The real Kick-Ass with Superheroes

Originally posted:
Superheroes the movieThe BFI London Film Festival brings you the real Kick-Ass with Superheroes
If, like Aaron Johnson’s character in the award-winning film Kick-Ass, you’ve ever had the urge to don a mask and fight crime, it seems you’re not alone as insightful documentary Superheroes hits the big screen at the 55th BFI London Film Festival this month.
Journeying into the world of real-life caped crusaders, Superheroes follows a group of superhero fans from across North America, who are taking the law into their own hands. From the steel-plated ‘Master Legend’ in Orlando to evil-defeating ‘Thanatos’ in Vancouver, director Michael Barnett uncovers and documents this growing cultural phenomenon of vigilantes inspired by their comic book idols.
Introducing several of the US’ most famous masked heroes, the feature documentary follows individuals such as real-life Kick Ass, Mr Extreme, a 33 year old security guard by day who by night patrols the streets protecting the innocent, and organised crime-fighting group, The New York Initiative who bait traps to lure evildoers. Though their motives may differ and there powers are less than super, their intentions to protect the community and fight for the greater good unites them along with a shared love of comics.
With interviews from Marvel Comics supremo, Stan Lee, psychologists and police representatives, Superheroes smartly addresses a number of serious issues about an individual’s responsibility, and provides a compelling portrait of these real-life superheroes as they try to make the world a better place.

Superheroes swoop in to fight crime

Originally posted:
By [X]press Staff
The sights and sounds of a riot filled the streets on a chilly night in Oakland when suddenly, strange figures emerged from an alley. Covered in glass and grime and with only their eyes visible, they glowed in the mad light of the city.
In the middle stood a man clad in a Kevlar vest, combat boots, and a mask covering the lower half of his face, with Taser knuckles glowing on his right fist.
“Who are you?” someone shouted.
The voice behind the mask looked at them and calmly replied, “We are real-life superheroes.”
This is not a story from the pages of a comic book, but one of real people all over the country who dress up and fight for their community. These self-described superheroes have found a variety of different ways to help their neighborhoods, from organizing blood drives to feeding the homeless. They use their costumes as a way to draw attention to the cause.
Peter Tangen, a Hollywood photographer and the de facto spokesman as well as expert on Real Life Superheroes, calls the people who participate in the movement “a perfect cross section of America.”
Like many denizens of the comic book pages, Motor Mouth, 30, of Oakland, who declined to give his “civilian” name, started out as just an average citizen. Then “fan boy” read a comic that changed his life.
That comic was “Kick-Ass” by Mark Millar, which tells the story of a boy who chooses to dress up and fight crime in his neighborhood. Motor Mouth was instantly attracted to the “poor man’s Batman” aspect of the comic and intrigued by the notion of people in the real world using superhero identities to better their community.
Motor Mouth then did what any comic book lover would do and turned to the Internet. There he found the world of RLSH and knew that he wanted to be a part of it.
The idea of concealed identities and community crusaders is not a new idea, but activity often spikes when the country in times of upheaval, and according to the RLSH website, there are currently several thousand such activists in the country.
The presence of superheroes, real or fictional, is something that Tangen sees as a reflection of the national mood.
“It can be seen even as far back as World War II,” Tangen said. “People need a hero. There is a need to see someone who stands for something right and good. The world around them is losing some of their priorities.”
Motor Mouth attributes his desire to help his community to childhood experiences.
Born to medical worker parents, the need to help others was ingrained in him from a very early age. In his youth, he would often stop school bullies from intimidating other students.
“I think too many people in this world nowadays allow for too much gray area,” Motor Mouth said. “When the reality is, bad is bad and good is good.”
Tangen agreed with that statement.
“Apathy exists, but these people are people who reject that idea,” Tangen said.
Motor Mouth, along with members of a larger group called “The Pacific Protectorate” often take it upon themselves to go on missions in some of the city’s worst neighborhoods at night to facilitate activities ranging from calling police to report drug deals, to breaking up bar fights, or as was the case in January 2009, participate in inhibiting the madness that was the Oakland riots.
Over the course of that night, Motor Mouth and his team stopped teenagers from using a battering ram on a building (with the help of Motor Mouth’s non-lethal Taser knuckles) and saved a woman from an exploding building.
When asked if he was afraid at any point during this night, Motor Mouth laughed.
“In order to be a real life superhero you have to take the fear that may be inside of you and manifest it into something that’s useful,” Motor Mouth said.
Officer Holly Joshi of the Oakland Police Department said these groups have been useful to the community and said that she appreciates their efforts.
“They’re on the right track,” Joshi said. “Citizens have a responsibility to protect their community, it’s not just a police issue.”

Britain's own superhero is unmasked… as a Fiat Punto driver who takes his washing home to mum

Originally posted:
By Rob Cooper

Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

A superhero who works as a banker by day and fights crime on the streets as ‘The Statesman’ at night has been unmasked as a 26-year-old Fiat Punto driver who takes his washing home to his mother.
Scott Cooke is a Santander worker who claims he has stopped a break in and helped arrest a drug dealer.
His mother Dawn, 47, admitted she had no idea her 16 stone son was dressing up as a superhero at night and going out on the streets.
She thought Scott, who takes his washing home to her, might have been out drinking.
And his girlfriend Keri Whip, 26, was also oblivious to the superhero fanatic’s late night antics.
Dressed in a Union Flag T-shirt with a black Zorro-style mask covering his eyes ‘The Statesman’ is out four nights each week – and had been telling his partner he was playing poker.
He follows in the footsteps of the hit film Kick Ass, in which a teenage geek dresses as a superhero but ends up way over his head.
His mother, from Redditch, Worcestershire, told The Sun: ‘My only fear is that Scott might get knocked about by troublemakers. I know he got beaten by drug dealers a few months ago but he didn’t say a lot about it.
‘He was probably in his costume at the time. Walking a city centre dressed like that takes guts. There’s an awful lot that boy has to sit down and tell me.
Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

He can look after himself but he’s a big softie to me.’
The former soldier in the Territorial Army lives in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, with his girlfriend Keri who he has been dating for ten years.
Scott has swapped cutting-edge gadgets for a first aid kit, a torch to startle burglars and a notepad for writing down important information. A cheap mobile phone in case he needs to call support of the police completes his arsenal.
Last month, it emerged Phoenix Jones from the U.S. had been dubbed the real-life Kick Ass after appointing himself as masked guardian of a Seattle suburb.
Before his identity was revealed, Scott said: ‘I work for a large bank dealing with savings and investments. All day I look at numbers and percentages and work out how to make people richer.
Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

‘It’s not a popular occupation but I like to think I make up for this by going out at night and trying to do something to help everybody.’
He claims he helped Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to capture a drug dealer – and sometimes teams up with three other superheroes to work together.
He added: ‘We were patrolling London together at 3am one night and heard a commotion. We saw a huge guy running across Trafalgar Square away from two PCSOs.
‘They were shouting at him but he wasn’t going to stop so we threw off our overcoats and chased him. We caught up with him and pinned him down until the officers arrived.
‘They told us he had jumped bail and they had seen him throwing away packets of drugs as he ran from them.
‘That was the first time what I do really felt justified. The police wagon turned up and took him away and it felt good. The PCSOs thought it was great. They loved it.’
Explaining his superhero name, he said: ‘A Statesman is an ambassador, a diplomat and somebody who delivers a message. Something that’s meaningful and positive, and that’s something I feel that represents what I do.
‘I want to do something that’s positive for the country. I hope some people will look at me and want to do it themselves. If it’s just one person then it’s a success. As long as I’m achieving anything, I will keep doing this.’
West Midlands Police refused to comment.
Read more:

Britain gets its own Kick Ass: Banker turns into superhero The Statesman at night to fight crime

Originally posted:
By Daily Mail Reporter

Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

In his suit and working as a banker by day, this man looks an unlikely superhero – but by night, he becomes ‘The Statesmen’ and fights crime on Britain’s streets.
Dressed in a Union Flag T-shirt and with a black Zorro-style mask covering his eyes, he claims even his girlfriend is in the dark about his nocturnal activities – which is hard to believe, especially given his distinctive facial hair.
He tells her he is out playing poker on the four nights a week when he is trying to keep an eye on the underbelly of Birmingham.
The Briton is the latest to follow in the footsteps of the hit film Kick Ass, in which a teenage geek dresses as a superhero but ends up way over his head.
Last month, it emerged Phoenix Jones from the U.S. had been dubbed the real-life Kick Ass after appointing himself as masked guardian of a Seattle suburb.
His British counterpart’s outfit compares somewhat unfavourably with the American’s but he claims to have foiled a drug dealer and prevented burglaries.
The former soldier in the Territorial Army, who wears a black mask, utility belt, Union Flag top, fingerless gloves, combat trousers and military boots, uses his skills as a trained pugilist.
And he shirks cutting-edge gadgets for a first aid kit, a torch to startle burglars and a notepad for writing down important information. A cheap mobile phone in case he needs to call support of the police completes his arsenal.
He said: ‘I work for a large bank dealing with savings and investments. All day I look at numbers and percentages and work out how to make people richer.
Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

