Shazam! Real-life superheroes to the rescue

Originally posted:
By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News     November 20, 2011

By day, they are regular folks with full-time jobs, bills to pay and mouths to feed.
By night, they are masked and sometimes-caped crusaders, who troll the streets looking to help the needy, stamp out crime and fulfil their comic-book inspired dreams.
But lately the mostly anonymous members of the so-called Real Life Superheroes movement (known as RLSH) in Canada and the U.S. have been feeling a bit of angst and more than a little misunderstood after a bout of bad publicity.
First, there was the arrest last month of Seattle’s high-profile crime fighter Phoenix Jones (whose real name is Ben Fodor) over an alleged assault. Jones, who wears a black-and-gold uniform complete with Batman-like fake abs, says he unleashed a canister of pepper spray to break up a fight.
Then last week, Canadians learned about a group of B.C. teens who posed as underaged girls online, lured men into encounters and then confronted them at designated meeting spots in Batman and Flash costumes while video cameras rolled. Police immediately rebuked the sting operations, saying the teens put themselves at risk.
“I’m sorry if I am being cautious, but you do understand … we are in a fragile state because a few of us have been seen as, well, vigilantes or worse,” said Ark, a Toronto-based superhero in an email.
“Media is a powerful thing, and I honestly don’t want you or any other kind of reporter dragging the Canadian RLSH down.”
Members of the movement, which was the subject of an HBO documentary earlier this year, insist their mission is simple: to do good deeds and inspire others to do the same. That includes participating in neighbourhood patrols, working with charities and helping the homeless.
Sure, their costumes are gimmicky, but the shtick sticks in people’s minds and draws attention to their causes, they say. Vigilantism, they insist, is not condoned.
“They’re not vigilantes. They’re not doing anything against the law. They may be using unusual methods, but they’re using symbolism to market good deeds,” said Peter Tangen, a Hollywood movie poster photographer who has done photo shoots with dozens of real life superheroes across the U.S.
There are more than 600 people worldwide listed as members on the website Most are based in the United States.
They include New York City’s Dark Guardian, who flushes out drug dealers in Washington Square Park; red-white-and-blue-uniformed DC Guardian, who patrols the nation’s capital while dispensing copies of the U.S. Constitution; Super Hero in Clearwater, Florida, who drives around in a Corvette Stingray and helps stranded motorists; and Urban Avenger, who breaks up fights outside bars in San Diego.
There are at least a handful of real-life superheroes scattered across Canada. In Vancouver, there’s Thanatos, a married 63 year-old ex-U.S. military officer and self-proclaimed “comic book geek,” who is named after the Greek god of death.
Thanatos, who works in the death industry – he declined to say what he does exactly – says he acts as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police in the Downtown Eastside and also hands out food, blankets and socks to the homeless every month.
He cuts a creepy look, dressed in a black trench coat, black and green skull mask and flattened Australian bush hat. The getup, he admits, can freak out some people.
But accompanying each care package is a slip of paper bearing the words “Thanatos – Real Life Superhero” on one side and “Friend” on the other.
“They know they have a friend out there, even if it’s a crazy guy with a mask,” he said.
Toronto’s Ark is a 26-year-old guitar-playing security guard, who says he feels compelled to jump in to help the “less fortunate, the troubled and the weak.”
“I, for some reason, care for the unfortunate, and I don’t tolerate people who take advantage of other people,” he said.
Though he has broken up fights over the years, Ark says he’s “not really a crime fighter. I don’t go out of my way to find trouble.” He prefers walking around handing out sandwiches and coffee to the needy.
His uniform is simple – “I don’t dress to impress,” he says – consisting of black tactical pants, black tactical jacket, black military hat and partial face mask.
He also wears a bulletand stab-proof vest and brings along his “tactical hard knuckles and soft padded gloves” – for “deterrent” purposes.
One of the newer members to the movement is exreservist Crimson Canuck, a married, 24-year-old father, in Windsor, Ont., who works as a telephone technician.
He says he was drawn to the movement out of a desire to make the city better. “I don’t want my daughter to be afraid to go downtown,” he says.
Crimson Canuck, whose outfit consists of a crimson shirt, red tie, black vest, grey slacks, combat boots, black fedora and partial face mask, recently blogged about his first-ever downtown street patrol.
Before he left the door, his wife “called me a fool and made sure I brought mace, in case things got hairy,” he wrote.
But things didn’t get hairy. In fact, it was a quiet night.
“No action,” he wrote. “Not even a car alarm.”
He ended the night instead by grabbing some food from McDonald’s and sharing some of it with a homeless man in a wheelchair.
“I’ve done my share of bad things,” he wrote. “But now might be a good time to make up for it all. I’m not a clean-cut good guy. I’m just a guy who wants to do good.”

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

New York City ‘Superheroes’ React To Arrest Of Crime Fighter ‘Phoenix Jones’

Originally posted:
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York’s burgeoning amateur “superhero” community take notice: Don’t try breaking up a fight in Seattle.
The Big Apple is home to countless comic book superheros – and a few self-styled “real” ones.
The New York Initiative is a group of folks who wear costumes and say their goals are patrolling for criminals, public security, humanitarian outreach and more.
Their mission statement, found on their Facebook page, says “We are individuals organized towards achieving peacekeeping objectives and humanitarian missions. This will translate into a variety of non-monetary services as unfolding events demand. Our primary goal will always be to help those in the most need to the highest ethical standard and to the maximum effect.”
News of the arrest of one of their costumed colleagues in Seattle – a man who guys by the name Phoenix Jones – has their Facebook page humming.
The arrest came after a confrontation that was caught on video and is embedded below.
Phoenix Jones Stops Assault from Ryan McNamee on Vimeo.
Jones, whose real name is Benjamin Fodor, allegedly used pepper spray on four people. They say they were dancing in the streets; Jones says they were fighting and tried to break it up.
His actions have prompted a response within New York’s superhero community.
“I believe he acted inappropriately in this instance,” Chris Pollak, aka Dark Guardian, told CBSNewYork.  The Dark Guardian was featured in a documentary on real life superheroes, and he was seen rousting alleged drug dealers in Washington Square Park.
“He rushed into a situation and reacted with very poor judgement. He maced a group of people who were not attacking him. He was not acting in self defense and the police have rightfully charged him with assault,” Pollak said.
He added that he hopes Phoenix Jones’ actions don’t reflect on the superhero movement.
“This is an example of what not to do as a community crime-fighter. It should be a priority to deescalate situations and work hand in hand with the police to garner the smartest and safest outcome. I stand with the police and want everyone to know he is not a true reflection on what others like myself do in our communities to help,” Pollak said.
Reaction on the Intiative’s Facebook page was also intense.
“That’s what happens when you react the way he did,” self-styled hero Short Cut wrote. “Despite popular belief, you do not fight fire with fire. You are supposed to cool things down.”
“I’m pretty sure he just screwed it up for everyone,” wrote Jack Cero, another self-styled hero. “They now have precedent if his conviction goes through, and what’s more is that his charges will be double due to his body armor and mask.”
However, fan response on Jones’ Facebook page has been pretty massive, with scores of folks leaving messages of support.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's…Some Dude?!

