“I’ve been a circus performer for 11 years,” the 27 year old dressed as a superhero said. “Wow.”
Mister Terrific is not a well-known superhero. He has a red T on his face by way of mask and his logo isn’t a big S or stylized bat, but the words “FAIR PLAY” written on his jacket, a nod to the 1940s hero who inspired him.
Mister Terrific is corny and dutiful and nuanced, which is why circus acrobat Eric Robinson chose him as his superhero alter ego for Acrobatica Infiniti: The Nerd Circus.
“When did comics become popular? The war was going on. You had World War II going on. Somebody needed an escape,” Robinson said. “Kids needed a hero to look up to. Somebody needed to know there’s some form of justice in the world, and that’s what comics bring to people.”
Acrobatica Infiniti is a collective of acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers, contortionists and other working Chicago performance artists looking to take circus out of the world of candy floss and animal abuse into the artistic limelight.
Their routines are polished and elegant, a Second City Cirque Soleil.
They just do it dressed as comic book and video game characters.
Robinson’s path started at the now-shuttered Rosenwald Apartments at 47th and Michigan in Bronzeville. It started with a bunch of kids from the apartments running around the neighborhood.
It started with flips.
“I just did flips all around my neighborhood. Like literally, I would do flips off of things,” he said. “Eventually, I took a dance class and the dance teacher also taught tumbling. I picked it up from there. I just did it outside constantly with a bunch of other kids.”
He ran, he flipped and he tumbled, but he still hadn’t thought about any of that as more than pastime.
“I started out doing acrobatic gymnastics. Then a couple of friends were already involved with the circus arts and they were like, ‘Hey you should try to do actual circus gigs.’ And I was like ‘What are circus gigs?’” Robinson said.
“’Well, we go and perform and then we get paid money for doing the stuff we do here.’ I’m like, ‘Wait, what? You get paid money? How much is this money?’”
Robinson’s résumé is now chocked with circus. He performs, trains, teaches children the art form he loves.
And sometimes he gets to do it as a superhero.
“It was a lot of jumping around and flipping around, and eventually it amounted to something,” Robinson said, smiling behind the red T.