It is something straight out of Hollywood. A man emerges from jail to face the cameras, black and gold body armour poking out from behind his pinstriped suit. Everybody knows him as Phoenix Jones, leader of Seattle’s vigilante group, the ‘Rain City Superhero Movement’. But now, after being arrested outside a nightclub for pepper spraying a group of troublemakers, his reputation lies in tatters. He has only one option. He removes his mask.
“I’m Phoenix Jones. I’m also Ben Fodor. I also protect the city. I also am a father, I also am a brother. I’m just like everyone else.” This is his Oscar speech. He looks straight down the camera’s barrel.
“The only difference is that I decided to make a difference and stop crime in my neighborhood and my area. I intend to keep making that difference. The charges were false.”
As if directed by Spielberg, the former mixed martial arts fighter rips off his jacket and throws it to the gutter. Replacing his mask and assuming his best pin-up power-stance, Phoenix Jones issues a call for Seattle’s citizens to join him on Saturday night, to help clean up the stench of the city. Then, with a swoosh of his cape, he’s gone.
What many don’t realise is that Phoenix is but the tip of a much bigger iceberg.
The exact number of real life superheroes protecting the planet is unknown, but the highly selective World Superhero Registry – an online organisation that supports and monitors superheroes – places the number around 720. Its website contains the profiles of these superheroes, legal advice, ‘how-to’ tutorials, and a hero support centre for those who may need their wonder-belt serviced.
In awe, I watched Phoenix Jones’ highlight reel on YouTube, and cruise the profile of Angle-Grinder Man, who frees cars from the tyranny of illegal-parking clamps. My inner seven-year-old piped up: “This is your chance!” Fascinated by this world of capes, secret identities, and innovative use of work-shop tools, my mind raced. I needed to know how legitimate this group was. Could I fulfill my childhood desires? What would it take for me to become a superhero?
“Well, I do have super strength, the ability to fly, hyper-fly, and group-fly…” But throughout our interview it becomes clear that it is not DANGER WOMAN’s ability to fly which is her most impressive trait. DANGER WOMAN is incredibly passionate about defending the rights of disabled people.
DANGER WOMAN, who states and capitalises her name at every opportunity, was born Betsy Goodrich. Betsy has Aspberger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. DANGER WOMAN, on the other hand, has the super-powers of heightened focus, attentiveness, and memory skills, which she claims she uses to help the police force of Atlanta.
When DANGER WOMAN speaks it is clear it is DANGER WOMAN who adopts the personality of Betsy, not the other way round. “Betsy is so cute, innocent, and naive, because of the fact that she has Aspberger’s Syndrome,” she says. In her electric blue jumpsuit and ‘DW’ branded cape, DANGER WOMAN truly views the world through her mask.
Sitting with her dogs, who are collectively referred to as ‘the Danger Force Pets’ and can communicate with humans through their super-collars, DANGER WOMAN explains nonchalantly that she also possesses powers beyond her Aspberger-induced abilities. “Well, I do have super strength, the ability to fly, hyper-fly, and group-fly, special energy blasts and bolts, ultrasonics in my voice…and my special weapon, The Danger Karaoke Microphone.” But throughout our interview it becomes clear that it is not DANGER WOMAN’s ability to fly which is her most impressive trait. DANGER WOMAN is incredibly passionate about defending the rights of disabled people.
DANGER WOMAN says she once battled former Governor of Georgia, Roy Barnes after she claims he called her a “prozac addict” violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. According to DANGER WOMAN, she demanded an apology but was instead attcked by Barnes in a tank he had sourced from a nearby army base. DANGER WOMAN managed to escape, but says she had the last laugh.
“Of course, Roy Barnes did e-mail me and profusely apologized to me for what he did to me. But then, the media found out and it caused a serious international incident. Of course, he did get fired by the voters and was voted out of office…it was because of me that he got in hot water.”
Although none of these events could be verified, one thing is for certain: if I was going to be a superhero I’d require passion and a cause.