Originally posted:

They are ordinary men in extraordinary costumes, and they have risen from the ashes of our troubled republic to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens. Jon Ronson goes on patrol with Urban Avenger, Mr. Xtreme, Pitch Black, Knight Owl, Ghost, and the baddest-ass “real-life superhero” of them all, Phoenix Jones

August 2011

I am rushing to the emergency room to meet a real-life superhero called Phoenix Jones, who has fought one crime too many and is currently peeing a lot of blood. Five nights a week, Phoenix dresses in a superhero outfit of his own invention and chases car thieves and breaks up bar fights and changes the tires of stranded strangers. I’ve flown to Seattle to join him on patrol. I landed only a few minutes ago, at midnight on a Friday in early March, and in the arrivals lounge I phoned his friend and spokesman, Peter Tangen, who told me the news.
Hospital?” I said. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know,” said Peter. He sounded worried. “The thing you have to remember about Phoenix is that he’s not impervious to pain.” He paused. “You should get a taxi straight from the airport to there.”
At 1 a.m. I arrive at the ER and am led into Phoenix’s room. And there he is: a young and extremely muscular black man lying in bed in a hospital smock, strapped to an IV, tubes attached to his body. Most disconcertingly, he’s wearing a full-face black-and-gold rubber superhero mask.
“Good to meet you!” he hollers enthusiastically through the mouth hole. He gives me the thumbs-up, which makes the IV needle tear his skin slightly. “Ow,” he says.
His 2-year-old son and 4-year-old stepson run fractiously around the room. “Daddy was out fighting bad guys in his super suit, and now he has to wait here,” he tells them. Then he makes me promise to identify neither them nor his girlfriend, to protect his secret identity.
He looks frustrated, hemmed in, fizzing with restless energy. “We break up two or three acts of violence a night,” he says. “Two or three people are being hurt right now, and I’m stuck here. It bothers me.”
By “we” he means his ten-strong Seattle crew, the Rain City Superheroes. A few hours ago, they were patrolling when they saw a guy swinging a baseball bat at another guy outside a bar. “I ran across the street, and he jabbed me in the stomach,” he says, pointing at a spot just below his belly button. “Right under my armor.”
Unfortunately the head of the bat landed exactly where he’d been punched a week earlier by another bar brawler holding a car key in his fist. That attack had burst a hole right through Phoenix’s skin.
“A few hours ago I went to use the bathroom and I started peeing blood,” he says. “A lot of it.”
I glance over at Phoenix’s girlfriend. “There’s no point worrying about it,” she says with a shrug.
Finally the doctor arrives with the test results. “The good news is there’s no serious damage,” he says. “You’re bruised. Rest. It’s very important that you go home and rest. By the way, why do you name a pediatrician as your doctor?” “You’re allowed to stay with your pediatrician until you’re 22,” Phoenix explains.
We both look surprised: This big masked man, six feet one and 205 pounds, is barely out of boyhood.
“Go home and rest,” says the doctor, leaving the room.
Phoenix watches him go. There’s a short silence. “Let’s hit the streets!” he hollers. “My crew is out there somewhere. I’ll get suited up!”

Phoenix didn’t know this when he first donned the suit about a year ago, but he’s one of around 200 real-life superheroes currently patrolling America’s streets, looking for wrongs to right. There’s DC’s Guardian, in Washington, who wears a full-body stars-and-stripes outfit and wanders the troubled areas behind the Capitol building. There’s RazorHawk, from Minneapolis, who was a pro wrestler for fifteen years before joining the RLSH movement. There’s New York City’s Dark Guardian, who specializes in chasing pot dealers out of Washington Square Park by creeping up to them, shining a light in their eyes, and yelling, “This is a drug-free park!” And there are dozens and dozens more. Few, if any, are as daring as Phoenix. Most undertake basically safe community work: helping the homeless, telling kids to stay off drugs, etc. They’re regular men with jobs and families and responsibilities who somehow have enough energy at the end of the day to journey into America’s neediest neighborhoods to do what they can.Every superhero has his origin story, and as we drive from the hospital to his apartment, Phoenix tells me his. His life, he says, hasn’t been a breeze. He lived for a time in a Texas orphanage, was adopted by a Seattle family around age 9, and now spends his days working with autistic kids. One night last summer, someone broke into his car. There was shattered glass on the floor, and his stepson gashed his knee on it.
“I got tired of people doing things that are morally questionable,” he says. “Everyone’s afraid. It just takes one person to say, ‘I’m not afraid.’ And I guess I’m that guy.”
The robber had left his mask in the car, so Phoenix picked it up and made his own mask from it. “He used the mask to conceal his identity,” he says. “I used the mask to become an identity.”
He called himself Phoenix Jones because the Phoenix rises from the ashes and Jones is one of America’s most common surnames: He was the common man rising from society’s ashes.
It’s 2:30 a.m. by the time we reach his very messy apartment, where he quickly changes into his full superhero costume: a black-and-gold rubber suit complete with stab plates and a pouch for his Taser and Mace. “It’s bulletproof,” he tells me.
We head downtown and park in the business district, a bunch of empty office buildings in a nice part of Seattle. Other than some junkies and drunks wandering around like zombies, the place is deserted. We see neither his crew nor any crime.
“How are you feeling?” I ask.
“I’m in a lot of pain,” he says. “The cut’s still bleeding, internally and externally. A couple of my old injuries are flaring up, like some broken ribs. I’m having a rough night.”
“Maybe you’re going too hard,” I say.
“Crime doesn’t care how I feel,” he replies.
Just then a young man approaches us. He’s sweating, looking distressed. “I’ve been crying, dude!” he yells.
He’s here on vacation, he explains. His parents live a two-hour bus ride away, in central Washington, and he’s only $9.40 short for the fare home. “I’ve asked sixty people,” he pleads. “Will you touch my heart, save my life, and give me $9.40?”
Phoenix turns to me. “You down for a car-ride adventure?” he says excitedly. “We’re going to drive the guy back to his parents!
The young man looks panicked. “Honestly, $9.40 is fine…,” he says, backing away slightly.
“No, no!” says Phoenix. “We’re going to drive you home! Where’s your luggage?”
“Um, in storage at the train station…,” he says.
“We’ll meet you there in ten minutes!” says Phoenix.
Thirty minutes later: the train station. The man hasn’t showed up. Phoenix narrows his eyes. “I think he was trying to scam us,” he says, looking genuinely surprised.
Does this guilelessness make him delightfully naive, I wonder, or disturbingly naive? He is, after all, planning to lead me into some hazardous situations this weekend.
At 4 a.m. we finally locate his crew on a corner near the station. Tonight there’s Pitch Black, Ghost, and Red Dragon. They’re all costumed and masked and, although in good shape, smaller and stockier than Phoenix. He stands tall among them and does most of the talking, too. They’re monosyllabic, as if deferring to their leader.

They have a visitor—a superhero from Oregon named Knight Owl. He’s been fighting crime since January 2008 and is in town for a comic-book convention. He’s tall, masked, and muscular, in his late twenties, and dressed in a black-and-yellow costume. It is similar to, but less awesome than, Phoenix’s sculpted and buffed one. The crew briefs Phoenix on a group of crack addicts and dealers loitering at a nearby bus stop. A plan is formed. They’ll just walk slowly past them to show who’s boss. No confrontation. Just an intimidating walk-by.We spot them right away. There are ten of them, clustered in a tight group, looking old and wired, talking animatedly. When they see us, they fall silent and shoot us wary glances, probably wondering what the superheroes are talking about.
This is what the superheroes are talking about:

Knight Owl: I’ve discovered a maskmaker who does these really awesome owl masks. They’re made out of old gas masks.
Phoenix: Like what Urban Avenger’s got?
Knight Owl: Sort of, but owl-themed. I’m going to ask her if she’ll put my logo on it in brass.
Phoenix: That’s awesome. By the way, I really like your color scheme.
Knight Owl: Thank you. I think the yellow really pops.

