Tag white baron

Emerald Avengers

A Brief Conversation With Michael Barnett, Director of Superheroes Documentary

Originally posted: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/06/a_brief_conversation_with_mich.php
By Keegan Hamilton
Just when you think the media coverage of real life superheroes has reached a critical mass (see: Jones, Phoenix), somebody goes and makes a feature-length documentary film about the entire subculture. That somebody is director Michael Barnett, and his movie, titled simply, Superheroes, screens tonight and tomorrow as part of the Seattle True Independent Film Festival. (It’s also been picked up by HBO, and premieres on cable August 8.) Barnett, who is in town and will make a cameo tonight at Central Cinema, was kind enough to offer his thoughts on costumed crusaders and, of course, the Phoenix Jones phenomenon.
Why did you decide to make a documentary about real life superheroes?
Probably the same thing that drew you to it. It was fascinating. I just sort of stumbled upon these adult men who are putting on costumes to fight crime and help their communities. I just couldn’t believe it was real.
What surprised you most about these people?
It’s really tough to generalize. Everybody was so different. I guess what surprised me most was, we sort of went out looking for this pop culture phenomenon and found so many of these guys — there are literally hundreds of them — so we had to weed through the ones who are just online personalities, doing it as a sort of a cosplay thing. Then we sniffed out the ones who are really doing things — Mr. Xtreme in San Diego, Zetaman in Portland, Dark Guardian and Life in New York, and Thanatos in Vancouver — and focused on them.
A lot of people’s first impression when you explain the concept of real life superheroes seems to be something along the lines of, ‘Those people are nuts.’ How did you try and normalize them, or rationalize what they do? Or did you even try to do that?
Our first approach was to try and make people realize that each person is sort of eccentric in their own way, and they have their own reasons for doing what they do. It’s not a rational thing to do, to put on a costume and walk around a dangerous neighborhood. A lot of these guys don’t have proper training to do that sort of thing — some do — but most don’t. And in some states the laws allow them to carry some pretty serious weapons.
The other thing is showing their situation in life. Quite a few of them don’t have the resources to do what they do. But they want to help their community. Some of them were sad — financially, personally, and just in general. But it’s showing that out of that darkness they could rise above and try to do something good. It’s not all cookies and rainbows, though, it’s profoundly sad and tragic on a certain level.
You interviewed Stan Lee — the Godfather of comics, and the and former president and chairman of Marvel — for the film. What was that like and what were his thoughts on these so-called superheroes?
Stan is the man. He’s amazing. He’s awesome. And he’s 88-years-old!
We thought about trying to interview all kinds of figures in the comic world but ultimately we realized there was only one person we needed to talk to and that was Stan. He understands what it means to be a superhero better than anybody. A lot of these guys (the real life superheroes) are very wary of the media and kind of protective of their community. But once they heard Stan was involved it was pretty easy to get them at least on the phone.
Mostly [Stan] was worried that one of these guys is going to get killed or injured. And yeah, somebody is probably going to get hurt. It’s going to be a sad day for the superhero community when that happens but it seems inevitable.
Phoenix Jones isn’t in the film at all. Why? And have you met the guy? What are your thoughts on him and his impact on the superhero world?
Never met the guy, never had a conversation with him. There’s so many of these guys and we were meeting them [Phoenix Jones] didn’t even exist yet. When we were shooting we rolled through the Pacific Northwest and never even heard his name. And then while we were in production he sort of came out of nowhere and was suddenly everywhere. So I don’t know what my opinion is. If he is just in it for the attention it’s a bad thing. But he is trying to be iconic, and for a message of good so that’s a good thing.
Superheroes screens tonight at 7 p.m. at Central Cinema, and Barnett will be in attendance, along with several members of Seattle’s superhero scene. (Barnett notes that two other Seattle superheroes, Skyman and White Baron, appear briefly in the film.) The movie also will also be shown tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at the Jewelbox Theatre and the Rendezvous. Ticket info here.

