Holy alter ego, Batman!
The Dark Knight turns 75 next month. REI KUROHI meets 3 die-hard fans to find out how they have been inspired by the Caped Crusader
Much like Batman, Mr Jacen Khoo has dedicated his life to fighting crime - he is a police officer.
But when the weekend rolls around, he trades in his blue uniform for a black one and dons a cape, lending support to charity events and cheering up less fortunate children.
The 31-year-old father of three leads Pause for Cause, a group of 90 cosplayers who dress up as famous characters to promote good causes.
Just yesterday, Mr Khoo and some of his group members made an appearance at a superhero-themed birthday party for a five-year-old with leukaemia. The event was organised in collaboration with non-profit organisation, Make-A-Wish Foundation.
While Mr Khoo is aware that his appearance does not alleviate physical pain or remove the consequences of a ravaging disease, being able to bring momentary joy and delight to a child is exceedingly gratifying.
"I can't describe the feeling to you," he says. "You look at this kid, who is supposed to be at his lowest when receiving chemotherapy, smiling when he sees his favourite superhero right in front of him. It's very fulfilling."
His mostly handmade costume is the result of a month of painstaking effort involving lots of cutting, glueing and painting.
"When I had time, I spent an hour or two after work constructing it," he says with a hint of pride. He finally completed the project in October last year.
There have been many versions of Batman, but only one Batsuit would do for Mr Khoo.
"I was inspired by the realistic, military design from Batman Begins," he says.
The 2005 film's darker depiction of the DC Comics superhero is what ignited Mr Khoo's fascination with the Caped Crusader.
While his costume looks impressive and is close to the movie version, he admits he is not naturally gifted in handicraft and that it was his knowledge of cosplay techniques that enabled him to find inventive ways to create the outfit.
His Batsuit, which cost him about $200 to make, is mainly constructed from EVA foam sheets, a denser version of craft foam that children use. He ordered it online from Malaysia.
Even more impressive is how he crafted his own Bat mask. By "unfolding" a digital 3D model of it using a computer program, he recreated the pattern on foam and then reassembled it into a wearable mask.
Although the members of Pause for Cause are passionate about supporting good causes, it took some time for organisers of charity events to warm up to the idea.
"I started the group at around the same time I first started cosplaying, back in 2005. It was quite hard to find recognition then because cosplayers were not perceived very well," he says.
Since then, the group has tapped on the power of social media and the growing popularity of cosplay to help spread awareness and reach out to the community.
Last November, they appeared at a fund-raising event for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines.
Participants could donate money in exchange for a printed photograph of themselves posing with the Pause For Cause heroes. The event as a whole raised more than $32,000 over just two weekends.
The group has also made Christmas visits to children at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
Mr Khoo's six-year-old daughter Zhi Xuan (left) is also enthralled with Batman.
At the photoshoot for this story, dressed in her homemade costume, she playfully insists her name is Batman. When asked who her favourite character is she says, "All of them!", and proceeds to name a string of characters from the Batman franchise.
"She asked me to make her a Robin or a Nightwing costume so that she can be my sidekick when I attend conventions and events," says Mr Khoo with a chuckle.
His wife has also joined in the fun. Madam Nonnicha Prabalee, 32, dressed up as Catwoman to accompany her husband for a Halloween party last year.
"She's been very supportive - and tolerant," says Mr Khoo.
"The foam rolls I buy to make costumes are 1.5m tall. Imagine a few of those monsters piled up in the hall! Still, she lets me indulge in my passion."
Looking ahead, Mr Khoo has big dreams for his cosplay group. He hopes to garner more support for Pause for a Cause, and not just from other cosplayers.
"Right now we are still quite a DIY effort," he says.
5 fun facts about Batman
1 Today, Batman is well-known for his refusal to kill his enemies and his aversion to firearms. However, in his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, he punches a criminal into a vat of acid, killing him. In the first issue of his own series, Batman, he shoots a group of henchmen to death with a machine gun mounted on his Batplane.
2 In his 1954 book, Seduction Of The Innocent, psychiatrist Frederic Wertham accused the Batman comics of promoting a homosexual agenda. Over the next few years, publisher DC Comics inserted a host of female characters to counter the accusation, including Batwoman and Batgirl as romantic interests for Batman and Robin, respectively.
3 Pop artist Andy Warhol produced and directed a surreal film titled Batman Dracula in 1964 for his exhibitions, predating any official theatrical full-length Batman films. He did not ask DC Comics for permission.
4 In 1983, DC Comics held a telephone poll to let fans determine the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin. He was killed off after a narrow vote of 5,343 to 5,271. Naturally, he later returned as the villain Red Hood.
5 Before he was cast for Batman Begins in 2003, actor Christian Bale had just completed work on The Machinist, for which he starved himself to play an emaciated insomniac. Weighing a mere 54kg during the production of The Machinist, he nearly doubled his weight in six months for his role as Batman.
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