The Grim Reaper might not be the most obvious inspiration for a real-life superhero.
But in one Vancouver neighborhood, a man who dresses up as Thanatos -- the Greek personification of death -- has become an iconic figure representing generosity and goodwill.
"I don’t come from Krypton and wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or anything like that," Thanatos, who doesn't want to reveal his real name, told Metro News. "I was working downtown, trying to help out on the streets and noticing a lot of things happening ... people living and dying on the streets."
"I was told by a police officer that some people on the street had nothing better to look forward to than death. That really stung, that really hurt me,” he told the newspaper. "So I said if that’s the case, then death better get out there and start taking care of these people. I developed this persona to go out there and help."
His acts of kindness include everything from handing out bottles of water to distributing slips of paper with the word 'friend' written on them, reports the Globe and Mail.
"This girl I helped ended up turning around from a $400 a day heroin addict in a space of six months, and she now works down there in a paid position at one of the social agencies. And when she tells the story why she changed she says, ‘Death came and told me I had to change the way I was living. Death saved me,'" Thanatos told Vancouver magazine.
The 63-year-old father-of-one is the oldest member of The Real Life Super Hero Project, a group of caped and masked do-gooders who aim to inspire others to spread kindness. He was even featured in the HBO documentary "Superheroes," a clip of which is embedded above.
However, Thanatos views the media exposure as a means to an end -- something that helps bring focus to the conditions in Vancouver's downtown East Side neighborhood. "It gets the attention where it’s needed," he told Metro News.
"By using this persona, I’ve been able to spread the word about what’s going on down there, I’ve been able to get more aid in the area. I’m asked by reporters if it actually works and it’s like, ‘Well you’re here talking to me right now’ so it’s obviously working."
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