Archives July 2009

10 Real Life Superheroes Who Have Actually Made a Difference

Written by JJ on Jul-20-09 3:52am

The Real Life Superhero (RLS) pheneomenon has steadily picked up steam over the last decade. Just like in Alan Moore’s comic classic Watchmen, otherwise normal people are suiting up and fighting crime.

Some have attributed the rise of the RLS to the recent popularity of comic book heroes, while others have interpreted it as a cultural response to the national tragedy of 9/11.

Whatever the case, these Real Life Superheroes walk the streets of cities throughout the world (though many are based in the United States) working for the good of their communities. From Rolling Stone to the Associated Press, their adventures have been documented. And while many ridicule the grown men and women who wander the streets in outlandish costumes, it’s undeniable that many are serious about giving back to the community.

Here are 10 Real Life Superheroes who have actually made a difference:

#10 Alain Robert, the Human Spider

Born: August 7, 1962

Location: Worldwide (Based in Paris)

Special Ability: To climb up the sides of skyscrapers

Nemisis: Police

Means of Transport: Climbing shoes

Everyone on this list has made a difference in some way, but not everyone on this list actually possesses some superhuman power over the physical world.

While Alain Robert‘s ability is no mutant power, it doesn’t even seem possible that a human should be able to climb like he climbs. Robert has climbed many of the world’s tallest structures. He climbed the Sears Tower (recently renamed Willis Tower) in 1999, completing the climb even after heavy fog made the surface dangerously slick. In all, Robert has climbed more than 85 skyscrapers.

And how has he made a difference? By furthering his political goals of course. Robert is an outspoken activist who has taken up the banner of environmentalism in the fight against global warming. In February, 2009, when Robert climbed the Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong, he first unfurled a banner directing people to the global warming Web site Then in April of 2009, he climbedthe Lloyd’s building in London and unfurled a similar banner.

But the grandaddy was his June, 2008 climbing of the New York Times building. Upon reaching the top of the building, Robert let fly a banner declaring, “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.” That’s a ballsy way to get a message across in New York. At least the man stays on point.

#9 Citizen Prime


Purpose: To educate children and the public at large on safety and preparedness

True Identity: Jim, an executive at an unnamed financial institution

Means of Transport: Xterra

Cost of Costume: $4,000

Not all caped crusaders are losers with nothing better to do, and Citizen Prime is proof.

A financial executive by day, Citizen Prime donns his $4,000 costume, which includes custom-made breast plate armor, and patrols the streets. Citizen Prime separates himself from other neighborhood watch style “superheroes” by distributing literature on how to help in the community and making appearances to talk to children about drugs and crime.

While Citizen Prime has said he respects the work of other superheroes, like the Black Monday Society in Salt Lake City, he takes a different approach by focusing on community involvement. He says the most useful tool at his disposal is a keen sense of humor for diffusing awkward situations.

#8 Polar Man

Location:Iqaluit, Nunavet; Canada

Notable For: Shoveling snow from driveways

Mode of Transport: Not a polar bear

Special Ability: Resistance to cold and isolation

Clad all in black and white with his trusty shovel, nary a snow-covered driveway stands a chance when Polar Man is on the case.

While a snow-shoveling hero from an isolated Canadian town of less than 7,000 might seem laughable, Polar Man has truly made a difference. Not only does he clear walkways for the elderly, he also tidies playgrounds in the summer and takes a keen interest in participating in community events.

Most of the heroes on this list come from major metropolitan areas, which sort of makes Polar Man more valuable. After all, what better way is there to make a sleepy town more interesting than by patrolling the streets and calling yourself a superhero?

Polar Man models himself on an Inuit legend where an unknown white man riding a polar bear brings food and clothing to people in need. It’s just too bad no one has figured out how to use polar bears as a means of transportation, because a snow shoveler on a polar bear would be truly awesome.

#7 Superhero

Born:c. 1969

Location: Clearwater, Florida

Mode of Transport: 1975 Corvette Stingray

Qualifications: Navy veteran; Police Academy training; professional bodyguard; training in wrestling and boxing

Personal Style: Loud and proud

True Identity: Dale Pople

It’s a tad redundant to be a superhero named Superhero, but what this Florida crimefighter lacks in creativity, he makes up for in style.

