Precursors to the RLSH movement by Knight-Hood

  • Precursors to the Real Life Super-hero movement

    by Knight-Hood

     

    THE REAL LIFE BATMAN; El Murcielago, which translates as "The Bat" was a Mexican wrestler whose debut match was April 3rd, 1938, a full year before Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman in Detective Comics #27 and also before Norman Daniels aka G. Wyman Jones introduced his pulp fiction hero the Black Bat in July of 1939.

     

     

    Bob Kane maintained until his death that the only Bat character he knew of prior to creating Batman was the villain in the 1930 film "The Bat Whispers", but what of Bill Finger? Could Finger perhaps have seen a photo of El Murcielago prior to drawing Batman?

     

     

    El Murcielago wore a full length black cape, black boots, black full face mask and trunks similar to Batman, but as an artist myself I was particularly struck by El Murcialago's large thigh muscles which bear a strong resemblance to those drawn by Finger of Batman's in Detective #27. A coincidence? It's possible. After all Batman and the Black Bat only came one month apart in 1939 and were created independently.

     

    Even though his influence on American Comic books is debatable, El Murcialago aka Jesus Valazquez was one of the original wrestlers who helped create the world of Lucha Libre or "free wrestling" as it translates. He was one of the first, if not the first to wear a mask in the ring and would be followed by thousands to come.

    These masked characters were far more to their Mexican fans than mere wrestlers, but are considered true folk heroes. Many like the famous "El Santo" appeared in comics, and multiple films in character as well as personal appearances.

    This culminated in 1996 with Superbarrio, one of the first of the RLSH community, who uses his image to organize labor rallies, protests and file petitions for better living conditions for the poor. Superbarrio is joined by other Luchadors who battle corruption, animal rights, pollution and poverty. So there is little doubt that El Murcielago, "The Bat" is definitely one of the precursors to the real life superhero movement.

     

    EL SANTO ; Real name Rodolfo Guzman Huerta began wrestling under several other names, El Hombre Rojo (The Red Man), El Demonio Negro (The Black Demon) and El Murceilago II (The Bat II) It was this last name that prompted a lawsuit by Jesus Valazquez the original Bat, so he was forced to change his name once again.

     

    It was then that he first donned his iconic silver mask and cape and became El Santo ...(The Saint). As El Santo his fame exceeded the sport itself. In 1951 an El Santo comic book was published which ran for 35 years. Then in 1958 he began making movies as El Santo. His movie character had

    similarities to Batman in that he had a cave filled with scientific equipment.

     

    In the films he was not only a wrestler but a crime fighter as well. He fought everything from Martians, witches, vampires and zombies to real life villains like Nazis. From 1958-1982 he starred in over 54 films. He never appeared in public without his mask.

     

    In 1982 he announced his retirement and passed away one week later at age 66. In the minds of millions of fans, El Santo was a real life superhero who stepped out of the comic pages and really existed. This fact alone definitely makes him one of the precursors of the real life superhero movement.

     

     

    CLAYTON MOORE; 1914-1999; The actor is best remembered for playing the Lone Ranger on television and also 2 films, but that is not why I consider him one of the precursors of the RLSH movement. It's what happened after that. For he so loved the role that he gave up acting and dedicated the next 40 years to portraying the character in public appearances.

     

    He was never seen in public out of character and lived his life according to the code of the Lone Ranger, never once doing anything to tarnish the heroes image. He told his friends and family that he

    had "become the Lone Ranger". They did not understand what he meant by that and may have worried he'd gone a little mad, but those of us in the rlsh movement know exactly what he meant.

     

    Aside from his many, many public appearances at schools, where he lectured on gun safety and also on not using tobacco, alcohol or drugs, he would visit sick children and other fans in the hospital as the Lone Ranger.

     

    What few know is that on 2 different occasions he saved 3 lives in character as the Lone Ranger. Once on his way to a public appearance he witnessed a motorcycle hit by a hit and run driver. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran to the victim, propping up his head and keeping him conscious

    until the ambulance arrived. At the ER the victims doctor nearly ordered a psychiatric evaluation as the man kept asking if the Lone Ranger was still there. Thankfully the paramedics confirmed his story.

     

    In another incident Moore was invited to a party by a producer and he spotted 2 little girls, ages 3 and 4 drifting away in an untied rowboat on the lake. He jumped in the water and swam to retrieved the boat and brought them back safely to shore. In his typical modesty he asked that his name be withheld from the story until till after his death.

