Jack Asbury wants more superheroes around, even if he has to become one himself.
“Right now, the world is just a mean, dark place,” said Asbury, a native of Spring Hill who lives near Homosassa. “I’d rather have people say there’s some good.”
Many would say Asbury is already a hero for treating, transporting and saving Citrus County’s patients as an EMT and rescue swimmer for Nature Coast EMS.
But when Asbury dons his handmade rubber-and-plastic Batman outfit, he can escape his reality and help ailing or troubled children break free from theirs’ as well.
“With my job, I see a lot of bad stuff ... so when I put this on, I don’t have to relive any of that,” Asbury said. “The kids are ecstatic ... I’ll do it for as long as I can.”
Asbury created his alter ego, the Batman of Spring Hill, in early 2017.
He was inspired by the "superheroes" who cheered the young patients at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where one of Asbury’s daughters was recovering after being born 27 weeks premature.
“We couldn’t hold her for the first month or touch her,” Asbury said. “As a parent, it’s your job to protect your kid; and there you feel you’re helpless, you can’t do anything.”
Since then, and with some costume upgrades, Asbury has made between eight and 10 Batman visits to children he thought could be a sidekick to the Dark Knight.
If he can't see them in person, Asbury sends his little caped crusaders care packages.
And all this takes place in between Asbury’s demanding schedule as part of an ambulance crew.
“All it takes is 10 minutes, five minutes to do this,” he said. “I find the time.”
Why the costumes and no other superhero?
“I got to blame my dad for it; ever since I was a kid, he used to do the haunted houses and was big into Halloween,” Asbury said. “Batman just stuck ... he’s just a person, he’s a guy; no super powers, no nothing. It’s relatable except for the whole billionaire thing.”
Asbury special ordered his second of two Batman suits a year and a half ago from someone who designs costumes for the Syfy Channel.
It’s mostly made from glued rubber, but Asbury added on some attachments and gadgets, like a rebreather and a batarang, forged from plastic using Asbury’s 3-D printer.
Authenticity is key when it comes to children and costume actors.
“Kids are honest, they are brutally honest, they will call you out on your stuff so quick,” Asbury said. “The closer I can be to resemble Batman, the better.”
Asbury’s hobby gained national attention in late August when he escorted 3-year-old Lydia Calculli to her Crystal River day care after he found out Lydia was being bullied.
Lydia’s mom, Erica Calculli, said Asbury saw her Facebook post about the bullying and asked if Batman could take her daughter into class.
Asbury also bought Lydia her own supergirl outfit to wear alongside him.
“At first she was really shy, she didn't want to get out of the car, which was adorable,” Erica Calculli said, describing Lydia’s meeting with Batman. “He walked her all through her classes; she was really comfortable and confident.”
Calculli said Lydia has been making friends now that her classmates know she’s pals with Batman.
“One of the little boys the next day asked if he could walk her to school,” she said, adding Asbury still keeps in touch with her to see how Lydia’s doing. “He’s a really good guy, he’s very positive and always looking out for the good in everyone, and you don’t see that.”
Asbury is always keeping his eyes out for bat signals on his Batman of Spring Hill Facebook page from parents who need a helping hand.
“If anybody knows of anybody who’d like a visit from me ... it’s free of charge,” he said.
Asbury said he plans to start a nonprofit organization and expand his league of superheroes to bring more happiness to children.
“If I can be Batman or Superman full time that would be great; I think that’s everybody’s dream,” he said. “I’m 31, I can’t be a superhero forever because they’re going to be able to tell.”