For years, Dale Pople donned a red and yellow spandex uniform, drove a red Corvette called the Supermobile and searched for ways to help out.
His exploits as Superhero — carrying groceries, helping stranded motorists, de-escalating fights and feeding the homeless — made him one of the better-known members of what became known as the “real-life superhero community.”
He was featured in the HBO documentary Superheroes, the non-fiction book Heroes in the Night and the award-winning short Portrait Of a Superhero.
The Clearwater resident died by suicide on July 18. He was 51.
Though Pople told the Tampa Bay Times he was retiring his alter ego in 2018, friends say he’d found a new purpose in helping Family Resources Inc., a charity with a mission to provide crisis counseling and safe shelter for at-risk and homeless teens.
They’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign in Pople’s name to raise money for Family Resources, and “contribute to Superhero’s final mission.”
Pople in 2018 said he’d been bullied by classmates and abused by his mother growing up, but found escape in superhero stories. As an adult, what he called the “superhero gimmick” started as a pro wrestling persona that took a detour after an injury.
Pople attended Countryside High School and spent two years in the U.S. Navy. He worked for years in television production.
St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer, who directed Portrait of a Superhero, used the film’s Facebook page to announce the “tragic news” about Pople.
“To many people he was an inspiration, a symbol of hope, he tried to do good in his life and he truly enjoyed and lived for helping others,” Armer wrote. “Like all of us he had his flaws and did a pretty good job of hiding them from the outside world. His bombastic nature, energy, enthusiasm and ability to create friendships was unparalleled by anyone I’ve ever met.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.