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Leonardo Muylaert poses for a picture.
Leonardo Muylaert poses for a picture.

Clark Kent lookalike turns accidental superhero in Brazil

Leonardo Muylaert was just another mild-mannered professional on vacation with his girlfriend when the 36-year-old Brazilian went viral on social media thanks to an unexpected superpower that has changed his life: his uncanny resemblance to Superman.

Muylaert - a strapping, bespectacled civil rights lawyer from Brasilia - was in line at the 2022 Comic-Con convention in Sao Paulo when a stranger surreptitiously shot a cell phone video of him, amazed at his resemblance to “Superman” film star Christopher Reeve.

“Am I seeing Clark Kent?” asked the star-struck comic book fan, in a clip that soon racked up thousands of views on TikTok - unbeknownst to Muylaert, who did not even have a social media account at the time. Weeks later, Muylaert learned through friends that he had become an online sensation, dubbed “The Brazilian Superman.”

“It was funny and crazy to read that so many people think I look like Superman,” he told AFP. That’s when an idea took root in the back of his mind, he said: get a Superman suit and try the alter ego on for size. He ordered an old-fashioned costume online, and started traveling around Brazil as Superman.

Muylaert visits hospitals, schools and charities, poses for pictures with commuters on random street corners, and generally tries to be what he calls a symbol of kindness and hope - all free of charge.

He put his new persona on social media and soon became an Internet star, his videos reposted by the likes of “Guardians of the Galaxy” filmmaker James Gunn, director of the upcoming “Superman” movie.

Every Clark needs a Lois

To make his magic happen, this Superman relies on his super-organized girlfriend, Helenise Santos, who handles his agenda, shoots videos for his social media accounts and constantly gets the question: are you Lois Lane?

On a recent trip to the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics (INTO), a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Muylaert visited patients and posed for selfies with staff thrilled to see a 2.03-meter (nearly six-foot-seven-inch) superhero in the office.

“His presence puts a smile on everyone’s face, not just patients but also the whole hospital staff. It gives everyone a break, and new energy to deal with our intense routine,” said INTO research coordinator Rodrigo Cardoso. Muylaert, who studied in the United States on a basketball scholarship before finding his superhero calling, handed out presents to toddlers at the hospital and amiably shot videos for elderly patients’ children and grandchildren.

The Brazilian Superman has an uncertain future. When not wearing his red and blue suit, he returns to his normal life as a lawyer specialized in civil rights who needs reading glasses to work. Muylaert says he is weighing how big a space in his life to give the superhero role.

“It fills a void in that sometimes very solitary office routine,” he said at his law firm in Brasilia, sporting a suit and tie and looking remarkably like Clark Kent sitting at his desk at the Daily Planet.

“Sometimes amid all the long hours and paperwork, you forget how important human interaction is and the care and attention so many people need. Serving the community fills that void. And all the incredible feedback I’ve gotten from people on social media motivates me to keep going.” — AFP

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