Holy Side Gig, Batman! This Dad Gets Paid to Dress Like a Superhero

Side Job
Image from Derek Brown

Derek Brown works night shifts at a mental health facility.

When he emerges each morning, he becomes Dad for his youngest daughter until his wife gets off work. Then, he rests his eyes and does it all over again.

But occasionally Brown transforms into something entirely different — he becomes the Caped Crusader…

How Brown Created a Superhero Side Job

Brown, 32, has been a longtime fan of comics and all things Batman. He regularly attends Comic-Con International and owns hundreds of comic books — easily.

He was inspired in part by Leonard Robinson, who spent the last 14 years of his life visiting children’s hospitals as Batman. Brown also has a friend who dresses up for princess birthday parties.

Living by his favorite Batman quote — “All men have limits. They learn what they are and learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine.” — Brown decided to take on a side job.

“I just reached a point where I truly wanted to do something more than what I have been doing,” he says.

So, naturally, he became Batman.

Where Does Batman Hang Out?

Brown advertises his superhero services through social media, friends and family, and with visits to local businesses and hospitals.

His first big gig was at a comic book shop on National Free Comic Book Day — because there’s a holiday for everything now (May 7, by the way).

Other appearances include birthday parties, local hospitals and even a kid’s gym for Superhero Day. He also plans to grace a local car dealership with his presence and maybe even a hair salon — to hopefully ease the stress of kids’ first haircuts.

For events, Brown packs plenty of party tricks: custom coloring pages, autograph cards and a mobile photo printer.

He also always brings a partner in crime(-fighting) — dressed up or not, sometimes his wife — in case the kiddos get rowdy.

How Much Can You Make as Batman?

Brown charges $50 for hour-long business visits and $70 for birthdays.

He also sets up tip jars during business appearances, just in case anyone’s feeling extra generous.

During his first full month as Batman in May, Brown earned around $300 from his comic book store appearance and two birthday parties.

Although Brown took a brief Batman hiatus to apply for nursing school this summer, he plans to amp up business this fall. He already has a birthday party booked for November.

His ultimate goal is to bring in about $500 a month, which will help him upgrade his costume, pay some bills and eventually take his wife and daughters to Disneyland.

He also volunteers at local children’s hospitals. Even though he’s not paid for these gigs, he does receive publicity. Plus, he says the kids’ smiles are worth every nonexistent penny.

What It Costs to Become Batman

Brown began his transformation earlier this year. It involved hours of research and multiple purchases from Amazon and Etsy.

He broke it down: $30 shirt, $40 leggings (both airbrushed to the correct color and muscular texture), $30 gauntlets (his gloves) with $20 of foam padding for authenticity, $76 boots and a $30 cape — taking into account the half-price coupon he used at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.

Then, there were the most important parts: the emblem and mask.

The signature bat across the chest was about $125, and the mask was $175. As it turns out, masks are pretty expensive. Brown initially wanted the really nice mask, which cost $375, but talked himself down.

Over the span of three months, Brown spent nearly $600. He still regularly makes upgrades to his costume — we’re telling you, he’s a huge fan — but he plans to have it all paid off soon.

The Pros and Cons of Dressing Up Like Batman

For Brown, it’s all about the kids.

“Once I gave a little boy a high five, and he teared up because he was so happy,” Brown says.

At the free comic book day, a teenage boy with autism approached Brown and was jumping up and down at the sight of the real-life superhero. But he was unsure if he could touch the caped figure, so Brown leaned in for a big hug, which resulted in an even bigger smile.

“It’s moments like that that make it all worth it,” Brown says.

However, when it comes to outdoor events, Brown’s main opponent is the heat. The Fresno, California, resident has faced 100-plus-degree weather this summer. Batman — err, Brown — has encountered moments of weakness, which require breaks away from kids to gulp down water.

Another challenge? Mastering the voice.

“You can’t be too scary for the kids,” Brown says.

He works to perfect the deep, heroic tone without crossing into professional wrestler territory. He practices with his wife and daughters and even records himself and plays it back.

“It’s getting better,” he says.

Your Turn: What character would you dress up as to make some extra money?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.