Phoenix Jones will reveal how to be a superhero

Originally posted:
This may be a first for Seattle’s geek community: A real live superhero is showing up at a Con to reveal the secrets behind his powers.
In the case of Seattle’s so-called superhero Phoenix Jones, it’s the clothes that make the superman.
Jones, revealed to be Seattleite Ben Fodor earlier this month, is known for patrolling the city streets — and for posing for pictures in a black and yellow costume. This weekend, he’ll join a panel at zomBcon to talk about creating an effective alter-ego persona.
Also on the panel is cosplayer Linda Le. It happens Saturday at 2 p.m., and attendants must be registered to attend the Con.
Here’s what those registered will find out from Jones:

Phoenix Jones (is) the leader of a ten-member real-life superhero group called the Rain City Superhero Movement, which operates in Seattle. He talks discussing the surper hero costume from a survival point of view and what goes into protecting yourself…even against the occasional Zombie horde.
The two talk Zombies and super heroes with Geekscapes’ Jonathan London  about what goes into designing your alter ego on Saturday afternoon.

Does this mean Seattle will be overrun with aspiring superheros wearing elaborate  costumes next week? Wait and see.

Address to RLSH and Lurker alike.

Attention ‘RLSH’
Need I remind you all, we are on We need the organization! A RLSH is about serving the community, not the number of convictions or notches on your belt!
Why are you doing this?
Why are you going around in costume? Is it to attract attention to yourself, or your deeds?
Why are you helping those who can’t help themselves? If you are doing it for the Kudos, take off the costume and volunteer for a charity!
Why are you ‘defending’ the weak?  If you are doing it for the admiration take off the costume and do something beneficial!
Why are you ‘joining in’ a fight? To prove your ‘Martial prowess’ or to separate the sides involved?
These are the questions I want each one of you to answer. I will most likely get the banhammer for stepping on The Watchman’s toes by saying this, but if I don’t say this, there will be no-more need for this site:
If you want to go gung-ho “Beat’em up” and act as judge, jury, executioner and PR show-pony, please leave and join the Rain City Superheroes (RCS). No hard feelings, just please clarify the difference between RCS and RLSH when you get into trouble.
Thank you very much;
Grey Guardian.
PS: To the reporters, the headline makers are hopefully heading off to the RCS forums, so for the front page scoop, you’d be better to head there… If you are just after a gap-filling Human Interest Story, feel free to lurk here, just please have your press-pass on you visible at all times. My PC’s mic is down ATM, so skype is not really viable, but I am willing to do email interviews;
[email][email protected][/email]

The Problem With Self Defense: Superheroes Part 1

Originally posted:
By: Peter Lampasona     Date: 18 August 2011
Last week, HBO aired a documentary called Superheroes following members of the recent phenomenon of private citizens dressing in costumes to engage in everything from from charity work to vigilante justice. Among the groups featured in the documentary is a make-shift team of Avengers who operate out of the New York boroughs known as the NY Initiative.
Since the release of the documentary, the Real Life Superhero movement has become a hot topic for conversation among both the New York and martial arts communities. So much so that, when asked for a statement by US Combat Sports, a representative of the NY Initiative said that they were currently engaged in a “media blackout” because too many stories are about them and not the issues that they wish to bring to light.
In previous installments of the Problem with Self Defense editorial series, I’ve gone so far as to call everyone who trains in martial arts specifically for the purposes of the increasingly nebulous term “self defense” to be engaging in some degree of delusion. Whether that delusion is harmful or not tends to vary on the situation.
In the context of negatively evaluating delusions of seemingly average people, taking on those who dress up in full costume complete with alternate identity in order to participate in their neighborhood watch seems like dynamite fishing in the local pond.
But, perhaps to the surprise of long time readers, the actions of Real Life Superheroes are not all dangerous or pure fantasy. Those things that are bad ideas are monumentally bad for everyone involved and the natural conclusion of all the silliness attached to “self defense.” For once, though, I’d like to start with the positive.
In this two part article series I will be evaluating both the charitable and crime fighting efforts of Real Life Superheroes, as they seem to be separate and distinct pursuits. For part one, I will look at the charitable.
From what I’ve been able to glean, the majority of Real Life Superheroes spend their time in costume doing humanitarian efforts. This includes charity work, distributing supplies to the homeless, or even acting as a social link for drug addicts through simple conversation. Every example of purely humanitarian efforts, that is those not directly interacting with violent crime, both showcased in the documentary and what I’ve been able to find going on locally, are good things that help the community.
A common response to those positives Real Life Superheroes can have is to point out that none of these good deeds require a costume. But, for some people, they do.
New York City, as evidenced by the fact that 1/3 of all American films are set there, is an important place that sets the tone for the culture of the surrounding area. It’s also got so much going on that paying attention to any of the people or information outside of an individual’s immediate cone of concern can be very overwhelming. As a result, most New Yorkers in the southern part of the state are trained to focus on what’s in front of them and let the rest of the world just walk on by.
Playing long-distance psychological examiner to people you barely know is not as exact a science as most sports writers make it out to be. But, if someone needs to wear costume and become a different person in order to put in the effort to help his community as best as a private citizen can, at least someone’s putting in that effort.
The unfortunate side of Real Life Superheroes is the part that everyone thinks of first when they picture masked vigilantes. The physical act of crime fighting is where the whole practice starts to get insane. It also represents the terminal stop in the logic of the self defense crowd. More on that tomorrow in part two.


