The Real Life Super Hero Project

Originally posted:

Photo by Peter Tangen

Photo by Peter Tangen

Even for as far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by superheroes, comic books and the world of alter-egos and visual characters. That very fascination has moulded who and what I am today. The mystery surrounding a secret identity just astounds me and if it were at all humanly possible – I wish superheroes actually existed. And I wish I could be one!
Cue fanfare, whilst I don my dark shades, slip into my all-black garb and let the wind blow through my hair!
Now, an avenue exists for like-minded freaks, The Real Life Super Hero Project exists to collate this unique subculture of genuine heroes.
Anonymous and selfless, they choose every day, to make a difference in the world around them. Whether it be feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, or cleaning up their neighborhoods, they save real lives in very real ways. These are not “kooks in costumes,” as they may seem at first glance. They are, simply put, a radical response… to a radical problem.
So who are these modern day heroes? They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members. They are artists, musicians, athletes, and yes, politicians. Their actions serve as reminders that as most giving today has become reactive—digital and removed, temporarily soothing our guilt and feelings of helplessness—we have blinded ourselves to simple principles and practice of compassion and goodwill.
Photographer Peter Tangen has earned the trust of this loose network, to visually document the genuine power of these individuals—and in the process, reveal the soul behind their endeavor.
At first, The Real Life Superhero Project was conceived as an avenue to shine some light on this new breed of activism and altruism, through a photographic installation to benefit the established organizations the superheroes believe in. But as more people were brought into the wholly volunteer project, largely through Tangen’s infectious enthusiasm, the scope and purpose expanded exponentially.
Now, what began as a gallery exhibit, has come to serve as the launching pad of something far greater—a living, breathing community that inspires people to become the positive forces for change we all can be. To become more active, more involved, more committed, and perhaps, a little super in the process.
Check out the website here for more info.

Masked Humility

Originally posted:
By Mr. Jack
The mask does not make you, you make the mask.
Sometimes in our little community of costumed crazies we sometimes come to think that we deserve more attention and respect than we actually deserve. Let us be very clear: you are a person who is dressing up in homage to fictional cartoon superheroes who goes out and attempts the delusional, yes delusional, fantasy of helping and fixing the world’s problem dressed as such. This is what we do. Nothing more, nothing less. Some of us do it better than others, some of us worse. Some of us actually were born to do it, while some are born to destroy what others have created. In the end, however, we all do this same one thing.
Sometimes, however, caught up in our great delusional fantasy we become arrogant, and desire more value of our person than is worth others. And the issue here is desire. Desire poisons that which you try to purify. Have any of it in your life, and it seeps into the vessels of your actions and ruins them.
For those of us with “secret identities” this desire is actually a great temptress, because while great things can be done by anonymous people in masks no one will actually care that you did it. Secrecy is a great tool in our trade, and can be employed and exploited. It helps us to be confident, keeps us out of many troubles, separates a life we wish others to not be involved with. But with secrecy we may also desire the possibility of power. Since no one knows you, you can act as you wish, do as you please, and belittle whomever you desire in your great quest for the greater good.
This is wrong. Again, the whole desire thing eventually ends up corrupting every aspect of your intentions until none are left. But there are times when we are so tempted to reveal, so questioned by everyone around you for your worth and responsibility that you may want to just drop the facade and admit what you do.
The offer is tempting, and the dramatic reveal of it all can be quite exhilarating. It is one of the greatest “up yours.” Someone gets into a fight with you about your lack exhibiting anything beyond normal functions, and you have that ace up your sleeve that you know will garner everyone’s awe and admiration.
But it is not worth it. If you have chosen to keep your identity secret it is probably for a very good reason, and things done in the moment with such brashness never turn out well. Besides, if you really need your work as a great big Real Life Super Hero to speak for your entire character, then you obviously have a long way to go to fulfilling yourself as a person. Deluded we may be, but help is what we do. And the absolute first person you must always seek to help is yourself. Not at anyone’s expense, not for petty desires, but because you want and know you can achieve that “something more” you may dream of.
If you are only noble and great while in the mask of anonymity then you are a fraud, plain and simple. The point of a secret identity should be to experiment and push yourself to new levels. Take the opportunity of being anonymous to really try and be kind. After all, you are not you. You have a blank slate when as an anonymous pseudonym with a mask and spandex. Take the chance to explore what you could be a little, and then take those things that your learn and try putting them in every facet of your life.
Getting back to the humility we all should carry, I would like to put forth a list of tips and things that all RLSH should follow when out working in order to help them stay within the reality of our fantasy, and to keep ourselves humble and others accepting of our cause.
Mr. Jack’s Masked Manners
-Always address police officers as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Respect their authority! Show your fellow helpers (including firemen, doctors, technicians, etc.) your sense of respect for their jobs and you will get respect for yours most often. It is not a one hundred percent thing though, but it does help always in the long run.
-Greet people on the street. When out on patrol, say hi to everyone you meet. Make eye contact, smile, and tell them hello or good day. The power of such a simple gesture like a smile or a wave is one that can change worlds. If people see such a friendly figure dressed up, they begin to question their own masks that they wear. Win over your public not for personal desire for fame or the like, but because it will help you get your message across better and be able to help people and open new doors to love.
-Always maintain composure. A lot of things happen when you are out in full gear, and most of them revolve around people trying to put you down or try and break your focus and composure. Part of being on your guard revolves around not allowing things to get under your skin. When I was with Silver Sentinel, Zetaman, Dark Guardian, Meow, Hunter and Tothian in New York one of the biggest things I admired about all of them was how great they were at just letting things roll off their armor. Silver Sentinel is a great example, as he often plays into what people say. Remember “If you are going to tell someone the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.
-The customer is always right. In all honesty of you are doing your job right then you are basically the equivalent of a service employee, and as such, you must cater to the customer. I cannot specifically give an example for this because there are so many. If someone wants something, you have to do your best of fulfill it because that is the standard which needs to be held. By all means do what is right, but make it seem like it was the customer’s idea. Charisma helps.
-Right is right only when it is nice. Yes people need wake up calls. Yes, people need help to get off the street and be warned about the dangers that fill their life. But think about this for a moment: if you had some guy off the street come up to you and start lecturing you on errors of your way and the virtues of living right would you really instinctively give him your time and listen? Now add in that that guy is dressed in spandex and a cape and calls himself Justice Avenger Supreme. You now see the absurdity of it. Yes, our mandate is to help, but for gods’ sakes do not be belligerent and in people’s faces unless there is no other way. Rude and noisy should always be a last resort to the virtues of gentle, kind care.
-Hold yourself to the standards you seek of others. If you have unrealistic expectations then you are doomed to fail. In other words, if you think that you can go out and stop crime when you are publicly intoxicated or driving like a maniac or carrying lethal weapons without a permit then you are now the problem others have to help. Lead by example and you will most likely not be questioned for your worth of actions.
-Finally, and this is a small but big thing, look in a mirror when you are dressed up. Yes, it is nice to admire how awesome you look, but this is not my intention for this specific manner. Look in the mirror to see what others will see of you. If you cannot look in the mirror and trust the image you see then neither can anyone else. Appearance is one of the most paramount aspects we should worry about in our community, not again for personal gain, but to be symbols. We wear what we wear to draw attention, to inspire, to help. If you cannot trust who you see in the mirror, change it in some way to make it so you can.
Awareness Challenge 2: Think Before You Act
I mean this for every part of your life. Before you take an action, just take a nanosecond and think about what you mean by it, what it will actually do, and how it will be perceived. This sort of thought checking is difficult to maintain for a long time, but with practice it can become second nature. By just slowing down your thought process to “proofread” your action before it happens, you can determine a better course of action for it, which may indeed be the one you had already set. But never underestimate the power of such thought. It may be the difference between you making peace between two people or throwing the first punch. The choice, as always, is yours.

