Visitors to Iqaluit are sometimes (understandably) shocked to see a masked man patrolling town, often armed with a shovel, never wearing a winter coat. His name is Polarman, and he is known for clearing snow off driveways and stairs and standing up against bullying. An everyday sight for Iqalummiut, Polarman has also been featured on a couple superhero lists: check him out on 9gag and Zimbio. However, after almost two decades of being Iqaluit's only Real Life Superhero, Polarman is leaving the Arctic for warmer climes and new opportunities. We sat down with the community crusader and local celebrity to talk passion, outfits, and find out what it takes to be superhero in a small town.
Photos by Sara Statham and James Rogers.
FTN: How did Polarman come into being?
POLARMAN: I had quite a few experiences [with bullying] the first four years I lived up here. I went down south, and when I saw that happening to another kid, I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped out my bedroom window on the second floor. I climbed down a tree, jumped on my bike and raced down to the playground...then tackled the bully. The funny thing about that was I was already wearing a Halloween costume but it was only Thanksgiving weekend that year. I was just trying on the mask and what not, to see how it fits, when I saw [the bullying incident]. So of course the bully thought I was a superhero. Scared him off then dropped the kid back at his place then came home and thought about what I had just done. I thought, “That bully thinks I’m a superhero. Let’s see how far I can go with this.” I was 14. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now.
Is that when you came up with your trademark outfit?
My outfit has evolved, actually. My original outfit – you probably saw me wearing a version of it in the summertime – a little short top that only came midway down my chest. And then I had the belt around my waist and that was it. That was the first of the outfits. And then I changed it because of issues, like, for example, I was against the Power Rangers at one time. They were going all colourful. And I wanted to deviate away from that so I went with black and white. Making my actions more colourful than my outfit itself.
Why have you decided to move away from Iqaluit?
It’s a really tricky one. I’m going back to Ontario. Probably Kingston, my hometown.There’s a whole bunch of other Real Life Superheroes [down south]. I’ve applied and I’ve been accepted to become part of a team called The Katalysts of Ontario. Run by Aftershock, who lives in Oshawa, and Ninja Knight, who lives in Toronto. So I’ve been working with people like them.
What are you most looking forward to about being down south?
I’m looking forward to being able to do more stuff. I can only do so much here in town. Like the snow shovelling. But down south I feel like I can do so much more. Do more to help homeless kids on the street, for example. Sometimes I’m at a loss for what to do with the kids [in Iqaluit] when you see them running around at three o’clock in the morning. So I think that maybe if I do work down there, I can bring back ideas. If I ever come back for a visit here, I will have some fresh ideas that I can work with and pass on to people up here about how to deal.
What causes or issues are dearest to you?
The issue I’ve been most passionate about over the last 20 years is dealing with the bullies that bother kids around town. You go to the playground and you get even people in their late twenties and early thirties throwing stones at small children and smashing the playground equipment. I’d love to see [bullying] stop, for one thing. Before we lose another young person to suicide. We already lost, what was it last year? We lost a 12 year old to that, to suicide, and I strongly suspect that he was bullied to death. I don’t know if there was any abuse in the family, but if it wasn’t that then it was definitely the bullies on the streets that did that to him.
What are you going to miss most about Iqaluit?
I’m going to miss everybody waving at me as I walk down the street up here. Down south it’s going to be like being a total stranger again. I’ll have to gradually build up my reputation again.
What has been the most rewarding part about being Iqaluit's superhero?
The things that I’ve been able to do up here that have been most rewarding is the stuff you couldn’t even think of doing down south. Shaking hands with the Queen while wearing a mask, for example. And that stupid picture with the Prime Minister. Actually, insulting him on public television [was a highlight]. I insulted both him and his wife. When they were here one time. Stephen Harper had his picture taken with me and he told me to my face right there, “It’s not Halloween.” So I got him to explain to everyone why he was wearing a ridiculous costume. This woman turned and gave me this face. I asked her if she thought I was attractive. And then her daughter told her, “Mommy, you’re blushing.” I later found out that the woman was Harper's wife.
Do you think you'll leave a lasting impression on the town?
I’ve seen a few reminders of me when I’ve gone by. Kids wearing Halloween costumes that look like myself. When you came up the street did you see any garbage bins with smiley faces on them? I noticed I’m not the only one doing that. Putting smiley faces. Any surface covered in snow, I just take my finger and draw a bunch of smiley faces. Just for the heck of it. Somebody else is doing that, too.
Who are your favourite comic book heroes, and why?
I have several favourites, depending on what comic I’m reading. Daredevil. Spider-Man. Captain America. Super Shamou. Captain Canuck. [I like] the things they stand for. For example, Daredevil has always worked with law and order. He’s a lawyer, for example. He’s a strong believer in the law. Captain America is a patriot. So is Captain Canuck.
If you could have any magical superpower, what would it be?
Oh geeze. I’m pretty well happy with being able to withstand freezing cold temperatures. But, if you want to go that far, what about Frozone from The Incredibles? Being able to shoot ice out of my hands.
What makes someone a Real Life Superhero?
Their willingness to help others is really what it is. It doesn’t matter what kind of outfit they’re wearing or what not. For example, some people are comfortable with their whole head covered up. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
What has been your greatest achievement as Polarman?
Being able to tell the kids that anything is possible. I can walk around town with a mask on. I can shake hands with the Queen with a mask on. If I can do that, then you can do anything you want to do.