Superhero has made a difference not only by showing up at events and showing off his Corvette and bright red Spandex. Sure that tends to leave an impression on people (and not always the good kind), but Superhero’s real contribution is patrolling the roads and helping people in need of assistance — like people who need a flat tire changed.

“I don’t really know when I made the transition, but just all of a sudden one day it seemed like a good idea to put on my costume and go out and help people with roadside assistance.”

Patrick Wilson (left) played Nite Owl in Watchmen. Superhero (right) worked his security detail in civilian clothes. (From MySpace)

Patrick Wilson (left) played Nite Owl in Watchmen. Superhero (right) worked his security detail in civilian clothes. (From MySpace)

Superhero has proven socially adept enough to find himself a Lady Hero, a fellow superhero in training and girlfriend who he says he met in a gym, where he taught her how to do squat thrusts.

Whether you think Superhero is awesome or ridiculous, (there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground), he does get points for having the coolest mode of transport, and being an actual bodyguard. When Watchmen and Little Children star Patrick Wilson showed up in Florida for the Sunscreen Film Festival, Superhero was on hand to work security.

#6 Troy Hurtubise

Born:November 23, 1963

Location: Hamilton, Ontario; Canada

Nemisis: Grizzly Bears

Purpose: To invent ground-breaking safety gear and body armor

You May Know Him From: The Discovery Channel, Project Grizzly

Not a superhero in the traditional sense of the word, think of Troy Hurtubise as the poor man’s Tony Stark (that’s Iron Man for all you non-nerds).

Like those traditional heroes, Troy does have an origin story. Back in 1984, while hiking near Humidity Creek in British Colum
bia, Troy was attacked by a grizzly bear. He defied the odds by surviving the attack, but was soon consumed with his desire to know more about the fearsome juggernaut of the natural world. But to get close enough to really learn about grizzly bears, he’d have to get close… really really close. Like close enough that he might be attacked again.

Troy’s epiphany came while watching Robocop in his college dorm room in 1987. While most of us would probably disregard any epiphany brought on by a Paul Vanderhoeven film about a half-machine supercop, Troy spent the next 7 years, and most of his money, on developing a bear-proof suit.

The various iterations of Troy’s suit have been the subject of television shows, pop culture references, and even the documentary Project Grizzly. He tests them himself to prove that his suits can withstand being slammed by a swinging log, beaten with baseball bats and even hit by a car.

Troy is currently trying to make a difference by creating body armor for use in combat situations. His most recent suit was based on the Halo videogame and features an air conditioned helmet, a magnetic holster, and a built-in canister of heavy-duty bearspray for use in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately for Troy, no military or security organizations have shown interest in mass producing the ballistics suits. That might have something to do with the over-the-top nature of the inventor himself. Watch the video at left to see what I mean.

#5 Terrifica

Born:c. 1975

Location: New York City

Reason for Fighting: To protect drunk girls from being taken advantage of by opportunistic men

Nemisis: Fantastico

Means of Transport: Red High-heeled boots

Status: Retired

Though she’s hung up the ruby red cape, Terrifica is remembered as a New York City superhero with a very practical goal. Keeping vulnerable girls safe from predatory guys.

Terrifica, later revealed to be a New York artist named Sarah, patrolled New York City bars and clubs where she would try to prevent women from making decisions they would regret by going home with guys who just wanted to get laid. Armed with, among other things, pepper spray, a cell phone, and Smarties candy (for energy), Terrifica said she would try to distract men, who were often intrigued by the sexy, masked girl in a red cape, to give women a chance to get away.

“I protect the single girl living in the big city,” Terrifica told ABC in 2002. “I do this because women are weak. They are easily manipulated, and they need to be protected from themselves and most certainly from men and their ill intentions toward them.”

Interestingly enough, Terrifica did have a nemesis. A player named Fantastico whose attempts to take home women were thwarted several times by Terrifica. Obviously he was not terribly impressed with Terrifica, who, to be honest, does seem to have some issues with guys.

“She seems to have it in for men,” he said. “I’m convinced she is loveless and would love to have the rest of the city as loveless and miserable as she is.”

