There’s been a lot of superhero dad action as of late.
There’s this solider who came home to surprise his son dressed as Spider-Man, the always fun-loving BatDad, Lambo BatDad pulled over on the way to a children’s hospital, YABD (yet another BatDad) with BatKid who saved San Francisco that one time, this TrollDad who stood outside on his doorstep every morning for a year waving to his son’s bus, and the ever so popular I know a good dad when I see one dad.
Now, those are just a few of the dads out there that are sharing some superhero awesomeness with their kids. So what could possibly tingle our Spidey-Sense again?
He has starred as Batman in craveonline.com‘s short The Dark Knight Rages and has played Deputy Sacks in the TV series Veronica Mars. He is also in the upcoming Veronica Mars Movie which will be released March 14th, 2014.
Hillock has been developing costumes and bringing various characters to life since the age of 14.
“Growing up, I would look for any reason to be in costume year round! I’d wear them to elementary school and would get made fun of but I didn’t care,” Hillock told 8BitDad. “I was just looking for an outlet to wear costumes as much as possible.”
His very first character was a Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker costume that his grandmother made him for San Diego Comic-Con in 1994 when attendance was a mere 31,000. “As soon as I stepped in the door, I ran into three Stormtroopers and a Biker Scout. I wanted to go home and cry because they where so legit! The following year, I spent every cent I could making sure my next Star Wars costume was 100% movie quality and it’s been that standard ever since,” Hillock said.
Cosplay has certainly picked up over the years, and it’s more popular than ever at conventions, especially with parents and their children. With over 130,000 attendees for the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, all four-day tickets sold out in under an hour, and all tickets sold out in 93 minutes. SDCC has totaled an annual regional economic impact of $162.8 million, with $180 million economic impact in 2011 according to the San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Hillock’s pursuit of acting and self-described “Cosperforming” landed him the honor of being the very first Disneyland Captain Jack Sparrow right around the time his daughter, Ireland, was born in 2006. The Sparrow character was so nuanced it had to receive honorary approval by Johnny Depp himself.
You might have seen Brandon more recently at Universal Studios as Beetlejuice.
His passion for costuming has organically influenced his daughter over the years.
In 2013, Brandon crafted his daughter the cartoon Lydia Deetz costume and brought her to see where daddy works. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) she does not think he’s Beetlejuice.
“She grew up loving Pirates of the Caribbean, so to her I am Captain Jack,” Brandon told us.
The pirate within spawned a sentimental idea when it was known Ireland would be born a girl: “I went into the park [Disneyland] and got her an Elizabeth Swan dress (the one that Elizabeth faints into the water with that came with hat/bonnet and fan).”
“The smallest size was for a 6-year-old, so I bought it and kept it in the package for 6 years and gave it to her.”
That dress is quite the commodity for the lil’ fans today because you can’t get them anywhere, unless you’re…savvy.
It’s pretty obvious when talking with Brandon that he is a devoted father and dedicated costume enthusiast. He lives by the Einstein quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This past year, however, knowledge has taken priority in order to save his daughter’s future.
Brandon grew up taking special education courses in school after being diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. “Ireland and I are both actually really smart,” he said, “more creative than anything but if we need to learn something, we need to focus.” Though he sees a lot of the same symptoms in his daughter, she is still able to perform well despite the challenges of her former school in San Bernardino, CA.
“For kids with ADD or ADHD, trying to focus is like flexing a muscle. If you don’t have a quiet, calm environment it is absolutely impossible to focus.”
Due to budget cuts and the district student/teacher ratio requirements, the school has combined first and second grade students, with no teachers aide.
Combo classes are more and more common practice in today’s economy and Hillock felt Ireland was falling behind due to her needs not being met. Temecula district officials said, after years of budget cuts, they can no longer afford the extra teachers needed to ensure that all students are in single-grade classrooms. The concept of combination classes still is sometimes difficult to sell to parents who worry that their child won’t get enough attention.
With a rise in school shootings and child abductions, school security was also an issue for Brandon: “Anyone could walk into the school without question. Parents would pick up their children but when the kids are everywhere and no one in sight as far as security, I felt like if anyone really wanted to take a kid they could pull it off.”
He fought hard for a full year, bugging the school district to get Ireland into the best school in the county. After being the squeaky wheel, the district finally opened the door and brought his daughter in to her new school on the last Monday of 2013, just as the children were scheduled to come back from vacation.
Transferring schools can be difficult for children.
This article suggests that children moving schools midyear leads to social and academic problems. However, careful analysis suggests that parents who move their kids for educational reasons experience more positive results than parents who move their children because of life changes like divorce or job loss.
Separation anxiety is the most common condition related to school transfers. It’s also a fear most parents unknowingly live with during an midyear academic move. “My only concern was that she would not have any friends,” Brandon noted. So he did what any superhero dad would do:
“I decided to dress up and come to her second day of class as Spider-Man.”
Then Brandon had another idea: “I made a deal with all the kids. If they would all be good friends to this very important little girl, I would train them to be future Avengers. They all cheered in agreement and the deal was made. I trained them all and Ireland LOVES her new school and new friends, ‘Five billion times more then the last school.’ Her words.”
I had the brief pleasure of meeting Brandon last year as a 501st Legion Stormtrooper at WonderCon 2013 while raising money for CHLA. He came over to our booth for a photo dressed as Batman with his Bane buddy Matt, and I’m glad he did. Shortly after the convention, I was stalking some WC hashtags when I found the photo on Instagram and we kept in touch virtually after that.
I’m super happy to see more and more cosplayers bring smiles to their local community in order to make an positive impact for the next generation, especially when it’s about the kids. Educational success, better social development, and higher self-esteem are some of the documented effects on children who have dads involved in their everyday life. Plus it truly is a revitalizing experience to escape your rent, mortgage, job, bills, whatever problems you got going on to be in the moment and engage a child’s imagination – even if it is just for a few moments.
“More then anything it was the greatest costume day of my life. I got to be one of my absolute favorite comic book characters and a hero to the most important person in the world.”
If you’re in the Southern California area and want to hire a select group of top of the line character actors like Brandon, he operates his own character company, Character Masters, which is geared mostly towards kids birthday parties.