?Recently, TR covered the somewhat infamous story about Seattle based “superhero” Phoenix Jones, who was arrested for interfering with what he claims was a fight and attacking people with pepper spray. This event was covered by multiple American sources across the country and even got the Taiwanese CG news treatment. As if getting thrown in a jail cell with a broken nose wasn’t enough, Jones was later forced to unmask himself in court and his arrest almost cost him his civilian day job as a teacher (with Kid’n’Play hair, apparently). Despite this, he says he will continue his role as a superhero. I believe the word Rob so aptly used to describe him and his behavior was “knuckleknob”. For the record, other heroes seem to be having similar reactions.
Real Life Superheroism seems to be a bit of a divisive subject for the nerdosphere: on the one hand, I imagine many of us are so in love with the idea of the superhero we secretly (or not so secretly) yearn to have the courage to strap on a costume and go have adventures, and thus respect those that do. On the other hand, most of us realize this would be pretty stupid/dangerous, and the people who actually do this sometimes appear less like heroes and more like insane cosplayers desperate for attention. But most of these guys are harmless, and simply want to make the world a better place (less crime-fighter than activists, organizers, fundraisers etc.). Whatever you feel about them, these folks (usually) serious about what they do, and some have invested lots of their time and money into fighting the good fight: you can’t really make fun of someone for helping sick kids and feeding the homeless, even if they do it while wearing a leather American flag. To quote Voltaire, you may not agree with what they do, but you can totally still read a top ten list exploiting their right to do it. Or something. Anyway, like it or not, these characters are all around us and have been with us for a while, so here are some of the more famous figures in the movement.
?For the many of us who desperately wish El Santo was real, there is the mighty Superbarrio who, since the ’80s, has brought Lucha power to the street in an attempt to fight corrupt landlords and protect the welfare rights of tenants in low-income neighborhoods (his name means “super neighborhood”). Unlike most of the folks on this list, Superbarrio is less of an actual patroller and more a symbol and public figure, standing up for labor rights. He’s also something of a pop-culture icon in his home country, inspiring merchandise, cartoons, and even making a satirical bid for U.S. president like a beefy, be-masked Stephen Colbert in 1996. Although he’s quieted down a bit since, recently he has been seen Occupying the Mexican stock exchange, which is more than we can say for Superman.
9) DC’s Guardian
In comics, heroes with their home turf in their names don’t tend to be heavy hitters (with one obvious exception) but DC’s Guardian, also known as DC’s Hero, is one of the more visible heroes out there. He’s also been one of the key organizers of hero leagues in the past few years, encouraging heroes to serve in various cities across the country. While he is perhaps the most protective of his identity of the superheroes on this list, he says he does it so others can see him as whoever they want, and not out of some ego-driven thing, which is reassuring. And though his main trait seems to be soft-spoken selflessness I must admit he does have a pretty sweet uniform.
8) Mr. Silent
According to the World Superhero Registry, Mr. Silent is actually retired, but I include him on this list because he was one of the first real life superheroes I became aware of and certainly one of the most stylish. Unfortunate that he chose a mask that muffles his voice like that, but he and his partner Doktor DiskorD are one of the most well-known duos to walk the mean streets of Indianapolis. Though they have encountered real crime in the past, these two eventually preferred to concentrate on performing good works while on patrol instead of getting into trouble. But that didn’t stop them from embracing the superhero mantle full-on, as they even contacted Warren Ellis to “say a prayer to Jack Kirby” for them.
An unusual name for a superhero, especially one who dresses in a mask that conceals less of his face than the Spirit’s, but Life (an English translation of Chaim, his real name) considers himself a helping hand to the homeless. Even for this crowd he seems very idealistic and fresh-faced, though that doesn’t mean he isn’t realistic about the situation, and he considers the bureaucracy of modern government and institutions to be as much of a villain as anything else. He’s also down to earth about what the life of a hero has done for him, saying in one interview that he has run up “massive credit card debt.” I’d say you could totally be a vigilante hero and make money, except those people are called “mercenaries” and their costumes are generally much more boring.
