Mr. Shahed Wali Muhammad  thanks all present ( and FUTURE! 🙂 ) signers of the petition to save his home. NOTE: He’s in purple African style shirt and white skull cap.
[email protected] is now Pay Pal-enabled and donations can be sent there to help pay down debt
504 723-1141 is his cell phone number. He’d LOVE 2 hear from friends out there!


On the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, Rodney King, seen here in this photo from April 2012, looks back on the beating and verdict that set off the civil unrest.

On the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, Rodney King, seen here in this photo from April 2012, looks back on the beating and verdict that set off the civil unrest. (KABC Photo)

Rodney King was a lodestone which drew out the poisons and promise of the American body politic. There was no middle ground about him- some loved him; others hated him with equal passion.

His case and turbulent life epitomized what Black men can become if we aren’t extraordinarily careful: victims of bad choices colliding with bad actors from the larger community. Conservative friends, mostly White, feel King deserved the near fatal  lynching he received that epic night.

While also a supporter of good conduct and police I differ. If a California monster like Charles Manson wasn’t beaten within an inch of his life for ritual murder of a pregnant woman, how can King’s video taped  beating be justified?

His absence of good decision making and lawful habits provided detractors with ample ammo to shoot holes in innocence claims. He suffered from what I call ” urban half-life ”  where self-destructive behavior rises to the level of secular worship.

Rodney King was many things: criminal; addict; symbol. He didn’t deserve what the LAPD did to him in 1991.

He also deserved better than the urban half-life he condemned himself to.

Brothers should look long and hard at this man’s life and realize that fame and settlement money mean nothing if you still choose urban half-life.

I grew up with brothers like Rodney King. I know brothers like Rodney King. 

I live in the same sometime-y country they do. The fairness they seek begins when they first be fair to themselves and stop undermining themselves with illegality and addiction.

Look at Rodney King brothers and learn where urban half-life ultimately ends up: spiritual death; followed by mental death; followed by slow motion decline and finally, physical death.

RIP Rodney King. Rap song, ” Self-Destruction ” Rap song, ” Self Destruction II ( 20 years Later ) “

NADRA ENZI AKA CAPT BLACK promotes creative crime prevention & actively supports BROTHERS AGAINST CRIME, Tim Washington, Spokes Person. TIM WASHINGTON (504) 274-6585

CAPT BLACK: (504) 214-3082

Nadra Enzi


Superheroes to attend IFC Screening in New York

Dark GuardianOriginally posted:
Los Angeles – September 26, 2011 – The IFC Center will launch Slamdance’s 2011 On The Road tour on October 7th 2011 for a weeklong engagement. The traveling theatrical showcase will feature the critically acclaimed documentary Superheroes directed by Michael Barnett as well as the award winning short film Hello Caller by Andrew Putschoegl.
This year’s On the Road launch represents a well-established relationship between Slamdance and The IFC Center. Soon after opening, the Center found success with Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary that premiered and was acquired from Slamdance in 2005. As an advocate for independent films, The IFC Center serves as the ideal starting point for the Festival whose mantra is ‘By Filmmakers For Filmmakers.’ Slamdance’s president and Co-founder Peter Baxter explains “On The Road brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them on the big screen and provides our filmmakers commercial benefits that they otherwise would not receive.”
Superheroes is a profoundly funny, eccentric and inspiring film that chronicles the extraordinary lives of real-life superheroes as they take to the streets to protect and support their communities. Perhaps the most intimidating of the heroes featured in the film are a group of Brooklyn-based vigilantes. Life, Dark Guardian and other superheroes from the New York initiative will be in attendance and participate in a Q&A which will immediately follow the screening.
Eight months after the world premiere of Superheroes at the 2011 festival, the Slamdance team continues to demonstrate a commitment to their alumni. As director Michael Barnett puts it, “The tremendous exposure our film gained from Slamdance helped us sell Superheroes to HBO. Partnering with Slamdance for a theatrical release shows how forward thinking they really are.”
Each screening will begin with Hello Caller about a suicidal woman who makes a call for help with unexpected and hilarious results. “We’re still in shock that Hello Caller is getting a theatrical release,” admits director Andrew Putschoegl. “Short films are hard enough to make, let alone find distribution.”
After the IFC Center, Slamdance’s On the Road tour will travel to Dublin, Ireland; Omaha, Nebraska; Salt Lake City, Utah; Houston, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Juneau, Alaska; Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Vancouver, BC; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
About Slamdance – As a year-round organization, Slamdance serves as a showcase for the discovery of new and emerging talent and is dedicated to the nurturing and development of new independent artists and their cinematic vision. For the 2011 Festival, Slamdance received a record number of over 5,000 submissions and is well on the way to surpassing that record with the 2012 festival submissions. No other festival is fully programmed by filmmakers. Slamdance counts among its alumni many notable writers and directors who first gained notice at the festival, including Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball), Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity). New filmmakers and writers today realize Slamdance is a great place to launch their careers. In 2010, Slamdance began a Video on Demand partnership with Microsoft and has continued to expand its exhibition efforts theatrically through Slamdance On The Road. New filmmakers and writers today realize Slamdance is a great place to launch their careers. Slamdance 2012 takes place January 20th-26th in Park City and is currently calling for festival entries.

Los Angeles to have On-Call Superhero

Originally posted:
Launch of new website,, to ease burden on law enforcement by fighting crime.
Self-described real-life superhero, HERO MAN, today announced the launch of a new website ( that allows Angelenos in distress to request his help. David Filmore, the man behind the cape, turned to fighting crime after his home was robbed and was dissatisfied with the justice he received.  Filmore vowed then and there that he would strike a blow against crime by helping those who had been similarly victimized.
“This city needs the help of a superhero, there just aren’t enough police to go around. If someone is being bullied or is the victim of a crime, I’m ready to step in.  I just want to make sure these ruffians get what’s coming to them.”  Filmore said when asked why he was embarking on his quest.
“But I want to make it clear that I am not a vigilante!  My goal above all is to see that justice is served, and to stand in protection of those who have nowhere else to turn.” As an orthodox Jew, Filmore says he gets his true motivation from the Torah “It is never about revenge, only justice.  It’s about repairing the world and being a mensch.  That’s the code every superhero lives by.”
Filmore’s work as a yarmulke-wearing superhero hasn’t gone unrecognized by the Jewish community.  He was recently nominated for the ‘Jewish Community Heroes Award,’ a national annual campaign designed to spotlight and celebrate people working to make the world a better place.  The winner receives a $25,000 grant to be used in a non-profit community project.
“It’s an honor to be nominated, but it’s the work I do helping people that really matters to me.  I’m just happy to be alive and to know that I’m making a difference in people’s lives.”  Filmore being alive isn’t something that was certain not so long ago. “I was severely anemic and hospitalized for 30 days.  Lying in hospital I knew what it was like to be truly helpless.  That experience prepared me for being a superhero.  I can identify with the victims of crime, I know how they feel.”
But there is also a very practical reason HERO MAN’s services have been in demand.  “To be blunt, L.A. is in a budget crisis right now and people are hurting as a result.  The police can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s only logical that well-meaning people try to help fill that need in our community.” Filmore added a precaution “I’m not recommending other people take this action, it is extremely dangerous.  But on the other hand it is the right thing to do.  The police should deputize me.”
When Officer Wong of the LADP was asked about HERO MAN, he responded, “This activity isn’t illegal, but I would strongly discourage anyone from trying be a superhero.  Life isn’t a movie, and chances are the police will end up having to rescue HERO MAN from a situation he wasn’t prepared for.”
But in this case, life does seem to be in part a movie.  A documentary crew followed Filmore as he made his transformation from hospital patient to a lightsaber-carrying superhero in a black cape. “A lot of my close friends work in film and TV.  When they saw what was happening in my life they pointed their cameras at me and started recording.  Somehow we ended up with a movie.  It’s all kind of amazing actually.”  Filmore said looking back.
The movie, also called ‘HERO MAN,’ is a documentary but Filmore insists that doesn’t fully describe it. “It’s an uplifting story, but it’s also got plenty of action and fights, the kind of fireworks you’d want from a movie about a superhero. And having the cameras there definitely pushed me to do things I might not otherwise have done. Luckily, I only broke one bone.” Filmore added, when recalling an accident that happened on one of the last days of shooting.
“I’m excited about seeing the movie screen at festivals and finding a distributor.  But it’s the real work of being a superhero that keeps me going.”  Filmore explained about his relentless drive for justice.  “If someone is in trouble I want to be there to protect them from harm. Besides, I totally love the action. I’ve always enjoyed wearing combat gear and jumping off roofs anyway. This just makes it official.”
After having handled almost fifty “cases,” Filmore insists he’s just getting started. “Tonight’s another night, I’ll be out there again like always, hunting for scofflaws and troublemakers.”

