Obituary: Electron Boy lit up the lives of many
Erik Martin, a Bellevue boy whose experience as the superhero Electron Boy went viral on the Internet, died Friday morning.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Electron Boy on Facebook: http://seati.ms/electronboyfacebookpage
In real life he was Erik Martin, a Bellevue boy with a constellation of severe health problems and a rare form of cancer. But in his imagination he was Electron Boy, a superhero who saved Seattle from the forces of darkness and evil one spring day last year.
Erik died Friday at home. He was 14.
In April 2010, hundreds of volunteers in Seattle and Bellevue came together to make Erik's superhero story come true, in an elaborately choreographed event created by the Washington chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Wearing a handmade superhero costume that he had helped design, and riding in a DeLorean sports car, Erik rescued the Seattle Sounders from Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy. He saved a Puget Sound Energy (PSE) worker stuck in a bucket truck, rescued a group of people trapped on the observation deck of the Space Needle, and captured the villains, played to the hilt by Edgar Hansen and his sidekick Jake Anderson, both of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch."
The story of his big wish went viral on the Internet. The foundation was swamped by people pledging money and offering to help other children with life-threatening illnesses see their dreams come true.
"Erik's wish just cast this net and brought them into the mission" of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said spokeswoman Jeannette Tarcha. "People just wanted to be part of it."
A group of independent comic-book creators inked and published a real comic book of his exploits. And the "Fans of Electron Boy" page, still active on Facebook, drew thousands of members — today, its fans number nearly 12,000.
Erik's superhero deeds were recognized on the floor of the U.S. House by Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. The boy, who is a foster child, became a hero to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and to cancer patients and foster families alike.
Tarcha said Erik's foster father, Jeremy Martin, often told people he believed that "the reason this resonated with so many people is it's the story of the hero's journey, struggling against all odds to make it."
"And that is the definition of who Erik was," she said.
Erik's wish was "one of the events that really brought our company together," said Martha Monfried, spokeswoman for PSE, who recalled how, on his wish day, hundreds of the company's employees gathered on the Bellevue campus and cheered on Electron Boy with hand-lettered signs.
"I'm just thinking about how fortunate I felt to be a part of his short and powerful little life," said Rob Burgess, a local actor who played Electron Boy's sidekick, Lightning Lad, on Erik's wish day.
Martin and his wife, Judy, who started caring for medically fragile foster children after their own two children were grown, began taking care of Erik when he was 6 weeks old. He was born with a malformed heart missing its right atrium and ventricle and required several surgeries to fix. He had no spleen, and sensory problems made him extremely sensitive to touch.
Three years ago, Erik was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called paraganglioma, which spread throughout his body and was not treatable with surgery or chemotherapy.
When the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to grant him his wish, Erik told wish manager Jessie Elenbaas that he wanted to do things he has never been able to do: to run fast, be powerful and help people.
"Everyone wants to see someone become a superhero for a day, especially someone struggling with as many issues as Erik was," she said.
Jeremy Martin said Erik's health, during the past year, was a "roller coaster" of good days and bad ones, but stories about his life — he was on TV and featured in numerous stories in print — and well-wishes from fans would always buoy his spirits.
Since the Make-A-Wish day, Jeremy Martin has kept in regular touch with Erik's fans worldwide on Facebook. He recently raised more than $4,000 in the foundation's Walk for Wishes 5K fundraiser, with most of the donors giving in honor of Electron Boy. And Martin's speech at the foundation's gala fundraiser this year, in which he shared the story of Erik's wish, "brought the house down," Tarcha said.
As word spread that Erik had died, the Electron Boy page on Facebook quickly turned into a tribute in his honor.
"Thank you Erik for making me remember the important things," one fan wrote. "You are an inspiration. I will my hug my kids a little bit tighter this weekend."
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, was corrected Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. A previous version of this story incorrectly said Erik Martin died at Seattle Children's hospital. He died at home.
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