Art Seen

These Powerful Images Prove You Don't Have To Look Like The Typical Superman To Be A Hero

"I don't wear this suit just for photos."

A few years back, in November 2016, L.A. native Jonathan Belle quit his job at Union Pacific Railroad and moved to Seattle, where he lived in a van for about a year and a half. This — plus a side gig washing dishes — gave him the freedom to set out on a journey to become who he truly is: Superman.

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"Superman has always been an inspiration to me growing up. It is something I strive to be like as a person," Belle told A Plus over email, recalling how he sees the DC Comics superhero as "the symbol of hope" and "the epitome of the Golden Rule."

Jonathan Belle in the Superman suit with cutouts of comic books and the words "keep hope alive."
Photo Credit: Jonathan Belle | Oleg Zharsky

This new lifestyle gave Belle the chance to travel around the Pacific Northwest to take photos in the Superman suit he got from an Etsy shop run by Jason Evans. Being a photographer himself, Belle takes many of the photos as self-portraits. Sometimes, though, he collaborates with other photographers.

"I get a wide variety of responses. The people that are kind and understand what I am doing I try to make it a point to acknowledge them for reaching out," Belle said. "I do get negativity from it, but I don't like to talk about those comments. The reason being is because I don't want to give a voice to them. You know, you can get 100 good comments and one bad one and that is the one comment people tend to focus on. I don't want to be like that and, from my actions, I hope to inspire others to tune out the negative as well."

Jonathan Belle in the Superman suit in a city telephone booth and in a puddle reflection.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Belle

As Belle pointed out, there are actually two Black Supermen in DC Comics — but he wasn't interested in going after those depictions of the iconic Kryptonian for a very meaningful reason. In addition to that, Belle also likes to rock his beard and own hairdo to make this version of Superman unique to him because, as he noted, anyone can be whoever they want to be on social media.

"In the end, [the idea of Superman] transcends everything else," Belle explained. "I do that because I want people to know if I can do it, so can you. If you want to be something that you know isn't 'the correct way' or if you want to be or dress a certain way but are worried about what society thinks I want to live an example to let people know to be themselves."

Jonathan Belle in the Superman costume looking at the Seattle skyline and an artistic photo with the Superman logo.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Belle

Belle believes that, by utilizing the tools we can hold in our hands to spread messages like these, we can make a difference in the world. He is happy people can tell their own stories, just like he is doing.

"I don't wear this suit just for photos," Belle concluded, driving home why this project is important to him. "I actively go out to run errands or to dinner or to the movies in the Superman suit because I like it and, if a 6-foot-2, not-very-muscular Black guy with a beard and a man bun can be seen being comfortable in his own skin, I hope it would inspire others to be comfortable in their skin as well."

Jonathan Belle in the Superman suit in nature by the river and on a dirt road.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Belle

Belle has since relocated to Montana where he has taken a job as a conductor — taking a day job just like Clark Kent, the glasses-wearing alter ego of Superman. Underneath it all, though, Belle's red-and-blue aura shines through.

To follow along on Belle's adventures as his Superman alter ego, be sure to follow along on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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