Defend Be A Friend: Tennessee Teen Creates Superhero to Help Children Understand Autism

May 4, 2017

Captain Spectrum Rendering
Credit Aaron Lambert

Superheroes are known to save damsels in distress or stop evil overlords from ending the world as we know it. But there’s a new hero on in our region and he’s taking aim at another smaller, but no less effective villain… the school bully. Its teenage creator is harnessing his own heart to bring “Captain Spectrum” to life.

In Stewart County, Tennessee it’s club day at the local High School. More than 600 students are heading to classrooms to meet with their group of choice.

Freshman Christopher Miller is the club’s founder of a new club called “Defend Be A Friend.” He’s on the autism spectrum and this club is just one result of a long and scary road that reached a peak in middle school.

“Sometimes they would spit in my food or on me.” Miller said. “I would get kicked in the bathroom. Or they would hit me. I would go to the bathroom stall and cry until I had to go to class, and I would try to make it through...”

Chris is shy and quiet and found no other way to deal with the bullying than to attempt suicide. Twice within six months when he was just 12 years old.

“The next thing we know we’re in the hospital,” said Crystal Miller, Chris’ mother. “And that’s when it all come out about everything that was going on and I was like... why didn’t you tell me,” said Miller. Chris responded, “there’s no use.”

It was there, in the hospital, that Captain Spectrum came to life. Chris conceptualized the superhero that could stand up for bullied children, educate kids about the autism spectrum and teach empathy. Captain Spectrum’s first appearance came at a Wizard World Comic Con in Nashville, where he met illustrator Aaron Lambert.

“…and I remember seeing this little green kid walking around with this homemade superhero costume, said Lambert.”

The two became fast friends after Lambert created a rendering of Captain Spectrum, which is now the profile picture for the super hero’s Facebook page.  And true to his calling Captain Spectrum even had to stand up for Lambert at a later convention.

“He came up to me and said someone was trying to steal your artwork from your booth but Captain Spectrum stood up for me and stopped that guy and went and got the authorities to get that guy kicked out of the show. Which I thought was pretty cool that was pretty brave of him,” Lambert said.

Lambert isn’t the only person Captain Spectrum has helped. He has 1,735 fans of his facebook page.  He’s received messages of support and reaching out for help from California, Rhode Island, Missouri, Italy and Decatur, Alabama. That’s where Cederick Peterson lives. The 32-year old has spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

He was teased and bullied as a child and says Captain Spectrum would have been a difference maker in his childhood.  

“I wish that I had something like that. I think some things for me would be very different if there had been a Captain Spectrum for me that was there for me when I went through the stuff that I went through,” said Peterson.

The many messages on social media echo Peterson. And that’s how “Captain Spectrum” has found himself clad in his green spandex costume in front of elementary school classrooms talking about autism and bullying.

Pictured L-R Mitchell Givens, Chris Miller and Coach Joey Jackson who serves as the "Defend Be A Friend" club faculty advisor.
Credit Chad Lampe

He does this with the hope that he won’t have to use his special powers which include deploying his cape over a bully to project the feelings of the bullied on to the bully. 

What a profound way to approach bullying, and it’s all coming from Captain Spectrum who’s really just Christopher Miller a 15 year old with a big heart, so says Mitchell Givens, Chris’ school aid.

“I don’t think it would be possible to fit his heart in through the door inside of this room if we were to measure how big it is. It is quite impressive,” said Givens.

Despite the growing popularity of Captain Spectrum, if you ask Christopher about his future he responds with dreams to be a park ranger of professional fisherman. But his family know there’s more on the horizon for Chris and Captain Spectrum and it might just include an upgrade to his spandex costume and a published children’s book and comic book. Stay tuned, and in the meantime as Captain Spectrum would say, “Defend, Be a Friend.”

Captain Spectrum is seeking support for his new superhero suit. You can see more about it, here.