    Like the Lone Ranger he did not want to be thanked. Clayton Moore received the Congressional Medal of Honor and was declared a National hero. So in every way that counts Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger and was therefore a precursor to the real life superhero movement.

    As I mentioned several times I watched the Lone Ranger from the cradle and when I decided to hit the streets as a masked crusader this character was my main influence. I adopted his method of operation and use disguise frequently to get in close to the criminal activity and only don the mask

    when I am ready to act as Knight-Hood. In fact I used the Lone Ranger's real name John Reid as my alias on my Facebook page.

     

    THE FOX; aka James Phillips; (Nov. 30, 1930- Oct. 3, 2001) One of the earliest of the rlsh's, James Phillips was an environmental activist long before the word was coined. He operated in the Chicago area in the 1960's and was known only as the mysterious character who called himself "The Fox".

     

    One of the first things he did was to plug a sewage outlet dumping pollution into the Fox River when he saw dead ducks floating in it. He signed his name on the sewage pipe "The Fox" with the "o" replaced with a drawing of a fox head.

     

    That was only the beginning of his one man war against the companies who were polluting our air and water. In the years to come he capped smoke stacks, held a mock funeral for the Fox River, placed signs in store front windows secretly that read "I can't stop killing your environment, I need the profits- U.S. Steel". He left skunks on the doorsteps of polluting companies and in one instance transported 50 pounds of raw sewage from Lake Michigan and dumped it in the lobby of the company who discharged it.

     

    He left his calling card which said "The Fox". His form of protests never actually hurt anyone. His mission was to protect our air and water from the large corporations who polluted them without restraint, so he chose to embarrass them, to call attention to their actions and to bring about public pressure on law makers to curtail corporations and fine them for damage to the environment, which was unheard of before the 1960's. Now this is a vigilante I can get behind as he never hurt anyone.

     

    Wanted by the police for his actions he became a folk hero to the people of Illinois and even bumper stickers could be seen with his now famous Fox logo supporting his efforts. In 1999 he penned a self published book titled "Raising Kane; The Fox Chronicles" under the pseudonym "Ray Fox". While he never admitted to being the Fox his family confirmed his identity after his death in 2001.

     

     

     

    NIGHT-RIDER; Ok cue the Twilight Zone music because as I mentioned in my biography as a teenager I was writing and drawing the fictional adventures of a masked hero I created called “Night-Rider”. Now little did I know or dream that there was a man out there wearing a mask and calling himself Night-Rider, I think? All that is known for certain is that a self published hand made book came out in 1980 titled “How to Be a Superhero” by Night-Rider. In his book “Heroes in the Night” Tea Krulos explains it better than anyone. Here is an excerpt...

    “THE NIGHT RIDER GRAIL


    I think first heard about the “Night Rider book” as it’s usually referred to, in Vancouver from Knight

    Owl while cruising around in the Thana-van. What I was hearing was that an individual had written a guide book to be a real life superhero…in 1980.

    I talked with Zimmer about this book again when I was in NYC, and of course both times I discussed it, I realized that it was important to me to read this book.
    I finally got a chance to read it a couple days ago. Reading a copy is a rare opportunity, and some details on the book will tell you why.

    -The book actually titled “How to be a Super-hero” by The Night Rider, was published in 1980 by

    GEM Enterprises with a PO Box in Morgantown, WV listed as the address. Judging from the lay out, style, and typos my guess is that this enterprise was a name Night Rider used to self publish the book himself or with a small group of people. This sort of thing is easy to do now with Lulu and other sites, but was significantly more difficult back then- you had to commit to a certain print run for your book- ranging from a very small one to a few thousand.
    ----> Point being: No one but Night Rider and his publishing partners know how many copies of this book were printed?

    -Fun Fact: Night Rider’s book was published two years before the David Hasselhoff/ talking car TV show Knight Rider aired in 1982.

    - The only known copy of this book is in the special collections department of the Michigan State University Library. It can’t be checked out or even taken out of the small reading room in the special collections.

    Tracking it down took an international RLSH effort- Toronto based detective Wolf located the book and then RLSH worked together and got Blue Lightning to go to the library, convinced the librarians that he needed to photocopy the entire book (they usually allow only 5 pages copied for copyright reasons) for scholarly reasons. They agreed and he photocopied the whole thing- the book is only 54 pages- and then scanned the pages.

