Jeffrey Baldwin was five years old when he died on Nov. 30, 2002, weeks before his sixth birthday, after wasting away to just over 20 pounds, locked in his cold and dirty bedroom in the Toronto home of his grandmother.
His story made headlines around the world, often together with an image of the little boy dressed as Superman, a costume that made him happy.
Before his teenaged parents lost custody of Jeffrey to his maternal grandparents — who were convicted of second-degree murder in 2006 — he was very energetic and loved the superhero, his father, Richard Baldwin, testified at a coroner's inquest that concluded earlier this year.
"He wanted to fly," Baldwin said. "He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up (as Superman) for Halloween one year. He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel."
That picture stuck with Todd Boyce of Ottawa, who, touched by Jeffrey’s tragic story, began a campaign to have the boy who lived a concealed life finally remembered.
"When I first heard about Jeffrey, the first thing that hit me was that he was locked away, hidden away from everybody and that he never got to know anybody and nobody got to know him," Boyce said.
"I felt it was important to commemorate him in such a way that people would learn about him, learn about what happened to him and perhaps prevent something similar from happening to somebody else in the future."
He chose to create the image of Jeffrey, complete with Superman logo.
"It seems appropriate because he’s a vulnerable little boy pretending to be the most invulnerable character that we know," he said.
Blocked by DC
But DC Entertainment wouldn't grant permission to use the logo.
Boyce pursued the cause and even spoke with the head of the company, but was unable to change its decision.
"I was angry. My first thought was to burn every DC comic book I ever had, but after talking with them I sort of came around to see their perspective on it more," he said. "They weren't comfortable associating the character of Superman with child abuse."
Boyce said the company also told him about another memorial statue they had to veto. This one related to the victims of the Colorado shooting in 2012, where 12 people died after a gunman opened fire in a screening of The Dark Knight Rises — the final instalment of the most recent Batman trilogy.
The proposed memorial would have included an image of Batman, but Boyce said the company, like in Jeffrey's case, was not comfortable associating their beloved character with the tragic incident.
Boyce added that DC expressed support for his cause while explaining its reasoning.
Now, instead of the iconic S-shape logo, the statue of Jeffrey will be adorned with the letter J, which, after some thought, Boyce thinks might be even better than his original idea.
"I’ve come around to think it's even more appropriate that we are putting a J on his chest and that Jeffrey himself will be a superhero character."Suggest a correction