Tag blackbird

The Challengers

August 10, 2011
by Jerry Luterman
altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others
Near midnight I stand alone in the parking lot of Gordon Park in Milwaukee.  Some time passes and then a car pulls up next to me.  From a darkened window a voice asks, “ Are you waiting for a certain group of people?”  Eyes cast downward, I answer that yes, I am.  There is anonymity at work here, and I mean to respect it.  I point to a spot in the distance and tell them to meet me there when they are ready.  I’m photographing them as part of the Portfolio section of the Wisconsin Trails September/October issue.  In a few minutes five men approach in the darkness.    Their names are the Watchman, Blackbird, Charade, the Crimson Crusader, and Electron. They are all in costume.  They are all Real Life Super Heroes.  Collectively the group is known as the Challengers.    They stand against what might be man’s most virulent kryptonite: apathy.  While most of us are falling asleep to the blue flicker of a television, the Challengers patrol the neighborhoods of Milwaukee and Madison, serving as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police while their presence acts as a deterrent to crime. They also bring food and other supplies to homeless people throughout the city and help out some local charities.  Before you scoff at the idea of men dressed up as super heroes, ask yourself this question: What have I done to better my street, my community, or for people less fortunate than me? “  I know that when I asked that question of myself, my answer fell far short of where I would have liked it to be.
Here are some answers to questions I asked of the Challengers.
The Challengers

Challengers photo by Jerry Luterman

What inspired you to do this?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               “There are two things I have always loved, superheroes and helping people, I think doing this was natural evolution of self for me. At some point I just decided the world really needs superheroes, and although I may never actually be a superhero, I figured I could at least try. “  -The Watchman

I have friends on every side of politics and work in a kind of place where people bitch about politics and race issues and all the things that people think they can’t control and make them upset.  I see this as an active approach to making your world better or doing your part.  It’s one thing to get mad about someone breaking into a car on your block, it’s another to go out and look out for this. Who does that? ” -Blackbird



The Watchman

The Watchman



” A while back, one of my best friends got robbed through his car and shot in the face. He lived, but suffered extensive damage including the loss of one eye. I’ve always pondered the idea of making non-lethal weaponry and defensive technology, but it wasn’t until then that I realized I had to do something more than just draw and wish I could make a difference. It was then that I discovered Electron, the hero I’ve always wanted to be. However, since then there have been a number of reasons to continue my work and I’m sure a number of reasons yet to be discovered. “  -Electron
” I had ideas of donning a mask and patroling the streets for around seven years now, but it didn’t seem like a realistic idea until I heard about the Real Life Superheroes. Even before the mask, I was often told that I have a “hero complex.” I’ve always admired guys like Robin Hood, Zorro, and Batman; the guys without any superpowers that still try to make the world around them a better place. And that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do.” – The Crimson Crusader

What do you typically do on patrol?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ” Patrols have changed, we used to ‘nest’ a lot and watch for things going on by just staying still and paying attention to high traffic areas.  We do a lot on mobile patrols now and mix it up.  Checking the homeless areas that we’re aware of is a high priority too, the cops don’t know about them and they’re working hard to survive so we help them with food and supplies that we imagine they need when we observe their site. “  -Blackbird



” I typically just walk around and keep an eye out for trouble. I talk to people when approached. I focus on teens since I am only recently turned 18, I can understand them better than most of the other heroes. “ -Charade
” We first look and listen to get a feel for the general atmosphere of the location we’re patrolling that night. We are looking to see how much traffic there is, both foot and vehicle, and listen to determine the general mood
people seem to be in. That gives us a good idea of what we can expect the night to be like.  As we patrol, we look for signs of any problems, such as evidence of break-ins or vandalism, and we listen for sounds that could be arguing, screeching tires, banging, breaking glass, or calls for help.  As we walk, we also talk to people and explain to them what we are doing in hopes it it may inspire others to do more to help others. “ -The Watchman
Best memory of being a Real Life Superhero?
 ”I have a gigantic portrait hanging in a French airport right now, Watchman has a huge one hanging in France at a movie theater.  That’s pretty cool, we’re just a couple of guys in Wiscons
in, but our alter-egos are nationally known. ” -Blackbird
“  Every time I suit up. It’s a great feeling to get together with like-minded people and trying to make things better in the world.” – The Crimson Crusader
Crimson Crusader

Crimson Crusader

Advice for others who might want to go down the same road?

