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Does the World Need Superheroes?

— Filed under: People & Culture
SUPERBARRIO GOMEZ, real-life superhero of Mexico

Image by xeni via Flickr

Superbarrio Gomez of Mexico

There's been a lot of hype lately coming from my hometown of Seattle.  Apparently there's a group of people there who refer to themselves as "Real-Life Superheroes" from the "Rain City Superhero Movement", and they're claiming to be part of a nationwide network of crime-fighters.  They're regular people (who perhaps have read a few too many comic books), that take to the streets in costumes with code names and try to fight crime. The Seattle Police Department has understandably stated some concern regarding the "superheroes".  According to the Seattle PI article, there have been some events that have led to one "superhero" almost getting shot, and others being mistaken for criminals by citizens:

In one instance, police say a caped crusader dressed in black was nearly shot when he came running out of a dark park. In another case, a witness on Capitol Hill saw the crusaders wearing ski masks in a car parked at a Shell station and thought they were going to rob the place.

The self-proclaimed leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement is a 22-year-old man, that goes by the name Phoenix Jones.  He dresses in black with blue tights (what superhero costume is complete without tights?), and patrols the Seattle streets with his friends...  in a Kia owned by the godmother of one of the "superheroes"...  I guess "Real-Life Superheroes" use economical transportation.  No high-tech Batmobiles for them.

Reading the article on SeattlePI.com piqued my curiosity.  Are there really other "Real-Life Superheroes" in other parts of America, and perhaps the world?  I was amazed to find that indeed there are, and some of them have websites to share their philosophies, list their services, and ask for donations to fund their superhero ways.  There's Captain B.L.A.C.K. of Savannah, Georgia, Knight Owl from Ohio, and Zetaman from Portland, Oregon.  But I also found that this superhero movement isn't all that new of a concept.  London also had a "superhero" for some time in Angle-Grinder Man, who said in 2002 "I may not be able to single-handedly and totally cast off the repressive shackles of a corrupt government - but I can cut off your wheel-clamps for you."  Maybe not all the "superheroes" keep completely within the realms of the law, but it seems that the majority are trying to make a difference in their communities by helping the less fortunate, and doing charitable work.

40+112 Superhero Fail

Image by bark via Flickr

For people interested in becoming "superheroes", there are plenty of websites and books to help them.  RealLifeSuperheroes.org recently listed a workshop in Brooklyn, New York, to assist people with creating their superhero costumes.  It cost $20, but included "free beer for those 21 and older."  Or you could buy the book, How to be a Superhero.

What do you think about the superhero movement?  Are they necessary in today's society, or are they just another case of a Neighborhood Watch Program getting out of hand, and turning into vigilante justice?  Would you ever consider taking on a new persona and running around in the night in tights? Or should we just stay at home, and let the police do their jobs?

Kuncen's picture

Kick@$$

Excellent article, thanks for posting. The movie "Kickass" comes to mind, although I suppose this was going on long before the movie.

Kuncen

Niesey's picture

Watchmen?

Yeah, I thought that, too.  Also I guess the Watchmen to some degree...  maybe as a darker side to how regular people could become corrupt after tasting the power of being "superheroes".  Let's hope none of the Seattle crew go off the deep end like the Comedian...

Anonymous's picture

does the world need

does the world need superheroes your damn right it does. without something to believe in our lives are too depressing to comprehend. we need to believe that someone will fight for what's right regardless

theamazingwhitebread's picture

More on Real-Life Superheroes

If you're interested in real-life superheroes, quite a few are featured in the new book "I, Superhero!!"

Winston Smith's picture

Fighting crime or writing comics?

Does this guy even try to fight crime? I checked out the website and my impression is he's more about writing comedy than actually trying to be a hero. The choice of name reinforces that impression. The people mentioned in the article above actually feel called to serve society.

Hewy's picture

Guardian Angels anybody?

The Guardian Angel movement was by some way the nearest thing we've had to a band of "superhero" pretenders, fighting crime and doing all manner of Neighbourhood Watch on steroids type shenanigans.

As a youth I witnessed a number of occasions where the application of "street justice" was liberally applied. In a mining town under Thatcher's Britain there was absolutely no faith whatsoever in the police-force especially after the attacks of miners strike in 1984-85. Things were so bad there were parts of my home town where the police didn't even tread for fear of repercussions. Where that sort of social collapse occurs one would think, if our leaders are to believed, that anarchy would reign and the streets would have been awash with the unwashed masses committing all forms of inhumanities. That projection could not be further from the truth. In fact as opposed to the situation we find ourselves in now, where we are afraid to walk the streets at night for fear of hooded youth's tooled up to rob you or worse it was actually the police we were most afraid of. In a weird way, the collapse of the community Thatcher is known for went so deep that on the lower strata, i.e the poverty stricken. the community was actually made stronger.

The problem I found watching news reports of the Guardian Angels on the London Underground and in New York was that the people involved seemed to get of on the recognition aspect. The bold uniforms, the beret's the "minimum force" restraint moves all seemed to point towards the hideous "do-gooder" menatality which has swept the world and turned us into a compensation culture. Shit ladies and germs, this is setting me off with a column idea...

Keep your eyes to the skies true believers!

Ethan's picture

None of these people really are superheroes

From what I read on the article none of these people are really superheroes but just completely untrained wannabes putting their lives in danger for dubious reasons. Besides as superpowers do not exit superheroes cannot exist. The closest thing would be a vigilante like Charles Bronson in Death Wish or perhaps guerrillas fighting for a just cause. Maybe even the Sea Shepherd folks who are not superheroes but real people making a real difference.