Tag new bedford

Super friends

Originally posted at http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Life/94281-Super-friends/

STREET JUSTICE: Real-life superheroes are now so numerous throughout the country that they have a national organization, Superheroes Anonymous. New England regional heroes include, second from left, Basilisk, Civitron, Beau Shay Monde, and Recluse. Rapper Tem Blessed (far left) has collaborated with Civitron.

STREET JUSTICE: Real-life superheroes are now so numerous throughout the country that they have a national organization, Superheroes Anonymous. New England regional heroes include, second from left, Basilisk, Civitron, Beau Shay Monde, and Recluse. Rapper Tem Blessed (far left) has collaborated with Civitron.

Move over, Clark Kent. All over New England, mild-mannered citizens are suiting up and doing their part to play the hero.
THWAK! I swing with my right fist, trying to connect with my opponent’s face. In a smooth motion, he deflects my punch with his forearm, which is protected with a black and metallic-plastic arm gauntlet. I swing with my left fist, and am again knocked away effortlessly. I can see my reflection in his sunglasses, framed in white. He smiles and smoothes out his red and white spandex shirt — adorned with a letter “C,” a flame shooting out of the top — and then crouches into a fighting stance.
“Oh, no,” I think. “I’m about to get my ass kicked by a Lycra-wearing superhero.”
This non-caped crusader goes by the name of Civitron, and lucky for me, our combat is not a battle royale to the death. Rather, we are sparring at Rebelo’s Kenpo Karate, in New Bedford, where Civitron has trained under sensei Joseph “Kenpo Joe” Rebelo on and off for more than 10 years. We aren’t alone.
Twelve other “real-life superheroes,” striking and grappling, are crowded into the dojo for a martial-arts workshop led by Rebelo (who, despite his superhero-sounding last name, is not a member of this tribe). The heroes have flown in — by plane from all over the country to take part in a three-day conference called “Superheroes Anonymous,” which is akin to a modern-day Justice League confab. They are wearing a multi-hued rainbow of spandex costumes, but there is also an emphasis on “real.” These aren’t the chiseled matinee-idol muscle men and women of the comics pages — more like the people with whom you ride the bus. Yes, some are athletic and tall, but some are short with pot bellies. It’s doubtful these heroes will put the fear of God into real-life hoodlums, let alone the Penguin or Dr. Octopus.
“We come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and beliefs,” says Civitron. (In the tradition of protecting a superhero’s alter ego, these heroes agreed to speak with the Phoenix as long as we could assure them their secret identities would be safe.) There is Nyx, a curvy New Jersey woman, dressed in gray leotards with a red dust mask covering her lower face. She is sparring against Zimmer, who has just arrived from Austin. Zimmer, short and wiry, wears a spandex shirt, the binary code for the letter “Z” streaming down one side. Zetaman traveled from Portland, Oregon, with a suitcase full of bulky blue plastic armor (superheroes of other eras never had to get their costumes through airport security). Scavenger has on a black mask and corset; black plastic streamers hang from her arms. Her main focus, superhero-wise, is picking up litter in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she has traveled from with her friend, the mountainous Runebringer. He is wrapped in a large gray coat with runic characters decorating his chest.
A lifelong superhero fan, Rebelo, 48, is clearly relishing his surreal position as instructor to a class whose students look as if they had stepped out of a stack of his comic books. As he yells out instructions, his colorful combatants block and counter strike, a Roy Lichtenstein–like comic panel of goggles, masks, combat boots, homemade utility belts, and capes come to life.
After training for a few days in the superhero arts, these mortals will return home and watch over their cities — maybe in a neighborhood near you.
Superheroes in real life
The real-life superhero (RLSH) scene is, believe it or not, a growing movement of people who adopt a superhero persona of their own creation, then perform small-scale heroic deeds, such as donating to charities or watching their streets for criminal behavior. Some can acquit themselves admirably in the fighting arena, whereas others make do by carrying pepper spray and Tasers, but most stress that their best weapon is a cell phone to call the police.
If the image of mere mortals walking the streets in homemade costumes is strange, consider that our vicarious culture has increasingly catered to our fantasy lives. We’re assuming the lives of rock stars, soldiers, and athletes in video games, and immersing ourselves completely in characters created in World of Warcraft, Second Life, and other online role-playing games. We watch artificial realities on TV, and read celebrity blogs on MySpace and Twitter.
Combine this with the grand American tradition of the superhero comic book, which took its first BAM! and POW! steps into the pop-culture pantheon more than 70 years ago. In the last several years, the Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman franchises, among others, have smashed box-office records like the Hulk on a rampage. Add to that hit TV shows like Heroes and the popularity of graphic novels, and it’s easy to see the yearning of your everyday Clark Kent to be something, well, more super.
The spreading of the RLSH philosophy has been as simple as a click of the mouse. Internet chat rooms and YouTube videos connected new superheroes from city to city. Inevitably, regionalized teams formed and events like Superheroes Anonymous were set up so that like-minded heroes could meet, mask to mask.
First-time filmmakers Ben Goldman and Chaim Lazaros founded the annual conference three years ago, to capture heroes uniting to work together in New York City, with additional footage shot the next year in New Orleans. (Their documentary is currently in post-production.) Civitron volunteered to host this year’s conference in the “Secret City” of New Bedford. (Not exactly the Fortress of Solitude, but it will do in a pinch.)
Originally a premise to get quirky, compelling footage, Superheroes Anonymous has evolved. Besides the annual conference, it has recently been rethought of as a nonprofit organization, with chapters in New Bedford; New York; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Portland, Oregon.
“We’ve already met with lawyers to go over nonprofit paperwork,” says Civitron. “The funny thing is, they were really disappointed that they wouldn’t be representing crazy people who thought they had super powers.”
OWL’S WELL New Bedford’s Civitron (right) has some potent super genes — his six-year-old son is also a superhero: Mad Owl.

