First in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with the Contestants of “Who Wants to be a Superhero?”
By Mark Otnes, 11-25-2013
Editor, The Joe Report
“I love being in the spotlight. That’s why I’m a performer!”
—John Stork, aka SyFy TV’s superhero, “Hyper-Strike”
The first contestant of Who Wants to be a Superhero? we caught up with was, quite frankly, the one who had impressed us the most—2nd season standout, John Stork. Stork’s manic, over-the-top athleticism and circus-honed showmanship made him a clear front-runner among his fellow Season 2 contestants, and from the very beginning, he seemed an odds-on favorite to become Stan Lee’s “next—great—Superhero!” Of course, we’re not giving away any secrets to remind you that John didn’t win, but came in second place instead, tied with Melody Mooney’s “Hygena,” a plucky, homemaker-turned-superheroine, and then ultimately losing to Jarrett Crippen’s superhero cop character, “The Defuser” (see below).
Real-Life “Action Figure” John Stork, Reflects on His SUPER Life So Far —and What Happens Next!
TJR: First of all, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Let’s quickly catch up with John Stork, the man. You’re 27 now, correct? And you live in Vermont? Are you married? Do you have any children?
“The pleasure is all mine. That’s right, I’m 27, about to turn 28, and I live in Burlington, Vermont. 28 is my favorite number, so I won’t let it bother me that I’m getting close to 30! I’m not married and I don’t have any children, but I do have a girlfriend.”
TJR: What’s a typical day in the life of John Stork like now, in November of 2013?
“Well, there are two major things going on in my life right now: Street Performing (what I currently do for a living), and Screenwriting (what I wish I was doing for a living). I have a pretty weird sleep schedule, but it lends itself to both writing and performing. I go to bed around 3 or 4 AM every—night? morning?—and wake up around noon. I like to stay up and write. I’ve always been kind of a ‘night owl,’ probably from being in live entertainment for so many years. Shows are usually in the evenings and it takes a while for my adrenaline to calm down. Once I’m awake, I’m either writing, performing, or doing boring, everyday life stuff. I don’t exercise or practice as much as I used to, which is kind of sad. I only go to the gym or dojo once a week (if I’m lucky!), but I guess my street show keeps me in passable shape.”
TJR: Is it true that you lived in Chicago for a while? What took you there? And what brought you back to Vermont?
“I moved to Chicago when I was 17 to work for ‘The Midnight Circus,’ a small, theatrical circus in the windy city. I lived there on and off for about 3 years. I’ve also lived in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Boston, Brooklyn, Key West, and, the most glamorous of all, Branson, Missouri! I always come back to Vermont though, because, well—IT’S THE BEST!”
TJR: You’ve just created your first Facebook page last month (October, 2013). For most celebrities, that’s almost unthinkable. Why did you wait so long? What sort of “social media” outlets do you prefer to use? And if none, why?
“It’s very generous of you to call me a celebrity. There are a few reasons why it took me so long to join Facebook. I had a Myspace page for Hyper-Strike back when season 2 of Who Wants To Be Superhero? was originally airing and it was a little overwhelming. I felt guilty if I didn’t respond to every single fan message! Also, I wasn’t really interested in doing anything more as Hyper-Strike at the time. I was completely focused on learning how to street perform and developing/producing my own circus acts.”
“Fast forward to 2013: I’m now looking for like-minded Manga artists who want to team up and create—THE GREATEST MANGA EVER! You can get all the info about my current search plus samples of my writing HERE.
I thought Facebook would be a good way of getting in touch with artists. But right now, my page is so new that I hardly have any ‘likes,’ so please, check it out HERE and click on that ‘like’ button!
Another site I’m on that I think is really cool, is deviantART (found HERE). I have samples of my screenwriting posted there as well.”
TJR: You began studying Karate when you were 7 and received your black belt at the age of 11. That’s VERY young for such a difficult martial-arts achievement. Don’t you have to be able to beat up your adult sensei (instructor) or at least have hit puberty first? HA
“Interestingly enough, by age 11, I had already achieved both. But seriously, my Mom started taking Karate shortly after I did and quickly pulled ahead of me. At my dojo, if you were diligent and went to class three or four times a week, it was conceivable to get your black belt in three years. My mom did just that and I was one year behind her.”
