North·Video

Polar Man, Iqaluit’s homegrown superhero, heads south

What began as a Halloween costume inspired by the Lone Ranger became a bona fide persona known to everyone who lives in Iqaluit and most people who visit. But after 22 years, Polar Man is leaving town.

‘There’s a whole world out there you can explore just by being who you are’

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      What began as a Halloween costume inspired by the Lone Ranger became a bonafide persona known to everyone who lives in Iqaluit and most people who visit. But after 22 years, Polar Man is leaving town.

      “I’m going to miss a lot of these people,” says Derek Emmons, who generally prefers to be called Polar Man. 

      At age 14, Emmons says he saw a kid getting beaten up.

      A victim of bullying himself, he intervened, wearing the Halloween costume he was trying on for size.

      That moment, an everyday superhero was born.

      “When that kid asked me if I was some kind of superhero from the comic books I got the idea, ‘Well, I just did something great here. Let’s see how far I can go.’”

      Polar Man — with his distinct costume of black and white, and in winter, a snow shovel  — has since become an icon on Iqaluit’s streets, making it his mission to keep the town’s playgrounds safe for children, and often shovelling walkways.

      He was a regular at the local coffee shop, the Grind and Brew, whose owner Brian Twerdin jokes that he’ll place Polar Man’s uniform on the walls of his restaurant, already replete with polar bear license plates and other iconic Northern objects.

      That’s if Polar Man really does leave his uniform behind.

      “I’m wearing my suit when I get on the plane tomorrow,” Emmons says.

      He plans to move to Kingston, Ont. later this month. Emmons says it’s just plain time to move on. 

      “A lot of old friends have moved anyway,” he says. “I need to stretch my legs. There’s some things I can do down South that I just can’t do up here.”

      His advice to the next generation of everyday superheros is simple.

      “If I was going to tell someone how to make a difference, it's: don't be afraid to be who and what you are. There’s a whole world out there you can explore just by being who you are.”

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