Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have been singled out for protection by real superheroes, not the make-believe ones of comic book fame. In its February 25, 2011 edition, The Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled “Bam! Pow! Superhero Groups Clash In an Epic Battle of Good vs. Good.” I knew I wanted to share this story so I added it to a stack of other articles I’ve been collecting.
I was mystified by the thought that real people would risk their self-esteem, not to mention their lives, wandering the streets of Seattle and Portland, bedecked in costumes that would surely have citizens chuckling, if not laughing out loud. Phoenix Jones, a 22-year–old-day care worker, changes into his black-and-gold outfit at night, to walk Seattle attempting to “harass drug dealers and break up street fights.” This, it seems, is not as big a deal to Jones as having to deal with “his latest nemeses: members of the ‘Real Life Superhero (RLSH) movement.’ ” So what’s the beef? Evidently they don’t like Jones’ confrontational style, or rather they don’t like that he’s getting all the publicity because of it.
World-wide RLSHers include grown men posing as Zetaman, Knight Owl, Dark Guardian and Mr. Raven Blade. Trying to convince the communities in which they serve that they’re the “real deal,” not geeky comic-book charachters, they feel their efforts are compromised by Jones’ physical approach. They prefer to carry out charitable works like delivering food to the homeless, rather than bring attention to themselves personally. They want to be “a force for good in the world,” and as such do not give out their names.
Real Life Superheroes, who seem to favor masks and dark clothing–sometimes emblazoned with homemade logos (like the Superman “S”)–exist in pockets all over the world. Some like Knight Owl and Thanatos, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, typically focus on charitable activities.
Others, such as New York’s Dark Guardian, patrol areas known for drug activity–a bit like the city’s old subway-riding Guardian Angels. Dark Guardian shines lights and takes videos to try to deter crime nonviolently, and he makes emergency calls to 911.
“Mostly, they’re relatively normal people trying to help out and have a little fun along the way,” says Tea Krulos, a Milwaukee writer working on a book about them.
Phoenix Jones, on the other hand, interjects himself into situations.
A mixed martial-arts fighter, he broke his nose last month while breaking up a fight, and he says he has been shot and stabbed, too. He often travels with a posse, sometimes carries a Taser nightstick and tear gas, and repeatedly has himself been mistaken for a criminal.
On a particular Friday evening Jones, accompanied by 3 men, Buster Doe, Pitch Black and Ski Man, a superhero-in-training, and a female, Blue Sparrow, walked Seattle’s streets. Obliging night spot patrons, Jones posed for photos outside the establishments but admitted that it “distracts me from my mission.” Turning to the task at hand, he “chastised a man for yelling at a downtrodden passerby. ‘Let’s keep it cool; let’s all have a good night,’ he said to the man, who quickly backed down. ” To those hanging out in areas frequented by drug dealers Jones remarked ” ‘Stay safe tonight,’ he said. ‘Stay warm.’ ” One thing was clear when he and his posse couldn’t catch a car driven by a suspected DUI, their inability to fly was a definite disadvantage. Jones admits to feeling foolish in his superhero get-up when he does little in the way of crime-fighting.
While Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson congratulates the efforts of citizens getting involved, he is concerned about situations going awry. ” ‘Our concern is that if it goes badly, then we wind up getting called anyway, and we may get additional victims.’ ” Zetaman, a Portland superhero, feels similarly. After an evening of late-night patrolling in Seattle by both Jones’ group, the Rain City Superheroes, and Zetaman’s Real Life Superheroes, the leaders and their groups have gone their separate ways for good. Jones makes his position clear when he says ” ‘I don’t see the point in handing sandwiches to homeless people in areas in which the homeless are getting abused, attacked, harassed by drug dealers.’ ” And Zetaman charges back with ” ‘(A)ll of us are afraid of one day someone is going to get killed and it’ll be all over. … I don’t need this kind of macho c_ in my life and I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, least of all to Phoenix Jones and his Rain City Superhero Movement.’ ” Superhero Knight Owl makes a good point when he said “ ‘We’re not one giant family, … After all, we’re a colorful collection of individuals. We’re superheroes.’ “
heavens to mergatroid!!!…………real life?…………or reality show gone amok?!?