“I always went to the dojo with her and she helped me to review all the techniques at home. I couldn’t have done it without her. I stopped going for rank after I got my black belt so I could focus on competing, but my Mom kept with it and is now a 6th degree black belt. (The grandmaster of the whole system is a 10th degree black belt!) So yeah, my mom could kick my butt!”
TJR: As a teenager, you trained with world champions, actors, and even Hollywood stunt-doubles. How did that come about, and in what ways did being around such diverse talent influence your life and career?
“My first Karate instructor here in Vermont, Freddie LaPan (see VIDEO), competed nationally for many years. His specialty was point-fighting, but I wanted to specialize in forms, which are like choreographed dance routines with martial arts moves and acrobatics instead of dance.”
“Freddie put my parents in touch with Mike Chat (right), the world forms champion at the time. He later went on to play the Blue Power Ranger on ‘Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.’ He’s also the founder of XMA. I started training with him privately at national sport karate tournaments on a monthly basis. Later, my parents would also fly me to LA (from Vermont!) once a month to train with him there. He had great connections, so his students, including Taylor Lautner (actor, ‘The Twilight Saga’) and I, were able to train with tons of awesome people. I guess that’s where all my college money went.”
“As far as being influenced goes, I think the main thing these experiences impressed upon me was the level of proficiency and consistency that separates amateurs from professionals. Mike immersed me and his other students in a professional world. Also, working with Ming Qui (former China national wushu champion and stunt-double for Lucy Liu in ‘Kill Bill’) was extra awesome.
I’ve always been in love with classical Chinese martial arts thanks to Jackie Chan. After all, my martial arts/circus endeavors as a teenager were really just me trying my best to simulate the training Jackie Chan received in the Peking Opera. Training with Mike, his industry connections, and Circus Smirkus was the closest I could have come here in America!”
TJR: You won a Gold Medal at the WKA World Championships in Germany and a Silver Cup at the First International “Artistic Martial Arts” Tournament in Paris, France (watch video HERE). Could you tell us about those two contests and how you felt winning them?
“In all honesty, not all the best competitors made it over to Hannover for the WKA World Championships. Nonetheless, getting a gold medal was nice, I won’t lie. I trained really hard for that tournament. The first International Tournament for Artistic Martial Arts in Paris, on the other hand, attracted a lot of the best competitors, so my silver cup win there actually carries a lot more significance for me.”
TJR: You began training in “circus and variety arts” at age 13. Could you tell us about your years performing with Circus Smirkus? What memories or moments stand out the most?
“Performing with Circus Smirkus was the best time of my life. The truth is, I try not to think about it too much anymore because I need to get over it. Look at it this way: You’re a kid, you get to train with incredible coaches from exotic, foreign lands, then travel around New England all summer doing awesome, well produced shows in a real circus tent with a bunch of other kids you get along with really well. It sounds like a fantasy book for children except it’s real. We were actually living something as cool as ‘Harry Potter.’ There were too many incredible, awesome, funny experiences to try and pick out just a few. Sorry!”
TJR: No problem. Let’s change the topic. Tell us about your TV commercial for Burger King (see HERE). How old were you in that, how did you land the part, what was it like, etc.?
“I found out about the audition through Mike Chat. They were looking for kids around my age (14) with my type of martial arts/acrobatic experience. Mike had me and a couple of his other students try out, but I was the only one completely and totally obsessed with ‘Dragonball-Z.’
I remember realizing that the casting directors didn’t know any of the technical, nit-picky things that judges at karate tournaments know. They were just looking for performance, energy, and ‘look.’ So I knocked that audition out of the park! I smiled a lot, threw positive, heroic energy at them, and did plenty of cool mugging/posing for the camera. They ate it up, and I got the part!”
TJR: In 2001, you appeared in the independent film, Shadow Fury. We found a short clip of a fight scene with you in it over on YouTube (view HERE). Tell us about working on that project.
“That was another part I got through Mike Chat. Makoto Yokoyama, the director of ‘Shadow Fury,’ was also directing ‘Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue’ at the time, on which Mike was working as the Blue Power Ranger. Mr. Yokoyama asked Mike if he had any students who might be good for two different parts in the film that required kids who could do martial arts. Mike set me and Taylor Lautner up with the parts. We actually play the same character; Taylor is the kid version and I’m the teen version.”
