Archives February 2009

Real-Life Superheroes – out of the comics onto the streets

There is a growing number of people serving their community. They dress and act like superheroes even though they don’t have any superpowers, they have one advantage over their comic-book idols, they are real!
These low-profile but visually arresting altruists go by such names as Fox Fire, Black Arrow, Polar Man, Civitron, and Knight Owl. They design their own costumes, ranging from outlandish all-in-one latex suits to motorcycle gear. They call themselves Real Life Superheroes, or Reals for short and they are united by a goal to make the world a better, safer place.
According to Chaim Lazaros, a film student by day and a Real-Life Superhero by the name of ‘Life’ by night, the movement is not entirely new: “We’ve seen several waves of activity among people calling themselves Real Life Superheroes for almost thirty years. I personally know some who have been doing it for twenty years. After the September 11 attacks and thanks to social networking sites on the internet there has been a resurgence of the superhero movement. There are currently about 250 active Reals all over the world.”
The enthusiasm for the US-based movement knows no borders and the causes the Reals adopt are as varied as the personas they assume. Super Barrio hails from Mexico where, rather than fight crime, he uses his image of red tights and matching wrestler’s mask to organise labour rallies, protests and file petitions. Ireland’s Captain Ozone conducts his environmental activism while dressed in a light blue body suit, complete with cape, while Canada’s Polar Man concerns himself with shovelling snow from the old people’s driveways, entertaining children and prowling the streets at nights keeping an eye out for vandals.

It may not exactly be glamourous work but it is conducted with a sense of style and panache that lifts the hearts of those being helped. In these times of economic hardship, when the world is looking at new leaders like heroes the Real-Life Superheroes are quietly but colourfully going about their business. They are helping stranded motorists, volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, participating in blood drives and fighting crime when the opportunity arises.

Chaim Lazaros was trying to organise the first ever meeting of all the active Reals two years ago when he got his calling: “I was trying to find as many Reals as possible to get them all together in one place. Originally, I was just wanted to make a movie and tell their story. It was an awful lot of hard work and once, in a moment of prayer, I realised through all my actions I was doing something that was aiding the community. I fell under what ‘Entomo the Insect-Man’ classifies as a community crusader, I realised that it was true and on the day the gathering finally happened I declared myself as Life and I dawned my mask for the first time.”
Since that day, Chaim has been making nightly patrols in his New York neighbourhood as Life. His uniform is street friendly: black trousers, black waistcoat, hat and eye mask. He freely admits his work is not exactly the stuff of comic-book storylines, there is no fighting villains and capturing criminals: “I realised that walking around in a uniform you don’t get to see bank robbers running out of banks with the alarms going off and purse snatchers that you have to punch in the face. But you do see a lot of homeless people. I started stocking up on water-bottles, grain bars, socks, vitamins and blankets. I would go out and interact with the homeless, bringing them things they may need and offering them a kind word.”
Chaim’s voluntary community work is not the only super-Samaritan endeavour carried out by the Real-Life Superheroes. In fact, the majority of what they do is community based. Chaim was part of a group that included Reals named Civitron and The Black Ghost that organised a trip to New Orleans to help with the fall out of Hurricane Katrina. They cleaned out, painted and repaired a school gym that was being used as a donations warehouse for victims of Katrina. Their work was noticed and duly rewarded by authorities when October 13 was declared ‘Day of Superheroes’.
If there is one thing we can learn from the comic-book legends, it’s that Superheroes usually have one weakness. For Chaim that weakness is a lack of defence training. He has had a couple of hairy moments while out patrolling, including an incident where he was held up with a broken bottle, that could have turned out worse. It makes his nightly patrols all the more dangerous for him. However, one Real that isn’t an issue for is Dark Guardian.
Chris Pollak, aka Dark Guardian, is a martial arts teacher by day and a black and red leather-clad Real by night. He explains his reason for becoming a Real-Life Superhero: “I’ve been doing this around six years. I started off without a costume, just going out doing a neighbourhood patrol, making sure everything was safe and everyone was good, it kind of evolved as it went along. I decided to pick up a costume and become a symbol, to try to become a really vibrant person to get a message to people that there is a hero in everyone and you can go out and make a difference.”
“I was always into comic books,” he continues. “I loved superheroes in my childhood and I never had real role models in my life. I always looked up to these characters and their ideals and I decided one day to make these ideals a reality. Now, I’m out doing it!”
Dark Guardian is also mostly concerned with homeless outreach and helping those that need it most. Along with Life, he also visits hospitals, in character, to bring presents to the sick children there. You would think that the work is laudable but sometimes some people don’t see it the same way.
“A lot of times you get mixed reactions. If I actually get the chance to talk to someone about it they are very receptive. Some love it, some think the costumes are a bit much but generally they understand we are doing good. People who don’t know about us or have bad misconceptions just think we are crazy!”
It’s a shame to think that in some quarters, including the media, the wrong perception of these do-gooders is portrayed. The Reals do their good work in their own time and at their own risk. It’s generally thankless work and if they want to dress up while doing it then that should be their prerogative.
Both Life and Dark Guardian hope their message of community work gets across. They hope that the number of Reals worldwide grows as more people are inspired by their acts.
“All it takes to be a Real-Life Superhero is to take on an iconic persona and go out and do some public good,” says Dark Guardian.
“We continue to inspire others to become Real Life Superheroes or get involved in their communities in other ways,” is the message from Life.
Community service has never been alluring. Voluntary work, by its very nature, usually attracts only the most altruistic people. The Real-Life Superheroes may raise eyes or generate sneers with the costumes they wear and the names they answer to, but their decency and hard work cannot be ignored, rather, it should be embraced. In a world where superheroes like Batman and Spiderman only exist on movie screens or in books these guys are the next best thing.
Ciaran Walsh for RT