We’re ten feet away now. The superhero chatter ceases, and the only sound is the squeak of my luggage wheels as I roll them down the street. Up close, these dealers and addicts look exhausted, burnt-out.
Leave them alone, I think. Haven’t they got enough to deal with? They’ll be gone by the time any daytime people wake up. Why can’t they have their hour at the bus stop? Plus, aren’t we prodding a hornet’s nest? Couldn’t this be like the Taco Incident times a thousand?
The Taco Incident. Ever since Phoenix appeared on CNN in January in a short segment extolling his acts of derring-do, the superhero community has been rife with grumbling. Many of them, evidently jealous of Phoenix’s stunning rise, have been spreading rumors. The chief gossips have been N.Y.C.’s Dark Guardian and Seattle’s Mr. Raven Blade. They say Phoenix is not as brave as he likes people to believe, that he’s in it for personal gain, and that his presence on the streets only serves to escalate matters. To support this last criticism, they cite the Taco Incident.
Phoenix sighs. “It was a drunk driver. He was getting into his car, so I tried to give him a taco and some water to sober him up. He didn’t want it. Eventually he got kind of violent. He tried to shove me. So I pulled out my Taser, and I fired some warning shots. Then the police showed up….”
“I didn’t realize he was a drunk driver,” I said. “The other superheroes implied it was just a regular random guy you were trying to force a taco onto. But still—” I gesture at the nearby crack dealers—”the Taco Incident surely demonstrates how things can inadvertently spiral.”
“They’re in my house,” he resolutely replies. “Any corner where people go, that’s my corner. And I’m going to defend it.”
We walk slowly past the bus stop. Nothing happens. Everyone just mutters angrily at one another.
It is now 5 a.m. Our first night’s patrolling together ends. I’m glad, as I found that last part a little frightening. I am not a naturally confrontational person, and I’d really like to check into my hotel and go to bed.
···The real-life-superhero movement began, the folklore goes, back in 1980, when someone by the name of the Night Rider published a book called How to Be a Superhero. But the phenomenon really took hold a few years later when a young man from New Orleans (whose true identity is still a closely guarded secret) built a silver suit, called himself Master Legend, and stepped out onto the streets. He was an influential if erratic inspiration to those that followed.
“Ninety percent of us think Master Legend is crazy,” Phoenix told me. “He’s always drinking. He believes he was born wearing a purple veil and has died three times. But he does great deeds of heroism. He once saw someone try to rape a girl, and he beat the guy so severely he ended up in a hospital for almost a month. He’s an enigma.”
So what happened next? How did the RLSH movement grow from one visionary in Louisiana to 200 crusaders and counting? Well, the rise of the mega-comic conventions has certainly helped. I remember a friend, the film director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), returning from his first San Diego Comic Con saucer-eyed with tales of hitherto reclusive geeks wandering around in elaborate homemade costumes, their heads held high. “It was like Geek Pride,” he said.
The community continued to blossom post-September 11 and especially during the recession of the past few years. Inspired by real-life-superhero comic books like Watchmen and Kick-Ass, both of which became movies, RLSHs have been cropping up all over the place. There’s no national convention or gathering, but Peter Tangen is doing all he can to make them a cohesive community with a robust online presence.

Tangen’s origin story is as remarkable as any of the RLSHs’. By day he’s a Hollywood studio photographer, responsible for a great many movie posters—Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Thor, Hellboy, Fantastic Four. But he’s always felt like a cog in the machine. “I’m one of those guys who toils in obscurity,” he says. “Nobody knows my name, because you don’t get credit on a movie poster.”When he learned there were people doing in real life what the likes of Tobey Maguire and Christian Bale pretend to do on a film set, it inspired him. So he approached the RLSHs, offering to photograph them in heroic, unironic poses. His hope is to make them seem valiant and worthy of respect, not just the goofy story about the crazy nerd at the end of the local newscast. His portraits are all displayed on his website, The Real Life Super Hero Project. The site has become Peter’s calling in life—his attempt to be, like the men he celebrates, exceptional.
···The morning after my first night with Phoenix, I have coffee at a downtown Seattle café with Knight Owl, a former graphic designer who joined the movement because “I wanted something more with my life.” He tells me about common rookie mistakes, such as adopting a superhero name that’s already in use. “It’s a general faux pas—anything with the words night, shadow, phantom… Those dark-vigilante-type-sounding names tend to get snapped up pretty fast.”
“Have there been any other Knight Owls?” I ask.
“There was an Owl,” he says. “The Owl. But he ended up changing his name to Scar Heart, since he’d had a heart transplant.”
He says he chose his name before he knew there was a Nite Owl in the Watchmen comic, so when people online tell him, “You’re a fucking pussy, and by the way, Knight Owl’s taken—haven’t you seen Watchmen?” they don’t know what they’re talking about.
The second rookie mistake is to “get caught up in the paraphernalia. People should think more about the functionality.”
“I assume capes aren’t functional,” I say, “because they can get snagged on things.”
“If you’re going to do some serious crime fighting, there’d better be a good reason for a cape,” he nods. “And grappling hooks—no, no, no, no, no! What? You think you’re going to scale a building? What are you going to do when you get up there? Swoop down? Parachute down? You’re not going to have enough distance for the parachute to even open.”
Knight Owl seems to regard Phoenix as the real thing in a community rife with wannabes. That’s how Phoenix sees himself, too. When I asked him why he seems to be capturing the public’s imagination in a way that the other RLSHs haven’t, he attributes it to his bravery. Others, he says, talk the talk but in reality just hand out food to the homeless and would probably run shrieking from danger if they ever chanced upon it.
“When you wake up one day and decide to put on spandex and give out sandwiches, something’s a little off,” Phoenix says. “I call them real-life sandwich handlers.”

I want to see another superhero operation to compare to Phoenix, so I fly to San Diego to meet Mr. Xtreme. He’s been patrolling since 2006, the past eight months with his protégé, Urban Avenger. They pick me up at 9 p.m. outside my hotel. Both are heavily costumed. Mr. Xtreme is a thickset man—a security guard by day—wearing a green-and-black cape, a bulletproof vest, a green helmet, and a visor upon which fake eyes have been eerily painted. His outfit is covered with stickers of a woman’s face: Kitty Genovese. In March 1964, in an infamous incident that shamed New York City, Genovese was stabbed near her apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens. Her attacker ran away. During the next half hour, several of her neighbors saw her or heard her screaming and did nothing. Then her attacker returned and killed her. She has become a talisman for the RLSH movement.