“I actually had to leave Circus Smirkus for three days to fly out to LA and film my scene. It was great working with the Alpha Stunt Team, some of whom I’d already trained with through Mike, and I enjoyed getting to perform a lot of my own fight choreography under their expert tutelage. However, coming right from Smirkus, it was really jarring for me how choppy and disconnected filming felt in comparison to performing for a live audience. It’s very stop and go.”
“Up until that summer, I’d always thought I was going to try and be a martial arts movie star. Filming ‘Shadow Fury’ in the midst of my first summer at Smirkus brought about a major change of heart in my teen-aged self. I decided to shift my focus to LIVE entertainment. Even if I eventually wound up trying to be in movies, I figured I should learn how to entertain real people first, otherwise I’d have no idea what to do in front of a camera. I needed to develop a sense for what people liked. Filming ‘Shadow Fury’ felt like ‘flying blind’ compared to what I was doing back at Circus Smirkus.”
TJR: You chose to pursue a career in show-business rather than attending college. Was that a hard decision for you to make? And do you now have any regrets?
“I think whatever money my parents may have had for putting me through college was used on the exceptional training I received as a teen. Therefore, in a way, I feel I kind of already went to college; a special, early college that was very specific to exactly what I wanted to be doing at the time. However, at this point, I would not mind attending a real college, to learn about animation. My ultimate dream is to write and direct for animation someday. As I mentioned before, my latest plan is to team up with an artist and try to turn some of my screenwriting into Japanese style comics (manga), with the hope that those comics can either help me sell the screenplays they’re based on, or help me get into an animation school. Maybe both! We’ll see.”
TJR: What are your thoughts about “Ultimate Fighting?” Is that considered to be a “martial-art?”
“I think it’s great and that it most certainly is a martial art. I don’t follow it very closely like some of my friends, or my Mom, but I do enjoy it when I see it. My favorite competitor is George St. Pierre. As a kid, I enjoyed ground fighting/grappling. Though we only touched on it lightly at my dojo, it felt more natural to me than standing up and duking it out.”
TJR: Since you’re famous now, have you thought about moving out to LA and pursuing a career in the entertainment industry there? Perhaps as a TV action star or movie stuntman?
“As far as moving to LA goes, the honest-to-God truth is, I can’t stand cities. I’m a country boy. Also, my passion is not to be in front of the camera anymore. I think the best thing for me is to focus on the craft of screenwriting and write some solid scripts. Vermont is a nice place to do that. Also, I make my living as a street performer, and there just aren’t that many places in America where you can make a successful living as a ‘busker.’ Burlington, VT is one of the few, and it’s easy to get to the country from here. Nature is only 10 minutes away. Plus, street performing in LA was terrible! I’ve also worked at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market in Boston, which is arguably the best place to busk in the world, but I couldn’t hack the traffic! Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado is a pitch I’d be interested in trying.”
TJR: You seem to be extremely physically fit. Would you describe yourself as a “health nut” or simply a naturally gifted athlete? And what do you do to keep your superhero physique? Do you have a special diet and/or exercise regimen?
“Correction: I USED to be extremely physically fit. Now I just get by. And I’m definitely not a ‘health nut,’ nor am I a naturally-gifted athlete. I was one of the LEAST athletic kids going up through the ranks at my karate dojo. My physical prowess came from years of hard work, determination, and expensive private lessons.
I do have a fascination with nutrition though, nurtured by Mike Chat. He took a very ‘sports science’ approach to training his students, which included a lot of nutritional data and advice. When I first started training with him I was still a little chubby, so I really soaked up what he had to say and I still have a fascination with nutrition to this day. I’m more interested in living and eating healthy now, than I am in being some sort of super athlete. At this point, ‘Walden’ is probably my favorite book on diet and exercise. Yup. I’m definitely a Vermonter.”
“When I was in the best shape of my life, what got me there was passion. I was obsessed with martial arts, acrobatics, and performing, NOT with being in shape. Physical fitness was just a result of pursuing those things. Because of that, exercising just for the sake of exercising has always felt weird to me.”