#4 Master Legend

Born: June 27, 1966

Location: Orlando area

Team: Justice Force

Fighting Style: Way of the Diamond Spirit

Means of Transport: Battle Truck, Legend Cycle

Signature Weapon: Master Blaster personal cannon (modified potato gun)

Sort of the grandaddy of American Real Life Superheroes, Master Legend is based in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, and has been active for the better part of the decade.

Master Legend received national recognition in December, 2008, when Rolling Stone ran a feature story and pictorial on the superhero clad in a silver and black uniform with a German World War II helmet. Though Legend is little more than a middle-aged man in a costume, he’s garnered the support of his community by patrolling the streets, fighting for causes he deems worthy, and working for charity.

His shining moment came in 2004, when he received a commendation from the sheriff’s office for helping to save people in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Though many have called into doubt Master Legend’s bombastic stories, one police sergeant, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to ROLLING STONE that Legend had helped bust real criminals.

From Rolling Stone:

Based on the neighborhood, [the sergeant] figured, Master Legend might be a good local contact. “And sure enough,” the Sergeant tells me, “I start getting calls from Master Legend with information. And it checks out. Master Legend has helped put away a few criminals.”

#3 Zetaman

Location:Portland, OR

Purpose: To protect and serve the community

True Identity: Illya King

Superhero Team: Formerly of The Alternates

Cost of Costume: $4,000

Zetaman is the epitome of the comic book nerd turned Real Life Superhero.

Zetaman, who draws and writes comic books in his spare time, patrols in a costume inspired by his favorite heroes. He carries a collapsible baton, a stun gun, an air horn, a cell phone, and perhaps most importantly, gloves and sandwiches.

While Zetaman patrols the seediest parts of Portland ready for anything, he told the Willamette Week that he’s never had to apprehend any criminals. More often than not, Zetaman spends his nights handing out gloves, sandwiches and other useful items to Portland’s less fortunate residents. And while this altruistic action is par for Zetaman’s course, he’s clashed with some other Real Life Superheroes who believe vigilante justice is their true calling.

“I guess it sounds kind of less heroic, but I don’t want to die,” he said. “I wish I had a million dollars, like Batman. But I’m just one guy out there. I’m not strong enough.”

Zetaman also helped organize the Alternates, a Portland-based group of Real Life Superheroes who banded together to raise money for the March for Babies, a fundraiser that grew from the March of Dimes to help ensure infant health. But unfortunately, Zetaman has recently split from the Alternates, stating on his MySpace blog that he can no longer “look past misdeeds on the behalf of friendship.”

But never fear. Zetaman is still out there doing good. His latest project is to raise $500 for the Race for the Cure breast cancer fundraising event in Portland. While the Alternates won’t be working together anymore, Zetaman has put together the Zeta-Corps, which is open to anyone who wants to help.

“I want to get as many Portlanders to join my team, the Zeta-Corps. My plan is to get involved with different charties and have the good citizen of Portland to join me,” he said on his blog.

#2 Angle-Grinder Man


Fighting: Overzealous parking authorities

Secret Weapon: Angle Grinder

True Identity: Unknown

Not all superheroes work within the bounds of the law. Angle-Grinder Man specifically works against the law where he deems it is being enforced too strictly.

Wheel clamps are a common sight on London’s crowded streets. Parking spaces are a valuable commodity, and their protection has given rise to an entire industry of private businesses whose sole purpose is to go around placing wheel clamps on illegally parked cars. Enter Angle-Grinder Man.

If you were to find yourself one of the many hapless victims of London clampers, you could call Angle-Grinder Man to come by with a big, mean angle grinder and cut right through the clamp. Whether or not you agree with his purpose, you have to agree that’s one way to make a difference.

“I may not be able to single-handedly and totally cast off the repressive shackles of a corrupt government – but I can cut off your wheel-clamps for you,” he said in 2002.

Unfortunately Angle-Grinder Man hasn’t been active for a couple of years, but his anti-clamping message lives on in the common complaints of Londoners.

#1 Superbarrio

Born:Unknown, but likely in the late 1950s

Location: Mexico City

Reason for Fighting: To protect poor people’s right to housing

Nemisis: Greedy landlords and inept beureaucrats

Means of Transport: Barriomobile

Hidden beneath a red and gold luchadore mask is a Mexico City man who has gone to great lengths to keep poor tenants in their homes. Superbarrio is regarded in some circles with the same sort of awe children reserve for Batman or Spider-Man. And while he isn’t as fit as either of them, he is very effective.