Greetings RLSH, This first post will address the fundemental Issues of Super-Heroics…

I aim here to discuss;

  • Why do we don a Mask and Costume.
  • The ideals and reality of Super-Heroic individuals.
  • What sets us apart from Vigilantes.
  • The Idea of Fearlessness vs Foolishness with capes, masks, spandex, gadgets, weapons, armor, etc.
  • How society contributes to everything we do, both positively & negatively.
  • Being a Symbol and Being a Human at the same time.
  • And any Ideas that you wish to request.

Any Ideas, comments or flames can be posted as a comment in the comments section.


Superheroes Directed by Michael Barnett

Originally posted:
vigilantespiderBy Will Sloan
Mr. Xtreme lives in a small apartment, with his costume and weaponry buried under stacks of papers and magazines, where he watches Power Rangers on a 12-inch TV during his off-hours. He calls it his “Xtreme Cave,” and he doesn’t seem to be joking. He’s a working slug by day, but by night he roams/”protects” the streets of San Diego, CA, where the police regard him with a mix of bemusement and gentle concern.
He’s a little too overweight to be terribly intimidating in his costume, but lest you think he doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously, remember that he’s the president of the Xtreme Justice League, a community for like-minded crime fighters. He’s also the only member, but he does sometimes work with another San Diego superhero, “The Vigilante Spider.” Not to be confused with a certain other arachnid-themed superhero.
How does Michael Barnett, the director of Superheroes, expect us to regard this man? Mr. Xtreme is one of many real-life superheroes profiled in this very odd documentary, and he comes across as the saddest in a very sad group. Barnett seems to agree: why else would he show Mr. Xtreme losing a grappling tournament and interviews with his comically unsympathetic parents?
Barnett regards most of the other superheroes with similar ironic detachment: when the Vigilante Spider describes a hypothetical situation in which he kisses his girlfriend goodbye in the morning to go to work, Barnett pointedly asks if the Vigilante has a girlfriend (the answer may not surprise you); and Barnett’s camera stares blankly at “Master Legend” as he clumsily attempts to pick up a girl at a bar. The idea of a documentary about real-life superheroes is pretty irresistible, but what are we supposed to take away from this one except that sad, lonely people are sad and lonely?
Some of the superheroes are more like charity workers, distributing food and necessities to the homeless while wearing their costumes. Others, like a group that incite and then arrest attackers by having one of the members dress as flamboyantly gay, regard themselves in the Batman/Superman tradition (a police staffer interviewed points out that this group’s method borders dangerously close to entrapment).
When Barnett attempts to shift gears in the second half to a more sentimental tone, rhapsodizing the heroes as naïve but good-hearted folks who want to make the world a better place, it feels even more hollow and condescending than before. Superheroes is a one sad movie, and not often in a good way.
(Theodore James Productions)

Move over, Batman: real-life superheroes are here

Originally posted:–move-over-batman-real-life-superheroes-are-here

One of many subjects wearing homemade costumes, combating crime in Superheroes.

One of many subjects wearing homemade costumes, combating crime in Superheroes.

By Raju Mudhar
While the big-budget superhero films have to try to balance the fantastic with the real, director Michael Barnett had no such problem with Superheroes.
Screening at Hot Docs on May 2, 4 and 8, the documentary looks at real-life superheroes, who don masks, capes, duct tape and other equipment to patrol the streets and make this world a better place. The film is equal parts hilarious and hopeful — and sometimes sad — and despite the costumes, it takes its subjects very seriously.
“Every single one of them is doing more to make the world a better place than certainly I, and most everyone I know, are,” he says. “I have a deep respect for what they’re doing. Are some of them ineffective? Sure. Are some effective? Absolutely. Are some misguided? Yes. Are some of their lives seemingly tragic? Yes. So it’s hard to generalize for all of them, but I love what they’re doing.”
Whether it’s helping the homeless, raising awareness about crime or even dressing up as “bait” to lure criminals, the likes of Mister Extreme, Master Legend, or the four roommates in Brooklyn who form The New York Initiative are part of the more than 700 documented masked vigilantes around the world who describe themselves as part of the real life superhero movement.
“We shot in pretty much every major city. At the very least, it’s a subculture,” he says. “But I would say it’s a movement because it has this unorganized manifesto behind it.”
Barnett knows that what many of these people are doing is dangerous, and they know it too.
“It is only a matter of time before one of their activities leads to someone getting hurt or possibly worse,” he says. “Some have told me that they’ve received death threats. But the thing is they know that going in. They know the villains are out there, and that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