‘It’s not a popular occupation but I like to think I make up for this by going out at night and trying to do something to help everybody.’
His alter-ego sees him breaking up fights, stopping would-be burglars and feeding homeless people and he claims he sometimes teams up with three other superheroes to work together.
To keep attention off them, they hide their costumes under dark overcoats and burst out when their help is required.
He claims they helped Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to capture a drug dealer.
‘We were patrolling London together at 3am one night and heard a commotion. We saw a huge guy running across Trafalgar Square away from two PCSOs.
‘They were shouting at him but he wasn’t going to stop so we threw off our overcoats and chased him. We caught up with him and pinned him down until the officers arrived.
‘They told us he had jumped bail and they had seen him throwing away packets of drugs as he ran from them.
‘That was the first time what I do really felt justified. The police wagon turned up and took him away and it felt good. The PCSOs thought it was great. They loved it.’
Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

Patrolling several times a week means The Statesman has to work hard to keep his secret safe from loved ones.
With my girlfriend, it helps that I have a lot of hobbies. I say I’m playing late-night poker matches with friends or watching a pay-per-view sports,’ he said.
When things turn violent on patrol, The Statesman is well prepared. ‘I’ve been boxing since I was 11 and I’m still training,’ he said. ‘It helps me to judge things and be reasonable.’
His first ‘incident’ on patrol came in April 2010 when he found two men trying to break into a builder’s merchants late at night.
He said: ‘It’s why I always carry a torch with me. People doing bad things don’t want to be seen and if you shine a good torch right at them and shout in a strong voice, it’s enough to stop them. As soon as I did it these two men simply ran away.’
He begins his Nightwatch at 7pm, after eating a good meal to keep him going. ‘I look at a map and just say “I want to make that area safe tonight”,’ he said.
‘While I am over that area, nothing bad is going to happen. You can’t change the entire city, but you can make one small part of it better each night. Even if it’s just for one or two people, then that’s a win.’
Explaining his superhero name, he said: ‘A Statesman is an ambassador, a diplomat and somebody who delivers a message. Something that’s meaningful and positive, and that’s something I feel that represents what I do.
‘I want to do something that’s positive for the country. I hope some people will look at me and want to do it themselves. If it’s just one person then it’s a success. As long as I’m achieving anything, I will keep doing this.’
West Midlands Police refused to comment.
Photo by Nick Obank

Photo by Nick Obank

Real-Life 'Kick-Ass' Strikes Again in Seattle

Originally posted:

Posted Jan 5th 2011 2:30PM

There is little that is as entertaining or bizarre as the existence of real life superheroes. In a society that often feels completely fueled by popular culture (there are a staggering number of people who study blueprints of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise, after all), the idea of people actually strapping on tights and body armor and going to war with doing battle with the criminal world feels, well, inevitable. Terrifyingly so.
A few months back, we told you about the Rain City Superhero Movement, a superhero team consisting of masked avengers like Thorn, Green Reaper, Catastrophe and Thunder 88, who have pledged to rid Seattle, Washington through the use of tasers and public safety education. Now, they’ve officially gone big time and have a piece in the British tabloid The Sun recounting their various exploits.
The piece centers on a particular masked vigilante with the most excellent name of Phoenix Jones, whose costume is Batman-esque yellow and black armor (complete with utility belt stocked with tasers and mace), who patrols the rain-soaked streets of of Seattle in a Kia driven by an unknown woman — who we can only hope is his infinitely understanding wife or girlfriend and not his mother.
Phoenix Jones definitely sees himself as the real deal, having been stabbed and nearly shot in the line of duty. He’s obviously proud of his work: “When I walk into a neighborhood, criminals leave because they see the suit. I symbolize that the average person doesn’t have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing.”
But don’t just take his word for it! A local named Dan told The Sun that when he walked in on his car being stolen, Phoenix Jones arrived on the scene and chased the criminal away. However, one has to wonder — just how stupid and/or brave do you have to be to dress up like a comic book character and battle crime? What do the cops think of this?
Says police spokesman Jeff Kappel: “There’s nothing wrong with citizens getting involved with the criminal justice process — as long as they follow it all the way through.” In other words: “Have your fun, but please, please, please, for the love of God, don’t get yourself killed. Okay? Thanks.”
Phoenix Jones insists that the Rain City Superhero Movement consists entirely of people with military or mixed martial arts backgrounds and that they can hold their own. Though he does add that local superheroes Captain Ozone and Knight Owl are not members of the official Movement and should be “ignored.” Care for the safety of less qualified vigilantes or sour grapes? And while we’re asking rhetorical questions, how long until Phoenix Jones gets capped by a strung out junkie who doesn’t have the time or sense of humor to deal with a real life “Kick-Ass”?
For pictures of Phoenix Jones and the full story (which is just a bizarre read), head on over to The Sun. For more information of real life superheroes, make sure you check out the World Superhero Registry.

I Can Be Your Hero, Baby

Originally posted:
By Kim Voynar
I was checking up on the weather forecast and school closings this morning, and this story about real-life superheros in Seattle caught my eye. Apparently the Seattle group, which calls itself the Rain City Movement, is part of the larger national group “Real Life Superheroes.”
With films like Kick-Ass and Super, which depict average people deciding to become superheroes, and the popularity of the superhero genre generally, I guess it’s not really surprising that normal folks would decide to become crime-fighter/vigilantes, though I’m not sure how smart an idea it is for your average person with a flashlight and mace to be going up against criminals armed with guns and knives.
One of the things I liked about Kick-Ass is its fairly realistic portrayal of what can happen in a situation like that. Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked. Even the seemingly invincible Big Daddy and Hit Girl find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Reality meets fantasy and smacks it around, hard.
On the other hand, I can understand the desire of people to feel like they’re doing something to take back their streets and neighborhoods from criminals. The police aren’t always effective, and I suppose it can feel empowering to be a vigilante fighting crime and making the streets safer … until you get shot or stabbed. Myself, I think I’ll keep my own costume-wearing tendencies safely confined to cons. But what about you? Would you ever consider being a Real Life Superhero? And what would your superhero be?

Real… Life… Superheroes

Originally Posted:
May 25th, 2010 by Jim Gourley
When you think about it, the concept of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass is a bit absurd.  No, not in the fact that it puts a 16-year-old kid and a 10-year-old girl in costumes and has them battle gang bangers and mobsters.  And not in the fact that Millar’s oh-so-explicitly-stated premise was to investigate the question “what if real people tried being superheroes?”  So, that pretty much squashes the reasons everyone else says it’s absurd.  So what’s left?
The fact that Millar convinced us that he was doing something incredibly unique with his story.
Don’t get me wrong.  I love Kick-Ass as a comic.  I don’t know about it as a movie yet because I haven’t seen it.  Getting an English language version in Italy takes a while.  Nor do I think Millar is some kind of idiot who writes simplistic tripe in between fits of masturbating to online porn like some people believe (scroll down on the link to see my response to that column).  All you have to do is check out some of the man’s political musings on his website to see that the guy is plugged into the greater social discourse.  If you’re not seeing subtle overtures to greater cultural issues in Kick-Ass, then you’re not looking hard enough.  But that’s another blog entirely.
No, the reason that Millar’s premise is just a tad absurd is that every superhero book tries to explore what it would be like if real people became superheroes.  But, like all superhero books, the realistic elements of the person necessarily have to stop at the personality traits and human relationships.  If the person wasn’t extraordinary, then nothing very extraordinary would happen in the story, and we’d be bored to tears.  So, the story is real up to the point when a teenage boy incurs lots of consequences when he makes a (perhaps misguided) decision to fight crime.  Then Dave Lizewski commences to take superhuman amounts of physical abuse, after which he takes inhuman levels of abuse.  Then he kills lots and lots of people.  So some people come away from the story feeling cheated that the premise wasn’t upheld.  Dejected, they comfort themselves with an issue of New Warriors.
Because Night Thrasher is more believable as a concept for an angsty teenage superhero confronting the consequences of his actions while struggling with lots of life problems.