TJR: You often flash a “V” or a “Peace” sign at the end of a gymnastics run or karate routine. It’s almost become sort of a John Stork trademark. When did you start using that hand gesture and does it hold any special meaning for you?
“Characters in anime, manga, and I guess just Japanese culture in general, flash that sign a lot. When they do it, it’s a happy, victorious thing. I liked it and it felt very positive to me, so I adopted it for Super Impact Man and subsequently Hyper-Strike. I also wanted those two characters to be readily associated with anime, manga, and video games, and the peace/victory sign seemed as close to a universal symbol for those things at the time as I could find.”
TJR: Let’s talk about your experiences on Stan Lee’s, Who Wants to be a Superhero? TV program on the Syfy Channel. First, let me just congratulate you for coming in second-place. Fantastic job, sir! What was it like trying out for the show? What did you have to do, where did you have to go, and what kind of reactions did you get from the producers, Stan Lee, etc..? Walk us through those experiences, please.
“Thank you. It was a blast. I actually sent in an audition tape for Season 1 and they called me, but didn’t end up choosing me. A circus friend of mine had heard about the show and told me I should try out since I pretty much already had all of the work done already (I was performing as Super Impact Man at the time).”
“I didn’t even apply for Season 2! They’d kept my video on file and just called me out of the blue. Of course I was still interested and they flew me out to LA for the live auditions. The audition went well and I was personally interviewed by the casting director and the executive producer afterward (not by Stan Lee directly). I remember the casting director really liked me but the executive producer wasn’t so sure. Guess he decided to give me a chance in the end.”
TJR: Tell us about changing your superhero name from “Super Impact Man” to “Hyper-Strike.” When and how did that happen, and who came up with the name?
“There was quite a bit of paperwork to process once they wanted me on the show, and it turned out that they’d end up owning the rights to whatever character I ended up playing on the show. I had big plans for Super Impact Man in the circus, so I wanted to hold onto that name and character. I talked with the executive producer and he was fine with me changing my name and keeping the rights to Super Impact Man. We discussed what we both wanted from the new name, then I went off on my own and came up with Hyper-Strike, which we both really liked. As far as what my thoughts were in coming up with the name Hyper-Strike, I’m sad to say I haven’t the foggiest recollection. However, that’s probably because as soon as I came up with Hyper-Strike, all the others disappeared in my mind. I instantly knew it was the one. THAT I remember.”
TJR: Let’s talk about the Hyper-Strike costume. On the show, when you first look in the mirror at your new tights, what thoughts were going through your mind? Why did you prefer your original costume over Stan’s design? Clearly, the new Hyper-Strike costume left very little to the imagination. Was that a problem for you, “modesty-wise?” Were there ever any embarrassing moments around the ladies, if you know what we mean? <ahem>
“My first thought was ‘Oh, crap… I’m gonna be wearing this for weeks on national television… DON’T DO THIS TO ME!!!!!’ I just didn’t want every contour of my body becoming common household knowledge across the nation, and I guess that was the line the new design crossed that the old one didn’t. I wasn’t really embarrassed about my body, but I didn’t want the costume to be distracting or silly at all. I wanted people to focus on other things, like my personality and performance. I felt very…exposed.”
“Everyone around me, male and female, was very encouraging and told me it looked good. I didn’t know if they were just trying to make me feel better, but either way they were all very polite. So no, there were no ’embarrassing moments’ with the ladies. We spent so much time in our costumes while filming the show, I’d say at least 12 hours a day, that they became like a second skin. I didn’t even notice after a few days, so I’m sure no one else did either. My ‘dance belt’ (athletic supporter undergarment) on the other hand…”
TJR: During the “Evil Stan” episode in the park, it didn’t seem as if you were fooled too badly. You looked through a lady’s bag once, shouted your superhero name, and did a few flips. Not much harm done. Did you catch on that something was amiss and begin to refuse Evil Stan’s unheroic requests?
“As you say, he didn’t have me do anything too nefarious, so no, I didn’t catch on. I thought the requests were kind of weird, but I figured ‘Real Stan’ would have some brilliant explanation at the end of it all that would make everything clear. Instead, it was ‘Evil Stan’ who made everything clear. Good thing I didn’t do really bad stuff.”
