A little more than a year ago, Clark Rogers of Kensington first donned a form-fitting costume featuring the design and colors of the Maryland state flag. With cans of Old Bay seafood seasoning attached to his belt, he carried an oversized crab mallet fashioned out of cardboard tubes and a red crab-shaped shield.
It was June 2021, and Rogers was unveiling his new superhero persona of Captain Maryland at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., an annual pop culture convention where attendees can dress up as their favorite characters.
Rogers, 55, said becoming a superhero started out as a joke to make his friends laugh. He’d been doing cosplay — costume play — for many years, he said, and assembled the costume out of pieces that were “readily available.”
A few months later, he planned on wearing a different costume for Comic Con in Baltimore, but his wife, Ashley, persuaded him to go as Captain Maryland again. Another attendee made a viral TikTok of him, which has received almost 800,000 views to date. From there, his fame skyrocketed — he’s since created social media pages and gained a widespread following.
Rogers wanted to create an original superhero for fun and said with a laugh that if any state were to have a superhero, it would be Maryland.
“If you can’t eat it, you put the flag on it, and if you can eat it, you put Old Bay on it,” Rogers joked about common attitudes among Marylanders.
Rogers was born at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, grew up in Chevy Chase and graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He was a firefighter for 35 years, starting out as a volunteer at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad before becoming a career firefighter who worked all over Montgomery County.
He’s lived in Kensington for about 15 years, he said, and will march as Captain Maryland in the town’s Labor Day parade next month.
Rogers said he was approached in June over Facebook by country music star Jimmy Charles, who asked him to appear in the music video for his song “It’s a Maryland Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand.”
Charles was singing the national anthem in July at an Orioles game in Baltimore and invited Rogers to come along to film the video that afternoon. During the game, Captain Maryland ran around the stands to hype up the crowd.
The video premiered in Ocean City, Delmarva Now previously reported, and premiered online on Charles’ Facebook page Wednesday for National Maryland Day. In 2017, National Day Calendar began celebrating each state in the order they entered the union beginning in the week of Independence Day, according to its website.
Reactions to Captain Maryland vary, Rogers said. Kids are a bit more “reserved,” since he isn’t a superhero that they recognize, he said, but adults usually “double up laughing” and some ask to take a photo when they figure out his superhero persona.
“The point of the whole thing was to make people smile, make people laugh,” said Rogers, whose 14-year-old son thinks the Captain Maryland persona is “neat” and would like to portray a sidekick.
To make his outfit, Rogers repurposed a cosplay helmet from comic book character Captain America to feature the Maryland flag colors and an “M” on the front. Like his mallet, his shield was originally cardboard, but he’s since made a larger one out of a plastic sledding disc.
Ashley Rogers, a seamstress, said she expected to help when Clark first proposed the idea for the outfit — she thought it was brilliant — but he put together most of it himself.
“It’s surreal that something that started out as a joke has just blown up,” she said. “I find it amazing and super awesome.”
Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland who is studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.