OWL’S WELL New Bedford’s Civitron (right) has some potent super genes — his six-year-old son is also a superhero: Mad Owl.

New England heroes
“New England has a long history of people looking for justice, and I think it’s been passed down generation to generation,” says Civitron, who was born in Boston and moved to New Bedford in sixth grade. He says the history, and even the East Coast’s Gotham City–like architecture, makes New England a great place to hang a superhero shingle.
Perhaps that’s why the region is damn near overrun with superheroes.
Recluse also calls New Bedford home. Clad in a studded rubber mask and a shirt with the white outline of a spider, he is a mysterious and elusive figure, true to his name. He does, however, agree to speak briefly with the Phoenix.
“When I first started,” recalls Recluse, “I was doing patrols in one of [New Bedford’s] worst neighborhoods, the South End. A lot of drug dealers, a lot of gangs, and I got injured doing that. . . . I thought it was like the comic books, apparently. I don’t know what I was thinking. I tried to stop three people from breaking into a house and I got thrown off the porch and landed on my shoulder, so I learned a lesson there.”
Since then, he says, he has taken a more careful approach, hitting the streets as a dynamic duo with a trained martial artist who calls himself Bushido (Japanese for “way of the warrior,” and the name of the moral code the samurai lived by). While combing the streets for crime, he wears street clothes — and a ballistics vest.
Recluse, too, has been donning plainclothes of late, “trying to observe and report more,” he says. “I knew Bushido way before I ever donned my Recluse mask; he saw what I was doing and he wanted to do it as well. We patrol from a vehicle with a video camera and only get involved if it’s an immediate danger to someone or someone’s property.”
Basilisk, inspired by Batman, cruises around the Taunton area. You’ll recognize him as the guy wearing a trench coat, goggles, a hood, and gloves. He met Civitron online, and the two now meet regularly to get coffee and discuss life, or to go look for wrongs to right.
Basilisk says he views himself as “a servant of the people. I take this goal very seriously,” he says. “Basically I want to be myself and I want to make a difference.”
If any bad dudes venture farther north, specifically in the Lewiston and Auburn area of Maine, they’ll be entering Slapjack’s turf. Slapjack says he first adopted his persona for the online role-playing game City of Heroes. But after hearing about other real-life superheroes, he decided it was time for his character to move from the virtual world to the real streets to watch for crime and help with charity work.
His look is inspired by the classic comic-noir hero The Shadow. They both wear a fedora and trench coat, and Slapjack has a mask with a spade and a diamond over the eyes. He sometimes carries metal-framed playing cards that can be tossed like throwing knives.
“Slapjack is the complete opposite of who I am,” he says, reflecting on his costumed persona. “I’m a really happy-go-lucky type of guy. I am very social and open, and Slapjack is like the darker personality. He is more secretive, more opinionated, he’s let his mind go and it really is like a Clark Kent/Superman or Bruce Wayne/Batman type of thing.”
There are numerous other heroes in the region. Among them: The Beetle of Portland, Maine, who couldn’t be reached for comment; someone calling themselves “Samaritan” from Providence, who recently contacted Civitron, and said he had been walking his beat for the last couple years, unaware of the larger RLSH movement; and the retired Ms. Kismet of New Bedford, whose MySpace page notes that “I carry a backpack, which hold[s] a great number of useful superhero things, like . . . alcohol-based hand sanitizer (it does the trick without promoting bacteria resistance).”
Instrument of the people
Civitron’s heroic name comes from the Roman civi (of the people) and the Greek suffix tron (instrument), and describes how he sees himself. He is of Puerto Rican and Italian decent, with the build of a runner and someone who takes his martial-arts training seriously.
“Something I say all the time is that I’m not really Civitron alone,” he tells me later by phone, as he watches over his neighborhood. “Civitron is a creation of everybody in my life who helped me get to this point.”
This eclectic hero-forming collective includes Civitron’s mom, whom he credits with teaching him to be a strong person, but not a “tough guy.” “He’s always wanted to save the world,” she says.
Civitron’s partner, Jennifer, is also supportive of him. Their six-year-old son has even adopted his own superhero persona, Mad Owl, complete with a brown-and-gold owl costume.
But other than the father and son having secret identities, the three actually seem like a pretty normal family. Jennifer goes to school for biology. Civitron — who has a very warm, Zen-like personality, almost constantly smiling — has worked as a counselor, and currently is involved with a day program for autistic patients.
Whereas many comic-book superheroes are reviled in their communities, Civitron has legions of fans. They include the former RLSH Green Sage, a friend from New Bedford who has retired his own hero costume but still supports Civitron’s efforts, and Tem Blessed, a positive-message rapper from Providence who has collaborated with Civitron on a food drive. The two plan to work on projects together in the future.
Civitron says his first meeting with his sensei, Rebelo, was in a comic-book store. Rebelo is proud of Civitron and his colleagues.
“His actions make others aware that they can act heroically, too,” says Rebelo. “Helping a food pantry, picking up litter, distributing food and clothes to the poor — these are actions that so many people have given up on. You hear so much about not being a snitch, about not getting involved. There’s a famous quote from Charles Barkley, ‘I’m not a role model.’ Civitron is saying the opposite of all that — that he is a role model. He wants to be involved and do something positive.”
Don’t expect the New Bedford Police Department to build a bat-signal anytime soon, though.
“We prefer to be the only costumed crime fighters out there,” says Lieutenant Jeffrey Silva, a police spokesman. He says the department is aware of real-life superheroes, but they have yet to cross paths with them.
“Although they might be well-intentioned, we don’t endorse citizen patrols, because we don’t know the level of training,” says Silva. Even so, he concedes that any help to police is welcome.
“Anytime someone wants to get involved and help police, we see it as a good thing, so long as they don’t work without police participation. We prefer people to be the eyes and ears of the police.”
But what about the strange costumes?
“Well, fortunately, we’re not the fashion police,” states Silva.
So what is the payoff for dressing as a superhero and running through dark and dangerous alleyways in the moonlight? Slapjack says that the realization that he is trying to do something positive is his reward.
“Knowing that you are going out there and being proactive and helping makes you feel good about accomplishing something,” says Slapjack. “My father always said, ‘No matter how bad your life, no matter how hard, there is always someone a lot worse off than you are.’ I always took that to heart, and use that as motivation to be better and do good.”
“I just see myself as someone trying to make things better,” agrees Recluse, “and I hope that people see me as that.” As for Civitron, he says being a father is a reason he wants to make the world a better place.
“I’ll be satisfied in the end if I’m just perceived as doing my part,” he says, “contributing to society and making my community better. I like being real and living my truth.”
For more information, visit the Web sites superheroesanonymous.com and reallifesuperheroes.org. Tea Krulos is a freelance writer from Milwaukee. He can be reached at [email protected].

Real-life super heroes on the streets of the United States

Twenty-eight-year-old David “Civitron” Civatarese is a Boston-based real-life super hero. In his day job he works with adults with autism but in his free time, Civitron dons his home-made super hero disguise – a burgundy and orange jumpsuit – and takes to the sidewalk, assisting his community however he can by cleaning up the streets, helping out the homeless or families in need.
He’s part of a growing collective of ordinary citizens across America who have transformed themselves into something – and someone – else, made themselves larger than life. Going under the banner ‘Superheroes Anonymous’, the collective is dedicated to inspiring the super hero spirit in everyone.
Original persona
According to Civitron, it’s about finding out what your individual powers are and finding out how you can use those powers to help your community.
“Many of us dress up as an original super hero persona – and that’s part of the personal journey of going out and changing your life, of becoming the change that you want to see in the world [to quote Gandhi]. We take a look at ourselves, take a moral inventory – and see what we can change. With the persona we provide a template for ourselves to live by.”
The costumes – and the reasons for wearing them – are different for everyone, says Civitron.
“It’s about becoming a living example, not only for others but also yourself. You put on the costume to remind yourself you are out there specifically for the purpose of helping and for living your cause. For others, it’s more about fun.”
Whether it’s Life Lazaros, a New York hipster who wears a black mask and works on the street with runaways and homeless people, or Zeta Man, who coordinates fundraisers in his local hip hop community, the growth of the real life super hero has been exponential in recent years, with close to 200 members across the United States.
Health and safety
But it’s not a question of vigilantism, Civitron is keen to point out. Superheroes Anonymous members act within the boundaries of safety and the law and liase with the police to build upon existing mechanism within society, rather than working alone. They aim to take responsibility within their own community.
Whether you wear a costume or not, Civitron says the guidelines to becoming a real-life super hero are simple:
“Know the law and know what the legal boundaries are. Always be safe… and for anybody looking to become a real life super hero – they should explore themselves, know what they believe to be true, set out to be that ambassador to the world and always stay true to their message.”

Real-life 'superheroes' take to the streets in US

By Michelle Stockman (AFP)
NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts — Inside a hotel room in this New England port city, a superhero assumed his disguise before hitting the street.
Dressed in a black fedora, white shirt with skinny black necktie, and a studded belt, 24-year-old Chaim “Life” Lazaros looks like any other hipster from New York City. Except for his black mask.
In real-life he’s a radio personality at a college radio station, but in superhero mode, Lazaros spends his time comforting homeless people.
And his eye-catching uniform helps his cause.
“You will get stares, questions on the street from people who are interested and curious,” Lazaros said.
“They are always inspired. I got emails from soldiers in Iraq saying ‘It’s so inspiring to me to see people back at home helping each other.'”
Three years ago, Lazaros and Ben Goldman, a documentary filmmaker, created “Superheroes Anonymous,” an organized group of real-life superheroes.
Lazaros said there are now roughly 200 fellow superheroes across the country — costumed civilians who patrol the streets behind self-made superhero personas.
Their missions are varied, from conducting homeless and sex worker outreach and picking up litter to looking out for crime and teaching first aid skills.
In early September, about 20 members gathered in New Bedford from across the country for a three-day event that included a hip hop concert, beach clean-up and workshops on how to disarm an enemy.
“Scavenger,” a 28-year-old social worker, stood outside a local coffee shop during a break.
Dressed in a velvet bustier and black tassled bodysock, the tight spandex revealed only her eyes. She said crows and vultures inspired her costume, as they are the recyclers of nature.
“They clean up and they use things to live. So I take garbage off the street,” Scavenger said, explaining that money she earns from picking up litter goes to buying things for homeless people.
At home, Mike “KnightOwl” Johnson is a firefighter and emergency medical technician from Ohio.
This towering 26-year-old in a bright yellow jersey with an owl logo and a black head scarf said he became a superhero as another way to make a visible difference in the world.
“I think anyone who looks around will fastly realize there’s something seriously wrong with the direction that people are going in,” said Johnson.
“We try to reverse a little of that, and ease pain and suffering anyway possible.”
Toutou and Dave Marsden from nearby Walpole, Massachusetts were in town for a Sunday sightseeing tour. They dropped into a mask-making workshop with their two children.
“I think it’s great,” said Toutou, 34. “I think we should have everyday superheroes. I think it’s great that people are out there helping out.”
In their effort to do good, the superhero community may skirt the lines of safety.
Lazaros said he and other superheroes confront drug dealers, armed only with a camera.
On the “Superheroes Anonymous” blog, writers describe how to construct a practical crime-fighting costume — including a bullet proof vest.
It also suggests strategies to win over the local authorities, suggesting, for example, that on Halloween you pay an initial visit in costume to the local Wal-Mart. Repeat often thereafter so people get used to a superhero presence.
Dressed in a burgundy and orange jumpsuit and white-framed sunglasses, New Bedford local David “Civitron” Civatarese, 28, said despite their odd appearance, superheroes have simple, altruistic motives.
“I’m sure not many people are going to take Civitron himself very seriously,” said Civatarese.
“But once I start talking about the things that we’re doing, whether that’s helping out the homeless, helping out families in need, or just cleaning up the streets, they start to think about how can they help out whether they want to put on a costume or not.”
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