    Contents:
    Night Rider provides chapters on physical and mental training (mostly “visualize yourself as the person you want to be" type techniques) a chapter on selecting an effective “uniform,” a chapter on weapons- mostly talking about different ninja weapons; nunchucks, bo, sai, tonfa, manriki-gusari, etc.
    I think the most interesting is the last chapter, titled “More True Stories of Real-life Superheroes.” Yes, Night Rider uses this term a few times in his book, 30 years ago!

    According to Night Rider, he was not alone out there and gives short accounts of the Phantom Avenger and Ms. Mystery.
    The Phantom Avenger, he says, swung into action after a friend of he and his wife came to them for shelter from her abusive husband. The book gives an account of what happened next.

    Betty(woman being beaten)'s husband pulled up the driveway and exited his car, an expensive white Continental. As he opened his front door, Jim(aka the Phantom


    Avenger!)hit him with a flying tackle that carried them both into the living room. Betty's husband looked up at Jim and cried, "Who are you?

    "I'm the Phantom Avenger and I'm going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!"
    With that, Jim hit his opponent with a terrific right that sent him sprawling over the coffee table. Pouncing on him, he raised him up to his feet by gripping the man's throat.

    He tried unsuccessfully to fight back, but The Phantom Avenger was too much for him. A flurry of blows knocked the wifebeater across the room, each one hitting the mark. His mouth was bubbling red.

    "You like slapping women around, eh?", the Phantom Avenger asked. "Well, get this. If you try to get at Betty at June and Jim's house or anywhere else, I'll be back to give you a real sample of what I can do"



    Night Rider said the Phantom Avenger continued his quest:

    And occasionally, a drunken and violent wife-beater is found tied to a tree with a sign around his neck:
    "THE PHANTOM AVENGER HATES WOMAN BEATERS!"



    Up next is Ms. Mystery, who in a similar fashion decided to bring street justice to her boss. Ms. Mystery’s secret identity worked as a secretary, and her and her fellow secretaries were being assaulted at the workplace by their sexist boss and his horny hands.

    She called the boss and without revealing who she was told him to meet her in the office, luring him with a sexy, suggestive voice. When he arrived, she was dressed in a disguise, hit him in the shins with her nunchucks and handcuffed him to his desk, leaving a note in the typewriter:

    REMEMBER WHAT I TOLD YOU. IF YOU GET FRESH WITH ANY OF THE GIRLS, I’LL COME BACK AND BREAK BOTH YOUR ARMS!
    --MS. MYSTERY



    It is unclear as to whether she operated as Ms. Mystery outside of that incident.

    Although these stories are interesting, nothing supports these stories except Night Rider’s book, so we have to take his word. Two other people he mentions, however, do have a lot of documentation: Curtis Sliwa and The Fox.”

     

    Knight-Hood speaking. So! It is possible that there was a real life Knight-Rider in the 1970's. One thing is certain, the book is real and definitely uses the term “Real Life Superhero” throughout it's text, so if nothing else the author gets credit for coining the term 30 years before the RLSH movement took off.

     

    Now this is the perfect example of why it is impossible to write a book on the History of Real Life Masked crusaders simply because most operate in secret. They never tell a soul what they are doing and so they die anonymously along with their deeds and name. This one actually writes a book and tells us he and two others were operating in the 1970's as RLSH's, his words, but all we have a this obscure manuscript as proof. Was it fiction or fact? There is no way to really know and were it not for the manuscript no one would ever have heard of him. If true, how many others down through the ages may have existed?

    I had the very same problem. From 1989-2010 no one ever had any idea I was out doing this not

    even members of my own family. I made sure of that. The anonymity was my greatest protection from police and criminals alike, but then in 2010 I became aware of the RLSH movement and waited some time debating about whether or not I should contact them?

     

    Curiosity about them drug me out of the safety of the shadows and I introduced myself, but I had not a shred of proof I existed anymore than Night-Rider. The first RLSH I met on line was Artisteroi, who was running rlsh.org at the time. The first thing he asked for was some photos of me out in the street doing something in public. The reason he asked for that was the forum was bombarded each day with posers and pretenders, mostly teens with big imaginations making costumes and snapping photos of themselves in their bedroom and claiming to have been RLSH's for years. The posers were always pretty easy to spot as they either claimed to have “superpowers” which of course no one has, or they make overly grandiose claims stating they once “crashed through a skylight and foiled a bank robbery single handed” etc.