” I think people need to do it for the right reason, there’s a fine line between an rlsh ( Real Life Super Hero ) wanting to do right and a sociopath that want’s to make up for their personal shortcomings with aggressive behavior towards people. “ -Blackbird

The Challengers are part of the Portfolio section called ” The Guardians ” within the September/October issue of Wisconsin Trails magazine.  Featured within it are portraits and stories of Wisconsin people who are making a difference.

Milwaukee’s real-life superheroes get illustrated this Friday at MOCT

Originally posted: http://www.avclub.com/milwaukee/articles/milwaukees-reallife-superheroes-get-illustrated-th,55229/
By Matt Wild
Though harmless and kind of silly on the surface, the so-called “real-life superhero” movement has nonetheless split people into two warring camps. One side sees these mysterious do-gooders as nothing more than concerned, tights-wearing citizens keeping an eye on their neighborhoods. The opposing camp, however, views them as deluded goofballs in bad Halloween costumes, just asking to get their asses handed to them.
In Milwaukee, the real-life superhero movement has gained a fair amount of attention, thanks in part to the efforts of artist and writer Tea Krulos. After meeting with local RLS “The Watchman” in 2009 (a superhero we once demanded be “unmasked”), Krulos decided to write a book on the subject. He currently maintains a blog chronicling his progress.
“I think a lot of people have a knee jerk reaction and think they know what these guys are all about with very limited info,” Krulos tells The A.V. Club. “Most of them don’t want to be Kick-Ass or think they’re the Batman. They mostly just do what would be equitable to a costumed, concerned citizens patrol. A lot of them are doing charity and humanitarian efforts, too. I admire a lot of them for wanting to be good guys.”
This Friday at MOCT, Krulos will continue his RLS advocacy by serving as creative director for Motionary Comics 2.0. Now in its second year (hence the 2.0), the show will find nearly 30 illustrators, painters, choreographers, and photographers working to create a life-sized, fully-realized comic strip. Like other “live art” events, the night will feature artists of all disciplines creating a piece in real time. But unlike other events, it will be focused on the adventures of Milwaukee’s real-life superheroes, including “The Watchman” and “Blackbird.”
The marathon sketching/drawing/coloring session will begin around 6 p.m., and is expected to last six or seven hours. The event is free, though proceeds raised through sales of Chang Beer will be donated to United Way. And, like any party in town worth a damn, music will be provided by WMSE’s Dori Zori.
Oh, and don’t forget about Milwaukee’s real-life supervillains. “We’re expecting a series of transmissions broadcast live at MOCT from the sinister ‘Dr. Lupus,’ mad scientist and creator of ‘Team Werewolf,’” says Krulos. “He’s even threatening to show up in person.”

Motionary Comics returns — with costumes in tow

Originally posted: http://thirdcoastdigest.com/2011/04/motionary-comics-returns-with-costumes-in-tow/
By By DJ Hostettler

Blackbird, Watchman and Tea Krulos

Real Life Super Heroes on patrol

Kurt Hartwig and Tea Krulos aren’t saying there’s going to be a rumble at Moct on Friday night. And there’s really no reason why they would; the likelihood of the Third Ward bar getting leveled by warring factions of costumed vigilantes and villains is almost disappointingly low (not saying we want to see Moct leveled, but hey…warring factions!). However, both men have guaranteed that Real Life Super Heroes and Villains will be in attendance when Motionary Comics returns to Moct’s hallowed halls of justice this Friday, April 29, so it would be logical to assume that some sparks will fly, yes?
Motionary Comics is a collaborative art project where twenty-four artists work to create a semi-improvised comic strip mural on the walls of the bar.
“It was actually a development of the first idea we ever played with for [art/theater group] Bad Soviet Habits, just with a lot more detail,” says Hartwig. “We tried to do it at Hot Cakes, but Mike [Brenner] was afraid (not knowing us, and dealing with artists all the time) that we were only crazy and messy. When I decided to develop it for Moct after they asked me for some art event, I figured a story line would help audiences, and big painting plus story seemed like comic strip.”
The first Motionary Comics event was held last April and was a rousing success. The project’s basic plan of attack leaves lots of room for the artists to play around: a pair of choreographers place five volunteer bodies against the wall; they are then painted by a team of colorists as they produce a backdrop directly over the volunteers, leaving silhouettes when they step away. The silhouettes are then filled in by a team of local comic artists.
From there the images take more shape on each successive pass until local journalist and Real Life Super Hero expert Krulos attempts to make sense of it all by adding the text of his story.
Sounds like a glorious mess, doesn’t it?
“Last year’s event went remarkably well,” explains Hartwig. “Few things stayed according to the time table—for example, colorists didn’t finish their pass in the scheduled one hour—but that rarely mattered because they were far enough along that the illustrators could still start.
“The big thing I learned was that it would be helpful to have a single ‘creative producer,’” says Hartwig. “I really like how the whole thing is very improvisational and collaborative, and that entails a certain amount of mess. I’m good with that. But last year, while trying to explain the idea to everyone, I used the fairytale Rumplestiltskin as my example. I think that was necessary at the time – we all knew the story, and it meant that we could move forward. Eventually, though, that ended up hamstringing the artists in some ways. That’s why this year I asked Tea Krulos to be the creative producer.”
The Watchman and Blackbird