6) Master Legend
The word “notable” in this case might mean “notifiably batshit,” but in a way that denotes some awe. Because reedy-voiced Orlando patroller Master Legend is certainly one of the wildest of the RLSH bunch (it’s not pronounced “relish”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try). Like all the other masked figures on this list, he primarily concerns himself with good works, but unlike them, he has an iron fist. No, I mean he built himself a club thing that he calls the Iron Fist and uses to smash things, mainly to send a message to child abusers and not on anybody, I hope. He also has a potato gun, which isn’t exactly standard hero equipment but a level above the usual procedure, I guess. In addition, he claims to have died twice already and have been influenced by voodoo. So there’s that. Apparently he really likes hanging out and breaking stuff in front of this wall. He’s on here just to let you know that not all of the guys who dress up and go out on the street are straight-laced moral paragons: some of them like to kick back and break stuff.
As one of the most well-known female heroes now that Terrifica has retired, Nyx has certainly got a great deal of attention from the media, though I fear this may have as much to do with that Hot Topic-friendly fishnet costume she’s worn in several promo photos as her abilities. For the record, her actual patrol outfit seems much more sensible. Nonetheless, Nyx is a very active figure in the RLSH community, working together with other heroes and providing food and aid for the homeless and underprivileged. Like many real lifers, her commitment to the cause comes from the loss of someone close to her. Also she appears to be operating out of NYC and New Jersey these days, and that can’t be an easy beat, even for a superhero.
A “costumed activist” based in Portland, Oregon, Zetaman seems to be a little more level-headed than some of his costumed brethren. Much like Life and other altruism-first heroes, he prefers to use his persona to focus on helping charities and worthy causes, though as the video above shows, he still carries protection. He’s also one of the more media-savvy of this bunch, with a webseries chronicling his various philanthropic exploits. All of this is fine and good though it continues to raise the question: why do you need a costume if you’re basically just a nice guy helping the homeless?
3) Super Hero
What this guy may lack in name-creating skills he makes up with in dedication. Based out of beautiful Clearwater, Florida, Super Hero talks like a Dan Aykroyd character and fortunately seems to take himself less seriously than the Phoenix Joneses of the world: he doesn’t wear a mask, he doesn’t have a secret identity and he admits he mainly does the hero gig because “it’s hella fun.” But one advantage this guy has over his brethren is actual police academy training, professional wrestling experience and crime-fighting tools, particularly his Supermobile. He’s also notable for founding Team Justice Inc., which is a non-profit group for Real Life Superheroes with “absolutely zero overhead.” One major disadvantage this guy has? With a name like that, he’s not exactly google-friendly.
2) Citizen Prime
?His track record marks him as a friend of kids and a role model in his community. His photos, on the other hand, rather clearly say: Do not fuck with this guy. Arizona superhero Citizen Prime comes across as relatively genial online. Much like Super Hero, he says he his best asset is his sense of humor and spends much of his time in classrooms. But unlike Super Hero, he wears armor and carries weapons and… just… just look at him. Even if he’s no longer active and was never really of a confrontational nature when he was, Citizen Prime looks kind of like a badass, even if that helmet does remind me a little bit of that George Clooney ’40s football movie from a few years ago.
1) Angle-Grinder Man
He may be yet another retiree but his legacy lives on, and he’s just too crazy/awesome not to touch upon here. Basically, if your car ever got a clamp on its tire in southeast London, until recently you could do one of two things: pay the steep removal fee or call Angle Grinder Man, a lanky-haired dude in blue and gold with a mask, cape, and grinder apparatus, who would then proceed to cut your clamp off for you. Needless to say this man is technically a criminal who dismantles property put there to enforce parking regulations, but would you turn him away? I’ve got to admire this guy’s chutzpah. He certainly fits in the vigilante category well, asking for no money and acting against the authorities. Or maybe I should say “fit,” past tense, as he seems to have abandoned his old ways in recent years, probably due to lack of funds and pressure from outside sources (he was apparently arrested at least once). Even though you can make an argument against him, it’s hard not to see this guy as Robin Hood with a circular saw. At the height of his popularity he would even advise others on how to get the boot off themselves. Unfortunately, just as autumn fades to winter, so too has Angle Grinder Man seemingly put the tights aside for good, his former website now a place you can by bathroom furnishings. Still, he had a good run, and think of all the appointments he helped people meet and things he allowed them to get done through his good works.