TJR: Even though you say you studied the DVDs of Season 1 to avoid making the same mistakes they did, you STILL gave away your secret identity in the classroom, with a camera only a few feet away from your face! What happened there?
“I knew exactly what I was doing. I made an executive decision there. I told that kid my real name because they were embarrassed about theirs. I used to get picked on about my last name all the time when I was in school. I figured if the kid saw that I also had a weird name that I used to be embarrassed about, and that I’d somehow overcome that adversity and grown up to be a superhero, it might inspire him. The chance to give the kid some real-life confidence seemed more important to me than winning first place on a TV show. It seemed like the real-life superhero thing to do, even though I knew I’d catch flack for it. I had a hunch they’d keep me in the end.”
TJR: What was it like living in such a “Big Brother” type setting? Were the TV cameras on 24-7? Were they hidden? How did “living in a fishbowl” affect you and your fellow contestants psychologically? Did you ever decide to just “clam up,” like Mr. Mitzvah?
“The cameras were off when we slept, but that’s about it. There was a combination of hidden cameras and shoulder mounted television cameras. As a performer, I loved all the attention, so no, I never clammed up. That being said, even my bulging showboat muscle was worn out by the end of the three weeks it took to film all eight episodes. I think it’s a common reality TV tactic to try and get your contestants to go a little crazy. ‘Who Wants to Be a Superhero?’ was no exception. It was fun though. It never got too miserable. I treated it like a game that I called, “DON’T CRACK,” and tried to apply my own loopiness (not a real word) to my performance.”
“As time wore on, and I got more and more exhausted, the experience became more and more surreal and trippy. Which was kind of fun. I don’t remember getting especially weirded out by the constant presence of cameras. The thing that got to me was they took away all our books and music. THAT made me a little crazy. We played a lot of ping-pong!”
TJR: Fans have been wondering what “life in the lair” was like for many years. Simple questions like: Did all 10 of you really sleep in the same room? If so, was that ever uncomfortable or no big deal? Was there a specific time for “lights out?” Did you get enough sleep?
“We did all sleep in the lair, yeah. The beds you see on the show were our real beds. I still have the sign that was hanging above mine. I didn’t really feel weird about the sleeping situation. It was like being a kid at a superhero themed sleep over, or a summer camp. It WAS a little eerie, as there were less and less people though. And yes, there was a set ‘lights out’ time each night where they would literally just turn out the lights. They wanted to make sure we got our sleep because we were on such a rigorous schedule. I’d say we got 6 or 7 hours each night. Life on the show was pretty exciting though, so I don’t think it bothered any of us too much. We all knew we’d be returning to normal life all too soon!”
TJR: What was a typical day’s shooting schedule like? Was there time for you to keep up your own personal fitness routine? Or were everyone’s activities strictly regimented and controlled?
“When exactly we started and finished each day varied, but we worked a full day, every day, and then some. And yes, our time was strictly regimented. Even when we had ‘free time’ there were still cameras on us. The schedule was so hectic and many of the challenges were so physical, I don’t think anyone was looking for any extra exercise. The whole show was definitely an endurance run. I think we all understood that and, furthermore, we were all in it to win it. We had all seen the first season and were consequently prepared for anything. That one guy (‘Levity,’ from Season 1) didn’t even make it into the lair!”
TJR: And what about food? Did everyone make their own meals, or was food prepared for you?
“They would bring in food for us from different places. Plus there were snacks like fruit put out for us that we could grab any time. That’s when I learned to like oranges. I remember we had catering from Olive Garden one time. That was while we were at Six Flags. Nothing fuels a superhero like fettucini alfredo and unlimited breadsticks!”
TJR: Where was the show filmed? There’s also a little mystery and debate among fans as to where Stan Lee really was during shooting. Was he nearby, or was he in another studio clear across town? It’d be a little bit of a buzzkill to think he was just sitting downstairs the whole time.
“We filmed the show all over LA. To this day, I have no idea where Stan’s scenes were filmed. We got to meet him a few times in person outside of the show, at photo shoots and whatnot. He’s a real charming guy.”
