by Adam Choghri
Spiderman bursts into the room where a children's birthday party is underway.
"I'm playing music on a speaker and I run around a bit until I notice the kids there and I say, ' the other Avengers told me someone is having a birthday today. Somebody super strong, somebody good-looking, and somebody with cool friends and family. Is that you? It is?'"
The birthday boy or girl laughs with delight. A superhero is here to make their day extra special!
Michael Ryan is a cosplayer who loves to dress up as his favorite superhero in his spare time. One of his side hustles is performing for children's birthday parties as famous characters such as Spider-Man, Batman, Mario, Ironman, Blippi, and many more. " For three years, I've spent most of my weekends dressing up as Spider-Man and various other characters to entertain at children's birthday parties."
Before performing at birthday parties, Ryan wanted to get extra income. He was cosplaying but not as a "serious cosplayer", he said he attended many fan conventions dressing up as the Winter Soldier and Freddie Mercury. On one of the Toronto cosplay pages, he was approached by someone who was asking "who wants to make money?" Ryan took the offer. Ryan said the man taught him magic tricks. "By next Saturday, I was a Red Power Ranger and I was entertaining parties on weekends ever since."
Ryan said he enjoys embodying a superhero. He mentions how he likes when the kids at the party call him by the superhero he's dressed up as.
What does his routine look like when attending birthday parties?
Ryan says he changes the routine depending on the character he dressed up as. Ryan says after his big entrance, he makes the kids run and find a bag he has hidden. He says he has some "goofy props" in the bag.
"I pull out socks and say, oh, smelly socks, and all the kids go, 'eww smelly socks.' because everything's funny when Spider-Man does it." Ryan does magic tricks afterward, "cheap ones, I'm not a big magic guy, but that's part of the routine."
Ryan said he brings a blanket along with him and hides underneath it and tells the children to count to 17 to wake him up. "As I wake up, I'm like-I'm awake, I'm awake. And I toss my blanket at whichever kid looks like they wouldn't be bothered by it."
Ryan also plays tug-of-war with the children and says he purposely loses. He said that last year, it was weird for him to bring the rope along because the children thought it was the 2021 Netflix series, Squid Game. Afterward, he takes pictures with the kids holding a WWF championship belt and hands out balloons to the children.
"They're like the long balloons and I fold them either into dogs or swords. Depending on how time is going, I really love running around fighting them with the balloon swords and of course, they defeat me."
Ryan says each time he is booked to attend a party, he's there for an hour. But he has done two hours before. Which he stretches out. "One is hour is the sweet spot. But if I have two hours to fill, I can make that happen. We could do tug-of-war again and again."
Before performing at the birthday parties, Ryan knows a night before what he's going to do. "It's the same routine for everybody. Some days the kids are just having a great time running around and I'm trying to play tug-of-war against them, they don't care, they just want to grab the rope and run back and forth and I'm just like whatever if the kids are having a good time. It's cool."
Ryan said the most difficult task for him is getting to his destinations. He said he doesn't own a car and even though he plays a superhero, he has to take transit. "It's not uncommon for days spending five hours on subways, buses, and trains." Because of this, he said he changes on the driveway. But he doesn't mind it when he's riding on the subway dressed up as Spider-Man as he can hang upside down on the bars.
As much as he loves Spider-Man, he said Spider-Man isn't his favorite superhero. He said he likes Cable, The Question, and Tim Drake. "It's great walking around as Spider-Man and someone says, 'Hey! It's super-man, like come on man."