So people shouldn’t hate Millar for Kick-Ass.  They should hate be angry at themselves for expecting it to deliver something that it never could, and really never promised to.  I mean, come on.  Did Mark Millar, as good as he is, ever profess to have done the kind of in-depth research, shadowing clinical psychologists and interviewing airline pilots for a year to gain the kind of insight required to develop a character that would believably put on a cape and a mask?  No.  So we should never have expected him to write the comics version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Besides, superheroes don’t exist.  They couldn’t exist.  Believing that you could actually make yourself into a superhero is absurd.
And yet there are people who dare to believe anyway.
Superheroes really do exist.  They are out there, even as we speak– dozens of them.  They’ve even dealt with the issue of registration, without the help of Brian Bendis.  As you can see, they are a very realistic, very unpretentious group of people.  They’ve even foregone the snappy title of something like The Justice League of Extraordinary Adventuring Avengers and simply called themselves what they are– Real Life Superheroes.
But don’t let the unassuming nature of their heroism fool you.  These men and women are quite extraordinary by virtue of their choice to become heroes itself.  They are unique because theirs is a story that even the greats like Bendis and Millar can’t tell.  As I discussed last week, writers and artists in our medium dwell predominantly in the “what if”.  The challenge to making a story believable is answering the “how” and “why.”  But that’s hard when you can’t go out there and get those answers from people.  Thanks to these truly special people, now it can be.
Much of what follows might seem a let-down.  As they answer the questions asked of them with the unabashed honesty you could find only in a superhero, we find that the life and work of a real superhero is unglamorous, boring, and tiresome– and not in the ways we’re used to hearing about in the comics.  In fact, as they relate it, the only thing ‘epic’ about their tales is the mundane nature of their work.  They have never saved the world.  They’ve never been part of earth-shattering events.  They have, with simple costumes and superhuman-sized hearts, gone out to offer themselves in service to their fellow man, despite acknowledging that the call to action will be rare.  They are ordinary people, capable of only ordinary feats, whose stories are, perhaps disappointingly to comics fans, ordinary as well.  With that general introduction, let’s meet the Real Life Superheroes that grace us in today’s discussion.

A self-described objectivist, Death’s Head Moth is a martial arts practitioner from Norfolk, Virginia.  Dark, silent, and fearsome, his purpose is to serve as a warning sign to criminals that there really are things that go bump in the night– but only on their heads.  Working out-of-costume, Death’s Head Moth (DHM to his friends) performs charity and volunteer work.  Whether behind the mask or out in his alter-ego, this is a guy that is constantly fighting the good fight.
Geist hails from Olmstead County in Minnesota.  While perhaps a bit more flamboyant with his costume and approach to his activities, he’s no less of a force for good in his region.  In fact, as he reveals later in the interview, his notoriety is a force unto itself.  Though they adhere to the same code of ethics for Real Life Superheroes, they probably couldn’t be more different.  So they make a great pairing to discuss the life of a real super hero.  The questions follow.