Secret Identity

I have been asked a few times “but what about your secret identity”? Well let’s just say that:
1. Having done skip-tracing in the past, I know how easy it is for somebody to find you, whether you move ONCE, or 3 times within a year. All of my skip-tracing was done without the use of a computer at that. Just buy a book.
2. If you drive, use a cellphone or anything else…well you get the idea.
3. My voice is pretty damn recognizable unless you are at least 75% deaf.
4. I’ve been in documentary films, music videos, public access TV, 4+ music groups…who am I foolin’?
5. As far as I know we only live once. Well I never have been big on livin’ to be an old man. We all gonna die so no need to cry!
I love the luchador tradition of mask-wearing, and I love theatrics in general. I think everybody’s entitled to wear masks, costumes, make up, or what have you… as far as hiding though, you probably don’t leave the house in your uniform, there’s camera’s at the ATMs, the streetlights, squad cars, stores… There is also such a thing as corrupt cops for folks to get info from for the right price. There’s nowhere to hide.
For the RLSH Community, I see uniforms mainly as fucntional symbols augmented with gear that helps you to do your job. Good luck, and have a drink for me >:D

Humble heroes

MASQUER-AIDES Tothian, Squeegee Man and Dark Guardian Photo: Imogen Brown

MASQUER-AIDES Tothian, Squeegee Man and Dark Guardian Photo: Imogen Brown

On a recent evening, Tothian, Squeegee Man and Dark Guardian are whisking up the West Side in their heromobile to Port Authority. Their mission is to bring help—in the form of water, granola bars and blankets—to the neighborhood’s homeless. Among bewildered shouts of “Thanks, man!” and “Yo! Is it Halloween already?!?,” the costumed crusaders distribute their goods and speed off into the night.
The three, who met on MySpace, often work independently and don’t even know each other’s real names. Squeegee Man, 26, who carries his signature implement on his belt, wears a uniform that some confuse with Superman’s, but as he indignantly reminds us, his underwear is on the inside. “I fight crime and grime,” he says. “I pick up trash, give things to the homeless and help old ladies cross the street—y’know, regular superhero stuff.” Meanwhile, Dark Guardian, 22—whose bulletproof mask has a smile drawn on it—and the 21-year-old Tothian (who won’t disclose his name’s origin for fear of revealing his secret identity) patrol bad neighborhoods in NYC and New Jersey. So far they’ve avoided brushes with real danger. “I haven’t saved anyone yet, but I’ve reported drug dealers and gambling dens to the police,” Dark Guardian says.
The superheroes take pleasure in the high-profile nature of doing good deeds in costume. “It’s in hopes of inspiring people to make the world a better place,” explains the Guardian. But the romantic returns of being a masked savior have been disappointing. “I’ve only had one girlfriend in my life,” admits Tothian. “Yeah,” snorts Squeegee Man. “And her name was Lady Invisible.” —Kate Lowenstein
For more info, go to

A small victory.

I managed to get a long-standing crackhouse (that was “doing GOOD business” I might add) shut down after trying for about a two months. Usually I’m faster than that. It’s now boarded up and being watched for a while by the local Task Force AND neighbors.
Might not sound like much, but my “secret identity” had to do a lot of work, and take a lot of risks to get this done, and location had been a “nice” lil link in a chain for the gang running it. At least this chapter of the gang. I can’t really give out any more details, but have a drink for me >:D