TJR: Here’s a chance to “burst some bubbles” for the less tech-savvy among us. When you looked at your wrist communicators, did anything actually appear there, or were you just told to act like it was?
“This is the kind of stuff we’re not technically meant to tell anyone, but, it’s been so long, I can probably get away with it. <DRUMROLL> No! It was just a green screen on our wrist communicators! (I feel so dirty…)”
TJR: Ha! Tell us about all the night shooting. Was it cold up there on the rooftop during eliminations? Many of the contestants (but not you) often seemed to be shivering.
“It wasn’t always cold, but sometimes it was FREEZING. As far as me not shaking goes, what can I say? I’m a professional entertainer and I’ve done a lot of performing outdoors with no roof over my head.”
TJR: Here’s your chance to make some headlines and stir the fires a bit… It’s been over 6 years since the show. Were there any juicy tidbits, or embarrassing and/or memorable moments that ended up on the “cutting room floor” that you can now share with fans?
“You’re bad. Well, the lair was infested with—rats! Sorry. I don’t really have any dirt. The rats were the dirtiest thing. Honestly though, when you’re calling a place ‘the lair,’ I don’t think you can be too surprised when rats show up. It’s part and parcel with the name. I’ll also say that the ‘honey’ that was dropped on us was actually cheap syrup, like the kind you get on your short stack at the local greasy-spoon diner. I know that’s not very ‘sensational,’ but I remember thinking it was semi-weird or even ‘fraudulent’ at the time.”
TJR: During the “Waterworks” challenge you were nearly drowned by torrents of wind and water. During the “Bee Sting” challenge, you were trapped in a box with thousands of stinging honey bees. Normally, that would be enough to make most people want to quit immediately. But surprisingly, no one did. Did that surprise you? And what are your memories (good and bad) about those experiences?
“Yeah, you know, I was kind of shocked by how ‘gung-ho’ everyone was at the beginning. Even with the first challenge, in the wind tunnel with the water. It was INCREDIBLY loud and uncomfortable. I felt like I barely made it through and I was a spry young man. And after the spelling bee challenge, I knew everyone was FULLY committed. No one was going to give up of their own accord. As I said before, I think that having seen the first season helped get us all mentally prepared and fired up to take on virtually ANY challenge, or to at least to keep an open mind.”
“I, for whatever reason, was not very freaked out by the bee challenge. It made me uncomfortable, but I knew I could control my nerves. I was more worried about someone else in the box freaking out and making the bees go into a frenzy, so I did my best to try and keep everyone calm. I also remember thinking what a clever idea for a challenge it was, having us do a spelling bee covered in bees, but that comes with being an entertainer.”
TJR: What was it like filming those fights, stunts and special effects sequences with Balls Mahoney and stuntman Jon Valera? It seems they would’ve seen your vast potential and recommended that you stay on in Hollywood and work in films. Did you discuss any such ideas?
“I actually already knew Jon Valera before the show. He and my teacher Mike Chat were fierce but friendly rivals on the same elite sport karate team. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not naturally athletic. It takes me forever to teach my body new things and it usually only goes along kicking and screaming. On the other hand, I’m pretty darn good at making things look easy for me once I’ve learned them, but that’s my talent as a performer, not an athlete. I would be a terrible stuntman! Shooting a film, you don’t have time to practice. You have to be able to adapt and improvise how you risk your life on the spot. I only risk my life after LOTS of practice to seriously hedge my bets. I love life too much!”
TJR: Did you forge any lasting friendships with your fellow WWTBASH contestants? And have you seen any of them recently?
“Unfortunately, no. But it’s not because I wouldn’t have liked to, or because I didn’t like anyone on the show. I’m just terrible at staying in touch. Hygena (Melody Mooney) and her husband are incredibly friendly. Parthenon (Dan Williams) is funny. I got along well with Mindset (Phillip Allen) and Mr. Mitzvah (Ivan Wilzig). Believe it or not, I had a special connection with Whip Snap (Paula Thomas), despite what happened between us on the show. And I really admire The Diffuser (Jarrett Crippen). He deserved to win. He’d make a WAY better real-life superhero than I would. I can maybe LOOK like one, but he can actually BE one.”