In 1985, an 8.2 earthquake rocked Mexico City, destroying thousands of homes and taking more than 10,000 lives. In the wake of this crushing tragedy, the demand for homes rocketed, leaving many of Mexico City’s poverty-stricken denizens unable to find a place to live. That’s when Superbarrio Gomez (real name unknown), found his calling.

“One day when I was in my room, I was enveloped in a brilliant red and yellow light, and when it dissipated, I was dressed this way,” he explained in 1988. “Then a voice said to me, ‘You are Super Barrio, defender of tenants and scourge of greedy landlords.'”

Superbarrio ended up running for President of Mexico in 1988, and while he wasn’t ever a serious contender, he made his tenants’ and squatters’ rights platform a serious issue.

While Superbarrio is still a folk hero in Mexico City, where dolls and T-shirts with his image are common, he keeps a lower profile these days. Even though he isn’t as active, his spirit and cause lives on.

Real-life, Crime-fighting Superheroes

One of the lesser known but irresistibly fascinating trends that has arisen in the wake of the economic crisis is the growing number of superheroes. Not superheroes in a metaphorical sense, but actual, real-life superheroes, who hide their identities behind brightly colored costumes and have names like Mr. Ravenblade, Mr. Xtreme, and Dark Guardian. According to this CNN article, these superheroes are usually not vigilantes who have read too many comic books, they respect the law, and their activities include various good deeds like helping homeless people or patrolling rough, high-crime areas.
There is an organization, Superheroes Anonymous, with the stated aim of “bringing superheroes together in the real world to affect [sic] positive change”. They organize public-relations-friendly events and group activities for superheroes and help to promote the positive work done by real-life superheroes. Most interestingly, the web site is also involved with an ongoing documentary about chronicling the real-life superheroes phenomenon, check out clip after the jump of a superheroes confrontation with a drug dealer:
Superheroes Anonymous – Dark Guardian confronts a drug dealer from beginnorth on Vimeo.