Superheroes Anonymous 3- Sept. 5-7

Superheroes Anonymous Year 3 will be taking place in New Beford, Massachusetts Labor Day weekend. For more information, please contact Civitron at [email protected] or visit www.secretcity.org.
Statement from Chaim Lazaros concerning this year’s event
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It has become clear that there is confusion regarding the Superheroes Anonymous organization, the independent documentary film of the same name and the as-yet-unnamed MTV project. For this, we must take full responsibility. To clarify, Superheroes Anonymous is not affiliated, partnered nor otherwise associated with MTV or it’s parent company, Viacom.
MTV has been developing a pilot for an ongoing documentary series about the real-life superhero phenomenon and contacted Ben Goldman and I (Chaim Lazaros) for help. Due to our knowledge and experience working with and documenting real life superheroes, we were brought on as co-producers of this project. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to show the world the good work RLSH do.
We’d like to explicitly state that our working with MTV will not impact or influence the direction and core values of the organization, Superheroes Anonymous. Additionally, MTV has no connection to or influence over the ongoing documentary. Therefore, MTV will not be present at the upcoming Superheroes Anonymous annual event, set to take place on Labor Day weekend in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Superheroes Anonymous is dedicated to supporting real-life superheroes and chronicling the movement through the independent film documentary of the same name. This film endeavors to tell the story of the real life superhero movement as a whole and specifically, the creation of the Superheores Anonymous organization. The documentary has filmed at the past two gatherings. This year’s conference, “Secret City”, marks the end of the primary filming phase of this project, as Superheroes Anonymous becomes an official non-profit organization. The annual conference gives real life superheroes a chance to get together, both for the support of each other and to do work in the communities they visit. The conference will live on as part of the organization known as Superheroes Anonymous.
The details of this event are yet unannounced, but participants are expected to get their hands dirty, meet some new people and hopefully, learn something new about themselves and how to be even better superheroes. Slated activities include a clean-up event, a night patrol, and some community hunger outreach. Other events in development include workshops presented by fellow real-life superheroes, an event for kids, and a party/fundraiser. More information and a full calendar of workshops will be posted at www.SuperheroesAnonymous.com, very soon. This event is free and open to the public. Please, send any questions to [email protected]
From Civitron:
This Labor Day weekend, the annual meeting of Superheroes Anonymous will be hosted by Civitron in the Secret City, New Bedford, MA!
“Superheroes Anonymous is a collective of ‘real-life superheroes’ who aim to do good in the world and inspire others. Originally founded in 2007 by Ben Goldman and Chaim Lazaros as an annual conference for superheroes, Superheroes Anonymous has since become the legitimate face of the ‘real-life superhero’ movement – bringing superheroes together in the real world to affect positive change.” (From www.superheroesanonymous.com)
While we are still working out the details of this event, participants are expected to get their hands dirty, make some new friends and hopefully, learn something new about themselves and how to be even better superheroes. Slated activities included are a clean-up event, an evening patrol, and some community hunger outreach. Other events in development include workshops presented by real-life superheroes, an event for kids, and a party/fundraiser. More information and a full calendar of presenters will be posted here as updates become available. This event is free and open to the public. No registration is required. If you would like to help, please contact me, [email protected]
More Information
Currently there is a motel where a block of rooms has been set aside for us and a rate of $99 a night has been negotiated. The name of the place is the Seaport Inn and their phone number is 1.508.997.1281 and mention Superheroes Anonymous when calling. If you do not call to set up your reservation you will not get the discounted rate.
For more information please visit http://secretcity.org/.