You cannot see an inch of Urban Avenger’s body. He’s wearing a weird customized gas mask, green-tinted sunglasses, a red full-length hoodie, and long black leather gloves. Underneath it all he looks quite small and skinny. He says he’s in his late twenties, has children, and works “in the food-service industry.” That’s all he’ll reveal to me.He says he loves being covered from head to toe. “When I wear this, I don’t have to react to you in any way. Nobody knows what I’m thinking or feeling. It’s great. I can be in my own little world in here.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” I say. “I was once at a Halloween party and I didn’t take off my mask all night. It completely eliminated all social anxiety.” “Sometimes I wish I never had to take the mask off,” says Urban Avenger.
We begin our patrol through the clean, well-to-do streets of downtown San Diego. We pass bars and clubs filled with polite-looking young drinkers. A few take pictures of the superheroes on their phones. Others yell, “It isn’t Halloween anymore!” from car windows. Urban Avenger says he doesn’t understand how Phoenix is forever chancing upon crimes being committed. He’s just lucky.
“What are the odds?” he sighs. “I almost never see anything.” He pauses. “Last October we got involved in breaking up some street fights.”
“Five months ago?”
“It’s been really quiet around here ever since.”
He says Phoenix is fortunate to have the scary district of Belltown on his doorstep. “Google ‘gunshots in Belltown’ and you’ll come up with a hundred stories of gunshots being fired in, like, the last year,” he says wistfully.
Some boys pass us. “Want some reefer? Ganga? Weed?” they say, sotto voce.
“No,” says Urban Avenger, walking quickly on. The boys shrug and continue on their way.
“Good thing I got all that on video,” Urban Avenger eventually calls after them, indicating a small camera attached to his shoulder.
“Crack? Heroin? PCP?” the boys call back.
“Did you really film it?” I ask.
“No,” he says.
“I noticed you didn’t attempt a citizen’s arrest,” I say.
“We didn’t have probable cause,” explains Mr. Xtreme. “All they did is say something. If they’d shown us crack rocks or marijuana, it might have been a different story.”
“You could have said you wanted to buy some, and then they’d have produced the drugs and you could have arrested them,” I say.
There’s a short silence. “That’s true,” says Urban Avenger.
···Back in Seattle, we start our second patrol at 1 a.m. on Saturday night. Phoenix is in a bad way. He’s still ailing from the key-punching and the baseball-bat incidents and has now developed a fever of 102.5.
“I found out this morning I have tetanus,” he tells me.
“You have to sleep,” I say.
“No sleeping for us,” says Phoenix.
I’m starting to like Phoenix a lot. For all his naïveté, there’s something infectiously upbeat about him. He’s forever cheerful and positive and energetic. I ask him if he’s addicted to crime fighting, and he says, “I guess you could put it in the addiction category. It’s the highlight of my day. Addictions are normally detrimental to health. This is detrimental to my health.”
He puts his positive spirit down to a stable home life: “I’ve been with my girlfriend since I was 16. I make my own money. To be a successful superhero, you’ve got to have your life in line.”
We begin in Pioneer Square. We’re a small team tonight; Pitch Black and Ghost are Phoenix’s only companions. The bars are closing, and drunk kids are piling onto the streets, but there’s still a frustrating absence of crime. But then, from somewhere up the street, we hear a shout: “I’m going to fuck you, bitch.”

“Let’s go!” yells Phoenix. He, Ghost, Pitch Black, and I start to run frantically toward the mystery commotion.”It’s the YouTube guy!” a nearby teenager shouts delightedly. “Can I get a picture?”
Phoenix screeches to a halt. “I’ll be right with you guys!” he calls to us. He poses for the girl.
“Phoenix!” I sigh.
The real-life superheroes like to portray their motives as wholly benevolent, but if they were driven purely by altruism, they’d have become police officers or firefighters or charity volunteers. Something else is evidently propelling them—a touch of narcissism. It’s an odd sort of narcissism, of course, when the narcissist disguises his face, but the lust for fame and glory is unmistakable. By the time Phoenix has had his picture taken, the potential criminal and victim are nowhere to be seen.
Two uneventful hours pass. By 3 a.m. we are losing hope. Phoenix is reduced to suggesting we rent a hotel room, phone some prostitutes, and ask them on their arrival if they need help escaping the web of prostitution.
“I think the problem with the plan,” I say, “is if a prostitute turns up at a hotel room and sees three men in masks, she’s not going to immediately think ‘superhero.’ Plus, she may have to travel all the way across Seattle. It’ll be an hour out of her night.” They agree to abandon the idea.
Suddenly we notice a man across the street drop a small, clear bag on the ground at the feet of another man.
“Yahtzee!” yells Phoenix. He rushes across the road. “What did you just drop?”
“Pretzels,” says the man, picking the bag up and showing it to us.
There’s a silence. “Good,” says Phoenix.
···Our very last hope is Belltown. When we turn the corner into the district, everything changes. By day this place is nice: art galleries, bars, restaurants. It’s just down the road from the famous Pike Place Market. But now, at 4 a.m., the two or three blocks in front of me look as menacing and desperate as the projects from The Wire. The dealers staring at us look nothing like the exhausted old crackheads from the bus stop. These are large gangs of wiry young men. They stand on every block. The police are nowhere to be seen. I take in the scene and instinctively take a small step backward.
“There’s a possibility we could get into a fight,” whispers Pitch Black. “If that happens, back off, okay?”
“What are you doing?” a man calls from across the street, outside a shuttered-up liquor store.
“Patrolling,” Phoenix calls back. “What are you doing?”
He, Pitch Black, and Ghost walk toward him. He’s with eight other men.
“You’ve got to respect people’s block, man,” the guy is saying. “You don’t come down here with your ski masks on. What are you doing, getting yourselves entwined in people’s lives? You guys are going to get hurt. You understand? You want to see our burners?”
“I don’t care,” says Phoenix.
“You don’t care?”
“Not really. I’ve already been shot once.”
“I’ve been shot three times!” another guy says, looking weirdly proud. “One motherfucker round here got shot in the nighttime. Innocent bystanders get shot here. Think about the bigger picture. You’re putting your lives on the line. If you guys are in a casket, your mamas are going to be like, ‘For what?‘ ”
“Don’t be a hero,” a third man adds. “That superhero shit? You’re going to get hurt, fucking around. How you feed your family is not how we feed our family. We’re not out here for the fun and the show-and-tell. This is real life.”
I am finding myself ostentatiously nodding at everything the crack dealers are saying, I suppose in the hope that if the shooting starts, they’ll remember my nods and make an effort to shoot around me.
“I appreciate the info,” says Phoenix.
Suddenly the first guy takes a step forward and peers at Phoenix through his mask.
“You’re a brother?” he says. “You’re a BROTHER and you’re out here looking like THIS? You’ve got to be out of your fucking mind, man.”
And then it all changes. “I feel threatened right now,” the guy says. “You’ve got ski masks on. I don’t know if you’re trying to rob me. A guy got shot last Friday in Belltown by somebody with a mask on. Is that you?”
“You don’t have to be here,” says Phoenix. “You’ve got choices.”
“I’ve been in the system since I was 10 years old!” he yells. “I haven’t got no choices! When your kids get older, this is going to be the same shit.”
“I disagree,” says Phoenix.
“It can’t be better!” the man yells. “This is it!”
The dealers withdraw up the block to decide what to do next.
“Have a good night,” calls Phoenix. “Good meeting you.”
···They’re watching us, murmuring to one another. Their problem is that nobody wants to buy crack in front of three men dressed as superheroes. While Phoenix and his crew stand here, they’re losing all their business.
Phoenix points to two packs of cigarettes under the windshield wiper of a nearby car.
“Those are indications that you can buy here,” he says. “So I’m going to take them off and annoy the crap out of them.”
He scrunches the packets up and throws them onto the sidewalk.
At this, one of the gang heads toward us. If you were watching from across the road, it would seem as if he just wanders past, but in fact he whispers something as he does: “You keep staying on our block, we gonna have to show you what the burner do.”
“Thank you, it’s great meeting you,” says Phoenix.
The man loops and rejoins the others.
The streets are deserted, and it’s starting to feel exceedingly dangerous. It’s just the dealers and their guns and us. But then, miraculously, a taxi passes. I flag it. The superheroes all have (supposedly) bulletproof vests. I have a cardigan. “I’ll give you $20 to just stay here,” I say to the driver.
He looks around. “No,” he says.
“Thirty dollars?”
And then, suddenly, the whole gang, all nine of them, some with their hands down their trousers as if they’re holding guns just under their waistlines, walk toward us. I can’t see much of Phoenix under the suit, but I can see by the way his hands are shaking that he is terrified.
“My shift is over,” calls the taxi driver. “I need to go home now.”
“Forty dollars!” I yell. “Just stay there!
“I don’t care about the money!” the driver yells. But he doesn’t move.
The men get closer.
“Are we leaving or are we standing?” says Phoenix.
“We’re standing,” says Ghost.
“We’re standing,” says Pitch Black.
“You’re willing to die for this shit?” the first guy, who seems to be the leader, is yelling. “You’re willing to DIE for this shit? You guys are dumb motherfuckers. I don’t even know what to say. You guys are fucking stupid.” He stares at Phoenix. A moment passes. This is what I imagine a standoff feels like the instant before the shooting starts. But then his voice softens. “If you guys are going to stand here and die for it, I guess we’re going to have to walk home. We should shoot your ass, but I guess we’ve got to go home.”
And they do. They disperse. They go home.
Stunned, I look at Phoenix. He suddenly seems smaller than six feet one, lighter than 205 pounds, younger than twentysomething. “You won!” I tell him.
“They had the weapons, the numbers, but they backed down to the image of Phoenix Jones,” he says.
I feel an impulse to celebrate with him, but suddenly the full weight of the evening comes crashing down on me.
“I’m going to bed,” I say.
“We’ll stand here for ten minutes and solidify the corner,” he replies. “You don’t want to stand with us?”
“Definitely not,” I say.
I jump into the taxi. And when I arrive back at the hotel, my legs buckle and I almost fall onto the floor.
···Five a.m. My phone rings. It’s Phoenix, shrieking with laughter, babbling, hyperventilating, releasing all the adrenaline.
“That was ridiculously intense! In a few hours, I’ve got to be a day-care worker!
···It’s the next afternoon. There’s a comic convention in town, at the Washington State Convention Center in the business district. There are something like 30,000 people here, families and costumed comic fans, packing the modern glass building. I spot Knight Owl and another Seattle superhero named Skyman. He is only semicostumed. He’s unmasked and goateed, and he’s wearing a white T-shirt with a Skyman logo of his own design.