Hero Complex

July 2009- FHM Magazine
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Photography by Tim Knox
Written by Josh Woodfin
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Sort of: It’s FHM’s Josh Woodfin, who joined New York’s real-life superheroes to battle street crime. While dressed a bit like a parrot…
May 2009, 10 pm, in New York’s Washington Square Pare. A 6ft 8in, 20st drug dealer steams towards me bellowing, “Mess up my world and I will FUCK! UP! YOURS!” As I spin on my heels, I hear a tearing sound. I’ve split my purple cat suit, the final indignity. The 15-strong group of hollering dealers continue to bear down on me. Then: salvation. At my flank, back-up appears in the form of three real-life superheroes: ‘Dark Guardian’, ‘Z’ and ‘Deaths Head Moth’. They swooped down to face and enemy with superior numbers and probably firepower.
Unbowed, unashamed and unafraid, the heroes advance. Now stood behind my vantage point- a low brush- I see Dark Guardian, in all honesty, a not-very-tall man, standing motionless in front of the behemoth shaking his head. Whatever the beast is saying, Dark Guardian disagrees. The air is thick with the possibility of violence. But is this a battle the heroes can win? And, move importantly, can everyone see the shape of my cock though these tights?
I can’t remember the exact point I lost faith in humanity, but I can certainly narrow it down. When I was 15, I got dumped on Valentines Day. I was so shocked I vomited on my own shoes. Then there was the time I saw a main in a park kick his dog so hard it died. Now, perhaps because of both incidents, I look at events such as the G20 protest and think, “Why bother? There’s nothing we can do…”
Then a certain You Tube video caught my eye. It was a US news report about a real-life masked 210year-old superhero called ‘Shadow Hare’, who walks the streets of Cincinnati handing out food, fighting crime and bringing justice while wearing a sort-of Mexican wrestling mask. Something about these altruistic acts nagged at me. Why was he doing this? I had to find out more.
A quick Google search revealed a huge internet community of “Reals” or Real-Life Superheroes all dedicated to the cause. lists over 30 active heroes, most of whom are located in America.
I copy in all the heroes’ e-mail addresses and attempted to make contact. The response is overwhelming, and bizarre. “I WOULD LOVE TO BE SQUEEGEEINTERVIEWED!!!!!!!” replies ‘Squeegeeman’, “HAVE A SQUEEGEETASTIC DAY!!!!!!!”
Then ‘Dark Guardian’ (or, by day, Chris Pollak) e-mails, saying that , although he’s been burnt before, he’d be happy to get us in touch with a good group of Real in New York, “This isn’t a comic book or movie, though,” he warns. “We’ve had guns flashed at us. So I won’t go on patrol without another hero, ‘Deaths Head Moth’,” That may just be a collection of nouns, but it still sounds badass. I need a costume. I plan to choose something in the aristocratic mould of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman or The Shadow, says, from a nearby fancy dress shop. I end up leaving a deposit for a flamboyant uniform that makes me look like I’ve collapsed into a gay pride flag. I make the final arrangements to meet Dark Guardian, board the plane to New York and prepare to fight with them side-by-side, cape-to-cape.
Fortress of solitude
I join my mentors for the mission in a blustery car part in Staten Island, the least populated of New York’s five boroughs. Dark Guardian is an unassuming, softly spoken young man of 25, with gel-spiked hair, a pronounced nose and a wiry build from hours of training. We’re convened at Constanzo’s Marital Arts, a gym where he’s an instructor in all kinds of fighting styles, from kickboxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Standing slightly behind Dark Guardian is a short, barrel-chested man in a NY Yankees hat, a grey T-shirt tucked into his heavy cargo trousers and big, steel-toe capped boots. I offer him my hand and say with a falter in my voice, “Deaths Head Moth?”
Nice to meet you,” he replies. I’m not offered another name. Behind him stands a taller, harder looking man sporting a grown-out Mohawk and arms dotted with tattoos. This is ‘Z’, a hero I wasn’t expecting.
“Okay…” interrupts Dark Guardian. “Shall we train?” They visibly perk up.
Disturbing backstories
Five minutes later we’re getting suited up. Dark Guardian sports red and black biker leathers and Asics trainers. Practical, not showy, but with an air of authority. He’s been a superhero for six years, doing everything from neighborhood patrols to working with the homeless. Deaths Head Moth, on the other hand, is more tech. He sports a one-piece black suit that zips over his head, his logo emblazed on his chest – a white skull with tow baseball bats crossed like swords underneath. Under his suit he also wears a set of butcher’s chain mail, (“It’s light and will stop most blades”). I ask what’s in his utility belt. “Everything,” he smiles. :” A knife, bear mace and these…” He deftly swivels tow batons. AS they spin, I spot something else.
“They’re mothrangs,” You mean ninja stars? “Essentially, yes. I had them custom made.” Deaths Head Moth estimates he’s spent over $5,000 on his equipment. He hands a moth rang over; it’s razor sharp. I ask if they’re legal. “They are in Virginia, not in New York.”
