What started as a simple walk down Newberry Road in a Batman suit for a 24-year-old Gainesville resident has turned into an opportunity to share joy with the local community.
Joey Alfonso has spent the past four months sporting his Batman cosplay in Gainesville and neighboring cities, sharing positivity associated with the character he loves.
Throughout elementary and middle school, he found himself motivated by superheroes' willingness to do the right thing and inspire others, Alfonso said.
He was always interested in cosplaying —dressing up as a character from a fiction work — Alfonso said. His first costume was his bat suit, which he started making last year for Halloween. Since then, the costume has been a work in progress which continues to be upgraded as time goes on.
Alfonso ordered his bat suit from online superhero costume store UD Replicas last year, but it took around six months for the jacket to arrive and another six for the boots and pants to come. He then got his cowl, or hood, from Etsy, and with his utility belt finally arriving a few weeks ago, his suit has now been completed after a year of waiting.
The line, “It’s not who you are, but what you do,” from the film “Batman Begins" especially stood out to him, which is why he chose Batman as his cosplay. But really, he would take any excuse to don a cape, he said.
“I just try to make everyone have a brighter day, even though it's as little as dressing up as Batman,” Alfonso said.
He quickly found himself featured on the Gainesville Word of Mouth group on Facebook and on Instagram pages like Barstool Florida and Florida Meme Page. The response he’s seen from people on social media inspired him to stick with the bat suit and create his own Instagram account.
The page features photos and videos of Alfonso in his bat suit, whether he’s seen singing Nirvana at packed Depot Park karaoke nights or roaming the streets looking for vengeance.
Every Batman needs a Catwoman, and his is Skyler Bradshaw, his girlfriend.
Bradshaw, a 20-year-old Santa Fe College nursing freshman, spends her spare time cosplaying and shooting photos, including most of the photos on Alfono’s page.
Bradshaw and Alfonso met on Bumble before he began his Batman cosplay. Early in their relationship, she knew he was really interested in the character when he introduced her to the Dark Knight trilogy.
“He had always wanted a really nice bat suit, and he wanted me to be his Catwoman,” Bradshaw said.
Being Catwoman alongside Alfonso has been a gratifying experience to share with people in the community, she said.
Alfonso’s Batman is not the only superhero Gainesville has seen. Rob Eggleston, a 52-year-old Gainesville resident, who dressed up as Thor, has teamed up with Alfonso in the past.
Eggleston’s superhero origin story began five years ago at the Annual Jack Gamble Melon Run hosted by the Florida Track Club every July 4.
A friend of his mentioned dressing up as Captain America for the race, and Eggleston, who just happened to have a Thor helmet at home, decided they should assemble the Avengers.
He would sporadically dress up for ‘Thorsday’ runs through Gainesville. When the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on lockdown in 2020, Eggleston took a brief break from his character. That was until he saw a newscast about someone going for runs in a different costume every day.
Eggleston and Alfonso met when he started training Eggleston at a new job a few years ago. His orientation email included a photo of him dressed as Thor, and Alfonso, who had been interested in creating his own bat suit, said they should get together.
The superhero duo sometimes walk through Depot Park and share their characters with the people, especially the kids, earning waves and honks as they pass by.
Since then, Eggleston has seen Alfonso make somewhat of a name for himself in Gainesville and surrounding cities, including a July 4 appearance in Starke’s holiday festivities.
“I know he's doing a lot of things on his own,” Eggleston said. “I wouldn't say a press tour, but he's getting out there and really making a name for himself.”
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Gracey Davis is a UF journalism junior and Avenue staff writer. Gracey is a self-described girl boss, secretary for FMSA and a passionate Philly sports fan. If you're looking for her, try the Marston basement, where she often pretends she's a STEM major.