Based in upper New York State, Silver Sentinel is a security professional who decided that he could, and should, do more to help the people of his locale. Having worked in the superhero business for several years in addition to his vast training and experience, he not only walks the tough walk, but talks a very academic talk as well. His blog demonstrates a comprehensive world-view with regard to his activities that come only with a great deal of experience and reflection. He’s one of the sages of the Real Life Superheroes, though he typically does not grant interviews. Hearing from him today is a special opportunity.  As such, he’ll be getting the final word on all the questions.  According to their personas, it just seems appropriate to color-code the responses.  DHM will take a darker blue color to allow grey for Silver Sentinel.  Geist, of course, will have his reponses in green.  And now to let them do the talking.
Gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions about your experiences.  Let’s tackle the beliefs that led you to the life of a superhero. What convictions led you to don a costume and fight for justice?
DHM:  The belief that no one has the right to force their will on others. I am to the core an Objectivist.
GEIST:  When I was a teenager, two neighbors of mine were randomly murdered. In that era, I was watching TV shows like “Columbo” where the killer was always caught. The police were never able to identify the killer in this case. My beliefs in right and wrong were shattered. I couldn’t understand how the police couldn’t find conclusive clues to identify the perpetrator. 20 years later the killer confessed and turned himself in. He was someone I knew and who had once been a friend. The crime was committed purely for the thrill of it and he admitted that the victims could have been anyone, including my family.
That event was an insult to my sense of justice.
Decades later, the events of 9/11 were an additional attack on everyone’s sense of right and wrong. I began wrestling with a response to such great evil in the world. Eventually, I heard about Real-Life Superheroes and concluded that this was going to be my personal response to injustice in the world.
SILVER SENTINEL:  In one form or another, I have always been fighting for justice all my life. I pretended to be a superhero as a child. I became an activist in college. I became a minister later in life. And now I’m a security professional. The ideals and beliefs I was raised with, and continued to practice all my life, have led me to what I am today.
Jim: Hemmingway once said “the world is a good place, and worth fighting for.” Does your use of a superhero persona represent a bit of a loss of faith in the law enforcement system to protect people, or the belief that everyone should contribute more?
DMH: Neither. It’s what I wish to do. ” It’s not a matter of who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
Geist: Both. Whether the police forces are understaffed, or wrestling with a society in chaos, the growing strength of gangs and organized crime indicates that we need a new and unusual response to crime. What could be more disturbing to a criminal than a loose cannon in a crazy costume? Here are people who don’t seem to play by “the rules.” Here are citizens who step out of the normal boundaries and seek criminals on their own. We’re unsanctioned and acting without a playbook. Who knows what we might and might not do? While we might have deep and personal ethics, it’s the doubt and fear in the criminal’s mind that’s perhaps our only real superpower.
While I know that your questions are concentrating mainly on crime, I need to add that the majority of my measurable results tend to be charitable acts done while on patrol. This is where I believe general society needs to be more proactive. When people go hungry, we can’t ignore the problems. When women and children seek shelter from abusive situations, we can’t look away. When we live in luxury while others sleep under a bridge, there must be more that we can do.
Silver Sentinel: Not at all. I believe in the law enforcement system in America, despite its flaws and mistakes. I’m doing what I’m doing because I believe people everywhere have a moral obligation to participate in the safety and defense of their communities. Apathy is the biggest reason criminals get away with so much.
Jim: I want to start with everyone on a fundamental issue. There are already hundreds of thousands of law enforcement personnel all over the country. Then again, witnesses to crime and violence stand by and let it happen every day. How do you weigh the fact that there are dedicated professionals already trying to stop crime out there against the fact that too many people give evil a pass?
DMH: The easiest action for most people is to do nothing and at the same time demand someone else do something. Law enforcement do a lot but they’re not omniscient.
Geist: As a society, we’re far too selfish. “It’s not my problem” is an excuse that allows decay to grow.
Most people console themselves in that police are paid to do their jobs while overlooking the fact that they’re also doing what they do because it’s the right thing to do. What they do is good for all of us and the paycheck is a side-issue. The responsibility to watch out for each other is something that we all share, whether paid or not.
Silver Sentinel: Sadly, often the same people that let bad things happen without trying to help, are the same ones that cry to the authorities to do something about it.. and then denounce the authorities as being brutal, corrupt, and totalitarian.
Jim: I want you to go back to the first night you took on your alter-ego. Suddenly, you’re out there on the street and actively seeking criminal activity to confront. At what point did it occur to you that you are actually looking for trouble? What impact did this realization have on you, and how did it feel to know that “the shit just got real?” I use that phrase to liken the experience to a Soldier’s first patrol in a combat zone, but perhaps my analogy is off
DMH: The first patrol was a bust. Full of exicitment tempered by disappointment. I kept having to refocus myself on the task at hand so as to not inadvertently fuck up. It wasn’t until about a month or so in that I saw any action.
Geist: This sort of goes back to the planning or creating a costume and the ritual of putting it on. With each piece of equipment, putting on each article of clothing, the reality is re-enforced. So to a degree, the hero is being built long before we step out of the door.
But yes, walking down the street and meeting people is where it all becomes solidified. The first people I met in costume was a mother and child. The kid said, “Are you a cowboy?” And I said, “Yes. And I’m also a superhero!” It was then that I knew that that’s who I was protecting. I knew that in that neighborhood people had been shot and that it was only a matter of two blocks from this mother and child.
Silver Sentinel:
I’ve never viewed what I am doing as going out looking for trouble. I’ve always thought of it as going out to see where my help might be needed. But for me, the impact of what I was doing became real when, one night, I found a young woman on the bank of a frozen river, very sick, very disoriented, and half dressed.
She was perilously close to falling into the rapidly flowing icy river, just yards from the edge of a waterfall. She was very disoriented and vomiting, and I was concerned that she may have been the latest victim in a string of Rohypnol (Roofie) poisonings that had been reportedly going on in the local bars. I took her to the hospital, called her mother by her request, and went home worried. Fortunately, the next day, I learned she had simply drank too much at the bar, and lost her coat when, ill-advisedly, she stumbled down to the river to clean herself up.She baked me brownies as a thank you. I played the matter down, but she could have drowned, or gotten hypothermia. Fortunately, I had gone out that night.
Jim: The movie Batman Begins spends a great deal of time investigating Bruce Wayne’s mental, physical, and material preparation to do what he does. Death’s Head Moth and Silver Sentinel have hand-to-hand combat training, and each of you carries equipment or costume accessories that prepare you for actual confrontation. Obviously, there is a degree of mental preparation that led to your own material preparation. What thoughts went through your mind as you prepared to go out and fight crime the first time?
DHM: I kept doing a mental inventory of my equipment and at the same time consider everything around me, trying to find something wrong.
Geist: I think we all might wonder at various times if what we’re doing is something great and possibly heroic or if instead, a it could all be a stupendous error in judgement. I think that personal judgement depends on the risks and goals that you want to achieve in your own life. No one else can make those choices for you.
We admit that it’s bizarre, unusual and unorthodox. Whatever the case, we’re making a choice to do something.
Silver Sentinel: Again, I don’t specifically go out to “fight crime”, but to see where my help might be needed. But I prepared myself by getting my equipment in order, and then prayed that I either wouldn’t be needed (which is a good thing), or that I would be equal to whatever task I might be called upon to perform. Prayer is my preferred method of mental preparation.
Jim: How have your preparations changed? What things have you learned in your exploits that have changed the way you make nightly preparations? Have certain elements of your equipment or tactics changed?
DHM: I don’t eat the day of a patrol and only drink water (in case I need emergency surgery), I check all my equipment for defections, check both road maps and google maps of were I’m going and let an oracle know where I’m going.
My Equipment and tactics are constantly changing. It’s the only way to remain effective and stay safe.
Geist: Yes, I had preconceived ideas about how I might do things and they haven’t really been realized in practical experience. I imagined myself arriving and also disappearing in clouds of smoke and yes, I still carry large smoke-bombs for just that effect. I have to admit, that other than for a photography session, in practical experience, I’ve yet to light one.
The utility belt is something that constantly changes. I also have cargo pants and a coat with many pockets. I’m constantly reassessing what goes into those pockets and whether I can find what I might need within them.
Most of the equipment is only for worst-case scenarios that have yet to occur and I hope never will. I’ve “talked-down” a lot of intense situations to a peaceful resolution. I prefer that everyone goes home happy if I can help it.
My most useful items have been a cell-phone, a flashlight and neutral gray spray paint for painting over gang tags.
Silver Sentinel: All my equipment and tactics are based upon my experience as a security professional, and urban explorer. The only time I make any changes are when time and finances allow. Of course, I now have the Golden Valkyrie with me as my partner (not sidekick), so we’ve developed routines to increase our effectiveness.
Jim: Was there anything that happened to you in your “early days” that you just didn’t anticipate? How have you adapted to face those challenges in the future?
DHM: Meeting other people who do this. It still suprises me to actually make the acquaintance of people like Geist, Z, or Super hero.
Geist: I didn’t anticipate the boredom of patrolling and seeking crime. In reality, it’s basically a lot of walking and driving around. At it’s best, it’s with a purpose and a specific goal. Investigating a specific crime and following up on it is pretty exciting. There was a rapist that I investigated and also arrived at the correct identity of the perpetrator. The police caught him the next day. There was a “fake cop” who I was tracking from patterns of location and dates who I came close to catching. The police also nabbed him in the area and time that I had been patrolling.
Silver Sentinel: Patrol-wise, everything has been going according to my expectations. But I never expected to be so well received by my fellow superheroes, let alone many of the “supervillains”.
Jim: Also part of the Wayne character’s preparation in Batman Begins is a period spent actually being a criminal. He thus comes to understand the criminal mindset. The military and FBI put a great deal of importance in understanding terrorist and gang culture. Have you done any research to get more ‘in touch’ with the criminal’s mind or prepare to face an antagonistic individual?
DHM: Constantly. I can be extremely disarming when I need to and I can use this to get people to accept me who normally would not. old tricks, new drugs, and who’s doing what irredeemable things and were. You can learn a lot just by listening.
