Real-Life Superheroes

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Real-Life Superheroes

(pop culture)

Most people claim that in real life nobody would dress up in a costume to fight crime and do good deeds. But they are wrong. In examples of life imitating art, hundreds of people, in countries around the world, have donned costumes to become real-life superheroes. Some of them are indeed crime fighters, while others perform less dangerous kinds of good deeds, such as serving the homeless or other members of their community. Many have secret identities.

This Real-Life Superhero movement, which began in earnest at the end of the twentieth century, has been covered by major media organizations, including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, Rolling Stone, and The Washington Post. Director Michael Barnett and producer Theodore James made Superheroes, a documentary about real-life costumed crusaders, which premiered in 2010 at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Websites, such as Real Life, Superheroes, and World Superhero, keep track of real-life super-heroes’ whereabouts.

As in the comics, New York City has many superheroes, such as the members of the New York Initiative, including BattleStar, Blindside, Dark Guardian, Dead End, Hex, the Samaritan, Shade, Short Cut, Skinner, Snipe, Thre3, Titan, TSAF, Zero, and Zimmer. Other New York-based superheroes include Life, the superheroine Nyx, and Phantom Zero.

Washington D. C. has DC’s Guardian, Captain Prospect, Justice, and Metro Woman. The Great Lakes Alliance includes Celtic Viking, Geist, Razorhawk, and the Watchman. Salt Lake City has a local superhero team called the Black Monday Society, including Ghost, Ha!, Insignis, Oni, and Silver Dragon. San Diego, home to the annual Comic-Con, is also home to Mr. Xtreme. Seattle has the Rain City Superhero Movement, including Buster Doe, Catastrophe, Gemini, Green Reaper, No Name, Penelope, Phoenix Jones, Thorn, Thunder 88, and Troop. Citizen Prime is in Arizona, the Crimefighter Corps (Captain Jackson, Crimefighter Girl, Queen of Hearts) was active in Michigan, Master Legend operates in Florida, the Crimson Fist guards Atlanta, and Zetaman is based in Portland, Oregon.

Among the United Kingdom’s superheroes are Black Arrow, a female crime fighter and environmental activist, and Angle Grinder Man, who frees cars that were clamped by the police. Another costumed environmental activist, Captain Ozone, is based in Ireland. Superbarrio champions the rights of workers and the poor in Mexico City. Thanatos, who aids the homeless, and Polar Man are based in Canada. Entomo the Insect Man is a costumed crime fighter who operates in Naples, Italy. Red Arrow, devoted to public service, is based in Hong Kong.

In part as a reaction to this trend, Stan Lee, co-creator of many classic Marvel superheroes, and Bruce Nash co-created the reality television series Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, which ran for two seasons on the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy). The first season premiered on July 27, 2006, and the second season started on July 26, 2007. In each season a group of contestants, each of whom had created a superhero persona for him- or herself, underwent a series of challenges administered by Lee to judge their worthiness to be superheroes. In each episode, Lee dismissed one or more contestants for faring poorly in the tests or otherwise not living up to the moral standards of a superhero. In the final episode of each season, a winner was chosen, and he or she got to star in his or her own comic book, published by Dark Horse, and to appear in a made-for-TV movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. The winner in the 2006 season was Feedback (Matthew Atherton), and the victor in the 2007 season was the Defuser (Jarrett Crippen).

In an example of art imitating life, the comic book Kick-Ass and 2010 film of the same name tell the story of ordinary teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who sets out to become a reallife superhero. Dave meets Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a former cop who, in his quest to bring down a drug lord, has trained his eleven-year-old daughter to be the ruthless vigilante Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz).

Despite, or perhaps because of, these media depictions of real-life superheroes, there is no shortage of real-life superheroes in major cities across America, including emulators who don traditional hero garb, such as Alain “Spider-Man” Robert, known for committing the illegal act of climbing skyscrapers, while wearing a Spider-Man costume. —PS & GM

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