“Ooh, look, the Rocketeer!” he says at a passing costumed attendee. “You never see Rocketeer costumes! That is priceless! I gotta get me a photo of that! Ooh! Lady Riddler! Nice!”Skyman approaches a Batman. “Is that a real bulletproof outfit?” he asks him. “No,” Batman replies a little apologetically.
“This place,” I tell Knight Owl, “is full of costumed people who would never confront drug dealers in the middle of the night. You and Phoenix and Skyman exist in some shadow world between fantasy and reality.”
“Yeah,” Knight Owl replies. “What we do is hyperreality!”
And then there are cheers and gasps and applause: Phoenix Jones has arrived. He is a superstar here. He sees me and we hug—two brave warriors who have been through a great adventure together.
“Thank you for making our city safe!” a woman in the crowd calls out to him.
“You’re a very cool man!” someone else shouts.
I tell Phoenix it is time for me to leave.
“When you write this, be sure to tell everyone that what we do is dangerous,” he says.
“I think you’re great,” I say. “But I’m worried you’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Well, don’t make it seem like I’d be dying for a choice,” he replies. “I couldn’t quit if I wanted. You know how many people in this city look up to me? I haven’t paid for my own coffee in six months.”
And I suddenly realize I feel about Phoenix the same way everyone here does. I think he is an awesome superhero.
As I walk out, I hear a father whisper to his young son, “That’s a real superhero.”
“Are you a real superhero?” the little boy asks Phoenix.
Phoenix looks down at him and smiles.
“I’m as real as you can get.”

Nerdy Real Life Superheroes to Keep City Safe from Bullies, Jocks

Originally posted:
By Frank Cozzarelli
They walk among us—average citizens who don capes and masks at night to battle evil-doers. They call themselves Real Life Superheroes, and they are, of course, deeply nerdy.
A visit to the World Superhero Registry – the apparent home of this movement on the web – reveals images of adult men and women in full-on superhero garb with invented monikers like “Death’s Head Moth”, “Master Legend” and “Dark Guardian”. Their mission? To rid the city of crime and help those in need. Honorable goals, but they seem to be most successful at taking themselves waayyy too seriously and confusing the hell out of the criminals they encounter.
Dark Guardian, for example – whose only superpower seems to be his heavy Staten Island accent – records an encounter where he attempts to chase a hulking drug dealer out of Washington Square Park. When it is revealed that Dark Guardian isn’t actually a cop nor does he possess any sort of legal authority to tell the guy to move, things get kinddaaaa awkward. It’s like he’s just come to the stunned realization that he can’t shoot laser beams out of his eyes, and the drug dealer, towering over Dark Guardian, feels too bad for him to even bother roughing him up.
Then there’s Shadow Hare, a 21-year-old whose intimidating Venom-style getup is belied by some B-roll footage of our hero flouncing down a fire escape. Such is the problem for real life superheroes: life is just a little too real sometimes to pull off wearing tights.
“Citizen Prime” spent $4,000 on his custom body armor suit – and spends most of the time wearing it doing common household chores like watering the lawn and vacuuming. He lives in a pretty quiet neighborhood, which reveals itself to be another obstacle for our real life superheroes.
But life isn’t always so cushy for our real life superheroes. “Master Legend” demonstrates his Iron Fist, for use when drastic measures need to be taken (against defenseless load-bearing walls):
Local news anchors, of course, love these sort of stories because they get to do the reports in that bemused, sing-songy tone that lets us know that this is a story about “colorful local oddballs” who shouldn’t be “taken too seriously”:
It’s sad and hilarious and kind of touching. I suppose they’re heroes, in a way. They’re not exactly rescuing people from burning buildings… but they are wearing capes. And that’s gotta count for something, right?

