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le Mercredi 13 mai 2020 17:39 Autres - Others

When a neighbourhood needs a hero

Andrew Griffiths (also known as the Invincible Iron Man of Rockland) loves giving children homebound during the pandemic a reason to smile when he appears in his Iron Man outfit — photo Gregg Chamberlain
Andrew Griffiths (also known as the Invincible Iron Man of Rockland) loves giving children homebound during the pandemic a reason to smile when he appears in his Iron Man outfit
photo Gregg Chamberlain
Grownups smile and children wave when Andrew Griffiths goes for a walk on the weekend around his neighbourhood in Rockland, and with good reason. It’s not every day that anyone sees Iron Man in person

“It’s been insanely popular,” Griffiths said, about his weekend walkabouts in character as one of the most popular superheroes in Marvel comics history.

It’s not the first time that the 47-year-old senior analyst for the Bank of Canada has gotten in costume. Every Halloween for the past few years he’s greeted trick-or-treaters at the door as a pirate, a Wild West gunslinger, and as the Batman.

« On our street, we average about 800 kids most years,” he said. “Even last year, with all that horrible rain, we still had about 400 kids.”

But Griffith’s Iron Man alter ego is proving the most popular attraction of all, and is helping him do what every superhero tries to do: make the world better for others. At least, being Iron Man on the weekend is helping make children smile and forget that they are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Origin story

Griffiths did not wake up one morning and decide to become Iron Man. A nephew over in Nova Scotia went to visit around in costume in his town to help cheer up children stuck at home because of the pandemic.

“It just kind of snowballed for him,” said Griffiths, and that decided the Rockland native to see if he could do the same for the children in his neighbourhood.

But becoming Iron Man proved a bit of a challenge, at least when it came to getting “armoured up” like in the movies. A brand-new set of Iron Man replica body armour costs as much as $10,000, but after a little cyber-searching Griffiths found a used outfit for $1100.

“Then I spent some time teaching myself all about the electronics so I could fix the ‘repulsors’ and other features.”

Now this Iron Man suit does not fly, but the repulsors in the gauntlets light up, the flight stabilizer flaps on the back lift up, and the face mask shield rises up and lowers down. When Griffiths suited up for the first time for a Saturday morning stroll around the neighbourhood, what his young fans saw was the Iron Man they watched in action with his fellow Avengers against Ultron, Thanos, and other supervillains.

“It was complete shock and awe,” he said, smiling. “The kids just explode, jumping up and down and screaming, ‘Mom! Dad! Come see this!’”

Heroes Assemble!

Griffiths is a member of the League of Ottawa Superheroes, a group of costume-play enthusiasts who enjoy dressing up as science fiction, fantasy, and superhero characters for conventions, special occasions, and Halloween. He and other League members also do special appearances by video and, where feasible, in person for story readings and birthday greetings for children.

At home, Griffiths now has company on his weekend walks, with Angelik Bertram as Princess Elsa from the movie, Frozen, Lise Bertrand as the Magnificent Maleficent, and Yves Dostaler with his robotic buddy, Dude. They’ve even branched out for weekend forays to Wendover to cheer up homebound children in that village.

“We hope this inspires others to take part,” said Lise Bertrand.

“I love doing this,” said Griffiths. “It’s great to see people being happy. As long as this suit and me can handle it, I’ll keep on doing it.”