TRAINING AND DEVOTION
Donning the black dress of a Japanese Warrior, Dark Samurai is highly trained in Haidong Gumdo (Korean art of the Sumarai), is an expert in Aikido (the Way of Peace), and is an avid fan of Family Guy. He is the first to enlighten me in the way of the superhero.
“Superheroes are more diverse in their ways of fighting evil than the average civilian is at what things they do during the day,” he says. But, wielding his Katana and Wakazashi (Samurai swords), Dark Samurai acknowledges all superheroes have one thing in common: “All believe in opposing the many different types of evil; crime and apathy being chief in that list. Most superheroes are extremely devoted to this cause.”
For most of us, becoming a superhero stays firmly in the realm of our childhood, or perhaps nowadays as an odd sexual fantasy. We remember tying each other up and swooping in, undies exterius, to save our anguished damsel from the clutches of evil Dr Nosex, the arch-nemesis of Big-Banana Man, or something equally innocuous. But for the community of real-life super heroes, this is not just fun and games; it is their life.
Ecliptico, a 35 year-old crime fighter from Virginia, expands on Dark Samurai’s ideas. Concealing his identity by wearing a motorbike helmet, he explains: “They sometimes even feel like the mask they wear and the costume they don are during the day, and the one they use at night is their real identity.” To join this league you have to BE a superhero.
The infamous Master Legend patrols the streets of Orlando at night in his 1986 Nissan Battle Truck, protects himself with a battle helmet and his signature silver and black armour, was gifted his superpowers of strength and speed by a dead voodoo queen named Marie Laveau, and has a history of alcoholism. Unlike the rest of the superheroes I’ve met, Master Legend is dark and mysterious. Rather intense, he rarely provides more than two sentence answers.
What is your real message?
I am trying to expose the reason why there is so much trouble in the world and about metaphysics.
So, why is there so much trouble in the world and how does metaphysics come into it?
Metaphysics will be the weapon of the righteous against the Illuminati. The Illuminati are the reason for every bad thing you see.
How are the Illuminati responsible for every bad thing? What things do the Illuminati do?
They are the richest people in the world who want a one world order and slavery.
How do you plan to expose them?
I have been doing it a little at a time. I became well known in other countries even before America. I have made myself world-known setting the stage for my plan.
What is your plan?
But I wouldn’t get an answer to that question. Master Legend stopped speaking.
People close to Master Legend admit he has drunk excessively in the past and has struggled to maintain relationships. There has been tragedy: his girlfriend died of a heart attack after – he claims – a doctor gave her ‘bad medicine’.
But his superhero path was laid out much earlier in his life. “At a very young age I found some comics in a garbage can,” he explains. “I was badly abused and vowed that as soon as I got strong enough I would fight evil as a masked man. I have been providing for myself since I was 15. I have no family.”
“My entire life is consumed by being a superhero and most people don’t understand it.”
Master Legend is now five months sober, and runs his own property maintenance business, though he admits times are tough. It appears being a superhero comes at great personal cost. This path could be a lonely one. You could be isolated forever, a torn soul. At least that’s what I thought until I met Tothian and ShowStopper.
Being the spouse of a superhero must be hard. The constant worry, the never ending superlatives, and the knowledge that you never quite compare to their need to fight evil.
But there is one way to solve this problem: if you’re engaged to a superhero, become one yourself. Tothian and ShowStopper are both reverends by day, but by night, they prowl the streets in their combat boots keeping their fellow New Yorkers safe. Only ever referring to each other by their superhero names, both are visibly excited about their upcoming wedding.
“The plans aren’t complete yet, but we’re planning a small wedding,” ShowStopper says. “We’ll invite some good friends, in a church, and Master Legend to marry us.”
It turns out Master Legend is also an ordained reverend. ShowStopper starts to list the guests on her fingers: “…Lunar Veil and Dark Wolf, Thanatos and Lady Catacomb, Phoenix Jones and Purple Reign, The Eye and his wife, I can’t remember them all, there are so many.”