Geist: I’ll have to say no to this. It’s an interesting concept, though that I hadn’t considered. No, I’m really not a “profiler” by any means.
I’m afraid to say that I’ve only seen “Batman Begins” once, although a dear friend of mine, Peter Tangen did the photography for that as well as all of the “Spider-Man” and “Hell-Boy” films. I only know Peter because I’m a Real-Life Superhero and very soon, there’s a substantial gallery exhibition featuring portraits and posters of 20 of us for sale. The proceeds, of course, will go to children’s charities.
Silver Sentinel: Both as a security officer, and a superhero, I benefit from talking to others in both professions. Bouncers, police officers, security personnel, and experienced heroes like Thanatos, and others. I also read a lot of material that deals with the subject matter.
Jim: Our comics stories often describe the hero as fighting “a never-ending battle for good”, which seems rather noble. But the sad part is that the battle never ends because we can never vanquish evil. Do you ever feel despondent about this, and how long do you intend to keep this routine up?
DHM: On occasion, certainly. I haven’t yet figured that out. I guess if I ever start do do it half-ass I’ll retire on the spot and let someone else take my place.
I’m one of the older among the RLSHs and no, I don’t intend to ever give it up. I’ll always find some capacity to contribute to the movement. There’s a role that we call an “Oracle” who is someone who assists active patrolling RLSHs on the streets by keeping in phone contact and assisting via computer. Doc Spectral is my frequent non-RLSH Oracle. He’s researched gang-tags, run license plate checks and looked up phone numbers for me. It’s a very viable way to contribute to a hero in the field. If nothing else, I’ll do that.
Do I ever feel discouraged? No more so than anyone else who becomes appalled by the extent of the capability of mankind’s dark side. It’s all the more reason to take a more positive and active role in the betterment of society.
Silver Sentinel: Just because the war never ends doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying. The cause is both just and necessary. We have to take solace in the many victories we bring about, learn from our mistakes, and be content that we have left the world a better place each night as we lay our heads to rest. Because what I do, is about who I am, the only way I could stop is by dying.. which I hope is many many years away.
Jim: Let’s talk about your costumes for a second. With all due respect, I can’t imagine you not worrying about looking silly the first time you went out. A major part of the psychological element of confrontation is looking tough. I remember COL Michael Steele (of Blackhawk Down fame) telling my unit that you have to constantly “present yourself as the dominant predator” on the street to command respect. Have you found that your costume has helped or hurt you in the intimidation department?
DHM: Of course. After protection and freedom of movement that’s one of the most important aspects.
Geist: When I was designing my costume and “look” I was very conscious that I definitely wanted to ride the border between friendly and also potentially frightening. When I go around to charitable missions, I wear the mask down and smile. The kids and social workers seem to love me. I want to be friendly and approachable to them. When they see my smile, it really helps, I think. I’ve often been on my knees or sitting on the ground talking to kid or a homeless person who needs someone to bend an ear and have someone who will listen and understand their dilemma or point of view. What I do is really not all about fighting crime. There are so many other ways to help the world.
If even a friendly person gets nuts, I can incapacitate them. I’ve found that trust is a better weapon in my arsenal, though. The people I help so rarely see that.
But when the mask is up, I’m a bit intimidating. I use the mystery and fear to the imagination of who I’m dealing with. It’s their choice. I can be either a frightening specter or a kind soul. It’s really up to them. I also want to re-iterate that I’ve talked-down almost all problems to a peaceful resolution and didn’t need a legal or forceful response. And I prefer it that way.
Sometimes a guy in a strange costume is the outsider who anyone with a world full of problems can talk to. Meanwhile, I’ve got martial arts training, my stun baton and my cell-phone to call the cops at the ready, just in case. But yes, I’m glad when the situation can be resolved without using any of those.
Silver Sentinel: I save the costume for special occasions. Frankly everyone in my hometown can immediately identify me by my beard, and my general presence. Ask Dark Guardian, in or out of uniform, what you see is what you get with me. I patrol the local neighborhoods as myself. The police, and the people of the community, all respond positively to my presence because many of them know I’m “the neighborhood watch guy”.
Jim: On a broader scale, it seems you could perform your activities without the costume. That being the case, what does the costume add to your image, and what does that image contribute to your cause?
DHM: I do this in normal clothes too. When I’m in my suit I’m simply more focused.
Yes, we could do what we do without a costume. But the costume and all the imagery that goes with it have the power of symbolism and resonance.
If I’m a regular guy who walks down a street looking for trouble, no one knows it. If I’m a regular guy who gives a hot meal to a homeless person, no one notices. If I’m in a costume, doing the same things, I’m an example.I’m also anonymous and could be anyone, including your neighbor, uncle, nephew, post-man or brother. I could be you and you could be me. To repeat, you could be me. That’s an important part of the message.
We certainly don’t all need costumes or kooky gimmicks, but we can all do our part as citizens to step up and make our society better as we are able. Are we consoled to think of ourselves as a good person if we put some dollars in a church collection plate, but also are willing to pass by someone who is hungry or having obvious problems? This is nothing against church-going, but I think we simplify our means of giving. The sense of giving and social responsibility cannot end within an hour.
Silver Sentinel:
It has to be an all the time thing. And no, what I do isn’t based upon religion by any means. By most people’s standards, I’m probably not very religious. What I do is based upon what I think is right.The costume helps bring notice to the specific activities I use it for. Because I present myself positively, and professionally, it usually meets little skepticism. Friends, family, and most locals think that what I’m doing, and what I represent, are pretty cool.
It’s my activities as, “a superhero on the internet”, that some people have a problem understanding.
Jim: Turning to a more procedural note. It’s apparent that you put yourself at several forms of risk, including bodily harm and running afoul of the law. Simply in terms of physical injury, do you have health insurance and are your carriers aware of your activities? Does this factor into your premiums?
DHM: Yes, I have health insurance. Now let me make sure I get the second part of the question right. You want to know if I’ve told my carrier that I dress up in a stylized moth suit and utility belt and fight crime? No, I have not.
Of course, I haven’t told my insurance company about what I do. And they’d never believe me if I did. Nor did I give them a heads-up before I sky-dived, scuba-dived or bungee-jumped.
I’m at a certain age where I sometimes ponder how I might die. I’d rather go out on two feet than in a hospital bed. I mean, really, we’re all going to die, so how do we want to do it? And what, if anything, did our life mean?I have a choice to make as to whether I’m a positive or negative influence on the world. I’ve also made enough mistakes in my life that I feel I need to make up for. If I need to make atonement, it should be anonymously and without pats on the back. So the mask comes easy.
Silver Sentinel: Insurance companies don’t raise the rates of people involved in neighborhood watch programs, or who take martial arts classes.. so why would what we do be any different?
Jim: You’ve become well-known in your local areas. Certainly, law enforcement is aware of your presence. Have they counseled you on your activities and any limits or rules they expect you to follow? How do you coordinate your activities in order to remain a help to them?
DHM: I stay away from cops while in uniform.
Geist: Yes, the police know exactly who I am. I’ve had several interesting encounters with them and they’ve all ended well. I’m not quite sure what they think of me. I have reason to believe they might think I’m a well-meaning nut or they might even be rooting for me unofficially. Tolerance might be a good word for our encounters. I also wonder if I don’t have a good friend in the chain who I haven’t met yet. Some sort of mucky-muck who hides his idealistic and also kooky standards and also might have wanted to be a superhero them self, or at least understands the idea.
Silver Sentinel: Because I’m a security professional, I’ve already been educated in the rules of engagement, and what I can and can not do legally, so the police don’t worry about that. I’m involved in working with my the neighborhood watch, so I operate within that framework. Because I go unmasked, and the authorities know who I am, I present myself as a credible witness and an extra pair of eyes. I never attempt to do the policemen’s jobs for them.
Jim: Now on to actual conflict with criminals. You seek out instances of wrongdoing. Do you have specific areas you patrol? What research do you use to choose the areas you go to? Do you have a particular search method?
DHM: I patrol different parts of the seven cities area. simply watching/reading the news and talking with people. Usually a grid pattern.
Geist: There was a horrendous unsolved rape and murder of a young housewife that I’m constantly investigating. The killer used arson to attempt to cover up his crime. I patrol that neighborhood every time I suit up. These sorts of unsolved crimes are where I hope Geist might be feared. Much like the 20-year-old confession, I need this guy to spill his guts unless I can find evidence to bring to the police. I need him to that there are people looking for him. It’s been five years-plus and I don’t want this perp walking around free without believing that I’m looking over his shoulder every day and night.
And yes, I want him to fear that I might find him before the police do. I don’t have to play by their rules, do I? Not as far as he knows, at least… Maybe I’m a nut-job with a penchant for retribution. Who knows when I find him?
My city has a very interesting website.
A private citizen tracks crime, based on police reports and logs it on a map. I watch the site and use the information on my patrols. I’m not sure why he does this and although we’ve had some email contact, I don’t know if he’s sure why I do this, either.
Silver Sentinel: Yes. Golden Valkyrie and myself actually have several patrol routes we have planned around frequency of disturbances, types of disturbances we’re likely to encounter, and peak activity times when such disturbances occur. We live in a small town, and you can practically tell what day of the week it is by what’s happening in each part of town.
Jim: You see instances of wrongdoing. What are the “typical” events you witness? Soldiers and law enforcement officers have established “rules of engagement”, based on pretty thorough scientific analysis, that help them resolve conflicts as peacefully as possible. Do you have similar rules, and what are they?
DHM: Drug dealing, assault, prostitution, drunk driving ect. I try to end conflicts as quickly as possible. I won’t initiate violence only respond to it with greater force. In cases were I don’t believe my involvment would be benificial (crimes to small to warrant costumed intervention/ situations that are beyond my scope of operations like fires or car crashes) I call from a pay phone or third party purchased prepay.
Yes. Again, my cell-phone is my greatest weapon. But given that, I would much-prefer that a volatile situation can be “worked-down” to a level of talking and resolving. I might not be representative of a lot of RLSHs, but I’d prefer that everyone goes home peacefully and not go to jail. Of course, there are limits of attitude and volition that I will not tolerate, but for the most part, I just want everyone to have a good night. If I don’t have to punch someone or call the cops on them, it’s a good night.