John Shear

johnshear-benoitOriginally posted:
By Allen Gutterman – Tuesday, June 28, 2011 6:35 PM
Eventually, the Hollywood movie industry will run out of comic book superheroes to salute. When they want the real deal, they need not look past local hero John Shear. Forget the fact that he’s 90 years old. Or 5’ 2” and 110 pounds. At Santa Anita Park, John Shear is megaman and everybody here adores him.
As the captain of the guards who protect the public from thousands of horses a year that amble between the paddock, the walking ring, and the tunnel to the racetrack, John has a short window to direct a very intense traffic flow of owners, trainers, jockeys, fans, and 1,000-pound horses. And 99.99999% of the time it all goes smoothly and John’s work barely gets noticed.
But not on March 12. On this day, a field of ten horses and ten caretakers were taking a spin around the walking ring before heading out to the track for the third race. Suddenly, Sea and Sage, a three-year-old maiden making the third start of his life, reared up, either spooked or just yearning to go back to his stall. He shook loose from his handler and darted to the opening that Shear was guarding.
At about the same time, a six-year-old girl visiting the track for the first time had strolled a few feet away from her parents to get a closer look at the horses. She was standing too close to the path that, in a second or two, would be Sea and Sage’s route home.
John warned the crowd that a horse was loose, then dropped his rope and instinctively ran to grab the young girl.
“I saw the horse coming very fast at about 40 miles an hour and it was very scared,” Shear remembers. “When it was about 15 feet away, I pushed the little girl down to the right of me, got her out of the way, and the horse just hit me.”
Sea and Sage rammed into John’s shoulder. His pelvis was fractured, multiple bones were broken, his arm was cut open, and so was his face, leaving him in critical condition, a bloody, bloody, black and blue mess inside and out. That night, John became one of the lead stories on all the Los Angeles news stations. That night, too, everyone who worked and lived at Santa Anita prayed for John. And so did the little girl and her mother and father.
There’s a happy ending to this story. John has convalesced. He is well into recovery. And he will be back to work. The city of Arcadia awarded him a key to the city. Santa Anita will hold John Shear Day on opening weekend of the fall meeting. At 90, he continues to defy anything logical you might believe about aging.
Self effacing as always and a gentleman forever, John told the tearful father of the little girl, “She’s six. I’m 90. I’ve already lived my life. She’s just getting started.”
Allen Gutterman is Santa Anita Park vice president of marketing

The (Alleged) Adventures of Phoenix Jones

Originally posted:
phoenixjones01By Keegan Hamilton

Trying to uncover what’s real and what isn’t about Seattle’s most famous superhero.

On a dark and drizzly night in downtown Seattle, five strangers huddle outside police headquarters awaiting the arrival of the man who calls himself Phoenix Jones. Scheduled to be here at half-past midnight, it’s now 1 a.m. and the city’s most famous real-life superhero is nowhere to be found.
Three-fifths of the group is part of a local documentary film crew that has been following Jones and his team of “Rain City Superheroes” on foot patrols for the past three months. Already familiar with Jones’ modus operandi, the filmmakers are in no hurry. “Last night they made us wait an hour,” says one, as she rummages through her purse in search of a granola bar. “Tonight I brought a snack.”
Suddenly, one of the crew spots Jones’ familiar black-and-gold mask and matching rubber suit behind the steering wheel of a passing Kia sedan. A few minutes later, Jones rounds a corner on foot and strides towards the group, trailed by two men in black neoprene balaclavas.
“Hi,” he says, in a gruff approximation of Christian Bale’s sandpaper growl in The Dark Knight. “I’m Phoenix Jones.” He stands six feet tall, with a patch of curly black whiskers protruding from the dark brown skin on his chin, which, along with his mouth, is the only portion of his face not concealed by the mask. Fingerless gloves with lead-lined knuckles augment his firm handshake, and in his utility belt he carries a protective arsenal; cattle prod, tear gas, handcuffs, and a first-aid kit.
Jones introduces his nightstick-toting associates as Ghost and Pitch Black, and then outlines the evening’s agenda. With last call approaching, the plan is to make the rounds in Pioneer Square before heading up First Avenue to Belltown. “By then it will be the crack hour,” he says, referring to the wee hours of the morning when business is booming at one of the city’s most notorious open-air drug markets. But first, with three cameramen in tow, Jones and his sidekicks plunge headlong into the mob of drunken twenty-somethings spilling out onto the streets.
Frat boys holler, “Love your work, bro!” and tipsy girls in skimpy outfits squeal “Ooh, take a picture with me!” Jones stops and mugs for dozens of camera-phone portraits with his fans while ignoring the taunts—”Hey look, it’s Joaquin Phoenix! You ruled in Gladiator, dude!”—of others.
Passing through a parking lot, he and his posse catch a whiff of marijuana smoke. “You smell that?” he asks. “That’s not a crime. Stupid, but not a crime.”
Outside The Last Supper Club, a girl trips and hits the pavement in full view of a few uniforms. Jones darts to the rescue, helping her up and reaching for his first-aid kit, but the young lady and her friends stumble off into the night before he can offer her a Band-Aid.
“In that situation we did the right thing,” Jones says to his crew. “But it doesn’t matter if the police are right there. Our job is to be where they aren’t.”
With that, the superheroes start heading north toward Belltown, making sure to stop at every crosswalk with a red light because, says Jones, he was once issued a jaywalking citation while in costume. Just inside the main entrance to Pike Place Market, Jones pauses to chat up a guy struggling to load a belligerently drunk girl into the backseat of a car. A group of bystanders stop to gawk at the spectacle.
“I don’t trust the cops, but I trust Phoenix Jones,” says one of the onlookers.
The man’s friend is incredulous. “Well, what’s he done?” she asks. “What does he actually do when something breaks out?”
“He puts himself in harm’s way. He got his nose broken before. He gets right in the middle of situations.”
“Yeah, but that’s something any other drunk person would do.”
“Well, yeah, but he’s wearing a costume.”
This back-and-forth between late-night revelers is representative of Jones’ polarizing personae. Since he began patrolling the Seattle streets in late 2010—wearing an outfit complete with bulletproof vest, “ballistic cup,” and “stab plates”—he has turned into a lighting rod for controversy not just among regular Seattleites, but also police, reporters, and, incredibly, other self-styled “Real Life Superheroes,” many of whom scoff at the notion of “fighting crime,” and instead prefer to perform good deeds while clad in comic book-inspired attire.