The Watchman (left) and Blackbird: two of Milwaukee's Real Life Super Heroes.

The other big change this year, of course, is the presence of actual Real Life Super Heroes like Milwaukee’s The Watchman and Blackbird—normal, everyday people who at some point decided to design their own hero tights and take to the streets to make their cities safer. Their presence (as well as the presence of heroes from Chicago and other cities) is largely related to Krulos’ involvement in the project, as he not only runs a blog dedicated to tracking this nationwide movement, but is working on a book about these caped crusaders.
But wouldn’t most super heroes eschew celebrity public appearances, preferring to operate in the shadows? Excepting the occasional glory-hound like Iron Man or the Human Torch, most of the good guys in the funny papers aren’t exactly lending their services to the local auto dealership’s grand opening. Aren’t Blackbird and The Watchman putting innocents in danger by broadcasting to their arch-foes where they’ll be?
Krulos confesses that he has already heard from one Real Life Super Villain who plans on disrupting things—the “brilliant maniac” Dr. Lupus and his Team Werewolf (and for the record, yes, I am typing this with a straight face). “Here’s what I know- he has a monocle. His labs are located high on the peak of Mount Lupus, and he loves evil laughter. We’re being told he’ll be sending a series of video messages to Moct making threats that he will be showing up in person with his werewolves if the artists don’t create a piece that glorifies his image.”
Um…this concern you at all, Mr. Hartwig?
“There’s been some smack talk, I understand, but we all know that werewolves aren’t real, so I remain unconcerned…especially about the Doomsday Were-Machine. That’s entirely fiction.”
Motionary Comics 2.0 begins at 5 p.m. at Moct (240 E. Pittsburgh Ave.) on Friday, August 29. It ends at bartime or when the National Guard shows up to save us all from werewolves, whichever comes first.

Real life superheroes

Originally posted: http://www.uwmpost.com/2010/11/29/real-life-superheroes/
By Kevin Kaber

Real Life Superheroes are protecting communities like Riverwest for the greater good. The red mask-wearing Watchman and the secretive Blackbird patrol the streets during bar time in Riverwest and other Milwaukee areas.
Real Life Superheroes are similar to members of neighborhood watch groups. They keep an eye on any suspicious activities and help those in need. More specifically, they resemble UW-Milwaukee Safe Walkers in super hero garb.
“They might not be actual superheroes, but at least they are trying to do something instead of sitting on their ass, watching TV, and whining about how awful everything is,” said Tea Krulos, a local author.
Krulos is writing a book on the Real Life Superheroes. He first met with The Watchman in 2009 and his “life has been fantastically weird ever since.”
The Watchman, as his name implies, is a man that watches for the safety of citizens, albeit he does so while in costume.
“What I do really isn’t that different from what anybody could be doing,” Watchman said. “Anybody could take an interest in their neighborhood; anybody could give to charities or do more in their communities.”
Watchman and heroes like him patrol bar-scattered areas as well as places with a history of crime. His utility belt includes a maglight, some pepper spray, a first aid kit, and perhaps most important, a cell phone which is used to call for professional backup when needed.
“It’s [normally] boring,” Watchman said. “Occasionally something interesting will happen.”
The Watchman started patrolling neighborhoods dressed as a superhero in the early ’90s. Around the same time, he found himself homeless, then enlisted in the Army. Afterwards, he put the super hero life on the backburner while he got married and started a family.
“Saving the world starts at home,” Watchman said. “That’s the highest priority.”
Only a few close family members and friends know his secret identity, though some have figured it out from pictures and videos.
Lately, The Watchman has received considerable attention from local media outlets. Along with a surge of comic book movies being released, people everywhere have been gaining interest in these caped crusaders.
Along with his counterpart, the wildly mysterious Blackbird, Watchman invests a considerable amount of time in giving back to the community. The duo has organized charity efforts such as toy and food drives. The Watchman claims that his superhero persona garners publicity for these missions.
“Obviously, you don’t dress like this unless you’re looking for attention,” Watchman said.
The Watchman says he will continue his mission as long as he’s needed. He may not be saving Riverwest from a hipster mad scientist’s plot to steal the neighborhood’s supply of Pabst, but he is making it a better, safer place.
“I haven’t had a single person in Riverwest come up to me and say; ‘I don’t want you here, what you’re doing is stupid,’” Watchman said. “I’m not a vigilante. I’m out there to watch.”