“I guess I’m hesitant to stay in touch with people as a general rule because I’ve met so many over the years traveling and performing. It would be a full-time job to try and keep in contact with them all. Also, it pains me when you try to keep a friendship going long distance and it just sort of withers on the vine. For me, that’s even more sad than just going your separate ways. I’d rather leave things where they were than play with shadows, if that makes any sense.”
TJR: Your final self-defense speech, when you declared, “You SHOULDN’T put me through…” was a masterstroke of counter-psychology that probably helped keep you on the show. Had you thought about what you were going to say ahead of time or did you just blurt it out?
“Ha! I totally planned that. Entertainment is my business. I stood on that little cube the whole time knowing I had a zinger up my sleeve.”
TJR: Do you ever make appearances at comic cons as Hyper-Strike? It seems like you would be a natural with all of your experience entertaining crowds, especially crowds of superhero fans. Any memorable interactions with fans at such events?
“I never really got into the convention scene. Back when conventions and agents were approaching me to make appearances, I was in way over my head trying to street perform in LA. I was really stubborn. It was going terribly out there, but my answer to that was to just drop everything else and channel all my energy into forcing it to work. I bashed my head against a wall for months and barely scraped by. I got so low on cash, before I left LA, I ended up selling ‘star maps’ on Hollywood Boulevard for about a week. I could make more money doing that than I could street performing at the time!”
“I have a one-track mind and I become fanatical about things I want to do. My obsession at the time was learning how to street perform in LA, so I guess nothing else could happen. DUMB. I wouldn’t be against going to conventions now, especially to help promote my search for manga artists. However, I don’t think too many people remember Hyper-Strike.”
TJR: Well, obviously we disagree about that! Tell us about your “Karate Comedy Act.” I saw a short clip you had posted of it over on YouTube (HERE) and enjoyed it very much.
“Oh, thank you so much. If I were to continue on with theatrical circus performing, this is the act I’d do it with. I spent years trying to develop an act I’d be happy with, but all of my ideas were overly ambitious. I liked to come up with titanic productions in my mind that I was never able to pull off, at least not to my satisfaction.
The ‘Karate Comedy Act’ is the result of a lot of those ideas boiled down over many years to something DOABLE. Ironically, the act may now be TOO simple, since I’m not that interested in doing it anymore. That’s what I like about writing though now. I don’t feel limited. Whatever I imagine, I can just write. That being said, I really am proud of that little Karate Comedy Act, so thank you. Thank you for noticing! (This interview has become very emotional all of a sudden.)”
TJR: On the final episode of the show, Stan Lee said this of you:
“Hyper-Strike, you’re here because you fired our imaginations. You think and move, like a true superhero. You’re fearless, honest, and forthcoming.”
And after you had lost, you demonstrated true sportsmanship and real humility when you said:
“I had my chance. I made the best I could with it, and hey, 2nd place ain’t bad.”
Obviously, there’s a lot more to John Stork than just a flashy costume and some back flips. Tell us about your core moral values, ethics and beliefs, and where they came from. Besides being naturally gifted, what made you the man you are today?
“This is a big question and I don’t want to delve into my personal politics or religious ideas here, but I do have core convictions and concrete philosophical ideas that I try my best to live by and continually improve.
RESPECT is probably number one, not just for others, but for yourself as well. Self-respect could be the single most valuable commodity in existence, but I think it only works if you have a diligent conscience.
I think you get your conscience from your parents, and inadequate parenting is probably the most serious problem in society today. I had great parents, so I’m very lucky.
I also had a great dojo where values like discipline, respect, hard work, doing the right thing, and brains over brawn were constantly espoused. On top of the school creeds (which were emblazoned on the walls), we had a message of the week, every week. That, for me anyway, was a good environment to grow up in.”
TJR: What are your hopes, plans and career goals for the NEXT 6 years? Where do you hope to be and what would you like to be doing?
“In six years, I’d like to be supporting myself with my writing and well on my way to writing AND directing. My ultimate goal is to one day have a studio that produces anime, manga, and video games. If it was also in Vermont, that would be dreamy. I don’t think I made this clear earlier, but my screenwriting and the manga I’m looking to develop are meant to help me move closer to writing and directing for animation. A lot of the concepts I’m planning to develop as manga can later be adapted into anime.”