Phoenix Jones, Ghost, and Pitch Black listen as the victim of a street fight in Belltown describes the drug dealer who punched him in the face. Photo by Sy Bean

Phoenix Jones, Ghost, and Pitch Black listen as the victim of a street fight in Belltown describes the drug dealer who punched him in the face. Photo by Sy Bean

But while Jones’ critics are skeptical of his motives and harrowing tales of near-death, he has scores of supporters who either like his shtick or believe him when he says he pounds the pavement on their behalf. “I’m the first superhero to come along and come as close to a comic book as possible,” says Jones. “I fight crime like you see in a comic book. I get hurt like you would get hurt in a comic book. I have an alter ego like you would have in a comic book. I’m interesting and I’m charismatic on-camera, off-camera, and in person. People want to know what I’m doing. They want to get to know me.”
So who is this masked man with the cojones to call himself the “Guardian of Seattle”? How did he engineer his faster-than-a-speeding-bullet ascent to celebrity? And, more important, has he really helped police catch any criminals?
Jones has a Los Angeles-based publicist to help hone his image as a knight in shining rubber. And to hear him tell it, he’s only in the game to do good.
“Fighting crime in the mask and rubber suit, no matter how awesome I do or how many criminals I lock up, eventually it will lose its appeal to the people,” he says. “The goal is for the people to be inspired by what I do. The goal is to inspire people to not put up with petty crimes.”
But while Jones is busy puffing up his body armor-protected chest on the nightly news, in real life he has accumulated a 22-entry-long court record filled mostly with minor violations, but also including a restraining order after he allegedly made death threats against another costumed crusader. And though police reports and 911 recordings obtained by Seattle Weekly indicate that Jones has, in fact, phoned in numerous suspected lawbreakers over the past seven months, the records show that his efforts have resulted in more amusing whiffs than actual arrests.
What kind of person dresses up like a superhero? Long before Hollywood unleashed Kick-Ass and Super—two movies released within the past year about real people who don capes and masks—Tea Krulos was asking himself that very same question.
Krulos, a freelance journalist from Milwaukee who pens the blog “Heroes in the Night” and is working on a book with the same title, has traced the “real life superhero” phenomenon back to Captain Sticky, a man who called in-costume press conferences in early 1970s San Diego in order to draw attention to causes he thought deserved more attention, like a nursing home caught abusing its patients. Because Captain Sticky was a spectacle, his exploits usually caught the attention of the press, who were always willing to put a mic in his face.
According to various estimates, Captain Sticky has now begat between 250 and 500 self-proclaimed superheroes worldwide. On the website, the men—for that is who they are, with few exceptions—create profiles and talk shop, with threads like “Grapple Gun. Possible?” (The verdict: definitely possible, not practical.)
Krulos says that the majority of these “citizen heroes,” as they call themselves, resemble their founding father Captain Sticky in that they would rather feed the needy than bust heads. In New York, a Brooklyn man who simply calls himself Life is the co-founder of Superheroes Anonymous, a group that makes small gestures like giving fresh socks to the homeless in order to prevent foot fungus. In Seattle, more than two years before Jones first went on patrol, a man named White Baron started roaming the streets handing out food and clothing. “A lot do it because they want to help out their neighborhoods and communities and they see this as a fun, adventurous way to do that,” says Krulos.
In the back room of the Night Kitchen in Belltown, a few evenings after his Friday-night patrol, Phoenix Jones shares his own origin story. One that, in his rehearsed telling, doesn’t sound as much like a call to adventure as a call to duty.
It all began sometime last year, when Jones says a thief shattered his car window with a stone stuffed in a ski mask. (He declined to provide an exact date or month.) Jones, a married 23-year-old day-care worker with two young sons, picked up the discarded mask and threw it in his glove box, he says, without giving it a second thought.
Then, the next night, while at a club celebrating a friend’s birthday, a fight broke out between two of Jones’ friends and a larger group of men. Running to his car to retrieve his cell phone—Jones says he never keeps it in his pocket because he doesn’t want to risk damaging it when he break-dances—Jones, a cage fighter in his spare time, impulsively threw on the mask and chased down the fight’s instigator.
“Basically, I was reacting to a crime,” he says. “People might call it a strong overreaction, and I wouldn’t disagree. It’s a different reaction than most people would have.”
When police arrived and asked Jones for a name, he gave them an alias he says has “personal significance.” Emboldened by the thrill of the chase, Jones soon ditched the ski mask and upgraded his getup to include a fedora, cape, blue tights, a white belt, and a face covering.
“The first time [my wife] saw me she said, ‘Aren’t those nylons from Wal-Mart? Aren’t you going to get a real suit?’ ” he says.
Growing up in foster homes that he shared with more than 30 adopted siblings, Jones says he wasn’t a hard-core comic book fan, but a big enough one to have a favorite: Nightwing, the alter ego of Dick Grayson, the original Robin who left Batman and struck out on his own. Copying Nightwing’s style, Jones upgraded a final time when he ditched his lighter ensemble and ordered the skintight black-and-gold suit he still wears today.
Then, on Nov. 19, 2010, Jones earned his first headline when reported on an internal memo circulating among Seattle Police warning officers not to mistake a new group of do-gooders for criminals. A spooked Capitol Hill resident saw Jones and his entourage in masks outside of a gas station and called 911, assuming he was about to witness a robbery. The story included a blurry photo of Jones posing with a uniformed officer and, shortly thereafter, a viral sensation was born.
Posing for pictures with fans is a routine part of foot patrols with Phoenix Jones. Photo by Sy Bean

Posing for pictures with fans is a routine part of foot patrols with Phoenix Jones. Photo by Sy Bean