Superheroes Among Us

Jill Smolowe and Howard Breuer with reporting by Kathy Ehrich Dowd

Photo by Pierre Elle de Pibrac

Photo by Pierre Elle de Pibrac

Slower than an speeding Bullet, they patrol city streets, hoping to lend a hand, inspire compassion and even thwart crime
She finds her work as an accountant “a boring 9-to-5 job.” But many an evening after Irene Thomas, 21, returns to her cramped 400-sq.-ft attic apartment in a town in Bergen County, N.J., she slips into a black catsuit, accessories with a red belt, red gloves and boots, and sometimes also dons a mask. When she emerges in her Honda Accord on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel, she is Nyx, her namesake a Greek goddess of the night. While she might patrol the streets looking for anything out of the ordinary, her immediate mission is distributing food and clothes to the homeless. And she has another goal: to call attention to her actions so that “other people notice and are maybe motivated to help too.”
She is not alone. From New York City to Seattle, scores of costumed crusaders have joined the superhero movement. While their aims aren’t always unified- some cater to the needy while others are bent on thwarting crime- most of them share a desire to stomp out citizen apathy by modeling “superhero” virtues. “I just feel like I’m walking no air after I’ve helped 30 people,” says Chaim “Life” Lazaros, 26, a production manager by day, who wears a mask and fedora (a la Green Hornet) when he takes to New York’s streets at night. The superheroes, who range from dishwashers to Fortune 500 execs, cut across political, religious and age lines and are often comic book geeks, says Tea Krulos, who blogs about the phenomenon. “They don’t want to admit it, [but] it’s fun to dress up.”
Not everyone is impressed by their derring-do. On a recent night in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, a teenage homeless girl only smirked when Motor Mouth, a ninja like fixture of the San Francisco Bay Area’s streets, handed her a bag of food. Unfazed, Motor Mouth (who refuses to give his real name) says he doesn’t mind “a million people snickering behind my back as long as there is the possibility to help.”
The costumed do-gooders, who pack nothing more lethal than first-aid kits and benign intentions, get high marks from the police. “Any time a citizen gets involved- great,” says Det. Renee Witt of the Seattle police department. Others, like Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones, 22, have crated a stir by being brazen crime fighters. In recent months Phoenix Jones claims he has interrupted knife fights, helps catch drug dealers and has been stabbed. Certainly he’s sparked discussion among his peers about boundaries. “If we see the police are already there, our philosophy is the matter has been addressed,” says Seattle’s White Baron. Most self-styled superheroes are well aware they can’t fly or outrun speeding bullets. “If you life this kind of life,” says Motor Mouth, 30, “you can’t take yourself entirely seriously.”

Dark Guardian
By Day: Martial-arts instructor, 26
Superhero Duty: Chases drug dealers
City: New York
His efforts to clean Manhattan’s Washing Square Park of drug deales do not always impress local police
By Day: Accountant, 21
Superhero Target: The homeless
City: New York
She’s given up on chasing drug dealers “Its just really fun to jump into a costume and help people,” she says.
DC Guardian
By Day: Government worker, mid-40s
Superhero Virtue: Patriotism
City: Washington, D.C.
Active in charity work, this Air Force vet also hands out American flags and talks tourist about the U.S. Constitution.
Motor Mouth
By Day: Special-education teacher, 30
Superhero Goal: Thwarting crime
City: San Francisco Bay Area
He says his attempts to “be at the right place at the right time” have included stopping a man from beating his wife.
By Day: Production manager, 26
Superhero Inspiration: His parents
City: New York
“Even something little like a razor blade” for a clean shave before a job interview, he says, “is a big deal” to the homeless
Phantom Zero
By Day: Computer technician, 34
Superhero Style: Teamwork
City: New York
Nyx’s street partner (and live-in boyfriend), he delivers clothes to women’s shelters and feeds feeds people.

Smolowe, Jill, Howard Breuer, and Kathy E. Dowd. “Superheroes Among Us.” People Magazine 75.11 (2011): 92-94. Print.