But it’s Z’s mask that disturbs me most. A tight black hood, with large eyeholes held together by safety pins, it’s scary/. “It’s meant to be. Some of the things I do- hunting pedophiles and rapist – it’s not strictly legal. Incidentally, you want to see something coo? These are my blast knuckles. “He holds up what looks like a set of plastic knuckledusters. He grips hard as a spark cracks into life. “Hit someone with these, and you give’em a 950-000-volt shock. It floods their body with lactic acid. That’ll put most people down”
Once I’m dressed and looking like a particularly fey parrot, the true difference between the heroes become apparent. Dark Guardian is disciplined, methodical and a skilled fighter. Deaths Head Moth looks like one of those tough little doges you see on council estates; loyal and definitely not to be fucked with. Z, however, is and old school brawler. “I grew up around bikers, “He says, “So you fought with whatever you had to hand. Chairs, pool cues…”
Z also tells me that he wants to “make a difference”, like the rest of the heroes, but I can’t help but think he’s partly motivated by vengeance. “I started after my suicide attempt.” he admits. “I was angry, running round the city tearing shit up. Then I realized that I could do some good. It sounds stupid but I am Z now. The mask gives me an excuse to be strong. If you can walk through the streets like this, you can do anything,”
The heroes then begin to undress, I assume because they don’t want to travel in their uniforms. Then I realize tit’s for another reason. “You wearing your vest?” ask Z. “There’s just three of us tonight, of course I am,” replies Dark Guardian. I watch in silence as they strap on bulletproof vest, then I look down at the gold tassels and purple spandex of my uniform, a single hair poking though the material at my belly. Never mind a bullet, I can’t even stop a hair…
Evil nemeses
As we all pile into Dark Guardian’s Mazda, the atmosphere is dark. The only talk is of the game plan for tonight. I ask if they’d run if someone pulled a gun and I’m shocked by Dark Guardian’s answer. “Yeah I’d run. But they they’d be a marked man. I’d know they were a physical offender, so I’d know they were a physical offender, so I’d go back. And fuck them up.”
What do the police thing of you?
“I actually got taken down to the precinct on the last patrol. They wanted to talk. It was weird, everyone there knows who I was and they were really supportive. They were concerned for my safety. But I’m not going to stop. I can’t stop.”
As we near Washington Square Park where the patrol will take place, the car falls silent. The air is heavy with the expectation of violence and the fug of too many grown men wearing skintight synthetic fabrics. Dark Guardian flicks though the radio. Stations after station of overblown American rock music. Then, the next station is playing Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles, “This’ll work,” says Deaths Head Moth through his mask. He hums along.
For a moment, my fear of getting shot abates and I suffer from that old familiar felling of physical embarrassment. I’m about to get out of the care and I look like a hernia.  But the gun fear returns. I point out a sign saying ‘No Stopping’. “Not a problem,” says Dark Guardian – he has a Secret Service badge he got from a friend to put in the cr.
As we walk along, we’re barely noticed, apart from one courier who nearly rides into a parked Fed Ex truck. Entering though the North East corner of the park we walk past an annoying, but technically law-abiding, samba band. Then a series of loud whistles echo through the part; it’s the dealers signaling like sportswear-clad meerkats that something is amiss. They’ve had dealings with these heroes before. Two weeks ago Dark Guardian, Deaths Head Moth and a host of others successfully, if only temporarily, booted them from the park.
When we reach the South West corner, however, were clearly outnumbered. The dealers perched on part benches like crows. I’m scared. I feel massively out of my element and far from my comfortable existence back in London. AS I walk past one dealer, he mutters, “You better have a badge if you’re gonna come up in here.” I have no idea what to do, so I just say “sorry”/ I then stand at the back behind Dark Guardian, Z perching on the top rail of a fence with Deaths Heads Moth stood to the side. They’re in attack formation when a gigantic drug dealer – I call him ‘Gigantor’ in my nightmares – comes streaming over. “Who the fuck are you! Why you gotta fuck up my world?” Dark Guardian replies coolly: “You have to leave. This part isn’t for you.” More dealers approach and I’m really shitting it. Bu the heroes stand their ground. It’s a surreal sight, three men, essentially in fancy dress, facing down at least 15 very scary drug dealers.
I’m also ashamed to say I was backing away at this point. The photographer and I liter at the edge of the part, where I quickly discover it’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re wearing a scarlet cape. A group of the dealers start hollering at Deaths Head Moth. “Take your mask off! If you’re so brave, take your mask off.”
Deaths Head Moth unzips his mask and reveals his face.
“Woah, put it back on!” shots one of the dealers; and unfair end to a brave act. It’s getting pretty heavy. NO one’s made a move but the dealers are getting agitated – we’re costing them money. And anyone will tell you that’s a bad idea. Like pushing down on the very tip of a cat’s tail while it’s trying to cat, only loads more dangerous.