I see domestic disputes going on in yards and intervene.

I see gang-tags and paint over them. Supposedly, that’s a “lethal” insult. Fuck ‘em. They can fear ME.
Silver Sentinel: Oh yes. Unnecessary confrontation is pointless. Never engage a suspect when a call to the police will suffice. Never escalate a situation for any reason. Only engage in physical intervention when bodily harm, or worse, are definitely going to happen and can not be avoided. Never carry weapons, or equipment, that are not legal in our jurisdiction. And always co-operate with the authorities under all circumstances.
Jim: What is your threshold for the use of force?
DHM: I’m not planning on killing anyone if that’s what your asking.
Geist: I’ve held a guy down at someone’s request while the police were called. I never knew the offense, but the cop dragged him away without questions for me. I was civilian and undercover at the time which makes me wonder why the person in charge asked me to do that.
I’m not going to use force unless someone is at risk. If someone else is at risk, I’ll go nuts with anything I have to use (all of my equipment is completely legal for my state.) Ideally, I can give the cops a call about what’s going on, but in the meantime, I’m there and they’re not.
Yes, I’ve been called a martial arts “expert” in the press, but I’m really a perpetual student.
For some of these crimes I’ve tracked – the violent bike-path rape of an innocent teenager, the murder of a young housewife? Do I know what I would or would not do if I found/find the perp before the police? No. I don’t know. I came close to finding the bike-path rapist before the police. A day late.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s the uncertainty of what I might do before, or if I call the police that I want the criminals to fear.
Silver Sentinel: Words don’t hurt, I’ve been called worse. I will never engage in physical confrontation unless I am directly preventing bodily harm, or worse, from happening and can not be avoided. I’m a trained security professional and will always obey the law in this regard.
Jim: Have you ever been in an actual fight with a criminal while in your superhero persona? Can you detail the incident? What were they doing, how did the fight start, how was it resolved, and what was the law enforcement/community reaction?
DHM: A few. A few years ago I was doing a patrol in Richmond. I was walking through an alley when I heard a party up ahead. I decided to skirt the edge of light comming for the back of the house so no one would see me. As I was about to come past the end of the house I saw two people behind a camper. There was a woman trying to unlock a bike and a young man alternately talking to her and hitting her. Without hesitation I stepped foward and said ” Don’t hit her again!”. He looked at me with a very confused expression( high as a kite) and casually turned and hit the girl again. I grabbed a handfull of his hair and stepped into the back of his knee, guiding his head into the side of the camper. He fell over moaning and I turned to the girl and said “I have some money if you need cab fair” she just looked at me with dialated eyes and walked her bike away down the alleyway.
Geist: Not other than a guy I held down for the cops to arrive. And I found it quite easy to hold him down. I still wonder what his crime was.
I truly try to resolve conflicts a lot more peacefully than in the comics or movies.
There are a lot of more viable resolutions than slugging, stunning or spraying someone. I’ve found that talking and understanding someone’s issues and problems can be more powerful than a punch. And ideally, everyone goes home without hand-cuffs.
But if someone wants to resort to violence, the cops are my first call and then I’m taking them on until they arrive.
I truly want to toy with the line in criminals minds about how law-abiding I might be.
Meanwhile, I can perform a Citizens Arrest in my state and wish to adhere to every legality within that. However, that means that after a proper announcement, I can use “Like Means of Force” to hold and subdue the alleged perpetrator. “Like Means of Force” might mean that if they produce a gun or a knife they might not want to have pulled those items due to my various legal responses to that.
Silver Sentinel: No. I haven’t been in a physical altercation in years, though I am trained and prepared for it. I have a command presence that dissuades people from thinking about taking a poke at me. You’d be amazed at how much violence can be avoided using a calm voice and the proper attitude.
Jim: Staying with conflicts, whether it was a fight or not, you’ve all had altercations with antagonistic people. Can you explain the feelings you have when this happens? Is there an adrenaline rush? Are you afraid? What do you do to keep calm and win?
DHM: I don’t really think about it until afterward.
Geist: I’ve had my knuckles clenched and ready more than a few times. But no, it’s never come to that and I’m quite glad about it.
There was this one time patrolling with Razorhawk and other members of the Great Lakes Heroes Guild in downtown Minneapolis when we walked up to this urban house with a rowdy porch party going on. The guys had clearly been drinking a lot and it seemed like we were asking for it, just by walking by in our admittedly-strange costumes. The guys were sort of confrontational, but also curious. We said, “Is everything alright here? Are you folks all cool and all tonight?” A few of the guys started getting in our faces about the costumes and drunkenly wondering what we’re doing. As we started to explain ourselves and our friendly motives, one of the guys runs forward and says, “Dude, you were in the City Pages! You’re that superhero dude!” I told him that yes, I am and that we all were. After that we held a brief Q&A session on the sidewalk, told them that we wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and walked away leaving a group of people wanting to also do the right thing. (Even if they were way-drunk).
Silver Sentinel: Prepare for the worst. Get your head in the game as you go in. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Adrenaline is meant to help you, not control you. There’s time to be scared afterward. You can cry, shake, and rage all you want.. later.. away from the situation.
Jim: Regardless of whether there was a fight, have you ever encountered a situation that you weren’t prepared to handle or feel like you did the wrong thing? What did you learn from the incident?
DHM: The incident with the crack dealer, I wear a protective mask.
Geist: I had one mission like that in particular. I had to call the police to rescue ME. It was so embarrassing. Here I was, all “Geisted-up.” Full costume. The works. I had decided to paint over some very nasty gang graffiti, which included a swastika. I lowered myself down a wall and took out the graffiti. Then, I couldn’t get back up the wall at the side of a river.
I had just put my emergency contact on a plane out of town so I paced and paced in the small cement landing, wondering what to do. So I called the police. Despite my assurances that all I needed was one guy with a strong grip, they sent a two fire-trucks and fire-man’s boat to get me out of the predicament. The boat was overkill, but it’s the route they took. And yes, the police officer who arrived had a lot of questions. But yeah, he was cool about the whole thing. I think he especially appreciated it when I showed him before and after pics from my cell-phone.
As he asked me to wait behind his squad car so he could talk to his boss, I said, “But yeah, there was a swastika, Man…” He said, “Yeah, I know.” When he got out, after a long conversation with his captain, (meanwhile, I’m just waiting idly behind his squad car in full costume looking at the sky and everything else) he emerged and said, “Y’know, we could charge you with trespassing because you jumped a fence to get down there, but we understand what you wanted to do and you’re free to go. Give us a heads up next time you want to do something like this.”
He got sort of “fan-boy” and asked to take some pics of me, and of course I was still feeling guilty. I told him that I knew there was more than one reason for that, but let him do that. “He said, it’s not everyday that I get a chance to meet a superhero.” I knew that he also wanted photos to identify me in the future and he totally admitted that that was part of the reason. Even in my abject state of mind, he suggested I strike a heroic pose and I did my best.
It’s my belief that if the cops know who NOT to shoot if I’m wrestling with a mugger someday, that’s a great thing. I think I’m misguided, very charitable, potentially helpful, and also might put some fear into the people that they’re also looking for. Y’know, after 3 or 4 encounters with them, I bet they’ve got a special code for me now. Who knows?
It was my biggest screw-up. I had to call the cops to rescue ME.
They have me on record, but I also believe they sort of know what I’m trying to do for them, whether they officially approve of my methods or not. They know I’m not doing anything illegal, if not un-wise.
Silver Sentinel: Not really. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and one of those things is to never get involved in something I don’t know anything about. I let those who know what they’re doing handle that. I’m here to help, I’m not a substitute for police, firefighters, or EMTs.
Jim: I mentioned the “never-ending battle” earlier. On the whole, has your superhero persona made your local area a better place? Have there been any negative impacts?
DHM: In some ways. Not yet.
There’s been nothing negative yet and I hope there never will be.
One of the best things has been when I walked into a homeless shelter, the Dorothy Day House with donations. They have rotating volunteers. There were a couple of teenage guys manning the front desk that night.As I walked in with groceries, they said, “Oh my God, are you Geist?” I had recently been featured in some national media. With a little bit of vanity, I said, “Yes. Did you guys hear about me on CNN or something?” And they said… “No, Man. Word on the streets. Word on the streets.”
Wow. You can’t get much better than that, can you?
Silver Sentinel: Being out there has had a positive impact. The only problem now is that the more I do this, the more certain elements (criminals, mean spirited people, and buttheads) try to tear me down. They’ve been finding that it doesn’t work very well when they try to smear me and find their audience actually cheers me on.
Jim: Silver Sentinel mentioned before the difference between Vigilantism and Vigilance. It’s an interesting point. The definition of vigilantism involves a personal form of justice. Meanwhile, the “actual” definition of justice is established on a cultural basis, and is different throughout the world. Imagine hundreds or even thousands more people putting on costumes and doing what you do. Would that indicate that more individuals are breaking away from society, or that society itself is changing? Would it better serve justice or cause more chaos?
DHM: Those distinctions rely soley with the personal ethics of the people involved.
Geist: The chaos already exists. We’re just responding to it in an unusual way.
In our country there are rapes and drive-by shootings. In other countries there are machete attacks, kidnappings or beheadings. Someone has to stand up and say “No.”
Silver Sentinel: I hope more people are inspired to get involved in their communities, but don’t feel the need to put on a costume to do so. We’re not about breaking away from society, but about making society work better for itself. We’re about inspiring a message of hope, and cooperation. We’re just the messengers, it’s up to the people to live the message.
Having more masked do-gooders around would increase the chances of someone, well-meaning, but ill prepared, to get hurt, or make matters worse.
Jim: We all have a responsibility to each other to do the right thing. Then again, we’re not all as well trained or prepared to do what you do. Do you endorse or discourage people who want to become superheroes like you? What kind of qualifications should a person have? What kind of mentality should they have?
DHM: No we don’t, our only responsiblity is to our selves to do right. I don’t recomend it overall.
Geist: I don’t encourage anyone to do this and do my best to discourage it. But there is a point when it’s clear that someone is dead-set on following this path and the only viable option is to guide them to do it wisely and as safely as possible.
You can’t teach wisdom, but you can teach safety and preparation.
Are there RLSHs out there who are doing this dangerously? Maybe. I hope not, but that’s part of the reason we network and commune on the internet and also over the phone. There are a lot of conversations going on that the general public isn’t privvy to.
Silver Sentinel: I encourage everyone to learn and to think about what they can best do to help in their communities. Each individual should only do what they themselves are best suited to do, and leave the other stuff to others. They should be willing to help others, and not be out for ego gratification, or some misguided sense of vengeance.
Ultimately, it doesn’t take a saint, or a superhero, to care about others and help out in some way. We all have a hero inside of us.
Jim: What’s been the best part of being a superhero? What’s the worst part?
DHM: Every time I get to put the suit on on and fix at least one wrong thing. The overhead( My nine to five barely supports the expense).
Geist: The best part is when you can make someone smile by helping them or even just meeting them. There’s nothing like putting a smile on a child who’s full of sudden wonder or a homeless person who suddenly has reason to hope for a better tomorrow and believe in the compassion of humanity again.
I think the worst part is the sudden or gradual loss of personal friends. That’s partly because I don’t have a lot of time to invest in friendships, but also because if I care about the person, it’s really best that they keep as much distance from me as possible, just in case a gang or a criminal might determine my identy and want to “teach me a lesson.”
I also want to mention that while my private and superheroic life is pretty interesting, it doesn’t leave me a lot to talk about to friends or relatives. I constantly hear, “Hey, what have you been up to? You always have some cool project going on.” And for lack of a better response, I reply, “Not much. Nothing really. How about you?”
Silver Sentinel:
The best part about being a superhero is that I can finally be who I’ve always known myself to be. I am a helping, caring member of my community, and servant of the higher ideals I’ve always been taught to live by.. and I feel, doing God’s work. Ultimately it’s not about ourselves though, it’s about the people we serve.The worst part is, my fiancee is arguably one of the hottest super heroines on the planet. When she shows up in public.. I might as well be wearing a clown suit and playing the bagpipes.. nobody even realizes I’m there.
Jim: And so there it is, in their own words.  For these three average Joes, tomorrow will probably be just another boring day.  Then again, maybe it won’t.  Either way, they go out knowing that they’ve helped to save at least one life in their adventures.  As the Jewish Talmud says, “he who saves one life, saves the world entire.”  If that’s the case, who knows what earth-shattering events and revelations they’ve been at the center of.  And that’s why they keep going out, because though it is rarely sounded, the call to action they heed is dire.  Their battle isn’t against a super villain or the mafia or any heavily armed cabal.  It’s against the boredom, the indifference, and the urge to just quit when there doesn’t seem to be a point anymore.  It may not make for an action-packed comic book, but it’s an epic battle that the rest of us could only hope to be heroic enough to fight.  That they fight it proves that they truly are extraordinary individuals.  In that regard we should ask ourselves who the ones with the absurd beliefs are, those putting on costumes and attempting to be watchmen, or those of us standing back and watching them?