Homeless in Seattle: a struggle on the streets

Originally posted: http://www.thejibsheet.com/?p=4652
By Jeremy Graber

(SOURCE: Anonymous) From the left: Skyman, Thanatos, Red Dragon, and White Baron

(SOURCE: Anonymous) From the left: Skyman, Thanatos, Red Dragon, and White Baron

Locals call the restaurant and shop area on Alaskan Way “the aqueduct.” The street is lined with businesses such as Red Robin, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, and ferry services which shuttle tourists to and from Bainbridge Island.
To the less fortunate, this area is called home along with other spots across Seattle that provide shelter from the cold and wet weather after the sun sets and the strip closes for the night. These are the people who were unable to get into the many homeless shelters that are found throughout the city.
Many shelters have entrance requirements such as passing drug and alcohol screenings, background checks, and sex offender checks. Those who do not fit the bill find themselves put back onto the streets to fend for themselves.
The Union Gospel Mission Men’s Shelter has room for 209 people per night, which includes 104 homeless people that are part of their residential recovery program, a program created to help those suffering from substance abuse find long-term solutions to attaining a better life.
Among other services, this specific shelter offers occupation counseling, spiritual guidance, and programs specifically designed for women and children. They have staff on duty 24-hours a day to receive donations and to aid in emergency intakes when they have the room.
Late at night a “Search & Rescue” van patrols the streets handing out blankets, food, and clothing to those that are camping in doorways. There are anywhere between 10 and 20 people standing outside of the Mission’s doors on 2nd Avenue, hoping they will be let in or wandering with no place else to go.
If you come back to Alaskan Way after the businesses close, it is painfully obvious that it is not enough to take care of those in need. On Saturday night, two brothers were huddled together with their dog hiding in the bushes under the overpass below the Pike Place market.
“We’ve been homeless for about two and a half years now – only in Seattle for about a year,” the oldest said. His youngest brother claimed to be 18, but it he was obviously far younger. The two had been hiding from the police that force them out of the area during the day.
A coalition of approximately 10 superheroes from Seattle, Portland and Vancouver (Canada) spent close to 18 hours on Saturday handing out food, hygiene supplies, and provisions to the needy which included the two brothers. They pointed out various encampments throughout Seattle where people had been taking shelter.
(SOURCE: JEREMY GRABER) Knight Owl renders aid to a homeless man who defended his possessions

(SOURCE: JEREMY GRABER) Knight Owl renders aid to a homeless man who defended his possessions

One such place was under the 6th and Cherry street overpass where at least 30 people were under blankets, sleeping bags, and ponchos. Their possessions were cluttered together in piles of various sizes which indicated how long they had been there.
The encampment was inhabited by those who were sober and those who were obviously not. There was a married couple who found themselves homeless within the past few weeks after they had been evicted. Underneath an American flag, two veterans shared a spot where they racked out for the night.
For two hours, the group of super volunteers unloaded supplies from a minivan and conversed with the inhabitants. Skyman, a native of Seattle, had prepared almost 100 bundles that he called “Sky packs” which contained 2 puddings, a granola bar, two pairs of socks, and hygiene items.
Knight Owl, a superhero from Portland, gave medical attention to a man whose hands were badly injured while defending his possessions from a gang that frequently raids their shelters.
“They come in the night as we’re going to sleep to steal our things,” one of the homeless said. He describes a group of 8 or 9 men that rob and attack them on nearly a nightly basis. He added that “many of the people here can’t get into a shelter because they don’t pass the drug tests.”
The people under the overpass pointed out that it is hard for many of them to stay clean because of a white van that comes by selling drugs. “Those who are struggling with their sobriety find themselves unable to say ‘no,’” commented Thanatos, one of the superheros from Vancouver, Canada.
A spokesperson from the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness said stories like this are all too common. People are assaulted and what little they have is taken from them, sometimes by the people that they share the same space with. “More needs to be done to help them, we just need the resources to get the job done,” the volunteer said.
As federal and state resources shrink, many of these shelters are relying heavily on the donations from their local communities. With a shrinking economy, outreach programs are finding themselves with less and less to work with.

