There are good reasons to be afraid of the dark, but Thanatos, The Dark Avenger, isn’t one of them. Still, make no mistake—he will not go gently into that good night. Rather, he regularly plunges headlong into a pitched battle he characterizes as “a war for good against evil,” in the whirling vortex that is Vancouver, B.C.’s notorious intersection of Hastings and Main streets.
There are no tourists or sightseers there, no casual passersby. No, this is where the city has rounded up and corralled the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, the despairing men and women for whom life holds little hope beyond the next fix. And there, in that devastating mix of the half-waking, half-dead, Thanatos makes his rounds. Delivering his “bundles” of plastic sheets to protect against the cold and rain, dry socks, jars of peanut butter and jam, perhaps a can of meat that can be opened by hand—the most basic of basic human necessities.
“I’ve always been a person who steps in and does something when it needs to be done,” he says, “I saw that these people had nothing better to live for, something needed to happen, something had to change.”
In return, his “Friends,” the addicts and dealers, prostitutes and pimps, runaways and the homeless he meets, talk to him candidly about their lives. He asks them about their circumstances, their needs, and they answer him back. “They’re not stupid,” he says, “they have well-thought out solutions for the problems of people on the street. I don’t judge, I just try to help.”
The name Thanatos comes from ancient Greek mythology, the personification of Death itself, a rather dark choice for someone who leaves such light in his wake. “I have taken on the persona of death,” Thanatos explains, “because I was told by a police officer that all the people living on the street had nothing better to look forward to than death. So if that’s the case, maybe death ought to start taking care of these people—and it might send a message. They’re getting it, they’re getting the message.” And through it all, an unusual metamorphosis has taken place, leading to the blurring of the line between the man he was born, and the Real Life Superhero he’s become. In his words, “I find that the ‘me’ is starting to become more of a mask I wear, and Thanatos is more and more of what I truly am.”
And as he remains locked in war—a war against apathy, against drug abuse, against chronic homelessness—he recognizes that he alone cannot win the war, just the battles. And he doesn’t expect to remain in this fight all by himself. “If one person can do this, we can get ten more, then we get ten more, and so forth. We can make a real and lasting difference in a bad part of town. I do what I can, and hope it inspires other people to say ‘I can do something, too.’”