Kick-Ass: A Response to the Bystander Effect

Originally posted:
By Cilien Hanna
Kick-Ass, a movie currently in theaters directed by Matthew Vaughn, speaks of teenager David Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson, who becomes weary of the passive response to the crimes he sees around him.  His reaction is to order a green, skin-tight leotard, complete with mask, and become a crime-fighting superhero.  In the ensuing adventures, which are clearly over his head, he makes some friends, saves some people, and even develops an arch enemy, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  David wonders in the film why, with all the comic books out there, no one has tried this before? But he’s wrong, there is actually a multitude of people, sans super powers, who have donned masks and capes, and stood guard over their respective cities.  In fact, there is even a superhero registry, if you can believe it.  There are some that work solo, and some that are part of larger guilds or societies, like the Black Monday Society who patrol the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah in groups, as reported by the Real Life Superhero Project.  But they are not just crime fighters.  There are some, like Terrifica, whose purpose is to watch over bars and clubs in New York City to ensure that women walking home under the influence are not taken advantage of.  According to the New York Post, some, as an added bonus to their crime fighting, even clean up graffiti, pick up trash, and hand out food to the homeless. Though all of these superheroes have costumes, not all include masks to hide their faces, and some proclaim their real names unconcernedly.  Except for a couple, most, unlike their comic book counterparts, do not have any stated arch enemies.
The film is not all adolescent fantasy angst, and does have a more grisly story line, provided mostly by the father daughter team of Damon and Mindy Macready, played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz.  This duo go on a gruesome vengeful killing spree that uses some more technologically advanced gadgets; more in line with what Batman would use.  This does contribute a more interesting twist to what would be, otherwise, a trite story line; but it isn’t enough to elevate the film above okay status.  Overall, it’s moderately entertaining, and deals with the superhero idea in a facetious manner that is more intelligent than most other movies.
It becomes clear in the film that there are a profusion of people who need help, more than one teenager can handle, especially if he has any sort of life.  But really, is this necessary?  Do we need masked strangers jumping from the shadows to taser hooligans and bullies?  It seems necessary because there is a rabid passiveness that has developed, especially in urban areas, that has allowed people to simply walk by as crimes are committed and conclude that it is none of their business; not even bothering to call 911.  This is usually referred to as the bystander effect, and there are several notorious examples of the phenomenon, like the rape of a high school girl last year which was marked by several onlookers who not only did not do anything, but actually filmed, some laughed, and others even participated, according to an article by ABC News.  In a crowded subway in Philadelphia one rider attacked a sleeping passenger with a hammer another.  Even when there is no immediate danger, people do not feel compelled to act.  An Associated Press article expounds how a homeless man was stabbed as he tried to help a woman being assaulted, and ended up dying on the sidewalk as people walked by and even took pictures.
The bystander theory states that the amount of help expect from a bystander is inversely proportional to the number of people there.  Meaning, the more onlookers there are, the less likely any of them will help.  There can be two reasons for this, as explained in a paper by Peter Prevos.  One is called diffusion of responsibility, and basically proposes that the more bystanders there are, the less responsible any one of them feels to help.  Bystanders believe that someone else will take care of it.  The other theory is explained by social norms.  When there is a group of people, their behavior is guided by the behavior of those around them.  So, in a crowd, everyone looks to everyone else as to what is the acceptable behavior standard . . . if no one else is helping, they’re not going to help.  The fact that good Samaritans can be sued after performing a good deed, as happened in California, doesn’t help excite the feelings of compassion in passersby.  Still, the responsibility of protecting neighborhoods shouldn’t rest solely on the shoulders of a few masked crusaders.  There should be an intrinsic level of responsibility to, at least, report crimes in progress, if they are afraid to act.  Some websites claim that just knowing about the bystander effect will make you less helpless to its effects.  Others, like Imagine Today, proclaim that, to break a crowds passiveness, you should shout out specific tasks to specific members.  People are more apt to respond to directions given directly to them.  You have now been armed with knowledge that should help you make your city safer.  And if that doesn’t work, you could always look-up your local superhero for assistance.

Kick-Ass Tests the Limits of “Exploitainment”

Originally Posted:
Posted By Adam Mehring On April 16, 2010 @ 3:37 am In Featured, Movies, Pop & Culture | 35 Comments
A touch more than 70 years ago, Gone with the Wind kicked up controversy for its use of what was considered profane language. The line in question, of course, is now a ubiquitous cinematic staple, frequently repeated without hesitation. Frankly, no one really gives a damn about it anymore.
Kick-Ass makes its way into theaters this weekend, bearing a title that would have sparked considerable outrage on its own back in the days of Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and the Motion Picture Production Code’s stringent censorship regulations.
The title would have boiled blood. The film itself would have caused massive coronaries.
Kick-Ass proudly and quite audaciously features absurdly graphic violence and crude language guised by a sunny demeanor, vivid colors, and the appeal of superhero mythology.
At the peak of its depravity is “Hit Girl,” a pint-sized killing machine with the proficiency of some terribly powerful ninja master, donning a purple wig and cape or a schoolgirl outfit and pigtails—and just eleven years old. She smiles wryly, even sweetly, before driving her blade through the heart of an offender, or converting an opponent’s body into a bullet-riddled corpse.
Any sense of childlike abandonment she may yet possess is swiftly dispelled when she opens her mouth, unleashing obscenities as if they were mere yawns. Hit Girl even has the distinction of speaking the obligatory single “c-word” of the hard R-rated film, just as she verbally likens her cohorts to a specific feminine hygiene product (a “d-word” this time).
Hit Girl’s unexpected coarseness is effectively—very effectively—shocking. Whether the initial shock is followed by enjoyment, disgust, or some combination of the two is the point at issue.
As a character, her existence is a mightily depressing one: led by her father and fellow crime-buster “Big Daddy” (Nicholas Cage) through a life entirely devoted to deadly maneuvers and vigilante justice. When Big Daddy purposefully fires a round into his daughter’s torso to let her experience its physical impact, Hit Girl’s bullet-proof vest cannot protect her innocence from shattering into a million pieces.
The film does acknowledge the tragedy that Hit Girl has been robbed of her childhood but only with the passing deference of any issue brought up in a comic book caper. She is certainly no worse off because of her circumstances, nor does she seem to miss the freedoms of being a normal little girl.
On the same token, Hit Girl’s precocious antics are humorous in a disbelieving sort of way, and watching her massacre bad guys through increasingly improbable, ridiculous, and gloriously bloody methods proves quite exciting.
But the wasted innocence of a fictional character is not really what is at stake here. Hit Girl is played by Chloë Grace Moretz, a promising young performer on a serious spunky streak after 500 Days of Summer last year and, recently, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Hit Girl is lifted from a comic book, but Moretz, believe it or not, is a real human being who, at the age of twelve, had to really say the “c-word” and really participate in the graphic, albeit staged, sequences of violence. It is Moretz’s innocence that is potentially sacrificed by Kick-Ass, and no part of that is the slightest bit entertaining.
Of course, this is not the first time that filmmaking has exposed child actors to unduly explicit environments. In 1978, Director Louis Malle drew heat for his film Pretty Baby, in which a twelve year-old Brooke Shields played a child prostitute and appeared completely nude. Luc Besson caused a quieter commotion with 1994’s The Professional, placing a young Natalie Portman at the center of a murdering spree and sexual objectification.
Anna Paquin won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the age of eleven for her performance in Jane Campion’s The Piano, a film that featured nudity and graphic sex. However, Paquin was not involved in any of these scenes, and her father reportedly did not allow her to see the film in its entirety.
Distributor Lionsgate attempts to rationalize Moretz’s involvement with Kick-Ass by passing the film off as harmless fantasy. Her mother is described reminding the cast and crew, “It’s Hit Girl saying it, not my daughter,” in reference to that certain “c-word.” Meanwhile, director Matthew Vaughn has apparently crafted something “otherworldly,” a “comic book universe” with “hyper-real” violence that is “a signature of the revenge-fantasy genre in which the film is solidly steeped.”
Here’s the problem with that assertion: the principle conceit of Kick-Ass is that it takes place in our world—that a normal person without any special abilities decides to strap on a scuba suit and fight injustice in a society—our society—accustomed to looking the other way.
The film’s central character, “Kick-Ass” himself (Aaron Johnson), gains notoriety after a video of him facing off with a group of muggers goes viral on YouTube. He then uses a MySpace account to communicate with citizens in need of a superhero’s assistance. When “Red Mist,” another makeshift costumed avenger of sorts, docks his iPod onto the dashboard of his modified Ford Mustang, the supposed “otherworldly” setting of Kick-Ass seems particularly our-worldly, or at least embedded with a suspicious amount of familiar technology.
Eventually, the film does concede more of its connection to reality in favor of stylized violence and fanciful plot constructs—Hit Girl’s destructive rampages included—but it does so against its director’s own intentions, and while defying its previously established logic.
Vaughn wants to have it both ways: to ground his film in reality and partake in decadent fantasy. And so, ultimately, Kick-Ass transpires on the untilled fields of a fanboy’s paramount dreamscape.
Even as Lionsgate assures us of this notion—that no reality they endorse would include a gun-slinging middle-schooler spewing four-letter words—the studio has fostered the realism angle in its promotional push for the film. Real Life [2], a website devoted to inspiring and chronicling masked crusaders in the real world, has become little more than a multi-tiered advertising platform for Kick-Ass.
Lionsgate does not claim ownership to the site—only to a coordinated campaign. However, the domain was not registered until January, 2009, three months after Kick-Ass began principal production, and otherwise lacks an internet footprint. A case of coincidental, simultaneous, and identical inspiration on the part of the Kick-Ass creative team and a group of genuinely concerned citizens, or thinly-veiled astroturfing at its most nauseating?
Either way, Real Life claims not to endorse vigilantism but then provides links to several sex offender registries, local crime databases, and listings from America’s Most Wanted, along with more links to individual state laws on carrying weapons and making citizen’s arrests—all under the suggestive heading of “FIGHT crime.” Surely, this is not a practical or helpful way to shape up society (just to boost awareness for an upcoming movie about “real life superheroes”), but Lionsgate offers its stamp of approval just the same.
The publicized advertising blitz for Kick-Ass portrays masked heroes on brightly colored posters, images that are sure to appeal to younger crowds drawn to classic superhero iconography. Following the screening I attended, a boy no older than Hit-Girl wearing a “Kick-Ass” novelty tee-shirt trudged out of the theater with a sullen look on his face and his father, also vested in “Kick-Ass” branded swag, looking astonished right behind him. One or both of them had clearly just been duped, but seeing that confused, wandering ghost of a boy—he, too, robbed of his innocence, I imagined—was a little bit devastating.
Posters hung in cinema lobbies create a dilemma for certain theatergoers: so long as Kick-Ass is around, you can’t take a child to a G-rated movie without exposing them to content—to a word—that would automatically earn any film a PG rating. The same word, the film’s very title, is repeated on billboards, television commercials, merchandise, and, yes, tee-shirts for anyone to see.
On the other hand, far more inappropriate content can be just as readily found on magazine covers in the check-out lanes of grocery stores (the latest issue of Cosmopolitan boasts in bold face “The 7 Best Orgasm Tricks in the World!”), during beer commercials, and in Miley Cyrus music videos.
Moral implications and dubious marketing strategies aside, as an exercise in entertainment and filmmaking efficiency, Kick-Ass, for me, just barely squeaks by as something that can qualify as artistic expression—a crude, violent, absurd, and vulgar artistic expression. The film manages to maintain enough levity in its narrative and luster in its presentation to pass as escapist entertainment—crude, violent, absurd, and vulgar escapist entertainment.
Ironically, Vaughn’s failure to convince us that Kick-Ass takes place in our reality or any relatable setting is what salvages the film. Had Hit-Girl seemed slightly more human, her indiscretions would have been unequivocally reprehensible. Instead, she is, as is most of Kick-Ass, an outrageous cartoon brought to life.
For this reason, the film is no more offensive, even less offensive, than last year’s eight-times Oscar-nominated film Inglourious Basterds (sporting another lamentable title), in which director Quentin Tarantino wagered his crude, bloodthirsty revenge fantasy on a sensitive historical issue for stronger dramatic impact. By my estimation, that embraces the very definition of exploitation. As does the WE “reality” show Little Miss Perfect, parading three and four-year-olds around in their disturbingly skimpy “wow-wear.” Kick-Ass is certainly no more destructive than that.
To be honest, I can’t recall the last time I felt such strong and varied emotions while watching a movie as I did during Kick-Ass. Providing moments of shock, horror, disgust, excitement, intensity, hilarity, and general absurdity, Kick-Ass is a rollercoaster ride—a swift kick in the pants, ahem, in the ass, perhaps.
As a film—as an artistic expression and means of entertainment (for those of the proper age and condition)—I have to give Kick-Ass…
As a greater reflection of morality and decency in our culture, Kick-Ass gives me reason to worry.