It was windy

White BaronBy White Baron
Our unequalled [sic] friend Skyman, semi-newbie Roswell (formerly known as Brother Keeper), and latest addition to the lifestyle, Kitty-Kat went out loaded up with several bags of snack-food, and basic hygiene. More common patrols begin after hours, but we got ourselves started around prime time, finding the usual sleeping places uninhabited. In the future, I think starting later might let us find more of those in need.
Reaching the end of the viaduct, a sight-impaired fellow with a cane had just exited the Ferry, and allowed us to help him find his bus stop. Afterwards [sic], we climbed the hills of Pioneer Square to reach a large regular multiple encampment, and discovered a few sleepers, and 2 or 3 more elaborate tents. The inhabitants, who recognized Skyman and myself, informed us that the police routinely move everyone out of this area at certain times of the day, which forces them to sleep under a nearby bridge, or the nearest wooded areas, or wherever hasn’t been taken by someone else.
We checked the sloped woods near the bridge, and saw no-one. Then, upon shining a spotlight under the bridge, the few camped there waved back to us, thankfully unintimidated [sic] by our attention. The portion of the chain-link fence bent down to allow access to the level area posed a challenge, as it was directly across the street without any signage that permitted pedestrian entrance. Skyman and Kitty took admirable initiative by racing across the busy street to meet the people, who came down to the fence to accept our goods.
Going back through the downtown parks and finding no one else at the time, we wanted to be sure to give the viaduct one last sweep, as it was close to midnight. We found widower Kevin, a man with a foam plastic bed, a wool blanket, a paper grocery bag of his own food, and chapped, cracked hands that startled me a bit. He explained that one heart-attack had bankrupted him onto the street, and having given his house to his daughter and her husband before the medical issues, was simply too proud to go them for help. I asked him what he did need, to which he answered, “Can you give me a new life?” I didn’t know what to say, and waited for the others to start talking with him to cover my embarrassment. He accepted a few band-aids, and reminded us that there were Third World children who would give anything to have what he had.
Finally, back at our starting point, we found 2 people. Kristine, who needed clothes, blankets and socks, provided courtesy of Kitty; and a sleeping man, camped several paces away, who awoke during our interaction with her. She remembered us form the larger meet up a month earlier. Kristine asked us to please stay and watch over her as she slept, and I explained that we couldn’t this time. We were parked close by, and as we were just about to call it a night, we overheard an argument. The man was accusing Kristine of stealing his lighter, and she called to us to intervene. I shone my spotlight just above the man so as not to seem directly threatening. “Listen, we’re not police, but we’re more than happy to call them. Cool it, alright?” He calmed down immediately. We maintained our distance throughout, and saw Kristine move her own gear away into the night.
Update: During the final stretch, Roswell accidently [sic] lost his phone. The next morning, I received a series of calls from our friend Kevin. He had picked it up, and was good enough to offer to return it.