    So naturally Artisteroi simply asked for some evidence that they really were RLSH's before they could join the forum and photos of yourself in your bedroom was not sufficient, but I had no photos at all! I was doing my best to remain covert and work undercover. I certainly did not have a photographer following me around nor any newspaper articles chronicling my “exploits”. That was the opposite of my M.O. Being invisible worked well for me, but since I lurked a long time on the forum, months really, just reading what they had to say I knew full well that they would at least ask for photos, so I thought, “Well I guess I better take some photos before I pop up and say hello.

     

    I went out and bought a disposable digital camera and began to realize just how hard it was to snap your own photos. I got better at it eventually and when I had a few that were not too blurry I

    joined the forum and of course they were still skeptical but gave me the benefit of the doubt at least. I think they eventually accepted me as legit but it took a while to win their trust. To see photos of me you can go to the link at the first beginning of this book, or just Google “John Reid/Facebook and no doubt you will have little trouble finding my masked profile pic. On there you will find a whole album of photos.

    Meeting the RLSH community changed me and my methods far more than the other way around. Even though I had been at it for over 20 years, I always considered my efforts a complete failure. I never managed to save a life nor foil a crime in progress no matter how long I patrolled. Then I met these young people who seemed to be very proud of their accomplishments. As I read about what they had been doing, I realized that I had been doing all of those things for years. They forced me to look at what I did in a different way. I realized then that it was not how big the deed that counted, but the fact that you were willing to risk your life to do it. That you were willing to make the effort and not just sit at home and wish you could do something.

    They also made me realize that by working undercover and never allowing myself to be seen doing this I had inspired no one to take up the cause themselves. Truthfully the thought never even

    occurred to me, probably because I was not proud of my career, but looked at it more as a failed dream. So I began to try and make an effort to do things their way. That was when I met Artisteroi and Superhero in person and asked them to help me make a video for You Tube as a lot of them were doing. That was why I began my FB page and why I am now publishing the posts, not for “pats on the back” because I still feel I haven't done anything anyone could not have done, but instead to inspire others to go out there and do this themselves.

     

    Getting back to the Night-Rider book, he mentioned The Fox which we just spoke about and also Curtis Sliwa, let's talk about him.

     

    CURTIS SLIWA; is the founder of the “Guardian Angels” and no chapter on the precursors of the RLSH movement would be complete without mentioning him. Here is what wikipedia had to say about him.

     

     

    “In May 1977, Sliwa created the "Magnificent 13", a group dedicated to combating violence and crime on the New York Subway At the time, the city was experiencing a crime wave. The Magnificent 13 grew and was renamed the Guardian Angels in 1979. The group's actions drew strong reactions, both positive and negative, from the police, public officials, residents, and the media. Throughout the early 1980s the group's distinctive uniform, a military type red beret and white insignia T-shirt, became recognizable as the group grew and courted media attention. In 1992, Sliwa received the prestigious Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey, at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

    In the early 1980s, he became active in Buffalo, New York and was often critical of local police policies and practices. Sliwa continues to act as the president of the organization and oversees its worldwide operations. His wife Mary was Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. Sliwa frequently visits chapters throughout the world and graduates new chapters. Sliwa stated that as of 2011, the Guardian Angels operate in nine countries and 82 cities around the world, with approximately 5,000 members.”

     

    THE HUMAN FLY; Of all the precursors to the real life superhero movement, the Human Fly remains the most mysterious. Some articles claim that several characters wore the Fly costume, others that it was worn by a man named Rick Rojatt and still another that claimed his real name was Rick Rojette. Here is what we do know. The Human Fly was a famous stuntman of the 1970's who kept his real identity a secret. He traveled around the country, always in costume, to attend charity events, these

    events were elaborately staged and there would be a comic book villain waiting to steal the money that had been raised. The Human Fly would triumph over him in the end and the children in attendance would lose their minds with glee.

     

    Even his origin sounds invented as he claimed that 5 years before he became the Human Fly he was in a car accident that took the life of his wife and daughter and left himself pretty broken up. That

    the doctors used steel to support his fractured bones. True or hype one thing is indisputable and that is the incredible stunts he performed.

