Superfans of superheroes

Mr Eric Sia, a Superman fan, started collecting the comics first, buying them with his salary from working part-time at McDonald’s at age 14.
Mr Eric Sia, a Superman fan, started collecting the comics first, buying them with his salary from working part-time at McDonald’s at age 14.ST PHOTO: BENSON ANG

Some spend thousands of dollars on merchandise and apparel

Mr John Teo looks forward to going to work every day. At his workplace, he relives happy memories of his childhood passion, which has become his business.

He is the managing director of J.T. Network, which operates the DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe at Marina Bay Sands and six DC Comics Super Heroes retail stores here that sell superhero-themed clothes and shoes.

The 51-year-old Singaporean says his fascination started when he watched the 1978 Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve as a teenager and the 1989 Batman movie starring Michael Keaton.


"My love of superheroes became so strong, I decided to turn it into my career and set up my company in 1994. I've never looked back since and it's a joy to go to work every day."

His personal collection of Batman and Superman merchandise cost him more than $250,000 by his estimate. Most of it is displayed in the cafe and is not for sale.

With the opening of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice in cinemas earlier this week comes a new wave of frenzy over the two superheroes.

But the Dark Knight and Man of Steel have long had their ardent fans here. Most are men in their 30s and 40s, who grew up watching movies and television series featuring the superheroes.

Some fill their bedrooms and living rooms with themed merchandise.

One such fan is professional photographer Timothy Isaac, 30, who has been a Batman fan since he was five years old. He has more than 30 figurines of Batman and other characters from the Batman universe, such as Robin, the Joker and Catwoman, which he keeps in the study of his five-room HDB flat in Yishun, where he lives with his wife, a business services officer.

In all, he has spent $12,000 on Batman merchandise. He says: "Batman isn't like other superheroes. He was not born with any superpowers. He is just a man who decided to go out there to clean up his city and make a change. This, I feel, is admirable."

That could well be the reason Batman fans seem to outnumber Superman fans here - two toy shop owners say Batman merchandise sells three times as well as Superman merchandise.

Associate Professor Ian Gordon from the history department of the National University of Singapore, who has written a book on comic strips and consumer culture, says Batman's popularity may be because the character seems more relatable because he "has no real superpowers".

"Superman, on the other hand, has so many superpowers that he can come across as slightly boring."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Superfans of superheroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe