Real life super heroes?

Originally posted:
And you thought superheroes existed only in fiction? Inspired by fiction superheroes such as Batman and Superman, these people wear masks and capes in order to fight real crime on the strets. Here’s a list with 10 of the most famous real-life superheroes.
Superbarrio (Mexico)
He’s faster than a speeding turtle, able to leap small speed bumps in a single bound. Look, up in the sky … Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superbarrio — a flabby caped crusader in cherry red tights who traverses the streets of Mexico City, defending the lower class. A high school dropout with a humble upbringing, Superbarrio has become one of Mexico City’s greatest folk heroes. For the past 10 years, he has stood as the champion of the working class, the poor and the homeless.

“I opened my eyes and found myself as you see me with a voice telling me, ‘You are Superbarrio,’” he said, explaining that his name means super-neighborhood. “I can’t stop a plane or a train single-handed, but I can keep a family from being evicted.” His role is primarily symbolic as the protector of low-income neighborhoods. But on behalf of squatters and labor unions, Superbarrio leads protest rallies, files petitions and challenges court decisions. Rumors also have circulated that he attempted to run for the president of the United States to better protect Mexican workers. His followers find him inspirational and recently erected a statue in his honor — a giant lifelike replica that looks like an oversized Cabbage Patch doll at 40. The awed crowd chanted, “You see him. You feel him. Superbarrio is here!”
Terrifica (NY City)
Terrifica patrols New York City’s bars, clubs, and streets by night, in an effort to protect inebriated women in danger of being taken advantage of by men. Since the mid-1990s Terrifica has donned a golden mask, Valkyrie bra, blond wig, red boots and cape, to distract the men she tries to dissuade from seducing drunk young women. She carries a utility belt containing a pepper spray, cell phone, lipstick, a camera to photograph alleged predators, a journal, Terrifica fortune cards, and Smarties for energy. Terrifica has an arch-nemesis, a self-proclaimed philanderer who calls himself Fantastico. “I protect the single girl living in the big city,” says Terrifica. By day, she is Sarah, a 30-year-old single woman who works for a computer consulting company. “I do this because women are weak. They are easily manipulated, and they need to be protected from themselves and most certainly from men and their ill intentions toward them.”
The Eye (Mountain View California)
The Eye is a 48 year-old superhero who patrols the streets of Mountain View, California. He is a street-level, practical crime fighter, who uses various electronic and other means to prevent crime. He has even got a myspace page!
Citizen Prime (Phoenix)
Citizen Prime, a 40-year-old married man whose first name is Jim, has been protecting the streets of Phoenix for a year. He became a superhero to spread the message that people don’t have to be fearful of crime. “Are you going to sit inside scared that a terrorist might attack your city, or are you going to go out and live your life?” he asked. But Prime, who patrols once or twice a week in a black, blue and yellow costume, found one chink in his armor. He couldn’t find any crime. “The only crime I’ve ever stopped is when I was actually walking out of a sporting goods store with my wife,” he said. “A shoplifter came running past me, and I managed to throw him to the ground.”
Tothian (NJ and NY city)
Tothian, 22, is a superhero who protects New Jersey and New York, is one of the more active heroes. He uses his skills as a Marine reservist and martial arts expert when patrolling the streets, and has escorted women home at night and broken up fights. His uniform–he prefers that term to costume–is black combat boots, green cargo pants and a T-shirt. His logo, which is stitched into the middle of the T-shirt with cut-up bandanas, is made from the letters used to spell Tothian. Tothian doesn’t wear a mask because it blocks his peripheral vision, and says he doesn’t wear a cape “because capes get in the way of actually doing real superhero stuff.” Tothian says he doesn’t want to become a police officer because he doesn’t agree with every law on the book. “I’m not out to punish every single criminal,” he said. For example, he would counsel marijuana smokers, but wouldn’t apprehend them as bad guys. Tothian said he gets some strange looks when people find out he’s a superhero. But after people realize he’s out to protect them, he says their trepidation eases somewhat.
Angle Grinder Man (London, and Kent)
Angle-grinder Man patrols by night looking for unhappy drivers who have been clamped and then sets the

A Hero in All of Us

supersuperdaraOriginally posted:
international group the Real Life SuperHeroes
by Eric Larson
Marco Rascón Córdova has always felt a calling to stand out. And for the past 20 years, he’s answered it in a most peculiar fashion: by patrolling the working class neighborhoods of Mexico City in cranberry-red tights and responding only to the name, “Superbarrio.”
One glance at him – overweight, middle-aged, and by all means slower than a speeding bullet – and it’s clear that, by traditional standards, he’s far from super. But to Córdova, “traditional” isn’t the kind of hero he’s going for. In fact, he’s not looking to beat criminals to a pulp at all. He’s striving to protect the rights of the working class through organized protests and petitions, all the while donning his brightly colored get-up. And the best part? He’s not alone.
Over the past several years, dozens of inspired people across the globe – representing both the early-twenty-something and near-senior segment – have tied capes to their necks and set out to do good for the public. Look up to the sky: here come the Real Life Super Heroes. (Holy new phenomenon, Batman!)
Before I continue, I think it’s important to note how widespread this occurrence actually is. In September of last year, an official Real Life Super Hero project was established serving as a meeting ground/alliance for emerging heroes across the globe. According to the website, more than 150 individuals are currently in action, serving both publicly and privately. Meetings and conferences are continually held across the country to share ideas and teach strategies to old members and newbies alike. In short: this is the closest thing to the Justice League this world will ever see.
Within it, the personalities and “powers” are unique to each hero involved. Take Angle Grinder Man from England: lanky with shoulder length hair and a baby blue onesie, he works pro bono on the streets of London by cutting the wheel clamps off paralyzed vehicles. Then there’s Terrifica from New York City, who prowls the downtown bars to keep inebriated women from getting taken advantage of. Polar Man from Canada shovels driveways for the elderly, and Recycle Boy teaches children the importance of being resourceful … and the list goes on.
A particularly intriguing hero is SuperSuperDara, hailing from Brazil. Similar to most RLSHs, she deems public service one of her greatest contributions. To SuperSuperDara storytelling is the best weapon to teach children about the dangers of sexual abuse.
“(It’s) a serious problem, which leads to psychological scars that will last forever,” she told me. “I try to warn children and make parents, educators, and community members aware of this paradigm shift they need to do.”
A day in the life of our Brazilian hero involves visiting schools and reading aloud her favorite story, Segredo Segredîssimo, which, according to her, strongly reiterates the importance of sexual abuse awareness. Her contributions are well-received by her community, and her tweets are regularly followed by congressmen and popular Brazil-based magazines, she said. Her ultimate goal is to make a radical shift and teach protection techniques to the younger generation.
“Changing paradigm is necessary in Brazil, and in order to do so a superhero is required,” she said. “Mere mortals couldn’t do such a thing.”
Now with all these people across the globe standing up to serve their communities, I’m forced to ask: why not Eau Claire? Sure, the city’s been named one of the safest places to live in the country, and the biggest crimes I’ve seen in my four years of residency have been petty at worst. (To the thief of my patio chair: the hunt continues.) But as these RLSHs have proven you don’t need invisibility, inhuman strength, or even web-shooting wrists to be considered super. Volunteering and displaying pro social values in any atmosphere are steps in the right direction. The project stems much deeper than a group of adults who spent too much time with comic books as kids; although, as some have stated, the reading material was definitely an inspiration.
INTERVIEW: Rochester Superhero Geist
Of the more well-known heroes from the RLSH alliance is Geist from Rochester, Minnesota. Although relatively new to the league, Geist has managed to make his name quite well-known. His costume, which he describes as “green Space Cowboy-chic,” is as bizarre as it is badass. I was able to get in contact with him via e-mail a few weeks back. Here’s a snippet of my ventures into his mind:
Volume One: So, Geist – how long have you been doing this?
Geist: I became active as Geist, doing charitable missions and crime patrols, in April of
V1: That’s cool. What was it that inspired you to pursue something like this?
INTERVIEW: Rochester Superhero Geist
Of the more well-known heroes from the RLSH alliance is Geist from Rochester, Minnesota. Although relatively new to the league, Geist has managed to make his name quite well-known. His costume, which he describes as “green Space Cowboy-chic,” is as bizarre as it is badass. I was able to get in contact with him via e-mail a few weeks back. Here’s a snippet of my ventures into his mind:
Volume One: So, Geist – how long have you been doing this?
Geist: I became active as Geist, doing charitable missions and crime patrols, in April of
V1: That’s cool. What was it that inspired you to pursue something like this?

Holy masked avengers: Meet the real-life superheroes

Life: Seeks out injustice to right wrongs - though it's more about helping the homeless than fighting bad guys

Originally published:
Thwack! Pow! Take that, evil agents of the clamping industry! Here’s a toothbrush, my homeless friend! As the wannabe-superhero film ‘Kick-Ass’ hits cinemas this weekend, Johnny Davis catches up with the real-life caped crusaders who are striving to do good on the mean streets of Britain and America, supported by their long-suffering families (and unforgiving spandex…)
Sunday, 4 April 2010
On a Thursday evening in New York City, Chaim “Life” Lazaros is explaining how a 25-year-old film student becomes a Real Life Superhero. “When I’m dressed the way I am, I’m standing for a higher ideal,” he says. Lazaros is wearing a domino mask, fedora and skinny black tie. From the corners of his waistcoat hang the fringes of a tsitsit – a traditional Jewish undergarment. “By becoming a Real Life Superhero, I can no longer fall to the weakness or the laziness Chaim might have. I live for a higher, stronger, ideal. I have to live up to what Life is.”
As is his wont several times a week, Lazaros has returned to his Upper West Side apartment and exchanged the clothes he wears to class for those of his alter ego. He has become Life (the English translation of the Hebrew word chaim). Now there are good deeds to be done, injustices to be fought, wrongs that must be righted. “Being a Real Life Superhero is an extremely individual calling.”
Yet Lazaros is not alone. There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who dress up as comic-book heroes to patrol their city streets in search of… if not supervillains, then petty criminals and those in need of their help. “I help my community to become better,” Life tells me. “I didn’t see people running out of banks with sacks with dollar signs on them; but there is a large homeless population who need things.”
Soon he will walk half a block to the cathedral of St John the Divine, a vast gothic structure where vagrants gather on the steps. “Private property, so the police can’t chuck them off,” he explains. There, Life will hand out bottled water, toothbrushes, vitamins, chocolate and other items he carries around in his backpack. He does this without ulterior motive. “I’m not trying to convert them to Christianity,” he says, referring to other charity workers. “‘Accept Jesus Christ and I’ll give you a sandwich’ – that’s not really a help.”
For the most part, Life avoids tackling criminals. “If there is a situation and I need to intervene, I’ll certainly do it. But guys in Washington Square Park selling weed to New York University kids? It’s not so terrible. If I can show someone who’s down on their luck that somebody cares about them, that’s a lot more effective use of my talent.”
Captain Clean: Teaches the children of Kent with both T-shirts and raps ('Don't drop litter on the street/It looks a mess and sticks to your feet')

Captain Clean: Teaches the children of Kent with both T-shirts and raps ('Don't drop litter on the street/It looks a mess and sticks to your feet')

Elsewhere in the metropolis, a woman named Terrifica has been patrolling bars and parties in a gold mask, Valkyrie bra, red boots and cape, in an effort to protect inebriated women from men looking to take advantage of them. (In her utility belt, she carries pepper spray, a camera to photograph would-be predators, a journal, and Smarties for energy.) In Mexico City, meanwhile, Superbarrio dons red tights and a red-and-yellow wrestling mask, using his eye-catching image to organise labour rallies and protests, and file petitions. In Iqaluit in northern Canada, Polarman shovels snow off pavements by day, and scours the streets for criminals by night. And in Britain, Angle-Grinder Man, a self-proclaimed “wheel-clamp superhero”, uses his power (his angle-grinder) to cut clamps from vehicles in Kent and London.
You might think these people sound silly and look sillier. You’d be right. But that doesn’t mean they’re not sincere. “It takes a certain mindset not just to say, ‘OK, I want to do something good,’ but also, ‘I want to take on an alternate personality and devote myself entirely to doing good with no boundaries,'” says Life. “To put yourself in an uncomfortable situation takes a huge commitment. And a certain amount of crazy.”
Life is not a Man of Steel from the planet Krypton. He isn’t a science whizz lent superhuman powers by the bite of a radioactive spider. He doesn’t live in a Batcave. Like the growing network of caped crusaders emerging across the world, he is just an ordinary person trying to make a difference. “After 9/11, a lot of people felt very confused, that they had lost control over their world,” says Ben Goldman, founder of Superheroes Anonymous, which alongside the World Superheroes Registry and Real Life Superheroes, acts as an online network where members can swap crime- fighting tips, offer encouragement and debate the pros and cons of spandex. “That event caused them to take control of their destinies and adopt a superhero persona.”
“Right now, people need heroes,” adds Life. “Economic collapse, two wars, and a president who was elected on a platform of change – with a message we were to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps from these problems. Real Life Superheroes personify those ideas and those ideals.”
Couldn’t they help another way? Join a charity, perhaps? Do they need to dress up like Zorro at Mardi Gras? “I’m well aware of how silly the situation is,” says Civitron, aka 28-year-old David Civitarese from New Bedford, Massachusetts, who picks up litter and hands out food parcels to the poor, while wearing a red-and-blue one-piece and white shades. “But by dressing up I’m forcing myself to play a role. I have the opportunity to show off the best of me. I can’t go around partying and drinking and being a jerk.” (In his civilian hours, Civitarese works in a care home for adults with autism. His six-year-old son goes by the super-moniker The Mad Owl.)
The movement’s origins might be American, but Britain is catching up. “When I heard about Real Life Superheroes, I thought it was a bunch of crazy comic geeks. The Beano was the only comic I’d ever read,” admits Optimistica from London, whose MySpace profile reverberates to the theme of Wonder Woman. “But I was won over by the amazing positivity and creativity of the superheroes.” Optimistica adds that her mission is to “spread light and fun”. “And wearing my costume on patrol alone does that.”
“People think it’s a stupid idea and want to leave it at comic-book fantasies,” says Bristol-based Red Falcon, so named after “my fave colour and bird”. “But in a world where even the police aren’t doing their jobs, someone has to step in and help.” Norwich’s Chuck Clown was similarly galvanised into action. “I became a Real Life Superhero because petty criminals had attacked people I knew. They escaped unscathed, but people should never have to escape from an attack in the first place.” Clown’s inspirations are “the original comic-book Joker, not the new Heath Ledger one – but without being mad and evil. And Jonathan Creek.”
Naturally, every superhero needs a costume (though they prefer to say “uniform”). And suppliers such as Xtreme Design FX will knock up a custom all-in-one “battle suit”, silk-lined spandex cape and latex mask for around £160 (prosthetic adhesive not included). Other superheroes prefer to handle the design themselves – like Utah’s Citizen Prime, who spent £2,500 employing an armourer to weld a sci-fi suit out of plate metal. Meantime, “master of gadgetry” Professor Widget is a one-stop shop for wrist-mounted paintball launchers or non-lethal telescoping “bo staffs”. Not that such weaponry is everyone’s cup of tea. “A lot of the time, I just keep an eye on stuff, and if anything happens I’ll step in and give someone a bollocking – verbally – or call the police,” says Clown. “A Real Life Superhero’s most important gadget is their mobile.”
Some say the emergence of Real Life Superheroes represents the final evolution of the hero genre. “Oral traditions, legends, comic books, movies – and now Real Life Superheroes bringing it into reality,” says Civitron. Superhero movies spent decades struggling to get up, up and away; now they’re among the biggest box-office draws. And the most successful – The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Watchmen – focus not on characters with otherworldly superpowers, but ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.
The same can be said of Kick-Ass, the new film by Matthew Vaughn – the producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and director of Layer Cake – which opened in cinemas this weekend. Based on the comic book of the same name, it tells the story of Dave Lizewski, an ordinary New York high-school student who fights crime in a costume he has cobbled together out of a diving suit. “How come everybody wants to be Paris Hilton, and no one wants to be Spider-Man?” ponders comics fan Lizewski, played by Aaron “Nowhere Boy” Johnson – a reasonable question, when you put it like that.
It was a comic shop that inspired the inception of Superheroes Anonymous. One afternoon, Ben Goldman spotted what he thought was a notice announcing “a meeting for superheroes”. It turned out to be an advert for drawing lessons. “But the idea stuck with me,” he says. “I decided to investigate whether there were people in the world who called themselves superheroes.” He went online, and found that there were. Thinking he had chanced upon a good subject for a documentary, he called his film-student friend Chaim. Their movie is still an ongoing project, though it’s been hit by issues both logistical (not every Real Lifer wants to be filmed) and financial (they are scattered all over the world). Yet it has already served to galvanise the cause.
Goldman and Lazaros started organising Superheroes Anonymous conferences. First, their reasons were wholly practical – getting these heroes together made them easier to film. But it wasn’t long before gathering so many altruistic people in one place turned the conferences into charity-fests. In New York, they raised $700 in gifts and distributed them to the kids at St Mary’s Children’s Hospital. In New Orleans, they rebuilt homes with Habitat For Humanity, cleaned up a school and marched against youth violence alongside Silence Is Violence. And in New Bedford, a full weekend’s programming saw them host a community food drive, working with the American Red Cross, and putting together care packages for overseas troops. (In between there was time for martial arts workouts, early-morning runs and evening meetings at the local tapas bar – in full costume, naturally.)
Superheroes Anonymous even provided Lazaros with his new identity. “Entomo the Insect-Man, an Italian Real Life Superhero, defined all the different types of hero,” he explains. “One category was ‘community crusader’; someone who furthers the goal of Real Life Superheroes.” The Insect-Man reasoned that, by “putting his all” into promoting Superheroes Anonymous, Lazaros had “become a superhero” himself. “The day I read that, I put on the mask for the first time.” Life was born.
Today, we are sat on the stoop outside Life’s apartment block. He has been joined by an acquaintance, Dayo Omotoso. Omotoso is a Real Life Superhero in training, and Life is showing him the ropes. He has got as far as his name: The Black Light. “If you want to be a hero, your name can’t be Dracula,” Life reasons. “Your name can’t be Captain Chaos.” Omotoso is still thinking about a costume.
“We gotta go,” Life announces, suddenly.
Camera Man aka Ben Goldman, who is making a documentary with Chaim Lazaros: 'We don't encourage people to look for violent criminals'Together, we walk down to the cathedral of St John the Divine. Life tells us to hang back, and goes off to distribute his waters and vitamins among the homeless. As we watch him work, I find out more about The Black Light. He was born in Nigeria, and came to New York a few years ago. In doing so, he seems to have taken Superman’s edict about “truth, justice and the American way” on board. “In 20 years in Lagos I never called [the local equivalent of the American emergency services] 911 once,” he says. “You’re not inclined to, psychologically. I’ve been under a regime where my president passes away – it was Viagra overdoses and prostitutes [the alleged transgressions of Sani Abacha, de facto Nigerian president between 1993 and 1998]. When I came here, the Monica Lewinsky thing was still going on. My angle was, ‘Did he rape her? Did he put money into a bank account for her?’ No, he just got a blowjob. If any guy in the world deserves a blowjob, it’s Clinton.”
America sounded like somewhere he could make a difference, he said. “I’ve seen Tom Cruise, I’ve seen the Governator, I’ve seen Chuck Norris. I grew up reading The Punisher. When it comes to saving the human race, I would love a black guy to play that role.”
As anyone with a passing knowledge of Spider-Man knows, being a superhero requires great personal sacrifice. The path will be rocky, the way forward strewn with obstacles. Not everyone will make it. Take Mister Invisible from Los Angeles. He hung up his grey one-piece after the costume proved too effective – a tramp urinated on him in an alley. Another LA operative, Black Owl, suffered the ignominy of being collected from a psychiatric ward by his teenage daughter. “Dad forgot for a moment, when faced with police, that he did not have real superpowers,” she told doctors. “He could not just fly away.”
Then there are relationships. Apparently, women find it hard to relate to the higher calling. Interviewed by Rolling Stone, Master Legend – a Florida-based superhero who drives “The Battle Truck”, a 1986 Nissan pick-up with his initials spray-painted on the bonnet, the better to announce the arrival of himself plus his young crime-fighting sidekick Ace Gauge – conceded that his love life had taken a battering. His marriage had ended in divorce, while his latest girlfriend had walked out on him. “She left because she wanted to sit around on the couch and hold hands,” he explained. “Well, that’s not on the cards for Master Legend.”
Finally, there is the issue of the authorities. “I’ve been told by the police that any sort of uniformed presence is a deterrent to crime. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the uniform of a police officer or a superhero,” explains Life. In America, even attempting a citizen’s arrest itself carries the risk of being liable for false imprisonment, or being charged with kidnapping. And that’s if you don’t get punched in the face first. (As seen in Kick-Ass, when the eponymous ‘ hero’s first criminal intervention does not go too well.) “We don’t live in a city called Gotham,” notes Goldman. “We don’t encourage people to go out and look for violent criminals.” (A spokesperson for the UK police service declined to comment on the Real Life movement here, save to say that “vigilantism is not something we encourage”.)
But perhaps the most cautionary tale of all is that of Dark Guardian. He had to resort to first a change of name, then emblazoning his initials on the front of his costume, as he had failed to make much of an impact on anyone. “This is New York,” explained the newly monikered Chris Guardian. “So half the people didn’t even look.”
Failing to make an impression is not a problem faced by Maidstone’s Captain Clean. But then, his target audience is seven years old. He is employed by Maidstone Borough Council to spread the word about littering. It is the morning-time in Ms Tanner’s class at Harrietsham primary school in Kent, but Ms Tanner is taking a back seat while Alison Sollis, education officer for the council, mans the projector. Behind her hangs a poster
of Captain Clean, who wears a purple mask and a high-visibility jacket. “Keep it Clean!” it advises, “Or I Get Mean!” Sollis kicks off the lesson by asking the children to guess how long various bits of litter (banana skins, soft-drink cans) take to decompose, and explains how the British Hedgehog Preservation Society got McDonald’s to shrink the size of its McFlurry lids; the original containers could trap the critters. Then she holds up a plastic ring holder from a four-pack.
“What do you put in here?” she asks.
“Beer!” says one boy.
“Well, cans,” confirms Sollis.
Soon it is time to meet Captain Clean. “Let’s see who’s outside,” Sollis says. In bounds Captain Clean, aka bodybuilder Tai Tokes Ayoola who speaks with an American twang and seems on a completely different scale to the classroom. The children are stunned. “I think I shocked you all!” he beams. Captain Clean asks everyone to join in with his anti-littering campaign, leads them through a rap (“Don’t drop litter on the street/It looks a mess and sticks to your feet…”) and hands out his “Keep it Clean” T-shirts. Everyone applauds.
Over coffee in the staffroom afterwards, Annika Fraser, marketing officer for Maidstone council, explains Captain Clean’s secret origin. One of her colleagues had been the original Captain Clean. “But he wasn’t muscly or anything, so I had to go out and buy a costume with muscles.” It didn’t really work. “After a year, it got quite smelly.”
“The kids were rugby-tackling him,” Ayoola chimes in. “Wearing that puffed-up old thing.”
So Ayoola was recruited. Originally from Maryland, he had a history of volunteer work – notably dressing up as a superhero to take young burns survivors on summer camp. For his troubles, he had even been invited to the White House. Anyway, he had proven a much more suitable Captain Clean. “I get a lot of questions,” Ayoola says. “Particularly ‘What’s under the mask?’ But I have never had anyone be mean to me. Kids are, like, ‘OK, I don’t want to be on Captain Clean’s bad side.’ I wouldn’t say it’s an element of fear. But you do have that element of ‘OK, he’s doing this – he’s cool.'”
Ayoola is proud to be doing good work, and is up to speed with the Real Life movement. “When people see a Real Life Superhero, they get excited and follow through with the message,” he says. He has two more classes to visit this morning, so I leave him to it. “You keep it clean!” he booms after me.
Back to New York, where Life has finished his rounds of the homeless. The Dark Light is suitably impressed; give it another month, he figures, and he’ll be active himself. Meanwhile, Life says he has big hopes for the global movement. Recruitment is on the up, and MTV has been developing a series based on their work. “I think it will become very big,” Life says. “I hope there’ll be a Real Life Superhero in every city, someone everyone knows. ‘Hey, there’s someone here who can help me.’ I’m not talking about police, fire, ambulance. But people who are standing for this higher level of altruism.”
Their next step is to get Superheroes Anonymous recognised as a non-profit organisation and a registered charity. To make it more formal. Life explains that it is part of the reason his costume is on the sober side. “I’m trying to sit down with government officials, business people, lawyers; trying to make these meetings happen. I need to look at them with a straight face and say, ‘Listen, I want to bring a whole bunch of Real Life Superheroes together in your property,’ and not get laughed out of the room.”
“You do get the occasional snigger,” he concedes. “But that’s through misunderstanding. Once you explain what you stand for, there is never a negative reaction. People are always, like, ‘Wow. That’s cool. How can I get involved?'”
Or as Kick-Ass himself puts it, “Is everyday life really so exciting? Are schools and offices so thrilling that I’m the only one who ever fantasised about this? Come on – be honest with yourself. At some point in our lives, we all wanted to be a superhero.” And what’s so funny about that?
‘Kick-Ass’ (15) is on general release

Superheroes Anonymous

Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Originally posted in Death + Taxes Magainze MarchApril 2010 issue
Scanned pages:
superheroes_page_1 superheroes_page_2
Missing page 3- Admin
By Breena Ehrlich
Hollywood abounds with stories these days. But somewhere out there just beyond the shadows, from New York City to Mexico City to New Bedford, Massachusetts, lurks a bona fide, HONEST TO GOD NETWORK OF REAL REAL –LIFE SUPERHEROES. They are not Watchmen. They are not even Kick-Ass or Red Mist. No bullet-proof vest, no Chinese stars. These are normal people- students, bankers, what have you. They just happen to patrol over society in costume, fighting crime and doing good deeds under aliases like Life and The Dark Guardian. They are Superheroes Anonymous. For real.
What’s going on here?” Life asks, ambling up to a pair of cops as they peer though the dusty glass doors of a seemingly abandoned building. The copes turn around, take in the young man’s young face; he looks like one of the Culkin brothers- like that kind from Igby Goes Down. The kid’s fedora is set at a jaunty angle, his black cargo pants are tucked into black jungle boots, his backpack weighs down his shoulders, even though they’re thrown back confidently. He looks like a Brooklyn-dweller. A college student. A kid. Perhaps a nosy kid, the kind that watched too many cops shows as a kid. They probably don’t notice the black mask hanging from his belt loop, or the tzitzis poking out the bottom of his black winter coat.
One of the cops, a jowly man with buzzed hair and a gently swelling belly, gives Life a slight smile. “WE got a call. Some woman can’t get a hold of her husband who’s a security guard. She says she works here, but this place seems abandoned,” he answers with surprising candor and a perfectly stereotypical New York Accent.
“Yeah,” says the other cop, running his hand over his slicked-back gray hair, which still has comb tracks in it from earlier grooming. “I mean, there’s tap on the windows. That means it’s abandoned, right?”
The copes continue to peer though the darkened windows as Life jumps down to inspect a basement-level door. The radios on their belts buzz and crackle: “The missing child is approximately four feet tall, wearing a striped sweater. The suspect-“ Life joins the copes on the steps in mutual consideration of the darkened building, a gray stone apartment building near the Columbia University campus- close enough to Riverside Park that the assemblage can feel the cold air off the water buffeting their backs and faces. The jowly cop’s cheeks are red.
The men in blue bang on the door a few times and then turn to Life with equally stern brows. “Stand back,” says the gray haired cop and positions his shoulders as if to break the door down. Life hops back a little and the cops laugh. “Just Kidding,” Comb Tracks says.
“So are you a student?” Jowls inquires, apparently in no hurry to solve the mystery of the missing security guard.
“No, actually I’m a Real-Life Superhero, Life says with a slight smile, fingering the mask that hangs from his side. The cops look at each other with raised eyebrows and more than a hint of amusement.
“Oh yeah? Well, can you tell us where Columbia security is?” Jowls says with a brief smile. “Maybe they can help us figure out where this guard is
Life gives them directions and follows them to their car,” I can get in and go with you guys if you’d like…” he says, lingering near the cruiser.
“Ha, ha, nah,” says Jowls. “Thanks.” The cops drive off into the night, leaving Life and his backpack in front of the darkened building.
With the squad car disappears the glimmer of danger, the opportunity to race off in the night, the blue and red flashing. In a movie or a comic book this would be the point where our hero’s story really heats up: He discovers that the mission guard has been captured by an evil avenger with a rampant disdain for any and all authority figures- and now the poor old man is being held hostage in some fortress in the dark recesses of Governor’s Island. And because the bumbling cops neglected to adequately hunt for clues our hero is tasked with his safe return. But this is not a move. This is no adaptation- just plain old New York.  IN the realm of the real, Life watched the cruiser disappears into the night, sighs a puff of cold-etched air, and jaywalks across the street. As he hops from the sidewalk, his boots clearing the curb, he indulges a brief exclamation: “Zing!”
LIFE A.K.A. CHAIM LAZAROS is a real-life superhero- designation that would likely cause many a reader to snort in derision or laugh in abject mockery. Visions of plump, sad comic book fans in spandex leap to mind- images of computer geeks wandering around darkened streets, desperately seeking some nefarious B-level crime to debunk. That’s not Life. Life is a do-gooder. He doesn’t fight crime per se– he takes to the streets and provides aid to the poor souls who many of us outright ignore: the homeless.
In a sense, this is his superpower. Where comic superheroes might manifest their powers through a supernatural affinity for controlling the weather or assuming arachnid capabilities, Life’s chosen specialty is the homeless- although he’s the first to admit that he doesn’t actually have any special abilities. “I hate when people ask where my cape is,” Life says. “Capes are stupid and ineffective. No one flies… I don’t have any super powers,” he adds. “I’m just a person. A poor, young person in New York City- and I help a lot of people. I’m not special.” Nevertheless, as his name suggests, Life provides sustenance and, well, life, to the downtrodden, specializing in a particular realm of aid- and to do so he tapes into his two natural abilities: kindness and an aptitude for spin. Life is a natural PR man, an organizer who uses the aesthetic of the super hero, the sheer flashiness of the concept, to attract others to his cause.
Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Life is one of the heads of Superheroes Anonymous, a collective of citizen who have made it their mission to do good by the world. Some do it in much the same way as Coalition for the Homeless or Habitat for Humanity, and some do it with the more dangerous, risky flair of vigalantes- but they all do it in costume. Each year it holds a sizable conference during which heroes from all over the world assemble. So far there have been three conferences: one in Times Square, New York City, one in New Orleans, and the most recent in New Bedford, Massachusetts, also known as The Secret City due to its large volume of unsolved homicides.
Superheroes Anonymous, which coalesced into its current state in 2007, hardly marks the first incarnation of real-life superhero-dom, although it is probably the most organized superhero affiliation. According to a history written by Hardwire, a hero from Greensboro, North Carolina, the first real-life superhero date back to the seventeenth century- his name was William Lamport, or Zorro. The modern ideal of real-life heroes started to solidify in the seventies with Captain Sticky, a man by the name of Richard Pesta who would patrol San Diego in a bubble-topped Lincoln clad in blue tights and a cape, working to launch investigations into elder care. And then there was Rick Rojatt, a daredevil known as The Human Fly, whose entire family was killed in a car crash that left him temporarily crippled. The nineties heralded the arrival of Marco Rascon Cordova, a Mexico City resident who became Superbarrio and championed the poor and working class, and Terrifica, a New Yorker who took it upon herself to protect drunken women from unwanted advances. And then there’s Civitron, a father and former counselor for children in transition who patrols New Bedford, Massachusetts with his son, The Mad Owl, a superhero-in-the-making with a love for woodland creatures.
In short, this underground community was flourishing, the network reaching across the world. But it was a fractured connection; these do-gooders mostly communicated via Internet forums and MySpace pages, connected only through the currents of the digital age- until Life came along.
Like all superheroes, life has his own creation myth, which more closely mirrors that of the famed comic book authors that of yore than the apocryphal tales of Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne. Like the majority of old-school creators- immigrants and children of immigrants who invented heroes to battle the myriad woes of their woes- Lazaros is a Jew, the son of an Orthodox rabbi who has seven children in all. The second –oldest child, Lazaros is kind of the black sheet. “He’s a very idealistic kid and he has a lot of pity on people that are downtrodden and homeless. He’s a do-gooder and he wants to do go,” his father says, recalling how, as a child, Life took on his entire bunk at sleepaway camp when they were picking on smaller boy.  Still, he hasn’t quite taken the path that his father would like him to.” I thought it was more like a hobby,” his father says of Life’s superheroing. “But it became a very major part of his life. And obviously as a parent I think there are more important priorities. He’s just turned twenty-five. I’d like to see him get married. I’d like to see him have some kind of a vocation that earns a living. This is a nice thing to do on the side, you know, if you have another career. You have a family and you want to do something like this in your free time, that’s okay. But I don’t think it should be taking up the main part of your time.”
Before he became Life, Chaim was on a path that any proud Orthodox papa would approve of. He attended Yeshiva University- a college that focuses on Jewish scholarship- in New York for one year before deciding that he was too smart for the religious school. He also wanted to study film. He applied to NYU and got in (twice), but his family didn’t have the money to send him. So he left college and worked at one of the country’s top ad agencies, J Walter Thompson, where he executed the mindless task of paying invoices before realizing that he wasn’t going anywhere. He had been attending Brooklyn College at night and living in Crown Heights when his girlfriend suggested he apply to Columbia. He got in, they provided him with ample scholarships, and he was able to follow his chosen path: film studies. Little did he know that becoming a superhero would also be apart of his course of study.
Three years ago, Chaim’s friend Bend Goldman, a senior at New York’s New School, saw a sign reading “Real Life Superheroes” outside a comic book store. He was intrigued, so he Googled the term. The sign turned out to be an advertisement for a drawing class, but Goldman’s internet search revealed the rich history of the movement. Both film students, Lazaros and Goldman decided that the subject was ripe for documentation. “This whole project started off as a documentary,” Ben says. “It’s like a case of Gonzo Journalism where the documentarian becomes the subject, especially with Chaim, since he became a superhero through the project.”
“They’re very isolated in all these different communities and only communicate through MySpace and stuff like that,” Chaim says, “There had been a few very small meet-ups, but it was really this Internet culture. Basically we realized that if we made the first all-encompassing gathering of all the superheroes, then we would be able to shoot a documentary in a day.”
And so it began- the first meeting of Superheroes Anonymous. For Chaim, the convention became an all-consuming task. He barely slept. He lost fifteen pounds. He dedicated every moment to orchestrating a massive gathering to take place in New York’s Time Square. And then the duo hit a snag.
“There was a lot of this bullshit started by this one particular superhero that founded the biggest forum on the Internet for superheroes. He’s named Tothian,” Chaim says, “At the time he was respected just because he was a moderator of this forum he started.”
Tothian is a mysterious figure who resided in New Jersey and likes to keep his persona under wraps. On Facebook, his name is simply Tothian ApmhibiousKnight- He refuses to reveal his real name- and his burred picture shows a man with close-cropped hair, wearing what appears to be armor or a bulletproof vest. “I’ve been patrolling since I was about five years old,” Tothian says. “I knew form as early on in life as I can remember that I would be doing this, not as a game,” he adds. “When I was sixteen I graduated from a military high school. At seventeen I joined the Marine Reserves as an Infantryman. I’ve trained in various styles of martial arts for many years. I study criminology, private investigating and foreign languages.” Now Tothian, an ardent fan of Sherlock Holmes, patrols his local streets, striving to mitigate crime in hotspots like Newark, New Jersey. “I make it a point to never set patterns in times nor patrol routs,” Tothian says. “I have to keep it randomized for two reasons: One I don’t want people to work around my pattern. Two, I don’t want people to track me down.”
Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Tothian, naturally, takes the concept of being a superhero extremely seriously and was wary of the conference. His wariness, in turn lead a number of attendees to cancel their trips, including the emcee of the event, one of the oldest heroes around, dubbed, simply, Superhero. “We didn’t know them too well yet, nor what to expect,” Tothian explains. “But after we all got to know [Ben and Chaim] we saw that they’re great guys with sincere intentions and actually want to do something good for the world.”
Regardless, back in 2007 Chaim was in a bind- he didn’t want to have a meeting without an official superhero emcee. But Chaim had dons his research- he knew about the different types of superheroes, the “community crusader” in particular. “A community crusader is somebody who is not necessarily in a costume but works from within the community to move forward the cause of real-life superheroeism” Chaim explains.
After the debacle with Tothian, Chaim went to Columbia Chabad to think. “I hadn’t slept at all the night before,” he says. “It was a totally crazy week and I was like, praying and wondering, ‘Who is gonna run this thing?’ Then I realized that all the sacrifices I had been making, the thousands of dollars of my own money, all of my time and life spent toward making this happened made ma a community crusader, and therefore a superhero. And therefore I could be the one to lead this meeting. Son on Sunday when we had the meet up in Times Square, that was when I put on the mask for the first time and claimed myself ‘Life.’”
Ben, in turn, became “The Camera Man.”
“My role in Superheroes Anonymous has always been documenting what the superheroes do,” he says. He doesn’t wear a costume, and he sees this whole project as wholly short-term. He doesn’t go on patrols like Life does, but he does accompany heroes like  The Dark Guardian, a swarthy New Yorker who dresses in head-to-toe leather, when they set out on missions to Washington Square Part to take on drug dealers. Although he denies being a hero, guys like The Dark Guardian would be seriously screwed without Ben around- the fact that he wields a camera helps keep criminals in check, proving that you don’t need freezrays or super strength to fight evil.
Life’s own arsenal is rather limited as well, He carries a cell phone, a pocket knight and a backpack filled with water bottles, military-issue meals and ready to eat, granola bars, socks and whatever else he can scrape together for the homeless he tends to . After parting ways with Jowls and Comb Tracks at the abandoned building, Life takes off down the sidewalk, passing houses wreathed in blinking colored lights to stock up at the local RiteAid. He picks up a coupon book and surveys the deals under the deals under the glare of the florescent lights. “This is where my cheap Jewness comes in,” he says with a laugh, trying to decide between Rice Krispie Treats (cheaper, but less nutritionous) and granola bars. But Chaim isn’t being cheap, per se. He’s a recent college grad who makes a small wage working for the Ripple Project, a documentary film company that focuses on social issues. But being the child of a rabbit, Life was taught to give ten percent of his earnings to charity. At the register, he checks over the receipt with the same precision as a fussy mother, but then grabs a handful of chocolate to add it the finally tally. “I love giving people chocolate because they appreciate it. No one else gives them chocolates,” he says.
Outside in the cold again, Life passes a gaggle of college kids on winter break, decked out in hats and puffy jackets, “I was so fucking wasted last weekend,” a girl squeals as she disappears down the concrete while Life heads to St. John the Divine to pass out supplies to the homeless who huddle on the steps. This is one of his usual haunts, and he tried to get there before the Coalition for the Homeless arrives with boxed meals- usually the homeless scatter after the trucks roll away. But when he arrives he sees he’s too late. The Coalition for the Homeless have come and gone and the poor have likely been shooed away. All that greets him when he arrives are granite steps blanketed in snow and ropes stretching across the stairs. “Those assholes,” he mutters, nothing that the ropes were likely put in place to discourage the homeless from hanging out on the steps.
Back in the summer time, the church was like a regular homeless clubhouse, but right now it’s too cold for anyone to linger outside for long. The homeless are all in shelters or are hiding out somewhere in the darkness. Back in August Chaim had tramped down to St. John’s every week- since graduating, he’s been sorting his life out, moving to Harlem and setting up Superheroes Anonymous headquarters (a.k.a. his apartment). Last summer he had leapt up the stairs distributing vitamins and shampoo to a man named John, who wore a giraffe T-shirt and leaned heavily on a cane. Tonight John isn’t here. “I thought at least the Mexicans would be here,” Life says with a sigh.
The Mexicans usually assemble in the front doorway, huddled together under the granite saints that stare out into the darkness like blank-eyed sentinels. The men are likely here illegally and, as they told Chaim, they have “No worky. No casa. Lots of Mexicans. It’s bad.” This summer they have taught Chaim how to say razor (navaja) and toothbrush (cepillo dental) in Spanish. Chaim had asked where their friend Edguardo was and a man wearing a shirt emblazoned with mountain ranges- the kind of souvenir sweatshirt that you buy on vacation- had pointed up at the saints and uttered, “Jesus.”
“Jesus loves me?” Chaim asked, seeming to misunderstand the sentiment. It’s impossible to tell how many streets have unwittingly become graves.
Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Photos by Paul Quitoriano

Tonight, however, the streets seem free of the homeless. Life wanders past another church covered in blue twinkle lights. He sing-songs in the night jokingly, like the Pied Piper, “Heeere, homeless people. Oh, Hooooomelss people…”
“I have homeless vision,” he says. Just then he sees John, leaning on his cane across from the church. Chaim approaches the old man, shivering on the sidewalk, while college students stream by taking care to make a wide arc around him. Life presents John with handwarmers, a bottle of water and cigarettes. “Is there anything else you need?” Chaim asked. John whispers in a voice barely audible above the cutting wind, “Long underwear.”
“People always ask me how I know what to bring,” Chaim says, taking off once more across the nighttime streets. “I didn’t offer John a grain bar because he has bad teeth. But people tell you what they need. How would I know he needed long underwear if he didn’t tell me?”
And that’s one of Chaim’s greatest powers: He listens. He talked to people whom everyone avoids. The true Mr. and Mrs. Cellophanes. Chaim stops to talk to them all. IN the grand scheme of things, his actions are small- he won’t be clearing New York’s streets of the poor anytime soon, nor will he eradicate poverty and hunger. But he has no illusions in that regard. Life wants to start a movement- to inspire others to do as he does. And that’s the true purpose of Superheroes Anonymous. Chaim has taken a disparate group of misfits and rebels and given them a singular vision- shaping them into a symbol for doing good.
The night is wearing on toward midnight when Life hears a thin whine rising from a huddled mass in front of a corner bank. “I’m so cold!” squeals a man supported by a walker and little else. His pant leg is rolled up far above the knee and he’s shaking violently. “My leg is broken! I haven’t eating in three days!” the main cries as people walk briskly by him, staring steadfastly ahead. Life strides right up to him, “Here, take theses,” Life says, pressing a pack of handwarmers into the man’s shaking palms. Quickly, he hands the man water, cigarettes and the coveted chocolate. The man’s shaking continues, his voice rising in agony,” My hands are so cold.”
A woman pauses on the sidewalk, wrapped in a warm-looking black peacoat with a tailored collar. She notices Life and the man on the sidewalk- the water bottles and the chocolate. She steps forward and stuffs a handful of dollar bills into the man’s shaking cup.

Superhero Subculture

By Ariella Cohen
It was a warmish spring night and Dark Guardian had on his trademark chest-hugging motorcycle armor and bulletproof vest. His face shining under the streetlamps, the 24-year-old strode purposefully across Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. When he reached his target — a burly man he believed to be a drug dealer — he stopped and ordered the man to leave the park. “I got you on video. I got you on audio selling drugs,” barked
Dark Guardian, one of a growing movement of American city-dwellers occupying territory once reserved for comic-book creatures. Dark Guardian, real name Chris Pollak, is a real-life superhero. Taking to the streets in homespun hero garb to fight crime, help the homeless or do other kinds of community service, he and other self-proclaimed “reals” are popping up in cities from New York to Fairbanks, Alaska, where spandex-clad Raven and her caped sidekick, Winter Knight, keep watch over dark, icy streets. Raven says she chooses to engage with her community under an alias rather than her own identity as a 26-year-old writer because it allows her to more comfortably traverse unfamiliar neighborhoods. “When I’m in character I don’t feel socially awkward in these places that would make me feel uncomfortable in my other life,” she says.
The superheroes say their ultimate intent is to encourage people to do what Raven did: abandon their everyday routines to do good in their communities. “We are drawing attention to the fact that regular people can become superheroes. You don’t have to be endowed with special powers to save the world,” says Chaim Lazaros, 24, an independent filmmaker who co-founded an organization called Superheroes Anonymous in 2007. Lazaros’ activities mainly consist of handing out food to homeless New Yorkers while dressed in the black mask and top hat of his alias, Life Laz. He estimates there are some 250 superheroes practicing in the U.S.
One of the most revered superheroes, Superbarrio, defends Mexico City in bullfighter-red tights and a matching wrestler’s mask. His chubby physique has become an unlikely sex symbol. But while Superbarrio has succeeded in making Mexicans feel safer, some have questioned whether taking law enforcement into one’s own hands could lead to vigilantism.
The anonymity is another red flag, says Renia Ehrenfeucht, author of Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space and an assistant professor of planning and urban studies at University of New Orleans. “Why not go into the streets as yourself,” she asks, “and participate in the community as a person from within it rather some masked figure from outside?”
Public safety officials, citing both physical safety and civil liberties concerns, have said they would prefer if amateur avengers left the work to professionals. That night in Washington Square Park, Dark Guardian succeeded in convincing the alleged dealer to leave without violence. The departure, however, didn’t come without a few threats and a hurried 911 call from the superhero.
Recently the New York Police Department reached out to Pollak to talk to him about a video they had seen of the park confrontation. “They were like, ‘We respect what you do, but these guys have been arrested 20 or 30 times. They carry guns,’” he recalls. “They’d rather me not do what I am doing.” Still, the Dark Guardian lives on. “There is a hero in everyone,” he says. “We are just getting the message out.”

Real Life Superheroes

By Loy Williams
The world has always had superheroes, revealed especially after 9/11. After all, who hasn’t heard of your friendly neighborhood fireman, policeman or paramedic? This article, however, isn’t about them. Today I want to talk about the men and women who dress up in colorful (or not so colorful) outfits and go out and patrol the streets without the sanction of city, state or federal governments. Today I want to talk about the Real Life Superheroes.
Real Life Superheroes are men and women who dress up like their comic book namesakes. At times they have been given the distinction by the local news or by people they’ve helped. Other times they’ve given the title to themselves. Real Life Superheroes, inspired by the adventures of the comic book variation take to streets when they can, out to help those who need help.
They are not always on the lookout for a fight. Many Real Life Superheroes only get involved in stopping an individual crime if someone’s life is in danger. Often they report crime to the local police and perform community outreach tasks such as helping the homeless or escorting defenseless women home. One RLSH, known as “SuperBarrio,” based in Mexico City, rarely uses violence at all. Instead he is known for organizing protests and filing petitions.
In fact, one thing that can be gained from Real Life Superheroes is that it’s not necessary to punch out a bad guy to be a hero. In Washington DC, a heroine named Metrowoman uses her superhero costume to let the public know the benefits of mass transit and public transportation. The aptly named “Superhero” based out of Clearwater, FL provides roadside assistance in his Corvette Stingray, possibly the coolest form of rlsh transportation so far. Portland, Oregon’s Zetaman gives food and clothing to that city’s homeless population.
One thing we can learn from these crimefighters… they’re not going away anytime soon. While so far there are only a limited number of real life superheroes operating in the United States and even fewer in Europe, we can be assured that in the years to come more will be revealed.
There are more questions than answers when it comes to the Real Life Superhero. For instance, where do they get their costumes? Why did they start doing this superhero thing in the first place? Where are all the Real Life Supervillains? Don’t fret, reader. I’m sure that there will be answers to these questions in the future. In the meantime, be on the lookout for these costumed crimefighters to be out protecting the public from evil.


Hardhitting news show DEADLINE! followed your favorite superheroes on a typical patrol. We kept Union Square safe and cleaned up the street, SLS style! Watch, laugh, and love! Check here for availability!
Here are the scheduled broadcasts of our feature:
Thu., Oct. 26th @ 11:00 PM ET
Sat., Oct. 28th @ 11:30 PM ET
Sun., Oct. 29th @ 6:00 PM ET
Tue., Oct. 31st @ 6:30 PM ET
-Captain Xavier Obvious

Superbarrio: Darthmouth

Photo essay originally published online at Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University
“Yo comparto la idea de que tiene que haber una transformación de la política económica, y si la política económica se está dictando desde Wall Street, desde el Departamento de Tesoro […] el gobierno norteamericano tiene un papel sustancial en diseñar esta política económica … Por eso, lo que yo estoy haciendo es atacar por los dos lados. Con la organización social, con la gente en movimiento, con propuestas de modificar la propiedad económica, y con la candidatura a la presidencia, para modificar de fondo esta política. Y sin dar el beneficio de la duda, en la cosa de la candidatura, podemos perder aquí, pero no podemos perder en el movimiento social.”
The Future is Now
In favor of progressive transnational politics via what can be understood as global gobernance, Superbarrio 1995’s electoral campaign for US president proposed that the citizens of the Americas must have the right of self-governance by having control over the US electoral vote. In other words, Latin Americans, and Latinos/as alike, must be able to participate fully in the US electoral process by having a representative voice. Superbarrio Gomez for US president against the “politics of fear” was the logic consequence.
Nine years later, from September 20, to October 4, the “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride”, a national march organized by labor and pro-immigrant rights organizations toured the US nation. Their claims, the provision of voting rights to non-US citizens. In the tradition of the 1961 “Freedom Rides”, more than 120,000 immigrants arrived to Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York, the largest pro-immigrant march in US history. Predictions attest that by 2080, Mexico’s north and the US southwest will unify. The Mexicanization of California has already taken place long ago, now we are in the North East.
“Voy a estar en Harvard el próximo viernes, y me da miedo encontrarme a los mexicanos ahí, porque son ellos los que están pensando en qué va a hacer nuestro presidente, y hoy están estudiando un material nuevo que se llama: desastres económicos nacionales. La gente tiene una politización muy alta, tiene una conciencia social también muy alta, la gente ha desarrollado sus aspiraciones y sus formas de organización. El gobierno no ha sido recíproco con este sacrificio.”
“The problem of NAFTA is not about workers, it is about corporations because they are the ones benefiting from this situation….the corporations take the industry to México because the conditions are different, that is the problem. When the workers can find and meet each other, when they can talk between them, the problem is clear…it is not our problem it is the corporation and the government’s problem. We want to be a voice that identify these problems and think together about the solution. The workers from Canada, the workers from the U.S., from México should think together what is the solution about the problem of unemployment, social security, and work with unions…”
“…una política económica de carácter CONTINENTAL en donde también se puedan tener medidas para las plantas nacionales.”
While John Kerry, Rudolph Giuliani, and George W. Bush propose an America to reconcile either class division or national security promises, in 1995 Superbarrio’s campaign proposed an America comprised of alternative transnational political cultures. Superbarrio’s unified America, in conversation with Benito Juarez “America for Americans”, incorporated the participation of Latin American and Latino/a civil societies within and beyond the US.
“El concepto americano hasta nostros mismos lo hemos tenido que asumir, ya que nos hemos negado a nosotros mismos nuestra condición de americanos nacidos en el continente.”
Superbarrio has been a fundamental figure in Mexico City’s electoral concientization, the way in which winning for the majoritarian class became a real political imaginary. Superbarrio’s premonitory discourse further promoted the possibilities of global governance as the only consequential logic in a global world economy and its centralized accumulation of capital. Superbarrio’s candidacy for U.S. President promoted a cross-border alliance among workers in the search of what are human rights, decent working and living conditions. Because the U.S./Mexico border has been the location to rehearse and promote the dehumanization of the labor force, and NAFTA its later institutionalized model, Superbarrio’s transnational mobilization becomes the wrestling scenario to conceptualized “new geographies of governamentality” (Appadurai 2002). Superbarrio’s transnational activism became a fight for alternative forms of global citizenship in which to keep the mask on means to own one’s home within and beyond the Nation.

Superbarrio: Mexico City Political Climate

sb2Photo essay originally published online at Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University
Historically, Superbarrio has been strategic in promoting democratic electoral change. He first emerged in June, 1987 as representative of the Neighborhood Assembly; but in order to win, Superbarrio and the Assembly understood they had to create an alternative political imaginary against seven decades of PRI government, its repeated electoral frauds, and its unpunished corruption. In 1988, the Neighborhood Assembly nominated Superbarrio for president. But, already exercising a profound understanding of coalition building, he gave up his nomination to support Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the progressive leader of Mexico’s Democratic Coalition.
Superbarrio Gomez is like any other working class man; he is a street vendor, lives in the barrio and owns a Barriomovil. According to the Cumbia de Superbarrio (Superbarrio’s cumbia song), he was an orphan. While a teenager, he witnessed the ’68 military oppression against the students uprising in Tlatelolco. Superbarrio “tried selling clothes, driving a taxi, about 200 different jobs before settling on a career as a luchador calling himself Black Prince.” Eventually he fell in love with “Lucha,” not the popular ranchera singer Lucha Villa, nor Lucha Contreras, but Lucha Popular. (Lucha is a proper name which also translates as “struggle.”) He married and had a wrestling carrier. Gomez’s life changed after the September earthquake in 1985, and after he and his neighbors were evicted from a building in downtown Mexico City. He decided to stop fighting fictional enemies in order to fight the real enemy, the government, and its illegal alliance with landlords who perpetrated tenant evictions. In his interview, David Brooks asked Superbarrio what was behind that mask, if there were many Superbarrios. Superbarrio replied that there were thousands of Superbarrios, in fact that anyone who rises his/her voice against injustice was Superbarrio.
Superbarrio’s consciousness is the result of the unification of Mexico’s majoritarian class against a large national problem, the government’s consistent project of gentrification. Superbarrio explains: “The policy of the government over the last decades has been one of forcing people from the center of the city to the periphery, and giving the properties at the center of commercial use to benefit large enterprises, warehouses, restaurants, tourist attractions.” In 1993, Mexico was the fourteenth-wealthiest country in the world, and the most politically stable country in Latin America. Simultaneously, Mexico City had the most unequal distribution of wealth; it concentrated the richness and the misery of the entire country. Superbarrio adds that, “when peasants demanded land to the government, the government gave them land—but 6 feet under. Those who petitioned housing and invaded vacant lots, got housing—but inside jail. And those workers who asked for wage increases—found themselves fired.”
La Asamblea de Barrios (Mexico City’s Neighborhood Assembly) is a grassroots organization concerned with the egalitarian acquisition and distribution of decent housing for the poor. In the late 1980s, working class women and amas de casa constituted seventy percent of the organization. La Asamblea de Barrios was the result of the unification of the representatives of 40 neighborhood unions, which emerged to oppose the city’s evictions against the marginal population in Mexico City. The government proved its lack of commitment to the poor during the most difficult moments after the earthquake. Taking advantage of the situation, the government spent most of its time “organizing” the evictions of thousands of underprivileged people living in downtown’s historic center, rather than rescuing other thousands of people dying, or already deadly trapped, “aplastadas,” by the Government’s poorly constructed building projects and hospitals. Two hundred and fifty thousand people were left homeless after the first earthquake, while, 500 thousand Mexicans slept on the streets with one eye opened, looking at their houses, afraid to lose the rest of their belongings. This devastation and corruption, and La Asamblea de Barrios’s infrastructure, created the context for Super to jump into the ring of urban politics to renovate and reconstruct the Mexican political arena. “To confront these problems a super human effort is required, and that is why it takes a Superbarrio to change it.”
Superbarrio’s ability to transform the practices of popular culture, such as wrestling and its rhetoric, into an alternative political imaginary produces the transformation of social space into urban mobilization. Simultaneously, his wrestling performance within a social movement transcends and conveys his fictional character into a real political leader.
The wrestling mask is designed to differentiate each wrestler within the various social spaces in which they interact, from the wrestling ring performance to the “fotonovela” print. While Superbarrio’s mask connotes the traditional strength of wrestling championship, he subverts this exclusive function by adding to it an extra layer of signification. “Behind the mask there is the whole struggle of the city’s inhabitants, to make it more livable, more democratic, to resolve the great problems we face. The mask is the symbol, the identification of the people in this struggle…it is not an individual struggle…” For Superbarrio to keep his mask on in the wrestling ring and the social struggle means that we are all winners, we are all Superbarrio.

Superbarrio: Introduction

sb1Photo essay originally published online at Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University
This photo essay is about Superbarrio Gomez and his journey in the construction of a “politics of the possible” (1) , an alternative political imaginary constituted via popular culture and the construction of a national and transnational social movement. Superbarrio makes evident the collapse between politics and performance; he forces us to think beyond the performance of politics in order to understand the politics of performance. Superbarrio belongs to both the majoritarian class and to the wrestling ring of popular culture, which makes his politics possible. Superbarrio’s practices of popular culture creates a political imaginary in which winning was possible in spite of corrupt referees. But Superbarrio makes evident how the wrestling ring teaches us about political culture as well as social mobilization. Superbarrio’s wrestling ring is a place of possibilities where corrupt landlords and politicians are unmasked .As long as Superbarrio keeps his mask, we all win. Superbarrio’s journey maps an alternative political imaginary that functioned at the local, national and transnational/hemispheric register. At the local level, Superbarrio, with the strength of Mexico City’s Neighborhood Assembly [Asamblea de Barrios] created a social movement that understood that to win one’s home, one had to win at the national level, the National Palace and la Casa de los Pinos [presidential house]. Superbarrio became the symbol to mobilize the political imaginary in which to vote, (against seven decades of perfect dictatorship) was the only option to own the Presidential house. In 1988, Superbarrio aligned forces with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in the winning of the national vote and they won.
But against systemic corruption, to win was not enough and the social movement had to reach beyond the US/Mexican border. In order to do so, Superbarrio made his first US tour promoting the possibility of Mexicans, living on the US side of the border, to vote for Mexican president. After all, their income has contributed to the Mexican economy 13 thousand million dollars in economic gross. Superbarrio promoted a political imaginary in which voting– a fundamental right of citizenship– could be exercised across national borders. But this transnational campaign was the practice of a political vision that understood the rules of the game within the then nascent process of globalization and the privatization of the Nation-State. In 1994, NAFTA (North American Free-Trade Agreement) would become the national precedent. Knowing the dirty rules of what became a macro-economic political game, Superbarrio jumped out of the national arena to fight for the rights of workers transnationally; he ran for US president in 1996. Superbarrio’s strategy was to contextualize the concept of national citizenship (exercised in the voting of national citizens such as Latinos/as and Latin Americans living in the US with dual citizenship) into that of free trade, not of goods but of people. In his campaign he proposed “free citizenship”, a concept that assumes rights to decent housing and working conditions across nations for all, citizens and non-citizens, the workers of the hemisphere within and beyond the US territory. Superbarrio’s free citizenship becomes a model of global citizenship in which fair housing and fair working conditions function within the realm of human rights transnationally. He also proposed the voting rights of these transnational workers, their vote would count for Mexican as well as US president. Superbarrio’s US presidential campaign, and his premonitory “politics of the possible”, produce an alternative political, social and cultural imaginary. By implication, to believe in Superbarrio is to believe in a collective struggle that functions regionally and operates as a social movement across borders. To believe in Superbarrio is to believe in us as transnational social agents. Beneath the mask, we are all Superbarrio.
(1) I am borrowing this concept from Kumkum Sangari “The Politics of the Possible,” Cultural Critique 7 (Fall 1987: 157-186).

Superbarrio's performativity, his embodiment of popular strength and collective self, is only possible through his direct participation within the imaginary and memory of popular culture.

Superbarrio’s performativity, his embodiment of popular strength and collective self, is only possible through his direct participation within the imaginary and memory of popular culture.

The fence from the U.S. to Mexico is recycled and settled in the Palestinian territories. The U.S./Mexican border becomes Wall-Mart Nation, where peso salaries purchase dollar products. Wall-Mart becomes the contact zone, the bridge where socialization takes place via consumption, and transculturation functions by way of gastronomic hybridity with post-national and post-natural products. The category of migrant and/or undocumented worker disappears, now replaced by the Wal-Mart migrant shopper. Wal-Mart becomes a brand citizenship. Mexican workers are from both sides of Wal-Mart as the U.S. becomes Mexico and the south of Mexico becomes the place where the corporate oligarchs live in their natural resorts of Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Acapulco. Wal-Mart workers are mostly women; child labor laws have been dismantled, given the population’s gastronomic diet made of intense hormonal doses in super-size meals. Workers overdeveloped in size and Mexican mothers conspire by creating cilantro pills to sustain the IQ levels and cultural memory of their overgrown children. Workers sneak in the pills. Reports from the information guerrilla network attest that those who intervene against the Wal-Mart production line risk being devoured into the fast food menu. In the south, the formation of a Coca-Cola State becomes a preventive model against military occupation and tamales are assimilated into Wal-Mart’s production line. The Chinese, out of earthly space, transport their maquila sweat shops into outer space in Bangladeshi man-made space ships. Meanwhile, the electoral process experiences radical change, voting acquires a Wal-Mart redirecting points system; the more one purchases, the more points for the ruling BWW Party. In Wal-Mart World, former U.S. citizens and radicals vote a la the Mexican “si no?” vote against the ruling party even if it is not in favor of any candidate. Chiapas is yet to be conquered.