March 10- Superheroes Anonymous Costume Workshop

Superheroes Anonymous Costume Workshop

Thursday, March 10 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

SpaceCraft Brooklyn

355 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY

Superheroes Anonymous will be holding a COSTUME WORKSHOP on Thursday, March 3rd, at the wonderful venue, Spacecraft Brooklyn! This event will help aspiring and active Real Life Superheroes develop and design superhero identities and realize their inner superhero. With the materials and skills of the SPACECRAFT team – we can create nearly anything to accompany your superhero uniform! It’s the perfect time to become acquainted with the work of SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS and to create a unique superhero costume that can never be bought in a store!
The price of admission is $20 and will include all materials needed to turn a normal wardrobe into a fully functional SUPERHERO COSTUME! We will also be providing FREE BEER for those 21 and older.
Though we will be providing materials, participants must bring a BASE WARDROBE that they want to be modified. That means a basic shirt and pants (or spandex!) to be turned into a super-heroic uniform. For example: we can help you make a mask, design a cape or breastplate or sew cool designs and accessories onto your jeans or a shirt, but we won’t be able to provide the spandex shirts or motorcycle jackets.
PRICE: $20/person INCLUDES: Costume Materials & Unlimited Beer
DIRECTIONS: L train to Bedford Ave, walk South to S. 4th St.
PLEASE RSVP TO [email protected]

There Goes My Hero

Originally posted:
By ??Richard Solomon

Photo by George McCaughan

Photo by George McCaughan

??Ever seen a real superhero? Ever met someone in a mask who had been shot? When I stumbled upon an article about a man in Seattle who wore a costume and fought crime, I had to find out more. After reading more articles, sending emails and making phone calls I was granted the opportunity to meet some superheroes and go on patrol with them. This is my story about flying across the country, visiting Canada, staying up all night following guys in masks in the worst parts of Seattle and Vancouver and coming back to tell the tale. I video taped people trying to break into a car, saw a life get saved and didn’t even know it at the time, and managed to meet some of the most incredible people you could ever imagine.
Knight Owl parked his car outside of Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery where fellow superhero Thanatos was going to meet us.
Earlier that day I had flown into Seattle. Knight Owl met me at the airport. I had seen pictures of him online in costume, but he met me in normal street clothes. He looked nondescript and average. He would be the first of several superheroes I would meet over the weekend.
Who are real-life superheros? They are people who wear costumes and adopt monikers in order to help others. They are people who keep their real identities secret and in some way obscure their appearance. (Knight Owl, for example, keeps part of his face hidden and Thanatos completely covers his head.) For some, this secrecy is meant to keep their families safe, while others believe that the symbol of their alter ego is more powerful than their true-life, street-clothes persona.
Saving Lives, On My Own Time
Back in the cemetery, Knight Owl and I headed to the circle of graves where Thanatos was supposed to meet us. But before the cemetery there was the drive to Vancouver from the Seattle airport– three hours in the car with the first superhero I had ever met.
Knight Owl does mostly humanitarian work. He patrols occasionally with other superheroes in Portland, Oregon or in Vancouver, but mainly participates in homeless outreach.
Although he does not handle a lot of crime prevention (“In two years of patrolling, I’ve never once been in a dangerous situation”), he knows what danger is. As a paramedic in training and a former firefighter, he has the perfect response for critics who tell superheroes to quit and leave things to law enforcement. “I’m a firefighter,” he said, “and I choose to go out on my own time and help save lives, for free. How can you criticize me for that?”
To Knight Owl, being a superhero is about saving lives, whether that means giving food to the homeless or knowing first aid in case someone on the street needs help. Beyond the activities, he has also done his homework on the superhero appearance.
He told me of the additions he would soon be making to his suit. Among them, a cowl lined with a kind of rubber polymer that would harden when hit to protect his head; and a gadget that would create brief bursts of fire to scare off would-be attackers. As he related, just because he has never been in a dangerous situation does not mean he should not be prepared for one.
Photo by George McCaughan

Photo by George McCaughan

Amongst the graves, we searched for Thanatos’ usual meeting spot. At first, all I could make out was a dark shape emerging from the dim light of the cemetery. He got closer and I recognized him. As impressive as it was to meet Knight Owl, nothing could have prepared me for Thanatos.
Clad in dark clothing with a distinct death motif, Thanatos (Greek for ‘death’) exuded a mocking image of the Grim Reaper. From a tie covered in skulls and cross bones to a death-themed utility belt, every part of Thanatos’ attire was covered in death symbols.
He had on a long black coat, the aforementioned tie, a flat brimmed hat and all of the skulls looked more like they were from a Halloween novelty store than on a grim reaper’s attire. The overall effect was imposing and awe-inspiring. I didn’t feel frightened, but a criminal might have a different opinion on that.
Yet, his costuming’s dark theme contrasted with the cheerful optimism of the man under the mask.
Thanatos is arguably the most well-respected member of the superhero community. With a MySpace blog over two years old, Thanatos has been consistently doing homeless outreach since his first night out on Halloween 2008.
Thanatos and I did laps around the cemetery for close to an hour. He was open about his mission and about how he feels he is affecting the city of Vancouver.
“I don’t think I’ve made [Vancouver] any worse,” he said. “I know there are those who feel inspired enough to do something because of me.”
He said he was inspired by old comic book superheroes, specifically citing a “Superman” issue in which Superman attends a charity event. “The more you do, the more you have to work with,” he said. “It’s not just crime-fighting.”
He felt that the homeless people of Vancouver live with death every day to the point that he wanted death to start looking after them.
“Something has to be done, and there has to be a way to draw attention to it,” he said.
“There’s just too many people dying on the streets. It’s too easy to die on the streets. . . . I am a parody of the death. Where death walks around and dispenses grief and sorrow, I walk around and I dispense life.”
So he put together a costume and called himself Thanatos. His costume is not only aesthetics and skulls though. There is a surprising amount of functionality in what he wears. A utility belt with everything from a flashlight to marbles (“Have you ever seen The Defender?” he asked me), a multi-tool and cell phone close at hand.
But why wear a costume?
“I do it in costume because what I’m doing is much more important than who I am,” he said. “I was told by a cop that people on the street had nothing better to live for than to look forward to death. I said, ‘If that’s the case then death better start taking a hand at taking care of them.’ That’s where the costume came from. It got modified because I realized walking around with a big scythe and long robe wasn’t going to work.”
He believes this symbolism works. “People aren’t stupid, they get the idea, they know what I represent. I represent death. Death is so common now that he’s walking around on the street taking care of them. People get it. It’s a very powerful symbol. I put on the mask, take on the persona and here’s someone from Florida just to interview me.
“It’s not just me doing it either, and it does work. It draws attention to the problems, whether it’s high crime in Seattle or homelessness in Vancouver.”
Thanatos goes out whenever he can to distribute bundles of goods such as bread, peanut butter, socks, a razor blade. His goal is a noble one.
“You do what you can,” he said. “I give out my bundles. I do what I can, I’m keeping that person alive for one more day. That’s quite a victory over death. If I do my normal handout and I hand out 10 bundles, that’s 10 victories.”
Homeless outreach is not all he does. Whether he is dressed as death or in street clothes, Thanatos also observes area street gangs and drug dealers.
He takes copious notes on who sells what– and where– and copies down license plate numbers and makes notes on where those cars travel. He will submit this information to the police and he said he has previously succeeded in helping get drug dealers arrested.
A Man Named Armando
After the interview, Thanatos drove Knight Owl and I around some of the bad areas of Vancouver. We finally stopped outside of a homeless shelter, where the three of us handed out items. People were openly grateful, thanking us over and over. The Minaret t-shirts I had brought with me to distribute were a hit and the razors I had also packed vanished right away.
Thanatos had shoes, pants, and other goods. Everything vanishing in a matter of minutes. Some recognized him, others asked who he was. Several of the more nervous people came up to me to ask me who he was. I explained what he did. I was surprised that for many of the homeless I met that night, they just wanted someone to talk to. They were grateful for what we were handing out, but they were also grateful to have someone actually listen to them.