I’d always wondered exactly what a superhero wedding might entail, but then ShowStopper answers my biggest question. “We plan to get married in our suits, me modifying a dress to look more like my suit, and the guests will be in their suits as well. We’re still working on the plans.”
After speaking with Tothian and ShowStopper I felt like I’d completed my reconnaissance. I’d gone deep into the world of the superhero. I’d learnt that to be a superhero you need training, a uniform, a name, devotion, passion, sacrifice, and love.
It was time to see if I had what it took to be formally invited by Kevlex to join the World Superhero Registry; to see if I had the metal of Entomo or the poise of Black Arrow, the strength of Motor Mouth, the drive of Captain Ozone, the snow shoveling ability of Polar Man, or the unimaginativeness of a superhero named Superhero. My moment had arrived.
A HERO IS BORN
I’d been patrolling for an hour when I saw them loitering outside the video store. There were six of them and one of me. Although I looked fearsome in my new gear, that wasn’t going to stop these guys beating the kryptonite out of me….“Who the f**k are you?” snarled the one with the Gucci fanny pack…“I am THE AMAZING ELASTOPLAST!”
I admired my reflection. The light bounced off my shined combat boots that matched my black tank top. My billowing army pants, buffed shoulder pads, and reflective aviator glasses established an intimidating presence. I gazed at the mirror. A kickass looking superhero glared back. Uniform, check.
I did some pushups. Training, check. I was feeling sore after that and wanted to sit down. But I pushed myself to do 20 situps as well. Devotion, check. My friends had invited me to the movies but tonight I wouldn’t be going. Sacrifice, check. I had work to do.
Beginning my final preparations, making sure I had everything I’d need, I went through some of the hero names my good friend DANGER WOMAN had suggested. ‘The Daring Brave Kookaburra’ or ‘The Riley Koala Bear’ just didn’t quite have the punch I was looking for. As I picked up our first aid kit, it slapped me right in the face. The perfect name. It was written right there on the box. Opening the box I got a paper cut. God, I hate paper cuts. Passion, check.
I was ready. I knew this would be a thankless task but someone had to do it. I passed the threshold of my house and entered the foreboding night. I was loving this. Love, close enough.
I’d been patrolling for an hour when I saw them loitering outside the video store. There were six of them and one of me. Although I looked fearsome in my new gear, that wasn’t going to stop these guys beating the kryptonite out of me.
“Who the f**k are you?” snarled the one with the Gucci fanny pack over his shoulder.
I planted my feet. Our eyes locked. When I spoke it was with the power of a thousand megaphones.
“I am THE AMAZING ELASTOPLAST…and I am a superhero, fighting crime and minor abrasions! Why are you hanging around outside this video store?”
My powerful words caused the six youths to fall to the ground. They rolled about, kicking with laughter. I had disabled them. My impervious-to-ridicule glasses were doing the trick.
“Do any of you require a Band-Aid?”
The howls intensified. If there had been a threat, I had extinguished it. These youths would not be causing any trouble tonight. I continued on my way, knowing I had what it takes to be a superhero. As I’ve found, being a real life superhero is not easy. You have to make sacrifices to do something you really believe in, only to be ridiculed, labeled as crazy, and outcast by the society you protect.
But I feel they represent something far greater than just adults playing dress-up. Consider this statement, if you will, which appears on the World Superhero Registry website:
“I am the Dark Guardian and I have been dubbed what the media calls a Real Life Superhero…I use the iconic essence of comic book superheroes to make a difference, inspire others, spread a positive message, and call attention to issues in my community. There is a hero in everyone and if we would let it shine we would live in a much better place. I am working with other real life superheroes to help make a bigger difference.”
Despite my own commitments to the cause, three weeks after my superheroic exploits I have not yet been contacted by the World Superhero Registry. In my research, however, I did find another organisation: ROACH – The Ruthless Organisation Against Citizen Heroes. It is an online-organisation of super-villains.
The threat of defection is ever-present.
By Rob Morrison.