According to the Lexis-Nexis news database, Jones has now been mentioned in more than 350 articles worldwide. He’s made appearances on Good Morning America and National Public Radio, and appeared on the pages of publications as diverse as People magazine and The United News of Bangladesh. His Facebook page has been friended by more than 7,000 people, and videos he and others have uploaded to YouTube have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. With his brash personality, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humor, and unwavering righteousness, Jones is a veritable sound-bite machine. As a result, nearly every story about him has been fawning, without trying to verify any of his supposedly courageous exploits, or acknowledging that they are, for the most part, completely unverifiable.
On Jan. 4, for example, KIRO aired a report on Jones that focused on an attempted car theft that allegedly took place in Lynnwood. A man who appeared on camera but refused to give his last name said he interrupted a thief trying to break into his car. Just as the man was about to dial 911, he said, Jones “came dashing in” and chased the thief away. Only when the story went national did a reporter from Talking Points Memo reach out to Lynnwood Police, who cautioned that the Department couldn’t confirm the story. Contacted recently by Seattle Weekly, Lynnwood Police spokesman Shannon Sessions goes one step further: the story “was found to be a false report—never happened.”
When The Wall Street Journal reported on Jones in April, the article’s author noted the backlash against Jones in the Real Life Superhero Community, many of whose members believe he’s less than truthful and attention-hungry. Jones’ peers are suspicious of his tales of glory, and multiple superheroes contacted for this article either turned down interview requests or made clear their doubts.
“He tells a ton of lies, makes up stories, and embellishes and exaggerates what he does,” writes Dark Guardian, co-administrator of Real, in an e-mail. “I’m very surprised no one in the media has called him out on it yet.”
When Jones debuted last November, he made it clear he wasn’t like other superheroes. Though he claims he’s donated thousands of dollars to several charities (records show he donated $500 to the international aid program Water for Africa; he also says he has contributed food and funds to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission) he insists humanitarian work should be done on personal, not superhero, time. As he puts it: “There’s no comic book where Spider-Man runs around with a bag of sandwiches.”
On this point, Jones has an unlikely ally: Agent Beryllium, Seattle representative for ROACH—Ruthless Organization Against Citizen Heroes, a group of supervillians who have emerged to poke fun at the wannabe crusaders. Beryllium—who, along with nearly everyone else in the super subculture, asked that her real name be withheld—doesn’t think the superheroes should be getting so much publicity for their good deeds.
“Just be responsible people in your everyday lives,” she says.
Then again, Beryllium isn’t too fond of Jones either.
“He’s a special case,” she says. “Being an attention whore is one thing, but almost overnight he goes from being a guy with a cape and a fedora to wearing expensive plastic molded body armor. It just smells fishy to me.”
Peter Tangen had a hand in the transformation Beryllium finds so fishy. A Los Angeles photographer whose portfolio includes the posters for Batman Begins, Hellboy, and the Spider-Man series, Tangen is also the creator of a website (, not to be confused with the .org forum) that features summer blockbuster-style portraits of two dozen costumed crusaders from across the country. Tangen says he initially set out to shoot the superheroes for a gallery exhibition, but after learning about their altruism, he began doing what he could to help them, accepting charitable donations on his website, and, occasionally, acting as a middleman with reporters.
Jones took the superhero world by storm a few months after Tangen completed his photography project, and Tangen says he decided to help him spread his message that “the problems of this world will never be solved until people realize one person can make a difference.” Tangen is now Jones’ de facto spokesman, in charge of coordinating his many interviews and appearances. The day after his Friday-night patrol of Pioneer Square, for instance, Jones was scheduled to visit three Seattle comic-book stores in conjunction with a nationwide Free Comic Book Day event. Tangen insists there’s never a fee for Jones’ services, adding, “To my knowledge, he’s never made a penny doing this.”
“Peter has been really instrumental in shaping the way I do things,” says Jones. “I had all the natural skills and all the raw talent, but he focused it.”
Dealing with a self-described superhero and his PR guru is sometimes an exercise in absurdity. When first contacted by Seattle Weekly via email, Jones responded with Tangen’s phone number and instructions to use a code word—”Twin Brother”—when calling Tangen so that the publicist would know he had Jones’ permission to talk. Then, on the eve of Jones’ interview, Tangen emailed to ask that photos of his client be staged so as to not show a portion of his suit that had been damaged by a mysterious fire.
By all accounts, Tangen has worked wonders for Jones’ career, such as it is. Earlier this year, Jones flew to Los Angeles and appeared in full regalia at the premiere of Super, the superhero comedy starring Rainn Wilson. (Wilson, a Seattle native, also name-dropped Jones on Jimmy Kimmel Live, joking that he has “taken 197 crack pipes away from people.”) In addition, Jones claims he turned down an offer for his own reality TV show, leaving $200,000 on the table because he didn’t like the concept.
“I would like to have a TV show where Phoenix Jones travels around the world inspiring people,” he says. “I don’t want a giant house and a Lamborghini like Batman—that’s just stupid. I want to be able to say to people on the street… ‘This is the Phoenix Jones apartment complex where you can rent with no credit.’ ”
Jones is cryptic about the cause of the malfunctioning wardrobe referenced by Tangen. “It got melted, I got burned,” he says, refusing to elaborate. “It’s unverifiable, and whenever I open my mouth and say something unverifiable, it sounds like I’m lying.”
Indeed, Jones’ tales have raised eyebrows among skeptical journalists and superheroes alike.
“I can’t really ever get the truth out of Mr. Jones,” says Skyman, a Seattle-area character who focuses on homeless outreach and has twice patrolled with Jones. “The guy came in with a track record of ‘I’ve been shot and stabbed,’ but he has no proof, and we’re supposed to take him on his word.”
When pressed for evidence to verify his near-death encounters—which include the two serious claims alluded to by Skyman: one a shooting in Tacoma, another a stabbing in Seattle—Jones draws a blank. He claims to have a private doctor who treats his serious injuries, which also allegedly include getting hit with a baseball bat and punched by an attacker with keys wedged between his knuckles, but Jones says the doctor won’t agree to an interview for fear of losing his medical license. Jones also never followed through on an offer to hand over his medical records.
What’s more, neither of his two most harrowing encounters—the shooting and stabbing—were reported to police. “I was walking through an alleyway in Tacoma,” says Jones. “I wasn’t involved in any altercation. I wasn’t involved in any fight. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I got shot.”
Jones says a bulletproof vest saved his life, but nearly getting gunned down after just a few weeks on the job made him reconsider his superhero career. Jones claims he took a month off and eased back in by handing out food at a homeless camp. There, a knife fight broke out, he says, and he got cut when he intervened.
During the interview at the Night Kitchen, Jones offers to take off his suit and show his scars as proof that what he’s saying is true. Shirtless but still wearing his mask, he ignores the bewildered glances from a couple across the room and asks his partner Pitch Black to point out the remnants of several wounds on his back.
He has a few welts below his right shoulder blade, which he claims were caused by the fire that damaged his suit, and a faint, quarter-inch-long scar on his upper forearm that he says he got in the line of duty. But there’s nothing around his midsection where Jones says he was stabbed.
“Looks like that one healed up, bro,” says Pitch Black.
In an attempt to independently verify some of Jones’ alleged exploits, Seattle Weekly filed a public disclosure request with Seattle Police seeking information about every call for service that has involved Phoenix Jones and/or his real-life identity. As of May 5, there were a total of 18 incidents. Officers filed reports in seven cases, but ended up making just two arrests.
The first arrest occurred around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 in the northbound lanes of I-5 at Northeast 80th Street. It is classified on the paperwork as a “pedestrian violation” but all other information is redacted from the paragraph-long report. Jones declined to discuss the encounter, except to confirm that he dialed 911 and claim that the arrest is tied to “an ongoing drug investigation.”
Other documents are more detailed. Shortly after midnight on Dec. 12, Jones was inside Pioneer Square nightclub Venom when he called the cops claiming an Asian man offered him sex with a woman for $100. Jones, the report says, “realized this was a prostitution arrangement and was concerned for the victim because it appeared that [she] could not speak any English.” The officers interviewed the alleged pimp and hooker, but didn’t arrest either of them, and Jones refuses to discuss the details of the case.
On Feb. 20, Jones reported a domestic dispute after he spotted a man “grabbing” his wife in the couple’s Rainier Beach driveway. The responding officer reported smelling alcohol on the man’s breath, and was told the argument began when the woman stormed out of the house after discovering that her husband had been mailed a copy of Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue. It was just an argument, they said, and it never escalated to physical violence. Jones claims he saw the man pull the woman’s hair, but he didn’t mention this to the 911 dispatcher. Once again, police did not make an arrest.
As proof that he doesn’t embellish, Jones cites one of his more high-profile encounters. On Jan. 12, KOMO reported that Jones got his nose broken during a street brawl in Belltown. He reportedly pinned a drug dealer to the ground, but then two other attackers caught him off-guard. One held him at gunpoint and the other kicked him in the face. All three ran away before police arrived on the scene. (Records show that police responded to a 911 call from Jones on Jan. 11 at First Avenue and Madison Street, but were “unable to locate the incident or complainant” and did not file a report.)
Jones claims that KOMO had footage of the fight, but agreed not to broadcast it in exchange for an interview with him. But when reached by phone, the station’s news director Holly Gauntt says that’s not true. She says Jones put them in touch with someone who allegedly taped the incident on a camera phone. Another witness seconded Jones’ version of events, which was enough for KOMO to broadcast their story, but the video evidence never materialized. “We never saw it,” says Gauntt. “No deals were made. We wouldn’t do that.”
till, Jones won’t back down.
“If you guys want to call me a liar and say I make up stories, why don’t I win every time?” asks Jones. “Getting my nose broken was not a win.”
The only other known Jones-related arrest came on April 21, when he and Pitch Black teamed up for a drug bust in the University District. Pitch Black was out of costume when a man reportedly offered to sell him heroin. Jones swooped in and detained him until police arrived. The suspect voluntarily emptied his pockets, and was arrested after police discovered “a clear straw containing a brownish residue” and a “red, heart-shaped box,” with five oxycodone pills inside.
