PHOTOS: Hollywood superheroes struggle with broken dreams

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- Captain America has a thick British accent, and his day job is cinematographer. Iron Man lives in an apartment behind Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, and at least one of Batman's wings are made with a pair of shower curtains from Target.

Superman comes from Ukraine, not the planet Krypton, and don't be surprised to see several Spider-Men and Catwomen of various races and nationalities.

Welcome to the superhero world of Hollywood Boulevard, where just about every caped crusader you've seen in comic books or on film is busy posing for photos with tourists.

While the Hollywood we see in movies is a place of glamour and beautiful celebrities, the cast of superheroes filling Hollywood Boulevard is frequently anything but. Many are people struggling to make a buck as they pursue their dream of stardom.

"It's a place of diversity, it's a place of drama, it's a place of illusion . a place of broken dreams," says Dan Inigo, a 25-year-old actor who prowls the boulevard dressed as Spider-Man.

Although he barely scrapes by, Inigo says it's still a great gig for a struggling actor who needs to keep an open schedule for auditions.

"You can just suit up and come down here whenever you need," he said. "It really is a perfect job if you are an artist."

If you want to make any real money on Hollywood Boulevard, you have to really look the part, says Matthias Balke, who put $3,000 into his elaborate Batman ensemble.

He doesn't grab tourists or crack a joke to get their attention. Instead, he waits for them to come to him.

"My way of soliciting is the quality of my costume," he said. "People see it, they come to me to ask me for a picture. I'd never walk up to anybody."

The screenwriter-producer-actor says tips can range from a few coins to as much as $100. He accepts them all, noting the change occasionally comes in handy: "Even Batman has to do laundry."

Longtime street performers say the business used to be more lucrative, until the boulevard became overpopulated with costumed characters. What's worse, some look grungy, while others turn off tourists with aggressive demands for money.

"This should be done by people with performance backgrounds," Balke said. "It should be like Disneyland."