missed the costume like a friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time. And then, as all missing things do, it reappeared when I was moving. I haven’t worn it since.

The costume lives in its Spacebag on a high shelf with my seasonal clothing. Sometimes when I’m rummaging through my closet it will come crashing down on my head, the muscle-bound torso scaring the hell out of me.

Where once the costume was a skeleton of a black eye it’s more like a time capsule of Halloweens past. I might not be Superman, but I don’t have all his baggage either.