     

    His most famous was when he mounted himself atop a Douglas DC-8 wearing only his thin

    cotton costume and was flown at speeds in excess of 280 mph at 5000 ft. The plane encountered light rain during the flight and the pain of being hit with droplets at that speed was so excruciating it caused him to black out. He was hospitalized for 6 weeks after that, but insisted on performing it again, the second attempt was successful.

     

    His last recorded stunt took place at the Montreal Olympic Stadium in 1977. He rode a specially built rocket powered Harley Davidson over 27 buses to beat Evil Knievel's world record of 13.

    His exploits were so spectacular that Marvel Comics created a short lived series that ran for 19 issues and had the caption "The Wildest Superhero ever, because he's real!" After the comic series ended the Human Fly performed one more time then disappeared into history.

     

    On a personal note I remember buying that comic when it came out and I read that it was one of the main inspirations that inspired Master Legend. (more on him later) I have also heard rumors of a Human Fly feature film, but am not sure if it was shelved or not?

     

     

    CAPTAIN STICKY; I recall seeing Captain Sticky on the nightly news during the 70's.
    Richard Pesta; 'Captain Sticky' championed consumer causes . Here is an edited article on him I found on the internet.

    “By Jack Williams
    UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER ...

    February 18, 2004
    Richard Allen Pesta

    As Captain Sticky, a caped cartoon character come to life, Richard Allen Pesta was hard to ignore. Massive in girth and flamboyant in personality and Superman-style costume, he proudly played the role of one of America's wackiest watchdogs.

    Based in San Diego, Mr. Pesta campaigned against everything from rental car rip-offs and sugar-coated cereal to abusive nursing homes, attracting widespread media attention in the 1970s and 1980s.

    "I am America's only practicing caped crusader," he told the San Diego Tribune in 1984. "That is the role I desire to maintain for the rest of my life."

    Mr. Pesta's fiancee, Lynne Shiloh, said this week that he died Dec. 12 of complications from heart bypass surgery at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He was 57. 

    The couple had been vacationing when Mr. Pesta became ill and underwent surgery. Although his chances of recovery were said to be favorable, he developed an embolism in his leg, Shiloh said.

    At the peak of his Captain Sticky popularity, Mr. Pesta drove a bubble-topped Lincoln with flags and flashing lights that he called his Stickymobile. Wearing a gold cape, glittery matching boots and blue tights, he took his causes to Sacramento and to media outlets.

    Mr. Pesta was born in Pittsburgh and moved with his family to Escondido as a child. He graduated from high school in Redondo Beach.

    "His dream was to alter the course of history," Shiloh said. "He was a huge man with a huge heart filled with love for everyone."

    After battling a weight problem for much of his life, Mr. Pesta underwent surgery in the late 1990s.

    "The good doctor pulled my stomach way back and filleted me," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1998. "They took two five-gallon pails of fat from me."

    Mr. Pesta leaves no immediate family. He was cremated in Thailand, where his ashes were scattered at sea.”

     

     

    JAY J. ARMES : Definitely one of the precursors of the real life superhero movement and his real life reads like a comic book.

    Born Julian Armas to Mexican American parents on August 12, 1932.
    He is a real-life Texas private eye, and generally considered one of the best, receiving awards and recognition as "the man who has made the greatest contribution to the investigative profession." He has friends in high places (see below) and his clients have included Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, whose son, Christian, Armes rescued from kidnappers. Supposedly he's never lost a case, and has even succeeded where the FBI and CIA have failed.
    Origin; At the age of twelve, he lost both his hands in an accident (dynamite was apparently involved), and was outfitted with prostheses.

    Over the years those prostheses have evolved, transforming Armes (his real name!) into a sort

    of real-life James Bond/Six Million Dollar Man. His two powerful steel claws can slice through steel, but are delicate enough to thread a needle. At one point he even had a .22 Magnum implanted into his wrist. But he also owns five-fingered prosthetics which he can wear when the occasion demands, allowing him to appear in public without attracting undue attention to himself.

    Not that he used those, of course, when he appeared in an episode of Hawaii 5-0 as a deranged sniper called "The Hookman." His biography, co-penned by Frederick Nolan came out in 1976,

     

    inspired a series of toys from Ideal, hoping to capitalize on the "Bionic Man" craze. Billed as "J.J. Armes: The Detective with Interchangeable Hands," the figure came with various interchangeable "action" hands, including suction cups for climbing walls, a magnet for hanging onto steel structures, a machete, a pair of false

    hands for undercover roles, a hook that converts to a pistol and a pair of spring loaded hooks. There were also numerous accessories available, including a Mobile Investigation Unit with a "Super Hook".