Real-Life Superheroes Could Be Protecting Your Ass At This Very Moment

Originally posted:http://www.datelinezero.com/?p=6095
Real-life superheroes have become a big phenomena. So big,in fact, that some police departments are asking officers to familiarize themselves with the who’s-who of their city’s crime-fighting crusaders.

Photo by Brian Jacobson

Photo by Brian Jacobson

Two things have been in short supply in recent years: 1) An actual sense of protection. 2) Sincere acts of heroism.
Lets face it, police brutality have become so commonplace that instances don’t usually warrant news coverage. The politicians in Versailles DC are good for nothing. And the Dept of Homeland Security, which includes the TSA, seems to have declared war on We the People.
Where to turn for real help, security, and heroism?
Real-life superheroes have begun to spring up everywhere. In fact, there are so many real-life superheroes running around the city of Seattle that the local police have been encouraged to study up on the real life superhero movement to familiarize themselves with a growing trend.
Many in Seattle have even formed an organized group called The Rain City Superhero Movement. This includes Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Penelope and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. All masked, they carry Tasers, nightsticks, pepper spray, but no firearms.
The Seattle PD were informed that Captain Ozone and Knight Owl are not part of the movement. Good to know where these caped crusaders stand.
While this has gotten big enough in Seattle to get some media attention, it’s becoming something of a phenomena all across the United States.
This is not a trend, it is a movement. This movement could also go world-wide. (Naples, Italy, already has at least one steadfast protector. )
Local police are beginning to ask real life superheroes, or RLSH, to be careful. Seattle PI reports that on one occasion “police say a caped crusader dressed in black was nearly shot when he came running out of a dark park.” In another case, a witness on Capitol Hill saw the crusaders wearing ski masks in a car parked at a Shell station and thought they were going to rob the place.
A police bulletin has been sent to all Seattle officers this week, requesting they look at the Real Life Super Hero national website to get an idea of what they are dealing with.
The secret identity thing could become an issue, unless something is done to allow RLSH to work more efficiently with police. Seattle police were called out to Phoenix Jones and his team, who were apprehending a violent man swinging a gold club. But because they refused to identify themselves using their legal names, the police couldn’t take statements and the aggressor walked free (minus his club).
Phoenix Jones was later identified as a local 22-year-old black man who is driven around by a female friend who stays in the car when he gets out in his black cape, black fedora, blue tights, white belt and mask. He had agreed to be interviewed by police; and when he arrived at the station only partly dressed, he apologized. The rest of his outfit was being repaired because he was recently stabbed by a drug dealer.
Thank goodness Phoenix Jones is also wearing body armor, and a ballistic cup under his outfit.
Wikipedia has an article on RLSH, which explains: “The term Real Life Superhero is variously applied to real-world people who dress and/or act like comic book superheroes. Sometimes, this label is bestowed upon them by those whom they have helped or the media, while at other times, the aspiring superheroes apply the label to themselves.”
A real life super hero website at rlsh-manual.com responds:

That’s what Wikipedia reports and – to a certain extent – it is true. Officially, a Real Life Superhero is whoever chooses to embody the values presented in superheroic comic books, not only by donning a mask/costume, but also performing good deeds for the communitarian place whom he inhabits. You don’t necessarily need to engage in a violent fight to be a crime fighter – you might patrol and report whatever crime you see. So basically, terms like “good deed” or “crime fighting” are open to various interpretations.
Many of the Real Life Superheroes retain peculiar characteristics, abilities, special training and paranormal faculties that make them even closer to their comic book counterparts.


  • Crime fighting patrols and/or reporting illegal actions to Police.
  • Fliers asking for help with specific unsolved crimes.
  • Missing person’s fliers.
  • Promoting social/environmental awareness.
  • Helping the homeless with food/water/blankets.
  • Donating blood

There’s another great RLSH website at reallifesuperheroes.org that seems to be updated with regular news, offers a registry for superheroes, and much more. The registry alone (where I obtained the RLSH images that you see) makes visiting the website well worth it. I only wish there were more entries; but I am sure that will change as more superheroes join the movement.
Perhaps a growing lack of faith in government is helping to fuel the RLSH movement. Perhaps it is the inevitable outcome of a whole generation of people who grew up on superheroes. Maybe it’s simply due to a lot of people being out of work, and seeking something meaningful to do with their time.
It’s probably all that, and more.
At any rate, this could be just the beginning of something very large and very strange. I, for one, am looking forward to looking up at the sky one night and seeing a superhero signal being activated over my city.