The Real Life Super Heroes: Stand Up For What You Believe In

Originally posted:
By Trey Buffington

Photo by Peter Tangen

Photo by Peter Tangen

This isn’t a movie I’m describing: drugs run rampant in city parks, theft of money and property, & violence continues to escalate. Men and woman are terrified to take the subway at night. We live in fear. We give in to it. We welcome it. Well… not all of us.
There are those out among us who have taken a stand against such things that drag our society down. They are known as R.L.S.H.. The Real Life Super Heroes. They took it upon themselves to clean up the streets not by might and force alone but by acts of compassion and charity. They dedicate time to mentor children and giving food to the homeless as well as patrol streets to stop criminal acts. In other words, this is the new age neighborhood watch. Taking the persona of superheroes inspired by the comic books we all know and love, R.L.S.H. commit themselves to a hope of creating a better world for our children to grow up in.
Dark Guardian (R.L.S.H. member) is a man who patrols around Manhattan’s Washington Square Park after noticing the drug dealers in the area having no fear of distributing out in the open. Growing up with no father figure, he turned to comic books to be his role model. Using martial arts as his weapon of choice, he confronts drug dealers out in the open dressed in his costume to prevent further moral decay of his park. He has been harassed, threatened verbally and at gun point but still persisted in continuing he endeavor to “clean up the streets.”
Dark Guardian doesn’t just fight drug dealers for a living, he also volunteers his time at hospitals and does homeless outreach. He may not be taking down a Lex Luthor or a Norman Osborn but in our real world society he is doing a tremendous job cleaning up the streets and helping the needy in all forms.
Dark Guardian is just one of the many superheroes who have joined this project to help humanity in this day and age. Other superheroes include: Samaritan, Nyx, Mr. Xtreme, Knight Owl, Crimson Fist, Phoenix Jones and many more.
What does it take to be a superhero? What powers must you possess to do what is right and help others? If you ask any of these “superfolks” helping out their community around the world, I bet they would say “Just be a neighbor”. Reach out to those in need. Stand up for what you know is right. If you have the power and the ability to change you surrounding environment, do so. Everyone wants the world to change, but who out there will try

Biff! Bam! Pow!

It’s Friday evening in New York, and I’m sitting in the secret base of the city’s pre-eminent superhero, which looks deceptively like the bottom floor apartment of a multifamily house in a quite section of Staten Island. Then again, who would ever suspect that beneath stately Wayne Manor sites the Bat cave?
Image file from Black Belt magazine:
scan0001 scan0003
By Mark Jacobs
From my seat at what appears to be a normal kitchen table, I watch as mild-mannered martial arts instructor Chris Pollak transforms into his nighttime alter ego, the Dark Guardian, donning a Lycra pullover with his trademark “DG” logo and a spiffy black and red motorcycle jacket. Then he fastens on what I can only thing of as his “utility belt” filled with first-aid supplies, pepper spray and a thigh holster container a heavy duty flashlight in preparation for one of his regular nocturnal forays.
Being that this will be a standard safety patrol of some local area in Staten Island, hardly New York’s roughest borough, the Dark Guardian has decided to dispense with this full costume. That comes out only for larger operations, such as the time he and several superhero colleagues invaded Manhattan’s drug infested Washington Square Park, forcing a tense standoff with local dealers until the evildoers finally fled back to their lairs. Thus, he leaves his more eye-catching gear, including a bulletproof vest and matching leather motorcycle pants, at home this night. He says he gave up wearing a mask in public several years ago because it seemed to make him less accessible to people.
“Super-villains hunting me down in my real identity isn’t a big concern,” he admits.
This isn’t fantasy, nor is it the acting out of a disturbed soul. “Real-Life superheroes,” as costumed avengers now preferred to be called, is a growing movement of individuals- anywhere from 50 to 100- scattered across the country, people who dress up in secret identities and take to the streets to combat evil. (
All right, none of them has super-powers (as far as I know), and most of them spend their time making public appearances and encouraging people to do things like recycle, rather than taking on criminal gangs. But a handful, including the Dark Guardian, carry the RLSH movement to its logical extreme, actually seeking to stop crime. Admittedly, this is something that’s probably best not taken up by the average person in spandex. But the Dark Guardian, or rather Chris Pollak, is a full-time martial arts instructor and amateur kick boxer. He’s also smart enough not to place himself in danger if there’s no need.
“If I don’t have to intervene in something, I try not to,” he says. “I’ll call the police, and they can intervene. My thing is, just don’t look the other way. I want to be a drastic example for people to know they can do little things to make a difference out there.”
In the seminal graphic novel Watchman, the costumed vigilante Rorschach observes: “We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to.” While he might have been talking about the need in a degenerating society for superheroes to fight crime, he was also likely speaking about the need certain individuals have to recreate themselves as heroic figures.
Pollak admits to having had a trouble youth in which he had little contact with his father- and even wandered into juvenile delinquency at one point. But as a child hold fascination with the martial arts let him to a local school that taught kenpo and kajukenbo. He says the training turned his life around and made him a better person.
This is not an unusual story. Many get involved with the martial arts out of a desire to develop larger-than life physical powers and improve themselves as individuals. But most stop there. Pollak simply took his youthful fascination with powerful heroes to the next level. Having heard there were some people out there dressing up and performing feats of community activism around the country, he mad et he decision to become one of them eight years ago.
“I started off in plain clothes, doing community patrols and handing out. Food to the homeless- things like that,” he says. “But then I talked with others who were doing the superhero thing or wanted to do it, and I liked the idea of becoming a symbol and being able to reach out to people.
While it might be easy to dismiss the Dark Guardian and his colleagues   as random crazies, when you talk to him about the superhero business, he makes it seem not only normal but also noble. He’s quiet and subdue most of the time, particularly as I ride the train across Staten Island with him. We walk the length of the train just checking on things, and, in his less-formal uniform, no one seems to pay him any notice- which appears fine with the Dark Guardian.
“Only one in 10 or 20 patrols will anything actually happen,” he says. And typically, the “action” comes from handing out a blanket to a homeless person or helping someone who’s locked out of his car.
Pollak’s never had to use his martial arts skills in his crime-fighting persona. The tensest moment he’s encountered was the standoff in Washington Square Park, where one of the dealers flashed a gun at the assembled superheroes. Although none of them was bulletproof, the heroes stood their ground until the dealers drifted off.
Sometime after that, on another patrol of the park, the police approached him and took him to the station. At first thinking they were going to harass him, the Dark Guardian was pleasantly surprised to find they just wanted to give him a personal intelligence briefing on whom to watch out for and suggest that if he had trouble, he should call and let them handle it. It wasn’t exactly Commissioner Gordon using the bat signal, but in the world of real-life superheroes, it was close enough.

