If you are like me and have become overwhelmed with the amount of terrible things we are seeing in the news recently, then this might brighten your day. Dustin Dorough is an actor and cosplayer who is spearheading a charitable endeavor called Hospital Heroes. He is raising money so he can travel across the continent (48 states and parts of Canada) and make hospital visits. His quest: to try to alleviate the spirits of sick children by cosplaying as Superman.
I interviewed Dustin Dorough to find out where the idea of Hospital Heroes come from, what his family thinks about this, where you can donate to help, and to explore whether Superman as a symbol is still relevant in today’s age.
Where did the idea come from to start Hospital Heroes and this incredible trip to visit hospitals across this continent?
The Hospital Heroes project began about three weeks ago, actually. I was planning to visit a hospital in New Hampshire where a friend of mine is a nurse, but my gig as an emcee for a sporting event that was bringing me to that area didn’t pan out like we’d hoped. I was so upset that I wasn’t going to be able to follow-through with the visit that I began researching options to go up there anyway. I was pricing plane tickets, bus tickets, fuel costs, etc. when I suddenly began to think, “Why spend all of this money to visit one hospital when I can do to ALL of them?” I posted a Facebook status about it and the support from my friends made me decide to go public with my idea on my official page. Within 48 hours, it had been posted on SuperheroStuff.com and I was scheduling a photoshoot with Adam Jay of Superhero Photography to help with the promotion. I began getting messages from strangers that were telling me how much this tour meant to them and how inspired they were to volunteer in their own communities. This went very quickly from being a fun idea to an absolute responsibility. I refuse to let those people down.
Why Superman? Why him and not another superhero to cosplay as for this project?
Superman is the ultimate inspiration for me. He’s a man who can destroy the earth, but chooses to serve it. He lost his planet, but protects ours. He has every single reason imaginable to be angry, bitter and upset, but he is a constant shining symbol of hope and inspiration. He’s also very iconic and recognizable to the younger kids. Superman is also much less likely to frighten children than other characters such as Batman.
What were your favorite Superman stories growing up?
Strangely enough, I was never a HUGE Superman fan growing up. I was much more into characters like the Punisher, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, etc. I appreciated the idea of Superman, but I fell prey to the common mindset that anyone THAT powerful must be boring. I used to be a pretty big jerk, actually, and I would often pick my reading material based on my personality. As times changed and I became a better and kinder person, my preferences shifted from Punisher to Wolverine to Captain America and finally to Superman. (Full overly-long story here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/dustin-dorough-official/from-frank-castle-to-clark-kent-or-how-i-earned-my-cape/10151072687313798) My absolute favorite Superman story of all-time though is Mark Waid’s “Superman: Birthright.”
Mark Waid can capture the hopeful inspiration of Superman’s essence better than anyone else I know.
A great Superman story written in Action Comics #775 called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way” portrays a debate whether or not Superman is relevant anymore. Do you feel that Superman is still relevant in today’s age even though our culture and worldview is vastly different since the 1940s? How so?
There are actually no words for how excited I am to get to answer THIS question. This exact concept is one of the biggest reasons I’m doing the Hospital Heroes tour. We live in a world where one can gain bragging rights from explaining all of the moral sacrifices they’ve had to make in order to obtain success. I personally feel like it’s much more honorable to see just how far you can go with your integrity in-tact. I was raised by my grandfather, who was a WWII veteran and he instilled a lot of old-fashioned ideals in me that I think are just as relevant today as they were when he was a boy. Too often do I see people with genuinely good intentions for helping others, but they hold back for fear of ridicule. I’m turning Hospital Heroes into such a spectacle so that onlookers will be reminded that old-fashioned decency still has a place in the modern world. I want them to know that it’s okay to be a good person and hopefully they will be inspired to act upon their own selfless wishes. The most important job of any superhero isn’t saving everyone directly, but rather to inspire them to save themselves. I often hear people say that Superman’s morals are outdated and that the violent, dark and gritty nature of Batman is the only type of hero that makes sense in a world as bad as the one we currently live in. I feel like that is absolute proof that we need Superman now more than ever.
