CHARLOTTE, N.C (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – They say not all superheroes wear capes.
Dustin Clark puts on his onesie on one leg at a time like everyone else.
But Clark is hopeful that his path to becoming “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” in Charlotte will encourage more people to have a conversation about mental health.
“Because there’s such as stigma behind mental health,” Clark told Queen City News. “And if I can share my story and help normalize it, I think that’s going to help continue to bring it out into the open.”
Of course, superheroes have an origin story that explains how they got their powers and why they use their gifts for good.
“The whole reason for getting into Spider-Man was to turn something that impacted me so negatively into something positive,” Clark says.
His origin story goes back to December of 2017.
“I got hit. And I remember feeling as if the whole car was like spinning, like 360s,” he recalled.
“I was in a car accident,” said Clark.
A vehicle rammed into the driver’s side of his car on Highway 64 outside of Pittsboro.
“A lot of my injuries were invisible, in that I did have back pain, neck pain, headaches, and a concussion. And unbeknownst to me, I was later diagnosed with PTSD from the accident, depression, and anxiety,” he said.
The crash had a lingering impact on his mental health.
“Car horns, whether it was me hitting it or hearing it… instant like, ‘What’s going on?’ flashbacks.”
While facing his physical and his “invisible” injuries, you might say he found wisdom in the web.
“And when I was watching the movie ‘Into the Spider-verse, ’ they had a line about, ‘No matter how many hits I take, I get back up.’ And when I heard that, I was in the movie theater, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’” said Clark.
It was almost like he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Clearly, the revelation from the movie was a turning point.
“I decided, okay, once I get some of my insurance money, I’d like to maybe by money for a suit, and maybe I can go to the hospital and go visit some sick kids,” he remembers.
So he went out and bought four Spider-Man suits, and cosplay became his healing hobby.
“I wanted to give back to the community after such a challenging life event,” Clark said.
Because of Covid restrictions at the time, visiting a hospital wasn’t an option at the time. That didn’t stop him from suiting up and making appearances wherever he could. On Instagram, he goes by Spiderman NC.
“It’s certainly cool because I get to see how excited they get,” Clark says of the reaction.
Last month, he finally made his web slinger debut at Levine Children’s Hospital.
“They say, ‘Spider-Man!’ and they’re running up giving high fives, hugs,” he said. “But it is so cool, and to know that I can brighten their day a little bit—especially when they’re going through those circumstances.”
Clark says it’s important to be open about his mental health struggles. By unmasking his vulnerability, he shows a degree of courage worthy of any superhero.
He says you don’t have to wear a Spider-Man suit to be a superhero, urging all of us to do something—no matter how small- to brighten someone’s day.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” he said.
Or was that Spider-Man talking?