He patrols the streets of The City Beautiful after dark — his face hidden by a mask, a helmet atop his head and silver cape flowing behind him.
ORLANDO, Fla. — He patrols the streets of The City Beautiful after dark — his face hidden by a mask, a helmet atop his head and silver cape flowing behind him.
He's not an early Halloween reveler or a Comic Con straggler. He is Master Legend, Orlando's very own real life superhero.
"Most people like me," Master Legend said. "They see me as someone who is trying to do something good for the people."
The 45-year-old Orlando resident, who asked that his real name not to be published in order to protect his "secret" identity, has been featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, in international publications and most recently in an HBO documentary.
Master Legend's fame has grown exponentially in the last several weeks, since HBO's "Superheroes," a documentary that features Master Legend and others like him, began airing earlier this summer. His Facebook page boasts more than 2,700 friends from all over the globe.
During the day he works as a self-employed handyman, helping several elderly couples around their homes and yards.
But at night, he transforms into Master Legend. And when he patrols downtown Orlando, people of all ages stop and ask for pictures, seemingly revering him as a novelty.
It's the homeless and less fortunate who look to him with appreciation and hope. Because those are the folks he aims to help, he said.
"I know what it's like because I've been there ... . I know what it's like to be on the streets," he said.
He suffered through a tumultuous childhood in Louisiana, he says, where he was raised by a father who was in the KKK and wanted his son to join him. For a brief time he lived with his grandmother and she "taught me good Christian values," Master Legend said.
In second grade, he donned his first superhero mask, made from an old T-shirt and shoe-strings, and called himself Captain Midnight. He confronted the schoolyard bully who was known for beating up kids and pouring milk on their heads.
"I put the mask on, came around the corner and punched him in the stomach," Master Legend recalled. "They thought, 'Who was that guy? It was some superhero!' "
When he was 15, his father committed suicide and his mother disowned him. He had nowhere to go and lived on the streets. That's part of what fuels his "missions," he said.
"I was kicked out on the streets at 15," he said. "That's how come I sympathize with people."
On a recent Friday night, the Orlando Sentinel tagged along as Master Legend and three members of the Justice Crusaders — Symbiote, Purple Lotus and Se7ven — patrolled downtown and handed out food and water to the homeless.
It took only 30 seconds for someone to recognize him and ask for a picture.
"I saw you in a movie! You're awesome! I want a picture!" said 36-year-old Sarju Patel, who sat with friends outside of a bar on Central Avenue. "I love this guy! Dude! He's a superhero!"
On Orange Avenue, a grown man jumped up and down and flapped his hands like a child.
"That's Master Legend! That's Master Legend!" he exclaimed as the caped man swept past him.
But there is more to Master Legend and the Justice Crusaders than posing for pictures.
They collect and hand out donations to the homeless. In winter months, they deliver jackets and blankets. During summer months, it's water and bug spray. They have handed out as many as 200 sandwiches to the homeless in one day and have completed "Sock Missions" during which fresh socks are handed out.
Around 11:30 p.m. on that recent Friday night, the Justice Crusaders made their way to the corner of Pine Street and Rosalind Avenue where more than a dozen homeless slept on the north side of the Downtown Baptist Church.
One woman, 18-year-old Milagros Rios, talked with Master Legend about her plight.
She had moved from New York with her boyfriend, but ended up alone and on the streets. She later accepted free food and water from the masked superheroes' Justice Van.
"You're doing good things," Rios told him.