Not all 'Superheroes' are found in comic books

Originally posted:
superheroes-doc-ensembleSlamdance documentary takes aim at real costumed crime fighters
Scott Iwasaki, Of the Record staff
Posted: 01/18/2011 04:27:15 PM MST
With the popularity of comic-book crime fighters such as Batman, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four and Watchmen, “Superheroes” director Michael Barnett and producer Theodore “TJ” James said they were surprised to find, at least to their knowledge, no one has released a feature-length documentary on real-life, costumed-citizen crime fighters.
“We have a deeply imbedded mythology of superheroes in our culture,” Barnett said during a teleconference with The Park Record. “TJ and I stumbled upon this story idea and we thought it would be a slice of pop culture that has risen from the pages of comic books and become a reality.”
“For me it was a great idea and concept,” James said. “But when you’re faced with such a brilliant idea, you think it’s been done 100 times before, but, and this is a fact, we did not find the definitive documentary on the subject.”
Donning their dynamic-duo investigator caps, James and Barnett began searching the web for these community protectors.
“When we started the research process, we found they all had MySpace pages, believe it or not,” James said. “There is a whole process to be a legit superhero and they all are also registered on a couple of websites, which has them prove they are what they say they are and post videos.”
From there the two started calling these superheroes, which number in the hundreds.
“Doing the research was frustrating because the subjects are not very communicative with the media,” Barnett said. “Lots of stories have marginalized them and that’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to dive in, be honest and share their stories and tell the world why they do what they do.”
Barnett and James ended up talking to more than 100 of these do-gooders and began narrowing the list.
“We wanted to find those who were most compelling, and/or the ones we thought we could get the most access from,” James said. “It took a while to find them, but eventually we found some great characters and great stories.”
The film’s characters hail from Northwest Florida, the Pacific Northwest, New York and Southern California.
“They are not connected geographically, but are doing same thing,” Barnett said.
While conducting the interviews, James and Barnett found being a superhero is not all about wearing a cape and cowl and subduing criminals. Another aspect of the word “superhero” means being prominent members of their communities,
“They do the most,” Barnett said. “They are active in communities, whether they participate in crime patrols or community out-reach or other volunteer work. Every part of the country has a different need. Some do tornado relief. Some do blood drives. Some do water handouts to the homeless and some clean your windshields for free at stoplights.”
There are also those who were inspired by the volunteer and unarmed crime patrollers, the Guardian Angels, Barnett said.
“The ones we focused on are the next evolution of the Guardian Angels,” he explained. “The Guardian Angels were ridiculed at first, but slowly they became liked. It’s now a hugely politicized and publicized organization. These guys we talked to don’t want to be a part of something political. They want to make change from the ground up.”
The ones who do go after criminals all have different methods, Barnett said.
“There is one who goes after child abductors and pedophiles in Southern California,” he said. “He focuses on a single case and brings as much exposure to it as he can. He brings to light any new facts and puts up his own reward money for information, and plasters the area with flyers.”
Then there is a group in New York, called the New York Initiative, whose members live together in Bushwick in Brooklyn.
“They are all from different parts of the country and met online and moved to New York,” said Barnett. “They dress up a girl in a provocative outfit or a guy as a male hooker and they patrol with walkie-talkies, and try to root out criminality.”
“It was usually 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night when we would go out with them,” James said. “And it was pretty nerve-wracking.”
James served as the voice of reason when his film crew placed themselves in potentially volatile situations, which ranged from being accosted by drunken “frat boys” in San Diego, to confronting drug dealers in New York’s Washington Square Park.
“I was the one who was always afraid of someone getting hurt, but it’s been exciting to say the least,” he said.
“Here’s how the conversations went,” said Barnett. “TJ: ‘Very dangerous.’ Me: ‘I know. Let’s shoot it.’ But there were times when even I was literally too petrified to move.”
Before work started on the film, Barnett and James decided “Superheroes” wasn’t going to romanticize or glorify the idea of vigilantism. They wanted to show the public there are people who want to be superheroes and do what they can to make their communities better.
“It’s not for us to judge how these guys use their energy, whether they help a homeless person or catch criminals,” Barnett said. “They simply want things to be good and by being is how they do it.”
While the idea of being a superhero usually surrounds strong men such as Bruce Wayne who are in their prime, Barnett and James found the ages of the real-life superheroes range from 20 to 65.
“I think it takes a little while for anyone to gain some experience in life to push them to do something like this,” Barnett said. “If we generalize, it will lead us to say that a lot of these people have experienced some kind of trauma they are in some way compensating for, which materialized into (becoming a superhero).”
Others, said James, just wanted to get involved.
“Some experienced and witnessed people being apathetic to crimes all around them and that’s also has been a big driving force,” he said.
“We do hope no one gets hurt and nothing bad happens to these people who are very special to us,” Barnett said. “We have an honest film that will hopefully inspire dialogue and maybe even action to go out and do something to make the world better.”
Since they started working on the film, James and Barnett found a rise in the number of real-life superheroes.
“We started before the film ‘Kick Ass’ came out,” Barnett said. “After it came out last year, we found a lot of new real-life superheroes which were inspired from that film.”
Surprisingly most of the up-starts are from Salt Lake City, he said.
“We rolled into Salt Lake for a few days and it was overwhelming,” James said. “There are at least 20 of them who are in a group called Black Monday Society.”
“They are all tattoo artists working at least 100 patrols,” Barnett said. They are really passionate about the movement, and looking for ways to find to network and learn. They are very special people and will be at our screening.”
Slamdance Film Festival will show “Superheroes” in Treasure Mountain Inn’s main screening room, 255 Main Street, on Friday, Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m. It will repeat on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 8:30 p.m. in the Treasure Mountain Inn’s gallery room. Both screenings will also feature Mary Robertson’s “Missed Connections.” Individual tickets will be available Jan. 21, beginning at 9 a.m. at

NYC RLSH Patrol 12/10/10

Blindside, Samaritan, Zero(Z), Three, Dark Guardian

Blindside, Samaritan, Zero(Z), Three, Dark Guardian

Went out this weekend with Zero aka Z, Three, Blindside, Samaritan, Peter Tangen, and a reporter and photographer from a magazine. We went out to Washington Square Park on Friday night; the park has a history of being a haven for drug dealers. I have been out in the park, taking on the drug dealers for a few years now.
Samaritan had walked through the park before meeting up with the rest of us and was offered drugs by two dealers. I like to get confirmation of who is selling drugs and what they are selling before I take action in the park. I got ready to go undercover, wearing my bullet and stab proof vest and a wired microphone under my jacket.  I walked through the park with Peter a good distance behind me with a camera. The drug dealer approached me and began mumbling something to me. I looked over and said, “what’s up”? He asked if I wanted to smoke. I asked him what he had. He said, “nickel or dime bag”? I then asked what else he had. He said I would need to pay a buck or $150. I asked him again what he had. He responded, “I got eight balls, but it will cost you, you got to spend to get”. I said I would have to check with a friend and see if I can get the money and walked away outside of the park.
After I walked away he spotted the cameras. He walked back over to me outside the park. I was standing with the people from the magazine. He asked if we were filming him. I said, no my friend is a photographer and he always has his camera. The drug dealer then threatened to break the cameras if we were filming him. The dealer has shown to be dealing some serious drugs and now to be confrontational and violent.
The drug dealer went back into the park where; Peter, Zero, and Three were, and began to confront them. Both Blindside and Samaritan were across the park keeping an eye out, in case the situation would have escalated.While the dealer was nearby Peter, Zero, and Three, I then approached a police officer. I told him that there was drug dealer in the park and that I had audio and video of him dealing. The officer said that I had to send it over to the narcotics division. I told him that the dealers were over by my friends. He asked if I was worried about an altercation, and I said yes. After the police officer finished writing a ticket, he came over. The officer asked us what was going on. The dealer started rambling about being filmed, and that we needed permission to do so if it was for commercial filming. He continued to ramble on about it. I got pissed and said, “you are dealing drugs out here and can not do that”! The cop informed him that we could film whatever we want, and that he can not keep dealing out there. The dealer did not respond and kept rambling on about commercial filming. The cop left and we stayed in the park. The dealer kept going on about filming and I yelled at him, “you know what we are going to do , send this over to narcotics”! He responded, “do I look fu**ing scared”? We had an exchange of words, and I told Peter to keep the camera on this scumbag. I yelled at him,” sell your drugs now”. At this point, we were not ready to let this situation go, so myself and Z got our gear on and, the rest of the group joined to patrol the park, with flashlights and cameras. When everyone came together the dealers got scared. We managed to take the park, and the dealers slowly left. I shined my light on a few of them, mouthed off a bit, and they all eventually left.
After being there for a while about 5 cops came into the park. They did not bother us, they were actually very cool and told us to stay safe. We left the park in their hands and went off to do homeless outreach. We did not come across many homeless, hopefully this was because they had places to say. We did give out some blankets and supplies to a few people, which was good.