We got back into Thanatos’ vehicle (he drove with his mask off to avoid being pulled over, not at all concerned that I could see his face) and headed back to Knight Owl’s car. Along the way Thanatos told me a story about a man named Armando.
Armando and his family walked to Vancouver all the way from Chile. They were being tortured by police in Chile and finally had to leave. The police cut off all of Armando’s fingers. His wife was raped and had her breasts cut off. Their torturers then mutilated her face and tried to cut off her nose, but failed because they cut upwards and the knife got caught on the septum. Surprisingly, Thanatos told me that Armando is one of the most cheerful men he has ever met. I thought about how the average person must treat them– looking away from the woman with the scarred face, ignoring the man with no fingers. These were people who just wanted help. And Thanatos was doing what he could to help them, one bundle at a time.
We dropped off Knight Owl and then Thanatos took me to the Vancouver train station. It was only 1:15 a.m. Thanatos apologized for the early night. He explained he had to be up for work at five and needed some sleep.
The rest of my night had nothing to do with superheroes but was important nonetheless. The train station was closed and Thanatos had already driven off. I didn’t have his phone number and I knew Knight Owl was busy. Two shifty guys nearby started talking louder, looking at me and then walked towards me.
I made a quick decision and began walking. I couldn’t stay at the station, but I knew nobody in Vancouver. I realized suddenly that I had nowhere to go and almost nobody knew where I was beyond I was spending the night in Canada. If something happened to me nobody would notice until I missed my interview the next day. I was wandering the streets of the worst part of Vancouver.
I was carrying a camera, my laptop in a backpack and a duffel bag of clothes. If you’ve ever been (un)fortunate enough to be alone in the worst part of a city in a foreign country with no one to call and nowhere to go, carrying all your possessions and being eyed up and down by what seems like every shady-looking person in the area, you’ll know exactly how I felt.
I couldn’t run with all the bags I was carrying. I wondered if homeless people feel this same way; having everything that matters to you fit in a few bags, nowhere to go, hoping to stay safe. But I just had to make it through a few hours, they live with this feeling every day.
I ducked into a 24-hour diner full of people and nursed a coffee and milkshake for three hours. I didn’t get mugged or hurt that night, but whether that’s because of dumb luck or actual safety I can’t say. I wondered if my trip to Seattle the next day would be less eventful. I had no idea what I was in for.
Harder Than the Last
The next day, Saturday, I was set to see Phoenix Jones. If Thanatos was the most respected member of the Real Life Superheroes community, than Phoenix Jones was certainly the most famous. Media continually begged him for interviews. He even has his own Wikipedia page.
Jones has become an Internet sensation, with articles about him going viral. He has been stabbed, shot, tasered, and had his nose broken, but he still fights crime on the streets five nights a week.
At just after midnight on Sunday, I paced anxiously outside of my hotel. A friend, George McCaughan, was with me. He had flown up from Tampa that morning to go on this adventure for himself and take pictures.
At 12:30 a.m., a car rolled up in front of us with three superheroes inside: Buster Doe, Pitch Black, and the famous Phoenix Jones.
From the moment he began talking, it was obvious Jones was a very intelligent man. His suit was absolutely incredible. It sports a ballistic cup to deflect bullets, along with leg plates to protect his inner thighs; a bulletproof vest underneath stab-resistant armor that was lined with blood-coagulating packets; and even special gloves. I recalled Knight Owl telling me of the hardening rubber material he wanted to get for his cowl; Phoenix Jones had this material in his gloves, meaning that every punch he threw would literally be harder than the last.
He demonstrated this to me by whacking his gloves emphatically against the hotel desk. I tried it myself and felt the gloves get harder the more forcefully I hit them.
Jones also had a working utility belt. It lacked the death theme that Thanatos’ had but was efficient nonetheless. A taser, tear gas with special properties, and a cell phone were also part of the outfit.
It’ll Ruin My YouTube Clip