Jones claims he has contributed to additional arrests in Everett and Tacoma, but spokesmen for both police departments say they can’t turn up any cases involving Jones. Tangen also says there is an ongoing SPD investigation that started with a tip from Jones. It deals with “a sex trafficker,” Tangen says, repeating a story also told by Jones, “Not a guy who’s a pimp with prostitutes . . . when [police] went to his house, there were prisoners.”
Sgt. Ryan Long, a detective in SPD’s vice squad, confirms that Jones “was a complainant in something” but also suggests his role was minor. “I don’t know what he’s claiming,” says Long, “But I’ve had inquiries from other journalists in the past. I would suspect he’s shopping you guys off of each other.”
Upon hearing Long’s remarks, Jones simply shrugs. He has doubters, he says, but he does not doubt himself.
“I think there’s a healthy amount of skepticism in general with writers about what I do,” he says, “And a healthy sense of ‘We don’t want to empower this person’ that comes out of the Police Department.”
Jones says another alleged incident, one that may put his family in harm’s way, is why he demanded his real name be withheld in this story. Tangen says Jones told him about a time when “police picked up a couple of Russian women brought into Seattle for sex trafficking and they reported seeing ‘Batman’ in the area . . . so there is also a possibility that organized crime may be under the impression that he is a threat as well.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Jones claims his house was broken into a few months after he started patrolling the streets, and worries that the break-in was retaliation for his crime-fighting ways. Like most of his other claims, however, this one is also unverifiable: Jones says he didn’t file a police report because nothing of value was stolen, so once again there’s no paper trail.
The Rain City Superheroes’ Facebook page warns aspiring crime-fighters looking to join Jones’ crew that his standards are high. A military background or martial arts expertise is mandatory (according to, Jones real-life counterpart has an undefeated amateur fighting record in Washington); community-service experience is a plus but not required; and you must also own a bulletproof vest that is at least capable of stopping small-arms fire. Jones himself is fond of his “Dragon Skin” model, which he says he purchased for $1,500 with a loan from his mom. All applicants, he says, must also pass a background check.
Not every member of Jones’ posse has been so carefully screened. His partners Ghost and Pitch Black, for instance, are friends of his from high school, both of whom say they served in the armed forces or have other defense training. But a review of Jones’ own criminal record begs the question: Does he measure up to his group’s high standards?
A search for the man who calls himself Phoenix Jones on the Washington Courts online database yields 22 results. The majority are for minor traffic violations, mostly speeding tickets. But he has also been cited six times for driving without a license, driving without insurance, and/or driving with his license suspended. He also was booked during a traffic stop in Snohomish County for “refusal to give information to or cooperate with an officer.”
According to a police report, on Sept. 3, 2008, Jones was pulled over on a scooter between Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace after his driving, “enraged several motorists.” The officer noted that Jones “was extremely nervous” and bragged that he was “a WA state cage fighter champion.” Jones’ license was suspended at the time, so he tried to conceal his identity by using a friend’s name. Unfortunately for Jones, his friend’s license also was suspended. Jones eventually fessed up and used his real name, but still refused to give the officer his home address.
The real-life Jones has been evicted twice (with three more “unlawful detainers,” as such cases are called, ending in dismissal) and had two judgments filed against him in civil court. Jones won’t discuss his poor driving record, saying it has no bearing on his character or ability to fight crime. He admits he’s had financial problems, but accurately asserts that he has always paid back his debts per the court’s orders.
On Nov. 30, a King County resident filed an unlawful harassment suit against Jones in Superior Court. According to court documents, the man told a judge that a week earlier, Jones “called me multiple times through an unknown number and made threats about my physical safety at 1 a.m.” He also stated that three days later, Jones “contacted me and threatened me with knowledge of my address and my girlfriend’s car data,” and that, “a mutually known person . . . told me that [Jones] wants to kill me.”
The court granted a restraining order, requiring that Jones pay court costs for the case and not go within 500 feet of the man or his residence. When Snohomish County sheriffs tried to serve Jones with the court order, they realized that the address he’d listed on court documents was his martial arts studio, and not his home.
Reached by phone, the man who filed the suit explains that he has spent the past decade as real-life superhero Mr. Raven Blade, purportedly doing both crime patrols and humanitarian work in the Seattle area. Raven Blade has himself received some media acclaim, appearing in a CNN story about citizen heroes. (Raven Blade, like Jones, requested that his real name be withheld for this story.) He says he was outraged by Jones’ boasts in an early news report so, using his Raven Blade identity, he posted a scathing letter to Jones on his blog.
Jones later contacted Raven Blade via Facebook message and wrote in all capital letters, “I KNOW YOUR ADDRESS AND CAR, PLEASE LETS KEEP THIS CIVIL LEAVE ME ALONE.” A few days later, Raven Blade alleges, he saw Jones drive past his house and point at him with his thumb and forefinger, “like if you’re a kid playing cops and robbers and trying to shoot somebody.” That’s when Raven Blade says he decided to file for a protection order.
Asked about the restraining order and Raven Blade’s statements, Jones initially denies having any knowledge of the situation.
“I have a legal team that handles most anything,” he says, “So if anyone filed a restraining order against Phoenix Jones, if they filed it against me, my legal team handles it and I don’t know anything about it.”
A few moments later, however, Jones backtracks and says that the “mutual friend” Raven Blade referenced in the court documents eventually retracted his statements about the death threat. Neither Jones nor Raven Blade would disclose the identity of their “mutual friend,” except to say that he too is a real-life superhero.
Jones also claims that Raven Blade suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. “I think that has a lot to do with the way he perceives me,” says Jones. “I don’t hold any grudge against him, and there’s an open communication line if he ever comes out and wants to work with me.”
Raven Blade, in turn, vehemently denies that he has Asperger’s and says there’s no way he’d ever go out on patrol with Jones.
“He’s trying to slander me,” he says. “It’s a classic tactic, you don’t like somebody so you try and make them look bad . . . He is not a superhero by any stretch of the imagination. He is, however, a very good marketer and a very good poser.”
Back in Belltown on the soggy Friday night, “crack hour” has arrived.
Standing on the corner of Second Avenue and Bell Street around 2:45 a.m., Jones and his crew are patrolling an area that’s obviously a low priority for Seattle Police—there’s not a uniformed officer, bike cop, or police cruiser in sight, and there won’t be for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, haggard addicts aggressively panhandle the few pedestrians brave or foolish enough to still be out and about. Unsavory characters stand on opposite sides of the intersection, peddling plastic baggie-packaged products as if they were legal.
Jones says he can’t confront the dealers unless he has probable cause. Accosting every group suspiciously standing on a public sidewalk would be considered harassment under Washington state law, he says, so a fight must break out in order to intervene. If they solicit him, or if he can pin down the precise type and quantity of drugs being exchanged, he will phone in a report to police. But until then, his strategy is to stand near a group and hope that his presence will intimidate them into shutting down their operation.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work out that way. “Man, you can’t arrest people,” says a young black man idling on a BMX bike. “I talked to the police about you.”
What makes the dealers a little uncomfortable, though, are the cameramen. “Yo, they snappin’ pictures!” shouts one of the men before slinking down the block to another corner. Some people remain, including a junkie nodding off in the middle of Second Avenue. Doubled over and on the verge of collapsing face-first into the pavement, the man somehow retains just enough balance to stay upright. Jones and his crew stare at the grim scene for a few minutes, trying to determine the proper course of action. Would it legally be considered harassment if they picked him up and moved him out of the street? Or should they wait until a car is coming so they’ll have a reason for rescuing him?
“This is ridiculous,” says Ghost, finally, before approaching the man along with Pitch Black, gently taking him by the arm, and guiding him to the curb.
With no obvious trouble brewing, a photographer asks Jones if he’d mind taking a break to do a photo shoot in a nearby alley. Jones obliges and spends the next 15 minutes posing. But just a few moments after leaving the alley, a man approaches asking for help. He has tattoos on his face and the backs of his hands, and says his street name is Poe. Pointing to a raspberry-colored welt on his face, Poe explains how he just got punched by one of the drug dealers. He wants Jones to track down the guy who hit him.
“When did this happen?” asks Jones.
“Soon as y’all left,” says Poe.
The irony of the superhero missing out on the only real skirmish of the evening to pose for pictures is not lost on Jones, but he tries to make the best of the situation.
“We have handcuffs,” he says. “We can citizens-arrest the guy, but when the police come you have to put your name down.”
“Nah,” says Poe. “I’d have the whole ‘hood after me if I did that.”
After getting a description of the alleged attacker, Jones heads back to the corner where the fight occurred. His plan, he says, is to wield “the Phoenix Cam” — a silver Flip pocket camcorder—and confront the assailant, provoking another altercation.
“I’m going to have to take a hit for the team,” he says. “I’ll get the guy to punch me in the face and we can press assault charges.”
“Are you aware of the concept of blocking?” asks Ghost.
“Yeah,” says Jones. “But then it’s not assault, it’s only attempted assault.”
Alas, by the time the superheroes return to the scene of the attack, the corner is empty. Jones and his crew circle the block a few more times, then decide to call it a night.
“I like that I’m not going to get punched in the face,” says Jones. “But I’m disappointed we didn’t get to take someone down.”
Still, by his standards the night is a resounding success.
“Sure other superheroes don’t like me,” he says. “Why? Because they suck at their jobs . . . Tonight we literally didn’t stop any crime. But we did definitely talk to some drug dealers, we picked up a girl who fell and hit her face on the ground, and we talked to a bunch of different people in Seattle who may now report crime because they talked to us. That’s still 100 times better than every other superhero.”
Additional links:
The (Alleged) Adventures of Phoenix Jones: The Police Reports
The (Alleged) Adventures of Phoenix Jones: The 911 Calls
The (Alleged) Adventures of Phoenix Jones: The Movie