TJR: On Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, you offered your fans the following advice, “Pursue your passions. Whatever you love to do—DO IT. And then completely devote yourself to it.” Now, over six years later, would you amend or add to that advice in any way?
“I would throw in that it helps when things love you back. I think it’s good to know what you love, but also to be aware of what your natural strengths are. Sometimes, you’re better off going with something you really like that likes you back and leaving unrequited love for the birds. I don’t know if I actually follow that advice though. In some ways, ever since I discovered it, anime has been my greatest love. (Don’t tell my girlfriend I said that.) It remains to be seen whether I have any natural talent in that arena, but I’m still putting everything I have into it.”
It’s nice to think things are super black and white when you’re young, and if they’re not, to think you can make them black and white. Now, I think it’s better to at least be aware of the spectrum. Use your knowledge of the spectrum to navigate to your favorite color. If you try to shut out the other colors, or pretend they’re not there, it doesn’t work so well. Ignoring reality is a slippery slope. No one lives in a test tube, yet it’s easy to philosophize in one. In short, I think it’s important to have a favorite color. My favorite color is GREEN.”
TJR: At your public performances, do you sign autographs and sell souvenirs afterward? How about online? Is there a website where fans can go to purchase John Stork, Hyper-Strike or Super-Impact Man videos, T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.?
“Ha! There has never been a John Stork, Impact Man, or Hyper-Strike product line, but that probably has to do with there never having been a serious demand for those types of goods. I’m just responding to the market. I finally have a business card though. This is a major step for me.”
TJR: Do you have an agent, or are you self-represented? If someone wanted to hire you for a performance or personal appearance, how should they contact you?
“At the moment, I’m self-represented. I do have a website that focuses on my live performances HERE. That website would be the best way to get in touch with me if you wanted to hire me for a gig. My Hyper-Strike Facebook page (HERE) is another fine way to bend my ear.”
TJR: Where is the next place fans can go to see John Stork performing, LIVE and in-person?
“More than likely I’ll be street performing on Church Street here in Burlington, VT next Spring, Summer, and Fall. Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, and Saturday evenings are the best times to catch me. I’m also in an intimate circus/theatrical clown show known as the Piccolini Trio (quite a bit different from Hyper-Strike). You can get details HERE and HERE. I should also mention that one of my best friends, Sam Johnson, who recently appeared on ‘America’s Got Talent’ HERE, is looking to create his own reality-TV series about street performers. He’s been filming the pilot episode here in Burlington, and it’s going to be centered around me, my street show, and Greg, a very kind homeless man who helps me out. He will most likely release the episode online soon. For more information, go HERE, or look for ‘Street Performers with Sam Johnson’ on Facebook.“
TJR: Finally, while we’re obviously very interested in superheroes, The Joe Report’s primary focus is on GIjOEs and 1:6 scale action figures. Therefore, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the personal gift you received from Stan Lee: a custom-made, 1:6 scale, Hyper-Strike action figure from Herobuilders.com! Did you play with or collect action figures when you were young? If so, which were your favorites and why?
“I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures when I was little (surprise!). I’ve never been into very straightforward, or ‘realistic’ things. The Turtles were cool to me because they were anthropomorphic, GREEN, and into martial arts. Another toy I thought was cool, although not an action figure, was ‘Monster In My Pocket.’ Kind of a precursor to Pokemon, I guess. And one more… Although these were only around when I was REALLY young: ‘Dino Riders!’ I had the T-Rex and the Triceratops, but I would always lose the armor and gun parts and just be left with the dinosaurs and the little dudes, and then it was basically just Jurassic Park. Wow. ‘Monster In My Pocket’ and ‘Dino Riders.’ You just sent me on one heck of a trip down Memory Lane!”
Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Mr. Stork for making this in-depth interview possible. If you’d like to leave a comment about anything in this article, please do so below. We wish Mr. Stork all the best in his future endeavors and will follow-up this report with another Who Wants to be a Superhero? contestant interview soon. Where are they all now and what are they doing? Stay tuned superhero, comic book and action figure fans, Coming up next—one of the women! Ex-CELSIOR!