One of the dealers flashes something at Dark Guardian and he visibly tenses, then leans in to talk to the guy. Dark Guardian signals to Deaths Head Moth and Z. They start walking backwards towards me, not showing their backs to the dealers.
“You ain’t no fuckin’ heroes, man, “ shouts one dealer, causing Dark Guardian to stop in his tracks for a moment. I watch his knuckles bunch. If the light was better I’m sure I’d see them turning white, but he keeps walking.
“We have to go,” Dark Guardian stays without meeting my eyes. We start walking down the street and some of the dealers follow.
“Walk up front,“ says Z, and me and the photographer skitter off like little girls. I catch a passing lady glancing at my mammal toe (male camel toe), before looking away quickly, unimpressed. The same dealer that spoke to Dark Guardian before we started retreating comes out of nowhere. I prepare myself to use the photographers as a human shield.
But we’re safe, the dealer is an undercover cop. “I appreciated what you guys are trying to do,” he says breathlessly. “But you can’t fuck around with these guys.”
“We’re not fucking around,” says Z.
The cop looks tired for a moment then says, “Just be safe,” before running off.
It wasn’t said in a school safety lecture way, it was said with respect.
A new hero is born
As we climb back into the car, the mood is charged with frustration. Dark Guardian’s soft American accent has been replaced with a pissed-off New York Accent.
“That mudderfucker. I’m gonna get that big mudderfucker. I had my torch ready to smack him in the fucking throat if he made a move.”
I tentatively ask why he had to leave.
There was too many of them,” snaps the Dark Guardian. “We’re not stupid. We nailed them last time, and this time they were ready.”
I’m beginning to feel their frustration. They don’t want much, just to make their small corner of the world a little better. Suddenly it feels like the wrong time to tell them that my cape is caught in the door and I’m worried about losing my deposit.
When relaying what their ultimate goal is, Dark Guardian gets s even more animated.” We’re gonna fight back. I’m going to train more heroes up and we’re going to reclaim the part. We’re not better than the cops but…” Z interrupts “We can do things that people caught up in the red tape can’t.”
The car falls silent as we race though Times Square just as a thunder storm breaks over the city. I ask what everyone is thinking about. “I’m thinking about how we’re going to get them next time,” says Dark Guardian ominously.
“I’m thinking I need a piss,” says Z.
As they drop me at my hotel, we shake hands and I press again about what will happen next. Dark Guardian has calmed down a little. “We lost that battle, but this is a war and we will win it.” I asked Deaths Head Moth why he took his masked off. “I wanted to show them I wasn’t afraid,” he says, looking at his mask for a moment. “In hindsight, that was when I lost the psychological advantage.”
After our goodbyes, I sit on the edge of my hotel bed, unwilling to take off my uniform. Dark Guardian has a vision that can only be good; whether he achieves it is irrelevant. I’m just glad he’s trying. Deaths Head Moth and Z are on more personal journeys – I worry a day will come with they can’t separate themselves from their characters.
Z, though, has the potential to become something truly great, if he can just hold it together. But I’m concerned it will end badly for him, whether that means prison for going to heavy on someone, or worse – death. I walk over to my 11th-floor window, still in my uniform and open it wide to listen to the city. “Be safe,” I whisper to the night. “Be safe.” It’s at that point that I spot a young boy staring at me open mouth from the opposite window. I wink, flash him a thumbs up and disappear out of sight. ‘The Bird of Paradise’ has taken flight. FHM
Holding out for hero?
Some of the hero community’s more ‘colorful’ members…
The Eye
Crime fighter
Identity: Semi-Public
Region: California
He says: “I have over the years developed two of my own fighting styles. One is my own ‘Jeet Kune Do’ of sorts, called ‘Jade Mantis’, the other being a street wise, basic self-defense method called ‘Leaf Hand’. The quest for justice is an eternal path.”
Crime fighter
Identity: Secret
Region: Ohio/Pennsylvania
He says: “We live in a world full of hatred, pain and suffering. Truth, Justice and the American Way are for sale to the highest bidder. Corruption and incompetence affect every aspect of our lives. Some call me a crimefighter. Some call me delusional and misguided. Some call me a real-life superhero. Some call me a menace to society. Some call me a ninja.”
Master Legend
Crime fighter
Identity: Secret
Region: Florida
He says: “I am a real-life superhero. I am a trained battle-fighting machine. I am a master of martial and metaphysical arts. I put my life on the line like its worthless… maybe it is but I will destroy evil forever. I will help all those I can to the best of my abilities but we warned: I am resentful and a superhero of vengeance. Don’t tread on me!”
Red Arrow
Identity: Secret
Region: Hong Kong
He says: “I try to bring happiness to people and become the salt and light of the world.”