Real Life Caped Crusaders

By Garth Olson
The Valley Wire

Photo by Peter Tangen

Photo by Peter Tangen

Apparently, real life super heroes are popping up everywhere. It’s a concept that started nearly two years ago and has been growing quickly, thanks in part to Hollywood photographer Peter Tangen.
Tangen started the Real Life Super Hero Project after reading about a real life super hero in a magazine.
“Having done the photography for the Spider-Man, Batman Begins and Hellboy movie posters, I was immediately inspired by the idea that superheroes really exist,” Tangen said.
Real Life Super Heroes
Across the country, men and women are reinventing themselves as real life super heroes. And yes, they’re dressing up in super hero costumes, which can include capes, masks, and you know – super hero garb. But beneath the outlandishness of the costumes, seriousness quickly takes over. Real Life Super Heroes are fighting the good fight against all sorts of serious problems from the homeless, child abuse and poverty as well as crime and drugs.

One example is RazorHawk, who wears a yellow beak graphic on his costume of blue and black. He lives and operates in the Twin Cities area, and a few folks know his true identity. Along with safety patrols in the Minneapolis, RazorHawk is coordinating HOPE2011, which is a homeless outreach event that will be held during Comic-Con in San Diego in July. His team, The Great Lakes Heroes Guild, works with homeless, and during the event in San Diego, his team plans on passing out over 100 backpacks of clean clothes and personal care products to people who have no place to live.
“We are out there of our own volition, we are not being paid,” RazorHawk said. “We are trying to make the world a better place. It’s not all about jumping from rooftop to rooftop but affecting change and getting people to recognize how bad some of the problems our individual cities face.” His motto is, “family first, saving the world begins at home.”
The Watchman
In Milwaukee, The Watchman wears a red mask and a trench coat; sometimes he’ll wear a cape. Not long ago he stated that only his wife and kids knew his true identity, but out of necessity a few co-workers and a few cops learned of his identity. Along with patrolling areas of Milwaukee and by getting more residents involved with community watch groups, The Watchman also works to raise donations and toys for his Christmas Mission.
“Being a Real Life Superhero isn’t glamorous, he said. “It’s hard work and takes a lot of patience and motivation. It’s not Batman. We don’t have super powers…it’s really about being a good neighbor, watching out for people and lending a hand when
it’s needed.”
Peter Tangen
As real life super heroes started popping up across the country, Hollywood photographer, Peter Tangen developed the concept, The Real Life Super Hero Project. He stated that the various local media outlets, like local news stations, seemed more focused on the costumes than the bigger picture of community service. In the beginning the media, like local tv news stations, “seemed to be mocking” the super heroes and casting them in a “negative light,” Tangen said. Tangen’s photography project quickly helped shift the focus towards the individual service work of the super heroes and away from just the middle-age guys in costumes” angle.
“The Real Life Super Hero Project inspired a deeper story that the media missed,” Tangen said. Tangen, whose work can be seen online at, created movie-like posters of the real life super heroes and helped transform their image from campy to super cool.
“I researched the super heroes and discovered that the media was missing the real story, one of truly inspiring people who selflessly give their communities,” Tangen added. “They are in fact marketing good deeds and since we live in a world of symbols, they understand their value and use symbols to make their work visible to the public.”
The art directors for the project include Bryan Allen, Paul Hoegh-Guldberg, Kevin Bachman, Martin Gueulette, Rick Lynch and Robert Russell.
Tangen’s Work
Tangen recently visited Milwaukee and Minneapolis while working on the project. Currently, he’s back in Los Angeles, where he’s self-employed as a Hollywood photographer. He’s done the photography for many movie posters including Wedding Crashers, Elf and many comic book and horror films like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Tangen grew up in Minneapolis and stated that he specializes in photographing movie stars for movie posters. Those photo sessions can last an hour or for a full day in the case for the Spider-Man posters. As for the Real Life Super Hero
Project, Tangen added that more and more creative people have donated their time as the project keeps evolving.
“Writers, editors, 3D graphic artists, motion graphic artists, web designer and camera operators… about 100 people have volunteered their time and resources in support of this project.” Currently, there are over 150 Real Life Super Heroes across the globe and thanks to Tangen, and his team’s creative work, that number is growing steadily.
Real Life Super Hero Project photographer Peter Tangen also did the photography for the movie posters for Batman Begins and Wedding Crashers.
Tangen grew up in Minneapolis and currently lives in Los Angeles.