5 KICK-ASS Real World Heroes

Originally posted:
Costumed Crusaders aren’t just found in comics and movies any more.
By Rob Worley
“Why does everyone want to be Paris Hilton but nobody wants to be Spider-Man?”
That’s the question Dave Lizewski poses to his friends just before he embarks on a life of crime-fighting in the comic and film Kick-Ass. In that fictitious world there are no super heroes or even costumed heroes.
In the real world, it turns out, there are plenty of people trying to be Spider-Man. Mania is here to guide you through a few of the costumed adventurers that inhabit the world outside your window!


Alternate Identity: Sarah
Milieu: New York City
Special Ability: Devastating Cock Block
Nemesis: Fantastico
Gadget: Gold-leaf fortune cards
Signal her:
Terrifica definitely doesn’t want to be Paris Hilton, and doesn’t want the ladies of New York City acting like her either. Born in the fires of a nasty hump-and-dump, a young Brooklynite known only as Sarah forged a secret identity in order to steer drunken young lasses away from regrettable hook-ups from the city’s Lotharios.
“Sarah is a very weak woman. Very needy, very insecure,” Terrifica said derisively of her alter ego in an interview with “New York Magazine,” revealing a Hulk-like identity split.
Reports from various NYC magazines had her patrolling the bar scene in the mid-2000s, looking for evil gents who dispense the lethal combination of “lies and alcohol” to dupe wide-eyed women into the sack. She’d also hand out gold leaf cards with words of wisdom for the unwary party girls. As with any force, her actions were soon opposed by a costumed male villain of the bar scene named Fantastico.
Terrifica is presumed retired.



Alternate Identity: Unknown
Milieu: London
Special Ability: Auto Liberation
Nemesis: Wheel Clamps
Gadget: The Angle Grinder (duh)
Signal him: 07984-121043 (disconnected)
So you’ve parked your car in the city, only to come out and find one of your tires locked down by a parking boot or wheel clamp. That’s right, you parked illegally and now have to jump through hoops and pay fines to liberate your ride,right? Well, not if you’re in London and Angle Grinder Man is on the scene!
This populist hero is known for rushing to the aid of confined motorists with his special weapon (the angle grinder, natch) and cutting the wheel clamps off illegally parked cars. What does he charge for this service? Nothing! Action is his reward.
Naturally Angle Grinder Man has numerous and high-ranking enemies in the government so his identity has always been a carefully-protected secret. In fact, we fear the authorities have gained the upper hand because AGM’s phone number has been disconnected and his website went offline in 2007



Alternate Identity: Rick Rojatt
Milieu: The Friendly Skies
Special Ability: Super Tough
Nemesis: 195 MPH Rain
Gadget: Rocket Cycle
Status: Presumed retired
Rick Rojatt not only wanted to be Spider-Man, but Evel Knievel as well. And in the 1970s this motorcycle stunt-man tried to one-up America’s favorite body-cast wearer by doing his stunts in an awesome red superhero costume. The trick worked, sort of: we saw 19 issues of “The Human Fly” published by Marvel who billed the star as “The Wildest Super-Hero Ever–Because He’s Real!”
But the Human Fly’s greatest super-human act, and tragic defeat, came right around the same time. The Fly had arranged a highly-publicized stunt to wing walk on a DC-8 jet plane in flight. Pilot Clay Lacy recalls taking the Fly up for several test runs in the Mojave Desert. Then the stunt moved to Texas for a television taping, although bad weather was threatening to ruin the show. His reputation on the line, the Fly took to the air and was battered by rain at 195 miles per hour. Lacy reports the hero suffered terrible bruises.
As far as we know, he never attempted the stunt again. His comic was canceled in 1979



Alternate Identity: Marco Rascon Cordova
Milieu: Mexico City
Special Ability: Inspiring Hope
Nemesis: Poverty
Gadget: Leaflets of knowledge
Active from the late-1980s to the late-1990s, Superbarrio roamed the streets of Mexico City in red tights, a gold cape and a Luchador mask. His mission: to champion the rights of the poor and the homeless.
“I can’t stop a plane or a train single-handed, but I can keep a family from being evicted,” the costumed character told CNN in a 1997 interview.
Superbarrio has donned the red suit to distribute literature, lead protest marches and challenge his enemies in the court of law. He even declared himself a candidate in the 1996 U.S. Presidential Elections where he was defeated by Bill Clinton.
The character hasn’t been seen in the real world lately, but he lives on in a series of new cartoons available on YouTube.



Alternate Identity: Alain Robert
Milieu: Worldwide (Based in Paris)
Special Ability: Wall-crawling
Nemesis: Global Warming
Gadget: Climbing shoes
Signal him:
If anyone wants to be Spider-Man it’s Alain Robert. Not only did the French rock-climber turned crusader start his super hero career wearing a Spider-Man knock-off costume, his remarkable claim to fame is that he scales the walls of the worlds’ skyscrapers without any special equipment. He even calls himself “Spiderman”.
He began wall-crawling in 1994 and since then has scaled such world wonders as The Eifel Tower, The Empire State Building, The Sears Tower, The Petronas Towers and the Jin Mao Building to name but a few. He’s an environmental activist as well, sometimes capping his exploits by unfurling banners with messages like, “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.”
Robert remains active and was registered in the “Guinness Book of World Records” this year for having scaled more than 100 towers.

If you are looking forward to the Kick-Ass premiere, check out some of our Movie Maven Kick-Ass coverage.  Here is Tara’s interview with Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.  If you missed it last month, Tara got to check out the premiere in Austin at South By Southwest, check out the red carpet coverage