Meet the man who quit his job and become a real life Spider-Man
If you're a fan of comics, then it's pretty likely that at some point you yourself have fantasied about being a superhero in real life. I mean, come on: who hasn't wanted to be Batman lurking in the alcoves of Gotham city, or one of the X-Men living in Charles Xavier's mansion? In many ways, that's what the superhero genre is supposed to achieve: the costumed heroes who wear capes and tights are aspirational figures that we're supposed to look up to. But most people would draw the line at fashioning themselves a costume and actually becoming a superhero themselves.
However, as Peter Parker himself says, with great power comes great responsibility, and so now an ordinary man has decided to emulate his favourite Marvel superhero, dressing up as Spider-Man to entertain sick kids. In fact, he's taken to being a real-life hero so much that he's decided to quit his day job and pursue it full-time.
Ricky Mena, a 35-year-old former security guard, decided to quit his job as a bartender, and launch his non-profit business Heart of a Hero for cosplayers who want to comfort terminally ill children, after allegedly being visited by his dead grandmother in a dream. After crowdfunding for his charity-business venture, Mena has managed to bring a smile to the faces of 11,000 sick children, wearing a £400-£500 Spider-Man costumes and bringing them gifts.
Commenting on his superhero career, Ricky stated: "I was so excited when the first superhero suit I ordered finally arrived – being the exact same height and weight as Spider-Man in the comics, it felt perfect. I stood in front of the mirror and felt like it had chosen me, as much as I had chosen it. That was 2014 and I haven’t looked back ... Spider-Man shows peace, inspiration and fun. It turns into therapy for the kids to have someone to laugh with."
"Christmas is a tough time to do what I do. I remember all the kids we lost throughout the year, but I still love the spirit of giving and bringing children in need the gifts they deserve. Any child in need – sick, poor or bullied – deserves a magical Christmas. I love showing up outside their houses with a truck of huge teddy bears and bikes and handing them out. I’ve seen kids scream and cry with excitement. A single mum of four who couldn’t even afford one gift fell to her knees and sobbed when I knocked on her door and gave her kids five expensive gifts each."
He added: "Rylan, a young boy I got to know and visited on many occasions, sadly passed away. His father asked me to carry his casket. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You never think you’ll see a child die right in front of you. When the funeral was over, I went straight to the bar to start my night shift ... I cried and cried before I started my shift – I was a total wreck. That night there was an altercation at the bar and I got punched straight in the face. That punch was all I needed to knock my head into shape and make me leave my job."
Thanks to the generous donations made by his supporters, Ricky has now managed to acquire a collection of 12 Spider-Man suits and a van, to travel from hospital to hospital with other volunteers. Although he and his wife are still struggling financially, Ricky thinks that there's nothing more satisfying than comforting these kids. I think that if Spider-Man himself were real, he would be proud.