L.A. Aids Walk

More Information at:
AIDS Walk Los Angeles Day of Event Information:
Date: Sunday, October 17
8:30 a.m. Sign-In
9:15 a.m. Opening Ceremony
10:00 a.m. Walk Begins
Location: West Hollywood Park (647 N. San Vicente Blvd. in West Hollywood)
Length: 10 kilometers / 6.2 miles
The AIDS Walk will start and end in West Hollywood Park, at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Blvd.
In order to ensure the safety of the walkers, the Departments of Transportation for the City of Los Angeles and the City of West Hollywood will establish the following street closures from 6:00 a.m. until approximately 2:00 p.m.
Individuals in Attendance:

  • Bearman
  • Good Samaritan
  • King Snake
  • Mega Rad
  • Motor Mouth
  • Mr. Xtreme
  • Peter Tangen
  • Urban Avenger


Modern day costume heroes fighting to make the world a better place

Originally posted:
Published Date: 07 September 2010
chaim_lazaroBy KATY ROSS
That’s what many 25-year-olds do when confronted with the monotony of the hamster wheel of life, when nothing matters but who you are going to the pub with at the weekend and whether you happen to get lucky. Instead, each night when he gets home from his job at an non-profit organisation in Brooklyn, he goes to his wardrobe and pulls on his superhero costume, then goes about the important business of saving the world, one step at a time.
He is not alone. Lazaros, or ‘Life’, to give him his superhero moniker, is one of a legion who make up the real-life superhero movement, a worldwide community of loosely affiliated individuals committed to a broadly defined ethos of making the world a better place.
These people may look as though they have jumped out of a comic book or Hollywood blockbuster, but they are all ordinary citizens who haven’t got a super power between them. What they share is an all too human ambition to help solve some of society’s most challenging problems by donning masks and costumes and venturing into their respective neighbourhoods to feed the hungry, comfort the sick and protect the innocent.
“We are just people who want to make a difference,” says Lazaros, who co-founded the New York-based website Superheroes Anonymous, to bring superhero groups together through outreach, education and creative community service. “We are not delusional – we know we’re humans with limited abilities. But inside every human is the capacity to do something kind, brave and strong for our fellow humans; some among us simply choose to do so in secret.”
But why the need for costumes? Would these good deeds not be equally welcomed if carried out in jeans and T-shirts? Working from the basic premise that the definition of a real-life superhero is someone who creates their unique persona to do good acts for others, Lazaros believes that “just because you are becoming something greater than yourself when you do these acts of good does not mean you have to be wearing a mask while doing them.
Nevertheless, the costumes do provide a universal symbol of good that people can recognise. When my father went out on the streets dressed as a Rabbi, people recognised him and trusted him. Dressing up in a superhero costume means something similar to me.”
The Real Life Superhero Project is photographer Peter Tangen’s attempt to document the work of the individuals who make up the movement. “They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met,” he says from his home in Los Angeles.
“As I researched the project I was struck by the irreverent and almost insulting tone of some of the reporting into these altruistic people who devote their time and effort into helping others. Their approach is very savvy though. In some ways they are marketing good deeds. They are drawing attention to personal power in an entirely unique way.”
Despite the hurdles the movement faces, its numbers are growing fast and are currently estimated to be in the region of 250 to 300 around the world. The work they do is varied; for example, The Cleanser will actively go out and clean the streets. Direction Man will go out and offer directions.
Other people have less specific personas and just aim to help. With great costumes, though, comes great responsibility, and while the superheroes are united in their aim to make the world a better place, their community has at times been divided on how that should be done.
Some members advocate a high-profile existence, helping the less fortunate through established non-profit organisations. Others want to fight the bad guys, vigilante-style, hiding in the shadows while supporting the work done by those in law enforcement.
Before moving to New Jersey to be with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Nyx, like Peter Parker in Spider-Man, prefered to keep her true identity secret. Living in Kansas, she would secretly take photographs of drug dens and send them to the authorities.
“It was dangerous work and I used to carry weapons. But I’m in New York now and things are different,” she says.
“We need to remain focused about our aims. I ask myself how I can be most productive. I want to help people feel safer and happier, but the best way I can do that is by volunteering. So now I work with my boyfriend at a homeless shelter. Everyone has it in them to make a difference, and I think this is the best way I can help.”
In Atlanta, Crimson Fist, a compact 5ft 6in, admits on his first night patrol it was the shock of seeing a man in a red and white cape and mask that scared off the two men he had confronted in an alley for attacking one another.
With a history of substance abuse, he says his superhero work is an attempt to make up for treating people poorly in the past.
“Generally when I go out on patrols I pack up a backpack with different supplies – in the summer I hand out bottled water, in the colder months, I give them clean shirts and socks and things like that.”
Citizen Prime, real name Jim, works for an unnamed financial institution by day and is one of the most respected members of the superhero community. Recently retired, he is consulted by many of the other super- heroes for advice. Prime distributed literature on drugs and crime and boasted a $4,000 custom-made outfit with breast armour.
On reflection, he likes to think his humour was his key weapon in diffusing awkward situations as he patrolled the streets of Arizona.
It would be easy to assume the actions of these members, and the many others committed to the movement, stem from a sense of disillusionment with society’s limitations, and that the new breed of superheroes are simply looking to find purpose in their lives. This isn’t always the case though.
Many of these people come from extremely successful backgrounds. Some are employed by non-profit organisations but others work on Wall Street or in politics.
As Peter Tangen puts it: “These people come from all walks of life. The organisation is very focused but it isn’t political. There are committed Democrats, Republicans, the whole spectrum of society is included. These are people with relationships, families, successful lives.
“They are not people who are lacking. They are people who are doing what they can to make a difference to the world they live in.”
For Lazaros, the motivation to get into the movement wasn’t through some sense of disillusionment, but more a desire to share his good fortune. Raised in the Jewish tradition of leaving the world a better place than the way he found it, he was imbued at an early age with strong values of charity, courtesy and kindness, modelled for him by his Hassidic parents, who always gave to others, even when it was hard to do so.
This moral code, underscored with a powerful sense of social justice, led him to his work with the homeless and disenfranchised.
Now minimally costumed in a mask, tie and jacket, he sets out every day with a backpack brimming with toothbrushes, lotions, soaps, even sweets, delivering the smaller necessities of life that fill in the gaps left by the NYC Department of Homeless Services.
The challenge, as Lazaros sees it, is to find people who are creative and altruistic and encourage them to express those charitable impulses in ways that may range from the subtle to the extreme. It is also what he sees as the ultimate mission of Superheroes Anonymous. “If I can inspire someone to do even the littlest of things to help others, and they in turn can do the same, think of how many thousands can be helped.”
This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday on Sunday, 5 September, 2010