Atlanta's Superhero Helps Homeless

ATLANTA — You’ve seen them in the movies and on TV, but have you ever seen a real-life superhero, costume and all?
Over the years, a growing network of crusaders on a mission to make their communities a better place has emerged across the country, including one right here in Atlanta.
A lot of movie superheroes get their extraordinary human powers from an experiment gone awry or a bite of a spider.
Our Atlanta superhero doesn’t have that kind of back story, but he does have a desire to help those in need.
He created his alter-ego from a comic book character he dreamed up years ago and he does all his work in costume.
This superhero is known as The Crimson Fist.
“I don’t really like to use that term [superhero] because it makes people think I’m crazier than I am, but I’m a guy who dresses like a superhero, yes,” said The Crimson Fist.
The Crimson Fist said he started his mission several years ago, after a few years of drugs and alcohol.
He realized instead of hurting himself, he could help others.
Crimson is an IT programmer by day, superhero by hobby.
And while his outfit may look a little strange, he says the mission is what counts.
He spends a few days a month doing charity events and helping the homeless.
Sure, he gets the stares and tough questions.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy. I sometimes question it myself,” said Crimson.
“I have something now, but this will help me later on and I’m just so grateful,” said Jesse about a gift from Crimson.
The Crimson Fist said superheroes really do live among us.
“Just hearing someone say thank you is really the best part of this,” said Crimson.
He said his girlfriend thinks what he does is a little strange.
There are over 200 registered real-life superheroes on something called the world superhero registry, so The Crimson Fist is certainly not alone.
Copyright 2009 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

New Orleans resident inspires citizens

By Jake Clapp

Entertainment writer

Deep in the heart of New Orleans, a being lurks — part man, part ghost. It waits to overcome evil and save its home from the predators that would do the city wrong.

He is The Black Ghost, and the night belongs to him.

Many children — and even some adults — dream of being superheroes. But Will Warner is as close as it gets.

Warner, a 42-year-old counselor, filmmaker and teacher at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, created The Black Ghost in 1998 while in the Navy.

He used it as a way to pass the time by creating film shorts and comic strips.

Warner returned from his service in the Navy shortly before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

“Around the time of Katrina, I saw the violence and hurt throughout the city, and I knew that I could create something to give to the people to give them hope,” Warner said. “Growing up I had heroes like the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and the Shadow, and I knew that kids these days don’t have the same type of heroes with the same type of values to look up to.”

People watch the movies and read the comic books and imagine just what it would be like to be Spiderman, Batman or Superman, and wish that they could have the power to jump buildings in a single bound or hang upside down from a web.

To many, though, the superhero is much more than just heroic powers and spandex costumes. It is a symbol representing peace, hope, protection and the ability to change the world.

“It’s difficult to make any kind of generalization about the meaning of the superhero,” said Brannon Costello, English assistant professor. “An appealing element of the superhero is that it is densely packed with meaning and significance.”

For years, this symbol was something people would find only in a comic book, movie or television show, but recently hundreds of people have begun to take it to the streets.

In just the past few years a grassroots movement has formed called the Real Life Superhero Community.

Men and women across the country make their own costumes and head out into their communities to serve and protect.

Their Web site,, has a full roster of male and female superheroes across the country.

Some heroes, such as Master Legend of Orlando, Fla., go out and patrol their neighborhood streets in search of crime; others seek to change the world by actively showing life can be different through hard work.

Warner took his character and developed it into a real superhero the kids of New Orleans could follow.

Starting out with a digital camera and a laptop, Warner set out to create the first episodes of The Black Ghost television series to air on a public access channel.

Since those first days in 2005, The Black Ghost has grown into a full production with the help of 30 volunteers.

Warner constantly works side by side with the New Orleans Police Department to raise public safety awareness.

Through his social work with kids and teenagers, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin named The Black Ghost the official New Orleans superhero and an Ambassador of Hope for the city.

Warner stays busy, as he and his non-profit production company continue to shoot The Black Ghost and planning a workshop that allows high school seniors to earn college credit by working on The Black Ghost set.

“I’ll know that my work has meant something when I can see kids with blankets tied on run around the yard pretending like they are superheroes, like I did as a kid,” Warner said. “When you go about it the right way, a superhero is a symbol of hope and society. That is all I want The Black Ghost to be.”


Contact Jake Clapp at [email protected]