Phoenix Jones first sprang to life in a water park in Seattle. “I was at Wild Waves with my son,” he said.
“At the end of the day we were going back to the car and we always race back.” He said someone had broken into his car and the glass from the window cut his son’s leg. Jones was doing his best to stop the bleeding and hold his son’s leg together when he saw someone close by with a cell phone. As Jones recalled, “I asked him to call an ambulance and he said, ‘I can’t, it’ll ruin my YouTube clip.’”
Later, police told him they could not find the person who had broken into his car. Jones had found a mask wrapped around a rock in his car, the tool the burglar had apparently used to break the window. He called the police to tell them of the discovery. They never called him back.
A few weeks later, Jones was outside a club and saw a man get struck down with a club (the man would have a large scar for the rest of his life). He ran to his car to get his phone and saw the mask the burglar had wrapped around the rock to break his window sitting in the glovebox, where he’d left it after he found it. On a whim, he grabbed the mask instead of his phone and ran back. He chased the assailant down– wearing the mask– and succeeded in holding him down on the ground until the police arrived. When they asked him who he was, he replied, “Phoenix Jones.”
He explained to me that the Phoenix part of his adopted name comes from the mythical creature that rises from the ashes, signifying life from death, birth from destruction. Jones, he said, was because it was a very common last name and he wanted to represent the common man.
Like Knight Owl and Thanatos, Jones feels the real foe he is fighting is apathy. A man who would rather film a kid being hurt than call the police is the exact kind of person Jones hope to inspire to change.
The Superheroes of Seattle!
After the interview we went back to the lobby where Buster Doe and Pitch Black were waiting for us. Before heading out, Jones delineated the roles for the evening. “Buster Doe, you’re on backup duty,” he said. “Pitch Black, you call and then backup Bus’ if needed.” If Phoenix got into an altercation, Buster Doe was to help him out as needed while Pitch Black called the police. Once the phone call was done Pitch Black was to help Buster Doe if the situation hadn’t been settled already.
Though there were only three out that night, there are actually 11 members of the Rain City Superhero Movement. Jones is the leader of the group. The others go on patrol with him as often as they can.
Jones also told me that there would be several people in plain clothes shadowing us all evening. They were unknown members of his superhero group who would all be carrying cell phones and guns. If someone pulled a gun on any of us, we would have someone nearby to pull a gun on them. I kept an eye out all night and, despite the warning, did not notice anybody until Phoenix Jones told me the next day who the shadow forces were. I went through the photos of the night and, sure enough, the same people were around us multiple times.
We walked up and down busy streets just as the bars closed. Reactions to the superheroes differed wildly. Some people became excited and begged for a picture with them. Others shouted obscenities. A few inebriated revelers became scared. Most of the women we came across were eager to get a photo with Phoenix Jones, usually inviting him home with them. “I lost my hotel room,” they would say. “Can you help me find it?”
Most people seemed to recognize the trio, some shouting, “It’s the superheroes of Seattle!” I heard constant references to “Kick-Ass,” a movie that all superheroes seem to praise and hate in the same sentence. They think it portrays the process of becoming a superhero well, but the over-the-top violence and the lack of planning the character Kick Ass puts into his costume seem to turn them all off to it.
Throughout the night, Jones was unfailingly polite to everyone. He would greet people and ask how they were, if they needed help. Nothing was too small for the superheroes– whether it be getting ready to break up a fight, stopping to talk to people about staying safe, and making sure a drunk man did not hit his girlfriend.
During our patrol, I spotted countless police around us. Some were in cars, while others were on bicycles. All of them managed to glare at Jones.
The “Jones Patrols,” as he called them, were a direct result of his activity. “The mayor of Seattle got upset that I was stopping all these crimes and the police weren’t,” he said. “He made a rule that every single officer has to spend at least an hour of their shifts on the street. . . . You can argue that I’m not helping or that I’m not effective, but because of me there are more police officers patrolling the streets. I’d say that’s a good thing.”
Photo by George McCaughan

