Humberto Mendoza with a photo of Stan Lee taken by Summer Hughes, a school counselor at Love Chapel Elementary. Lee is holding a drawing of Mendoza’s that Hughes presented him at Dragoncon. (Contributed photo)

By Kendal Groner

Sometimes superheroes don’t wear capes.

Summer Hughes, a school counselor at Love Chapel Elementary School, forged a strong bond with Humberto Mendoza, 10, after discovering a shared interest in superheroes.

“It all started last year when Humberto asked me if I had seen the Dr. Strange movie,” Hughes said. “I remember telling him that I was planning on seeing it that weekend, and he better not spoil it for me.”

According to Hughes, Humberto was very shy at first, but came out of his shell some once they started talking superheroes. Humberto said that he was a little surprised to learn that Hughes, who he has known since kindergarten, was a devoted superhero fan too.

Humberto’s love of superheroes, especially Spiderman, coupled with a strong artistic talent has led him to make several superhero drawings.

“I’ve always been drawing Spiderman,” Humberto said. “One day I just grabbed a pencil and started drawing.”

Humberto’s mother, Teresa Lopez, said that both she and her husband have done some drawing as well. Humberto and his siblings, Bryon Mendoza, Jared Mendoza and David Mendoza, share artistic abilities and also a love for video games and superheroes.

Over the years, Hughes has taken notice of Humberto’s drawing ability and when she learned that Stan Lee, the famous comic book author, would be present at a Dragoncon event she was attending, she immediately thought of Humberto.

“My first thought was that I had to get some of Humberto’s drawings to Stan Lee,” she said. “I didn’t tell him what it was for, but I asked Humberto to draw me a picture.”

Humberto said he knew that she was going to Dragoncon and thought that it might have something to do with Stan Lee.

“I wanted to draw all of the superheroes at first,” Humberto said. “But I finally just decided to draw Spiderman.”

When Hughes and her daughter, Alleea Shell, arrived at the Dragoncon event in Atlanta, they weren’t certain that they would be able to reach Stan Lee with Humberto’s artwork. However, Hughes was determined to try.

It just so happened that they arrived an hour before Stan Lee was scheduled and no one was in line. After explaining to security that she wasn’t there for an autograph, but just wanted to give Stan Lee a gift, they gave her permission to approach the legend.

“I put the picture in front of Stan Lee, and he started to sign it. I stopped him and told him that I wasn’t there for an autograph and that I just wanted to give him a drawing,” she said. “He was so confused at first.”

After she explained to Lee that she was an elementary school counselor from Tennessee and that one of her students was his biggest fan, she was surprised at what Lee asked her to do next.

It’s a rule that no photographs can be taken unless someone has paid for an autograph, but Hughes was asked to take out her phone. With trembling hands she dug into her purse.

“My hands were shaking so bad that the fellow there with Stan took my phone from me and recorded a video of Stan saying ‘Thank you’ to Humberto for the picture,” she said.

The video of Stan Lee thanking Humberto has received over one million views so far.

“I am very, very proud of Humberto, and I was very surprised when I heard about all of this,” said Teresa Lopez.

Lopez and Hughes were both shocked at the attention Humberto’s story has received.

“Today I heard his entire class ask him for an autograph,” Hughes said.

Humberto is looking forward to taking art classes in middles school and high school and possibly joining a Cosplay Club later on. He has continued to draw more superheroes, especially Spiderman, his favorite.

Hughes overheard Stan Lee being asked what his favorite superhero was at one of the panels she attended. It turns out that Spiderman is his favorite too.