Mad as hell

Photo by Brian Jacobson

Photo by Brian Jacobson

Originally posted:http://thirdcoastdigest.com/2010/10/podcast-mad-as-hell/
By Mark Metcalf
The children (and now, adults) of Generations X and Y spent their formative years deeply immersed in a culture of fantasy. Between comic books and Saturday morning cartoons, the cultural fascination with super heroes — specifically those who, underneath the masks and capes, are just average people — grows with each new generation.
But America’s love, and in some ways, yen for a hero is nothing new. In fact, those well-known characters of fantasy were all borne out of a collective desire to have control when the world seems to be going down the toilet. When senseless crime is on the rise and the people and institutions put in place to protect us can barely keep an adequate staff on the payroll.
He calls himself the Watchman. Armed with a flashlight, pepper spray and a cell phone, he spends his weekend evenings hunting out suspicious activity in Riverwest.

He calls himself the Watchman. Armed with a flashlight, pepper spray and a cell phone, he spends his weekend evenings hunting out suspicious activity in Riverwest.

In pop culture, people have found hope in fictional Everyday-Joe-cum-caped-crusader stories since the early days of Spider-Man. But in real life– and right here in Milwaukee — there are a few among us who have taken the concept and run with it.
Several years ago, Tea Krulos caught wind of a real-life superhero movement happening right here in the Midwest and, as he learned, beyond. Though apprehensive, Krulos immersed himself in their world, interviewing as many people as possible and traveling as far as Vancouver and as near as his own backyard of Riverwest to learn more.
Local author Tea Krulos.
What he found was a diverse group of people, fed up with the state of their own neighborhoods and cities who decided to do something about it… mask, cape and all.
You can learn more about Tea’s book Heroes in the Night here, and more about his research here. Be my hero and subscribe to Backstage with Mark Metcalf through iTunes.

Milwaukee Meet Up July 30/31

the-watchmanFrom Tea Krulos
I’m glad to extend an open invitation to all RLSH (and associated personnel) to join myself and the Milwaukee RLSH for a meet up July 30/31.
The purpose for the meet up is the Riverwest 24 bicycle race. The RW24 is a grass roots community event organized by a small group of people. it is a 24 hour long race (7PM July 30- 7PM July 31) for people in a few different categories (solo bikers, groups sharing one bike, groups that each have their own bike) last year had 400 some bicyclists from Milwaukee and all over the midwest.
Website: www.riverwest24.com
The Watchman patrolled during the race last year, by foot and car. The race organizers invited him back this year. They also asked if RLSH would like to participate in a “bonus checkpoint.”
RW24 has asked the RLSH to do one, so we’re trying to think of something that will be fun but that people might take something away from. In any case, it’ll be good for the local guys because they’ll get to meet several hundred people who will at least know who they are when they see them in the neighborhood.
When Watchman, Blackbird, and myself talked about it we agreed we should invite other RLSH to join us, if they wish, in presenting this bonus checkpoint and then walking (or possibly bicycling) during the RW24 race, keeping an eye out for bicyclists that may need our assistance. In addition, we’ll have some down time and may develop other ideas on what to do.
Further Details
-Going to start patrol at nightfall. Not sure on method of patrol yet.
– At the stroke of Midnight, RLSHs have been invited to host a “bonus checkpoint” which will take place on Reservoir Hill. This is large hill with a great view of the Milwaukee skyline. The bonus checkpoint lasts two hours, and probably a couple hundred people (minimum) will be cycling through. We’re probably going to have them participate in a video project having them dress up and declare heroic things. Should be a chance to introduce a lot of people to the RLSH concept in a fun way. Also will be handing out water to the cyclists (this is actually really helpful; there were a few cases of dehydration last year).
– Afterward, will continue to patrol the course at least until sunrise.
– French journalist Pierre-Elie de Pibrac will be on hand taking photos.
-Anyone from the RLSH community is welcome to attend and participate. I think this will be a great event. The organizers are very into it, and I think you’ll find the neighborhood open to what you guys are doing.
More Details can be found at: http://www.therlsh.net/upcoming-events-f10/milwaukee-meet-up-t3106.htm