Photo by George McCaughan

They Are Not Batman
Roughly halfway through the night we came upon three men trying to break into a car– using a screwdriver, a crowbar, and a hanger all sticking into the door and trying to force it open. Jones asked them what was wrong. One of the men said he had locked his keys in his car. We were on a fairly busy street and Jones asked if they would like him to get a police officer. The men looked uncomfortable at this idea and declined, despite Jones insisting that a cop may have something on hand to jimmy the lock.
The men looked shiftier, so Jones decided to talk to a police officer. He and Pitch Black went off with George to find a cop while Buster Doe and I stayed behind by the car. The three would-be car thieves glanced uneasily at my camera but didn’t say anything because I wasn’t taking pictures. (I was actually video taping the whole thing, including the license plate of the car!). While we waited, two officers rode by us on bicycles, but did not stop or say anything about the car with a crowbar sticking out of one of its doors.
Jones reported back something similar. Police said they did not have anything to open the door. When he raised the possibility of it not being the men’s car, he said they just shrugged. In that type of situation, Jones explained he could not do much after notifying the police. We moved on.
Real-life superheroes are not vigilantes. A vigilante is “any person who takes the law into his or her on hands, as by avenging a crime” according to Another definition on the same site notes that is an act “done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures.”
Jones and the other superheroes are not vigilantes. They all learn their local laws and call the police whenever something happens. They do not break the laws and they do not take justice into their own hands. They are not Batman. They are much realer than that.
In fact, Phoenix Jones thinks Batman is one of the worst superheroes to be influencing people.
“As Bruce Wayne, a billionaire, he spends eight hours a day doing nothing and pretending to be a careless jerk. Then he spends four hours every night fighting crime? How about instead of beating up some drug dealers you buy their house. How about instead of fighting gangs you buy the neighborhood and clean up the streets.” I had asked Jones earlier about what he did for a day job and he revealed he was a professional MMA fighter and worked with autistic kids when he wasn’t fighting. In many ways, Bruce Wayne has nothing on Phoenix Jones.
After the car incident, things were mostly quiet. We went down a lot of dark alleys and kept an eye on those who were especially drunk or loud.
At one point, we walked by a woman passed out on a stoop in front of a doorway, neck bent at a horrible angle, breathing shallowly. A shady-looking guy with her said she was fine and friends would be along soon to pick them up. We asked if he wanted an ambulance but he insisted no. We told him to at least fix her neck and he rearranged her.
The girl worried us so we stayed close by, unsure of what to do. The woman looked like she may need real medical attention, but on the other hand perhaps she was indeed fine. A steady stream of people walked past her, unconcerned.
Finally, the decision was made. Pitch Black called an ambulance. While he was on the phone, two policemen rode by, again on bicycles. I watched one glance at the woman, clearly unconscious, and then keep going.
Within a few minutes, one ambulance, then two, pulled up. Another came after that. The woman’s “friend” moved further away and by the time the third vehicle arrived he had disappeared. We heard the paramedics say the woman had low vitals and Phoenix Jones observed a tube being put down her throat.
Emergency Medical Technicians took her away. I received a phone call from Jones a few days later. Apparently he had received an e-mail from someone saying they were friends with the woman. The friend wanted to thank him. The woman had asthma and that combined with a little too much “fun” were causing her to asphyxiate. She may have died if we had not called an ambulance. I thought of the shady guy near her, the police who rode by, and the people who walked past. None of them had looked even a little concerned.
It was late enough that we decided to call it a night. The heroes led us to a 24-hour café, Night Kitchen. Jones and Buster Doe ordered Sprites and some fries to split, while Pitch Black asked for Limeade. Apparently lemon-lime is the flavor of choice for masked crusaders.
Jones headed to the bathroom to take off some of his costume, mainly his chest piece. The way his suit is configured leaves him with less mobility for his head.
“Remember in Batman,” he said, “when Bruce Wayne asks Morgan Freeman to make some changes to his suit and Morgan Freeman goes, ‘You want to be able to turn you head?’ You have no idea how true that is.”
Jones kept his mask on, but put on a simple t-shirt over his bulletproof vest. The five of us sat there for an hour while the heroes exchanged stories. Jones told us about some of his first patrols and showed me photos.
At about 4:30 in the morning we called it quits. Buster Doe drove George and I back to the hotel.
And that ended my weekend with superheroes. I had the opportunity to see two of the biggest names in the superhero community, and meet people who stop crimes and feed the homeless. I saw an entire community that is relatively unknown doing what they feel is right and changing lives in the process.
Interested in learning more about superheroes? Check out and to find out more.

Seattle Is Safe Under The Watchful Eyes of a Real Superhero Phoenix Jones

Originally posted:
Seattle has a costumed superhero patrolling the streets of their city looking for crime and the criminals that commit them.
A vigilante by the name of Jones, wears a costume of gold and black, and walks a beat in Lynnwood, population 35,000. He costume consists of a bulletproof vest with stab shield beneath the outfit. He also wields pepper spray and a Taser stun gun.
His budget is much less than Batman and so he doesn’t have a bat mobile or other fancy vehicle. He is instead driven around in a Kia, by a faithful female sidekick who does not leave the vehicle.
Jones revealed to a local Television network that he started fighting crime about nine months ago and in that time he received stab wounds and had a gun pointed at him more than one time. However, he said, “When I walk into a neighbourhood, criminals leave because they see the suit. The average person doesn’t have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing.”
He just lately interrupted and diverted a car theft, and chased the criminal away who had been trying to break into the car. The car owner was shocked and said “From the right, this guy comes dashing in, wearing this black and gold suit, and starts chasing him away.”
Seattle Police comment that Phoenix Jones belongs to a nation-wide organization that call themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement. It has a website that says: “A real life superhero is whoever chooses to embody the values presented in super heroic comic books, not only by donning a mask and costume, but also performing good deeds.”
Police urge citizens to think twice about becoming vigilantes in comic book costumes, and they are extremely fortunate to not be mistaken as the very criminals they are trying to defend against. They add that it is extremely dangerous for citizens to place themselves in harms way by emulating comic book heroes.