RLSH vs WSP Drug Dealers

From Dark Guardian
It was a beautiful April Night. It was clear and warm. A perfect spring night, possibly the nicest day of the year.  On this great night I decided to take on the drug dealers of Washington Square Park. I had been going up against them for some time now.  I had been calling and reporting them to the police and even taking it to the level of direct confrontation.  I was going up to them and kicking them out of the park.  When doing so I would make sure to have at least a small group of people with me and some lights and cameras to deter violence.
This night I was going to make a big statement, not only to the drug dealers, but to my community and the public at large.  I was going to take the park back from the dealers and let everyone around know the dealign will not be tolerated anymore.  This is something I could not do alone, so I got a whole group of real life superheroes together for it.  Many real life superheroes traveled in to back me up and help out.

Every time I go in and do something against the dealers I make sure they are selling.  I send in someone undercover to make sure they are dealers and to find out what exactly they are selling.  This night we sent someone in and they got them offering to sell them eight balls of coke.  A pretty big order to be selling outside in a park.  We scope out the operation they have out there and we were looking at a twenty plus person operation that night.  We know they are dealing and we know who they are.  A group of us gather together getting ready to swarm the park, take it back from the dealers, and kick them out.
As we get ready to go in I hear someone say, “hey you we want to talk to you”.  Two police officers are walking over to me.  I say yes officer, they say they want to speak with me.  I explain to them that I do not break any laws and they tell me that I am not in any trouble, but the Lieutenant wants to speak to me.  They asked that Cameraman and I come down to the precinct.  I comply with the officers request.  We get in their car and drive off to the precinct.  We chat with the officers about the dealers and the problem in the park.  They explain that that they try hard to get the dealers out.  They arrest them constantly and have undercover ops in there.  They say they appreciate what I am doing but don’t want to things to get violent out there and do not want me or anyone else to get hurt.  They tell us they can’t just go in and pat the dealers down or just tell them to leave.  We had a good conversation with the officers.

We arrived at the precinct. It is the special operations precinct.  We walk in and everyone in the precinct knows who we are.  I get various comments like “look who it is”, “Superhero”, and a female officer says “I thought you were taller”.  Cameraman and I sit down in the office and we talked with an officer and the lieutenant.  They know who I am, they have seen videos of me, and know what I do. We talk about the park and the dealers.  There main concern is for my safety. They explain that they have arrested some of these guys 50-60 times and they are back out there.  The one big dealer Carmello who I had been up against was shot in the head before and is still out there.  He talked about how many of them carry weapons and guns.  We talk for a a bit about things.  I explained what I do and why I do it.  They respected what I was trying to do, but did not want to see me or anyone else get hurt.  They said I can contact them if I had any information.  I left them my information and got the lieutenants card.
Cameraman and I left the precinct and had to take a cab back to meet with the rest of the team.  I was a little shaken up after getting picked up by the police and brought in.  I was a little hesitant to get back out there.  I had all these people out here to get my back and help me out.  These dealers were out of control and brazen.  I knew I had to do it and still take on the dealers.  The team gets together and we head out to the park.

We first get in and confront the dealer.  We actually have a conversation about the drug problem out there.  I get on my bull horn and start calling out over it “NO MORE DRUGS IN THE PARK”, “THIS IS NOT YOUR PARK”.  We work our way to the center area of where the dealers were selling.  They back away from us, some start yelling and cursing at us. One dealers starts yelling at us in Jamaican.  We force the dealers out of the park and onto the streets.  Some leave and walk away, many hang out at the outskirts of the park talking with each other, looking over at us, and threatening us.
We took their spot and were out there with cameras, lights, and a bullhorn.  We were messing up their business on a real good night to sell.  We probably cost them thousands of dollars that night.  It got so bad for them that we witnessed their leadership come out.  A man came out and started yelling at the dealers who were forced out of the park.  He was yelling “What the f**k is going on out here”, “You going to let these people bitch you like this”.  He looked over at us yelling threats. We held steady control over our area of the park. A dealer from afar lifts up his shirt flashing a gun at us.  We do not move and he walks away.  We were out there for hours locking down the park and hurting their business.  Most the dealers had left the area. We decided after while to leave.  We had made a big statement and hurt their business bad that night.  We cautiously exited the park as a group.  We walked through the city for a while making sure we were not being followed.

A couple of us hung out for a while after.  This was one of the craziest nights for me in being a real life superhero.  We took a stand against against the dealers and hurt their business bad for the night.  We also called attention to the problem in the park. I’m happy to report that those dealers are not in the park anymore.  I am thankful to everyone who helped out that night. They had my back, put themselves in danger, risked serious injury, and even death to come out and make a difference.

Nerdy Real Life Superheroes to Keep City Safe from Bullies, Jocks

Originally posted:
They walk among us—average citizens who don capes and masks at night to battle evil-doers. They call themselves Real Life Superheroes, and they are, of course, deeply nerdy.
A visit to the World Superhero Registry – the apparent home of this movement on the web – reveals images of adult men and women in full-on superhero garb with invented monikers like “Death’s Head Moth”, “Master Legend” and “Dark Guardian”. Their mission? To rid the city of crime and help those in need. Honorable goals, but they seem to be most successful at taking themselves waayyy too seriously and confusing the hell out of the criminals they encounter.
Dark Guardian, for example – whose only superpower seems to be his heavy Staten Island accent – records an encounter where he attempts to chase a hulking drug dealer out of Washington Square Park. When it is revealed that Dark Guardian isn’t actually a cop nor does he possess any sort of legal authority to tell the guy to move, things get kinddaaaa awkward. It’s like he’s just come to the stunned realization that he can’t shoot laser beams out of his eyes, and the drug dealer, towering over Dark Guardian, feels too bad for him to even bother roughing him up.
Then there’s Shadow Hare, a 21-year-old whose intimidating Venom-style getup is belied by some B-roll footage of our hero flouncing down a fire escape. Such is the problem for real life superheroes: life is just a little too real sometimes to pull off wearing tights.
“Citizen Prime” spent $4,000 on his custom body armor suit – and spends most of the time wearing it doing common household chores like watering the lawn and vacuuming. He lives in a pretty quiet neighborhood, which reveals itself to be another obstacle for our real life superheroes.
But life isn’t always so cushy for our real life superheroes. “Master Legend” demonstrates his Iron Fist, for use when drastic measures need to be taken (against defenseless load-bearing walls):
Local news anchors, of course, love these sort of stories because they get to do the reports in that bemused, sing-songy tone that lets us know that this is a story about “colorful local oddballs” who shouldn’t be “taken too seriously”:
It’s sad and hilarious and kind of touching. I suppose they’re heroes, in a way. They’re not exactly rescuing people from burning buildings… but they are wearing capes. And that’s gotta count for something, right?