Real life superheroes create ethical movement

Originally posted: http://www.piercepioneer.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=46c43117-59d4-4394-93c3-ef5f3be9c57d
Throughout Washington heroes are deciding to join “The Real Life Superhero Movement” to do more than keep locals safe
By: Amy Johnson
Posted: 1/27/11
Something epic is happening in the late night, city streets of Washington. Footing around areas like Seattle, Kent and Vancouver are some do-gooders who tackle crime, lend helping hands, bring hope and spread inspiration throughout the night.
What makes these good samaritans unique from all the rest is that they fulfill those tasks while in costume, more specifically in custom superhero costumes.
With names like Knight Owl, SkyMan and White Baron, these “superheroes” are more than what meets the eye.
They don’t pretend to be fantasy like or to have super human power, they are simply real-life heroes making an ethical movement. These ordinary fellows are dedicated to an extraordinary project called “The Real Life Superhero Movement.”
The Real Life Superhero Movement is a community of “superheroes” from all across the United States dedicated to inspiring and connecting to one another and the public.
Reallifesuperheroes.com describes the project to be, “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.”
Though they stay in contact with one another and often patrol together, they are all very independent from each other.
There are many “superheroes” that devote themselves to Washington communities, and a few of those heroes recently met up in Seattle to do some charity and crime patrolling.
Knight Owl, who has been a Real Life Superhero for three years, patrols and works in the Vancouver and Portland areas. His name was not inspired by “The Watchman,” but by more personal reasons.
“Knight as in a chivalrous knight. Their history is something that is really inspirational to me. The ‘Owl’ comes from seeking after wisdom and knowledge,” he said.
Knight Owl is training to be a paramedic. He is EMT and firefighter certified.
SkyMan patrols and works in the Kent area and he received the nickname from his former high school football coach. A former student of Highline Community College, SkyMan is working on transferring to UW Tacoma to study political science and U.S. history.
“I aspire to be a teacher so I can teach youth the importance of history,” SkyMan stated. “Education is necessary.”
Icarus has been a Real Life Superhero for about a year and patrols areas of Oregon. Previously a small-time actor, Icarus now attends EMT school. Icarus also has a history of doing charity work.
“Back when I was doing some acting I helped to raise money at some benefit productions,” Icarus said.
The Dreamer has been a part-time superhero since 2007. He patrols in the Seattle area at night and attends work and school during the day.
White Barron also patrols in Seattle. He has been a “superhero” for two years and is training to be a pilot. He currently has his pilot’s license.
“I would really like to work in the search and rescue field,” he said. His “superhero” name and costume are both inspired by his fascination with aviation.
On a typical night, the heroes will patrol certain areas that they believe are in need of some looking after. Often they will patrol in groups, but sometimes they are alone. They keep their eyes out for anyone who may need help. Whether it be a typical bar fight that needs to be intervened or a homeless person in need of some supplies, the heroes are there to help.
They are all trained in CPR and are Red Cross certified. Most of the real life superheroes also have background experience, like martial arts or military work.
They often carry supplies with them, like first aid kits, to be prepared for any situation that may arise. Not only do they hand out socks and water to the homeless, but they also make a great effort to get to know each of them so that they may further help them.
“Some encounters can be depressing,” said The Dreamer. “You just wish you could do more outreach.”
“A frequent misconception about what we do, is that people expect that our nights are filled with extreme action, or that we are looking for that,” stated Knight Owl. “In reality, we hardly come across an extreme situation and we are not thrilled to find them either.”
There are some who don’t take these superheroes seriously. As they walk around Seattle in their costumes some bystanders antagonize them.
“They look at me like I’m a joke. I mean I’ve had garbage thrown at me, people yelling curses at me or just trying to pick a fight. Some people just don’t like it when others are trying to help,” Icarus said.
“We often see the bystander effect, where people are afraid of helping others, afraid to get involved,” Knight Owl said.
These heroes refuse to stand by and do nothing when someone is in need of help.
“How many times a day do you pass over someone who needs help and it is at no cost to you to help them?” Knight Owl asked.
The Real Life Superheroes explained that their costumes aren’t for personal attention.
“Our costumes are very functional. Some heroes also work as gadgeteers for others,” said White Baron.
“It also helps to bring attention to what we are doing. Not to anyone specific, but just so that our actions and helping hands are recognized for the purpose of inspiring others,” Knight Owl said.
The costumes help citizens feel more comfortable, when being approached, if they can recognize who the “superhero” is. The heroes also get to have a little fun with their costumes too.
“You have to have a sense of humor,” The Dreamer said.
“I don’t take myself too seriously,” Knight Owl said.
When asked about the possibility of a super villain movement forming, Knight Owl replied,
“I don’t believe in super villains. You are either a criminal or you are not.”