What has been the response of family and friends when you told them about this project?
I expected there to be a lot of confusion, questioning and general feelings of “What in the world is this spandex-clad idiot getting himself into?”, but I was very pleased when EVERYONE jumped on board. My friends and family gathered behind me in full support of everything. All of my professions are freelance (emcee for the Spartan Race, acting on tv shows/movies and building custom powerboats) and each company that I work with even rallied with the rest of them to give me full support and a guarantee of employment after this trip is over. I have been so humbled by the reactions of my friends and I am so proud to say that I have them in my life.
What’s been the hardest thing you had to deal with since you started this project?
Probably the fame aspect, to be honest. When I was in Chicago this past weekend, strangers were constantly coming up to me, shaking my hand and thanking me for what I was doing. I’m REALLY glad that I’ve been able to inspire people, but I was definitely not prepared for the celebrity treatment and hero-worship that I’ve been getting from a lot of people I’ve encountered. In the past, I’ve always preferred to keep my good deeds quiet and to never take credit for them. There’s no option for that in this case though, so it’s been a LOT to get used to. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still just a huge nerd with muscles and a cape, so whenever people react like I’m some sort of hero, I just giggle, blush and stutter like an idiot.
Though, as an actor, I always knew that fame was part of the career goals, but I just never expected to get there through charity work. I just don’t want the personal recognition of my efforts to cheapen or overshadow the actual goals of this project. As part of Hospital Heroes, I want to make it abundantly clear that ANYONE can do what I’m doing. ANYONE can make a difference. Everyone has the power to do something to brighten the lives of others. I want people to see what I’m doing and pay it forward to others instead of just returning praise to me. I’m grateful beyond measure for the love, support and recognition, but I don’t want my real message getting lost among all of it.
To do this trip, you are willing to sleep in your car for three months while being on the road. Have you ever done a trip like this before?
I have slept in my car before on plenty of occasions, but never longer than a couple of days at a time. It’s certainly not my preferred way to travel, but it helped me survive when I was traveling for work opportunities and I didn’t have the money for a hotel room.
Is there anyone else helping you with this project and/or trip?
Oh jeeze. EVERYONE. The crew from SuperheroStuff.com has been helping immensely with promoting the project. Adam Jay of Superhero Photography (www.superherophotography.co.uk) did all of the promo pictures for me. The crew from www.miniharleyquinn.com designed my fliers and promo materials. Proforma.com cut me a great deal on printed materials. Custom-Costumes gave me a discount on my new Superman uniforms. Adrienne Curry has been helping me to promote the project as well. Though, there have been countless people who have come out to show support, donate or just help spread the word about the project and each one of those seemingly small actions has helped to have an enormous impact.
What other projects and work are you involved with currently (or coming up after Hospital Heroes is over)?
I’m going to be working with Carlos Blanchard and Adam Jay along with a team of propmakers in what they’re calling “Project:LEX”. We’re going to be doing a five-day marathon build of Lex Luthor’s powered exoskeleton armor from the DCUO online game. At the end of the build (and after much photo/video documentation of the process), the suit will be part of a pro photo-shoot (with a chance of having a well-known actor in the armor) and the armor will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to help cover the medical expenses of our dear friend Brian David Wolfe, who is undergoing cancer treatment.
Outside of the charitable world, I’ll be finished with filming my scenes soon (before I leave for the tour) for an independent horror film called “The Demon’s Rook” (www.demonsrook.com) that I’m legitimately excited about. After the tour, I’ll be going back to being a struggling actor and trying to work my way up to one day hopefully playing one of my comic heroes on-screen instead of on the road, haha. To pay the bills, though, I’ll also still be working with the CAL500 (www.cal500.com) powerboat racing team and working as the emcee for the Spartan Race (www.spartanrace.com).
Where can someone go to find out more about you and donate to your project?
All Photos In This Article Belong To Adam Jay of Superhero Photography.