Real Life Superheroes Get Their Own Film

 Photo by Theodore James

Photo by Theodore James

Originally posted:
Superheroes aren’t just for fiction anymore — no longer restrained to the pages of comic books, the large and growing community of Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH) are on the streets as agents of change — with mixed results. No magical-power infused mega-beings, they do what they can to make a difference in home-made costumes, sometimes armed with pseudo-weapons — as an antidote to the pumped-up versions usually presented in films. And now they’ve been lovingly captured in a film of their own, the documentary Superheroes, which premiered at Slamdance. Producer Theodore James and director Michael Barnett gave us the low-down on the process, the provenance, and what comes next.
Q: Many of these real-life superheroes could be discounted as dorks or weirdos, but by the end of the film you manage to tease out their eloquence. What were the main traits of these people that you wanted to portray in the film? Is there something that you think they all have in common?
MB: There is definitely one thing the whole community has in common, and that’s altruism. I wanted to the audience to leave the film knowing that every single real life superhero does something heroic in his or her own way, to make their communities a better place, regardless of resources.
Q: Do you think they’re escapists?
MB: There is definitely a level of escapism for some RLSH but by and large, after donning the costume and experiencing what it’s like to actually help somebody, most superheroes become deeply entrenched in the notion that they can make a difference, be it big or small, and that seems to be the driving force for most of them. That, and it’s “hella fun,” according to a super hero we know from Clearwater.
Q: Was there any point where you wondered about any of your subjects’ sanity?
MB: Absolutely not! Not even with Master Legend. I think these guys — I’m speaking of the ones in the film, because of course its hard to speak for the whole community — are eccentric dudes and ladies. They put on a costume, and they realize something: That they can step outside of themselves and their lives, and maybe even become iconic in their communities. It really does something for them. Also, they all have day jobs. For example, Zetaman works at a packaging plant, Mr. Extreme is a security guard, Master Legend is an air conditioning repairman, some of them are tattoo artists… But a lot of them are trying to find a way to do it full time.
It’s funny how our culture treats people who calls themselves superheroes– they’re either ridiculed or adored in their community, but never treated with apathy. There are so many news stories are out there on them, and some of them make fun of them, and some celebrate them… But even when just putting a costume on and walking down the street – people will always react to them.
Q: Do they develop relationships in their communities?
MB: It depends, of course. Life helps people around his neighborhood in Harlem — homeless people, for instance. His community knows him well, and he knows his community. But then Mr. Extreme works differently — he listens to the police scanners and then he goes out and patrols the area where he hears there is a lot of criminal activity. The result is that the communities he helps don’t necessarily know him. But he’s still out there on the streets, at least four days a week. We wanted to deconstruct the “superhero” myth, in our society, and then rebuild a sense of what it means to be a real life superhero: Some want to fight crime, and others want to give food out.
TJ: A few of the subjects in the film confront drug dealers and try to bait criminals into committing crimes. During those nights of filming we were all a bit nervous. Thankfully nothing happened to the subjects or the crew.
Q: Many of your subjects never divulge their true identity to you… Did you find this was something that made it hard to build trust between you and your subjects?
MB: The opposite! Making this film has helped me understand that it is not necessary to know somebody’s real name in order to truly know them as a person. If anything, our lack of needing to know their true names helped them open up to us.
Photo by Theodore James

Photo by Theodore James

I think when we approached them and they didn’t tell us their names and bios, we were like “That’s cool, we don’t need them. it’s not part of our story.” Which is different from how reporters react — they need a name to print a story. But what’s a name, really? If someone wants to identify themselves as Mr. Extreme, then that’s who he is, to us. But, for instance in Mr Extreme‘s case, I nonetheless got to know him deeper than the costume. He’s a guy that I’ve gone to a couple times a month over the course of the last however many years, have spent hours on end with talking about his life, his family, and getting to know him. I don’t need a name to truly know him.
Q: How did you come across this subject, in the first place? And what made you decide to make a film about it?
MB: I stumbled upon this vast community online. Go ahead, google Real Life Superheroes. I dare ya!I’ve been a cinematographer for 15 years, and have shot a lot of films. I started directing a few years ago, and was making a film for a TV network that, that Theodore [James, the producer] was producing. He was looking for a project, and I mentioned that I’d been gathering some research on this thing. I turned the research in, to him, and he was amazed. He started doing more research, we got in touch with Mr. Extreme and we went to shoot him. He was the first one to agree to work with us. When we got home and we looked at the footage of him we just knew. We realized that this guy is fascinating, and we could just do a film about him alone! But it expanded: We got in touch with Stan Lee, and when he agreed, the community just fell into place.
Q: Were there any scenes that didn’t make the final cut that you miss terribly?
MB: We had to cut a lot of Zetaman, who is an exceedingly noble and humble guy. The work he does with the homeless is heartbreaking and inspiring. He is a true hero in every sense of the word and I’m bummed that we had to lose segments of his story line in the film. I’m also bummed that we had to lose Master Legend‘s “House of Death” scene. Keep an eye out for the DVD, it will definitely be on there!