The Real Life Super Hero Project

Originally posted:
By Shaun Manning, Staff Writer
With heroic names like Life, KnightVigil, the Crimson Fist and Thanatos, the subjects of photographer Peter Tangen’s latest project might sound like new and exciting additions to the Justice League, or members of a new superteam spinning out of the Avengers. In fact, these and other heroes are members of a community that patrol the streets of New York City, Atlanta and Vancouver to give aid to the homeless, mentor at-risk youth and perform other charitable deeds – in real life. “The Real Life Superhero Project” is a collection of portraits, videos and movie-style posters created by Tangen and a team of volunteers, designed to celebrate the men and women who, for several distinct reasons and to many different effects, put on a costume in an effort to improve lives in their communities.
Tangen is a Los Angeles-based photographer whose primary business is shooting promotional materials including movie posters for films and television shows with the iconic posters of “Spider-Man” and “Batman Begins” among his works. The artist, who discovered the real-life superhero culture on the internet as he was looking for a project to undertake independently, told CBR that the culture has existed perhaps for decades but is experiencing a reemergence now. Most of the heroes do not know each other personally, but there is an active online community.
“Because I’ve done so much work within the genre of superhero movies, the idea that these people exist really appealed to me,” Tangen said. “I began to do a lot of research and discovered there’s quite a large community of people who are referred to by the media as ‘real-life superheroes.’ I decided I wanted to do a photographic essay on them.
“I went to Vancouver to do a photo shoot for a client, and I reached out to a man up there who goes by the name Thanatos,” Tangen continued. “At the time, he was a 61-year-old man in Vancouver and his short story is that he was going out at three o’clock in the morning in civilian clothes, just giving food and supplies to people who were living on the streets and not getting into the shelter system. He felt, after doing it for three years, that he wasn’t being especially effective. The people he was helping wouldn’t recognize him from previous visits and he wasn’t really creating any sense of awareness of his efforts.” Awareness, Tangen explained, was not for Thanatos’s benefit but to create a sense of continuity, to give the idea that a certain person cares rather than simply being one of a succession of anonymous, one-time givers who might never think of the beneficiary again.
“He wanted to take it a step further. The local police department had indicated to him that the only thing that people on the streets of Vancouver have to look forward to is death. So he decided to take on the identity of Thanatos, which in mythology is the god of death,” Tangen said. “What he’s discovered since deciding to do this a year and a half or so ago, maybe two years now, is that the people he helps remember him. I’ve been on the streets with him at three o’clock in the morning, doing a homeless outreach, and I’ve seen people that have never met him before and I’ve seen people he’s helped for quite some time. There is a different reaction because of the appearance than you would have if he were in civilian clothes.
“He’s effectively marketing good deeds. For people who are living on the streets, who have no real community besides those on the streets with them, he creates in them a sense of belonging, that there’s someone looking out for them, which is impossible to do in civilian clothes because you’re not easy to remember,” the photographer continued. “So the work he does up there is really quite extraordinary and he does it all self-funded. And he gives people his business card when he meets them – which is, you know, a business card for Thanatos and on the back of it, it says ‘Friend.’ I’ve learned that what he’s trying to do is just make a difference in the world in a small way, but the effect he has is that can identify with them in a way that is much more impactful for someone on the streets that he may be helping. Because there’s one person helping them on a regular basis, instead of the anonymity of passing strangers, what he’s done is remembered.”
Thanatos was the first to be photographed, and his stature within the real-life superhero community made him an effective advocate for Tangen’s project, which the photographer hopes will be a departure from the way the community is normally presented in the media. “In my research, I learned that stories about these people are being treated in three ways by the media: the first and most common reaction the media has is to exploit them or mock them or do a light-hearted puff piece that isn’t in any way serving them,” Tangen told CBR. “Second to that, and less common, is an investigative journalism approach, just looking at what these people are and what they do. It’s a little bit more intellectual, but it is still without opinion: this is what they do, you make up your mind whether they’re crazy or not. It also doesn’t really react to the effects that they have on the world around them.
“On rare occasions, people in the media have discovered this culture of people and understood that in fact the stories they tell and what they stand for can actually be very inspirational. Because, in effect what they stand for is the idea that one person can make a difference. And I can tell you countless stories of how that’s actually the case,” Tangen continued. “I decided that I wanted to tell a story that was inspirational. Once you get past the idea of their costumes and you actually see what they’re doing, you realize that have actual real power that we all share. So I began to assemble my little plan with a group of collaborators. A couple weeks after I photographed Thanatos, we had 19 people from all over the country come into LA for a one-day photo shoot. It was quite an extraordinary event.”
Tangen noted that the day of the photo shoot was a significant even within the community itself, as it was the first time many of the heroes had met each other. “These people who came from across the land had the opportunity to meet people they’d been in communication with for several years but had never actually met. They had the chance to get together and talk about what they do.”
About thirty volunteers from the photography and film industries, using donated equipment and services, came together to work on the photo shoot. “Everybody that was there, was there because they had heard about these people and were inspired by the story. The impression people had at the end of the day was that it had been an amazing event,” Tangen said. “People said they felt they were literally better people for having been there and experiencing that event. If we had been hired to do what we did that day, not including the cost of actually flying people in, the photo shoot itself would have cost easily $100,000 to execute, but we did it for next to nothing because of the volunteer basis of everybody that was there.”
Tangen said the posters were designed to show the heroes “not how they see themselves, but how the people they help see them,” and were created in the style of movie teaser or character posters to portray a series of individual stories. “Generally speaking, it’s a rule of thumb that a really good movie poster tells a story. It may not be the story of the movie from start to finish, but it tells a story enough that it piques the interest of the viewer and tells enough about what the movie is that they understand what they’re going to go see,” Tangen explained. “The content of the movie poster is typically three different elements: one is the visuals, whether photographic or illustrative or a combination of those things. Another is the copy that might be tied to the poster. And then the third is just the title of the movie. Each of those elements should add to the overall narrative of what the poster is. So if you have a Tom Cruise movie about a secret agent and it takes place during wartime, you don’t want to tell all of that in a line of copy. You want to have the visuals and the title of the movie add up to that information.”
Taking the example of the “Life” poster, the first to appear on his Real Life Super Hero Project website, Tangen walked through the thought process. “Since he’s so much in the street, he rarely goes anywhere without granola bars or something that would enable him to help someone who’s helpless or needy, we decided that we would have him reaching into a group of people that could use his help. It’s a very visual tool to get that message across. And because he’s so much in the streets of New York City, we chose a New York City location for the background image. Since he was raised a Hasidic Jew, we decided we were going to use the Hebrew text for the word ‘chai,’ which is translated into ‘life,’ for what would be in other posters the title of the movie. Then for the copy line, we further express the idea that, where people make an effort to help others, there’s a further opportunity for those who are being helped to have hope,” Tangen said. “Those elements together talk about him, where he is, what he stands for and the optimism that he inspires in people that he serves.”
In addition to the movie-style posters, Tangen and his crew created a series of other photographic pieces. “We did a couple of group shots that are very definitely an homage to Alex Ross; straight up, out of the box, we’re not ripping him off – we’re honoring him. The other thing done is [we created] a series of portraits, which you can see a few of on the website,” he said. “As much as the posters are meant to show them as they are seen by the people they help, the collection of portraits was shot very much in the same style, with the intention of having the viewer look past the mask, perhaps identify with the real human being behind the outfit and and hopefully discover themselves the relatability of that person as a regular person and find in themselves a hero they may have not known existed.”