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A super hero, St. Cloud-style
By Jeff Horwich
Minnesota Public Radio
November 19, 2001
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Truth, justice and the American way have taken up residence outside the St. Cloud Dairy Queen. A brawny guy in a flowing cape is popping up intermittently at busy places in town. He's St. Cloud's self-appointed super hero. His mission: To inspire and reassure.

image 1
St. Cloud's Superman, as captured on film in an independent documentary produced by Peter Zdebski and Kate Engebritson of St. Cloud. View a slideshow of images from the film. It will debut online in December at
(Image courtesy of Engebritson/Zdebski)

St. Cloud residents have gained a guardian. He's a mild-mannered construction worker on most days. Today he's standing at a crowded intersection with his hands on his hips, smiling out at traffic. He's wearing blue tights and a red cape. For the moment, this makes him Superman.

"The superman of the new millennium," he says.

What is his mission, here at the corner of Division Street and 25th Avenue?

"I'd say my first purpose is to represent truth, justice, and the American way, which is what Superman basically stands for," he says. "And because of the terrorist attack and because of all the corruption in our society and so forth, I think that it's very important that we revitalize that image, and I think it's very important that we all unite, all Americans who love justice and truth."

"Why would anyone disrespect somebody who's trying to do something good? Why would anyone try to harm or talk bad about somebody who looks like Superman? "

- John, St. Cloud Superman

His name is John. He won't tell you his last name, protecting his secret identity. But he's not crazy, and he doesn't really think he's Superman.

He just turns into Superman a few days a week. He's 6 foot 3, 260 pounds, with a bold smile. He's been lifting weights for years. He opens a Superman comic book to show the resemblance, right down to the curl of hair extending down to the eyebrows.

"Well actually I haven't done much to it at all because my hair is naturally this way. I've got a little gel on the side to keep it down, but the curl in the middle, that's natural," he says. "It's just a god given blessing, I guess. "

He's been making scattered superman appearances for six months. And he's been able to pick up a little pocket change; there's a small charge to take your picture with Superman. But he says he's been out more since September 11th, and the attacks inspire him to spend more time as a super hero.

image 2
Superman, alter-ego John the construction worker, works a St. Cloud corner in the pending documentary. View the slideshow.
(Image courtesy of Engebritson/Zdebski)

"I'm not in it for the money, I'm not in it for the attention, I'm not in it for the glamour, although I do like the attention, I won't lie to you," he says. "But I am on a mission, and my mission is to unite people, and give people a good feeling about being an American. And even make them slightly believe that there is a Superman."

St. Cloud's Superman has been shaped by mysterious events in his past, like any super hero. He talks about shocking encounters with intolerance and injustice. He doesn't go into detail.

"St. Cloud kind of spawned me, it created me. And from my pain and my persecution, a super hero was born."

Drivers yell out that he rocks, he rules. They honk their support as if he were holding a picket sign. But a few tell him to get a life, others say get a job. Some give him the finger.

"Why would anyone disrespect somebody who's trying to do something good? Why would anyone try to harm or talk bad about somebody who looks like Superman? I want to see what those people look like, because those are the people, that's the evil that I feel I need to confront. That I need to confront and make a stand and say . . . we're not going to tolerate hatred we're not going to tolerate disrespect."

The St. Cloud Superman is happy to brave a few disrespectful drivers. He might even stand up to kryptonite. Only the Minnesota winter, he says, will chase him inside.

More Information
  • View the online documentary Independent St. Cloud filmmakers Kate Engebritson and Peter Zdebski have adopted Superman as the subject of a documentary. They expect it to debut in December, and will make it available for viewing at