Superheroes have always intrigued Scott Cranford, who spent much of his boyhood drawing them, nearly certain he'd grow up to join their ranks.
Born in Burbank, Cranford lived in Connecticut from age 4 until he was a senior in high school, when he returned to California to pursue his dreams in the superhero industry. At age 19, he entered the entertainment field, going to work on Batman films or as a stand-in for actors such as Ron Pearlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christopher Walken.
"My plan at the time — what I hoped to do — was play Superman in movies or in TV shows. My ultimate goal is to motivate children through superheroes to do the right thing," he said.
Cranford, 44, had always gravitated toward Superman. "No matter who you are in the industry, they have a respect for that character. He initiated the genre of superheroes."
In 2000, Cranford was selected as the official Superman of Metropolis, Ill., the southernmost city in the state that dubs Superman "Metropolis' favorite son."
When DC Comics declared Metropolis the fictional hometown of Superman, the Illinois town adopted the superhero and has since erected a 15-foot statue and initiated an annual superhero celebration drawing heroes and villains alike. Cranford's role as the official Superman for the city lasted through 2007.
In 2000, he established his website, www.HeroicWorld.com, exhibiting dozens of socially conscious superheroes he created by hand. He uses the website as a platform to spread the message of living by esteemed morals.
His intelligent "Sharpman" emphasizes the value of education. "The Earth Avenger" wears a logo of Earth on his chest, though he originally hails from a planet named Neuth, "a perfectly ecological planet" whose scientists have sufficiently "predicted an environmental doomsday for the planet Earth."
His mission is to show residents of planet Earth how to properly treat it. The hero named "Disarm" was once 8-year-old Wes Williams, whose parents were killed as a result of stray bullets from a drive-by shooting. Enter an "alien genie" who gave the orphaned boy the body of a 25-year-old and a metal disintegrating blaster. "Now Disarm is on a crusade to rid the world of man's deadliest creation," the website reads.
In 1998, Cranford wrote a book of morals aimed toward children, in which he emphasized showing up on time, being honest, washing hands, brushing teeth and having patience. It hasn't yet been published, though that's another goal of Cranford's. At times he's faced setbacks in portraying Superman.
"It's not easy when you're trying to tell people you want to be a hero," he said. "They're like, 'Yeah, right.'"
He's treasured the many opportunities he's enjoyed along his mission. Each year that he played the Man of Steel in Metropolis, he teamed up with the West Chicago Police Department to speak on crime prevention during that city's National Night Out. The United States Army recruited him to visit troops' children in Germany and Italy, and on three separate tours in 2005 and 2006, Cranford read his book of morals to children whose parents who were then serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2007, Cranford filmed a documentary titled "Heroic Ambition" on his superhero experience. Narrated by Superman historian Chuck Hartar, it has received positive feedback from industry blogs and websites. "I always wanted to make a film or a documentary about my experience there," he said.
"Heroic Ambition" make its Los Angeles premier at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Library Connection @ Adams Square, 1100 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. Call (818) 548-3833.