    Eventually Hollywood came a-calling. A 1993 TV movie was shot and aired, a potential pilot for a series that, alas, was not picked up.

    But they keep trying. In January 2005, it was leaked that Marvel Comics' honcho Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men et al, was developing a superhero based on Armes. Says Lee, "When I first met Jay I was bowled over. I couldn't believe that a real live person could have the incredible powers that he possesses"

    One of Lee's co-producers laid it on even thicker: "This can truly be a tent pole franchise with the right studio partner. Amazingly, Jay can now do more with the fantastic steel claws that have replaced his hands than people with their own hands can do. He can reach into fire, smash through doors, fire bullets with unerring accuracy, cut through metal, fly utilizing a jet pack, scuba dive, pilot a jet -- and he is master of the deadliest karate chop. No wonder Jay J. Armes is the most famous, most sought after investigator in the world."

    Meanwhile, Armes is still walking down those mean streets. He is currently the "Chief Investigator" for “The Investigators”, an El Paso-based detective agency, and lives on a fourteen acre estate in Texas, with assorted tigers and cheetahs, a chimp, a wife and a loving family. Supposedly he's been known to use his 750 pound tiger as a "lie detector." He tools around town in a specially rigged Hummer.

     

    WILLIE PERRY; The Batman of Burmingham

    Willie James Perry, also known as Batman or the Birmingham Batman (born December 14, 1940; died January 24, 1985 in Birmingham) was well-known for cruising around Birmingham helping stranded motorists and giving free rides in his customized 1971 Ford Thunderbird, dubbed the "Batmobile Rescue Ship".

    Perry lived at 702 Delta Street South in South Titusville. Since he was a teenager he worked at window distributor J. F. Day & Company in Lakeview where he assembled cast-iron furniture as well as door and window units. He was eventually promoted to shop manager.

    Perry lived by the motto "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." After he heard

    about a woman whose car had broken down being raped by a group of men who had seemingly stopped to help her, he decided to take to the streets in a way that he could be recognized as a helper that could be trusted. In addition to carrying gas, jumper cables and tools to help people whose cars had broken down, Perry gave free rides to people who had too much to drink, took elderly people to doctor's

    appointments and drove kids around to McDonald's or as entertainment for birthday parties. He visited home-bound neighbors and assisted with guiding traffic around road hazards. On at least one occasion

    Perry foiled an attempted robbery at a pharmacy. He always refused any offer of payment for his services. 

    When making his rounds, Perry wore a white helmet with the bat logo and a white jumpsuit with brown trim. He accessorized with portable pagers and various tools worn on his utility belt. Friendly business owners sometimes helped him by donating gasoline and parts for his car. Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr honored Perry on August 3, 1982, declaring it "Willie Perry Day" and presenting

    him with a proclamation thanking him for his service to the city. He praised the hero for being "one of the few people who disregarded himself completely in the name of others."

    Perry's heroics were featured in a 1982 episode of the television show That's Incredible!, with several staged re-creations. Later, while in town rehearsing with his brothers for the "Victory" tour, Michael Jackson arranged to meet Perry and examine the famous Batmobile. Perry also drove the car, lights flashing, at the head of Bear Bryant's funeral procession to Elmwood Cemetery in January 1983.

    During a rare snowfall in January 1985, Perry assisted four University of Tennessee students stranded in the city. He found them a hotel room and, since they had only $7 between them, gave them $30 to pay for the room. A few days later Perry was working on his Rescue Ship in the small garage space behind J. F. Day. Either he closed the door to escape the cold, or it closed on him unnoticed. He was found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Perry was survived by his wife, Dorothy, and daughter Renee Perry-Hill. The City of Birmingham agreed to buy Perry's car for $15,000, eventually putting it on display at the Southern Museum of Flight and later at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. In 2014 filmmaker Lee Shook completed a documentary about Perry and located the Batmobile Rescue Ship in storage near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Efforts to restore the car and put it on permanent display, as well as to honor Perry's legacy with a day of service and a scholarship program, have begun.
    Willie Perry- The Batman of Birmingham

    I'm sure these are not all of them by any means but it should give you an idea that costumed activism is not as modern an idea as you may have thought.