Real-life superheroes (RLSH) is a phenomenon of fandom where people inspired by superhero fiction dress up in costumes or masks in order to perform community service such as neighborhood watch or in some cases vigilantism.
Early examples of this type of behaviour are reported from the 1990s, e.g. with Mexico City's "Superbarrio", who in 1997 donned red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask in order to organize labour rallies, protest, and file petitions to prevent families from being evicted. A "real-life superhero community" in the sense of an online subculture began to develop in the mid 2000s.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Real-life superhero groups
- 3 Police and RLSH
- 4 Fictional depictions
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Some examples documented in the news media include:
- "Menganno" works at the east side of Lanús. He wears blue clothing, a helmet and a shield similar to Captain America's shield, but with the colors of the Flag of Argentina.
- "Captain Australia", featured in the mX and then The Courier-Mail and on television's A Current Affair is based in the Queensland capital Brisbane. He wears a green suit and mask similar to Captain America with an @ symbol on his chest and a Batman styled utility belt. Police have expressed their preference that Captain Australia not intervene in incidents any more.
- Controversial masked activists "The Fauna Fighters" are a Melbourne-based RLSH duo who use a Golden Age of Comic Books superhero motif as method of publicizing animal-rights issues and supporting various animal-rights groups and charities. The Fauna Fighters (Flying Fox and The Thylacine respectively) have been featured in various publications such as That's Life magazine and The Melbourne City Journal. The Duo's open support of "radical" animal rights group Animal Liberation Front gave them a mixed reaction amongst the RLSH "community", but the Fauna Fighters have continued to use the superhero motif to publicize their cause in a movement they deem Art-ivism, a hybrid of performance art and activism. Their activities include clean ups, patrols, protests/petition drives and volunteer work as well as the promotion of vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. They have been active since early 2012.
- Superinteressante magazine posted an article on The Real Life Superheroes "The Eye", "Entomo", "Terrifica", "Superhero" and "Superbarrio".
- The Age described "Anujan Panchadcharam the Polarman" of Iqaluit, Nunavut, whose primary interests are shovelling the snow off sidewalks during the day and patrolling the streets for criminals at night.
- "Ark" of Toronto, Ontario was featured in an article for Postmedia News by Douglas Quan, in November 2011, commenting on his reasons and methods on being a Real Life Superhero.
- "The Crimson Canuck" of Windsor, Ontario, was also featured in the article by Quan, as well as being interviewed on the radio station AM800 by Arms Bumanlag, and was featured in an article in the Toronto Sun.
- "Thanatos" of Vancouver, British Columbia is a person who dresses in a costume and distributes goods and goodwill to the homeless.
- The Katalysts Ontario/ the "Justice Crew of Oshawa" in Oshawa, Ontario is a collection of Durham Region-based individuals who patrol the streets at night, do local litter cleanup, and homeless outreach. Including Aftershock, the founder, Regulus, and the Nameless Crusader.
- "Super Vaclav" is a promotional figure for a Czech webhosting company. He purports to combat antisocial behavior of Prague citizens, by pouring buckets of water on individuals smoking near public transport stops. He also assaults dog owners with their own animal's excrement if it is left behind on a lawn.
- "Dex Laserskater", who has featured in the Finnish magazine Image, has been patrolling the streets of Helsinki since 1997. He has modeled his alter ego after the short lived comicbook hero Skateman. He specializes in guiding tourists, tipping waiters, doormen and street musicians and helping the police
- "Captain Ozone", featured in the French edition of Max magazine, and Koikispass magazine, as well as the German edition of FHM magazine.
- La Repubblica featured "Entomo The Insect-Man", a masked patroller and activist. In February 2009, Rai 4 filmed a night-time patrol and interview with Entomo at the abandoned Italsider factory in Naples, aired on the TV program Sugo. Following an extensive interview on Il Riformista, Entomo was depicted in major Italian and Spanish newspapers, such as Il Mattino and Panorama.
- The only known superhero in Africa is "Lion Heart". Lion Heart has helped saved the lives of many villagers by teaching important but simple things. He has started a grass roots movement in Africa with many people helping out.
- CNN covered Mexico City's "Superbarrio", who is a highschool dropout who wears red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask. He uses his unique image to organize labour rallies, protest, and file petitions to prevent families from being evicted.
- The December 31, 2009 Norwegian publication, Aftenposten featured an article and photos of Real-Life Superheroes. The article included "Life", "Geist", "The Deaths Head Moth", "Dreizehn", "Entomo" and "Superhero."[clarification needed]
- "Väktaren" (roughly translated as "The Watchman") patrols the streets of Malmö, and has been featured in various media. The police disagree about his actions.
- The British tabloid The Sun ran an article on the country's Real-Life Superheroes, including "The Statesman", "Vague", "Swift", "Black Arrow", "Lionheart" and "Terrorvision".
- The BBC reported on "Angle-Grinder Man", a British self-described "wheel-clamp superhero" who claims to use an angle grinder to illegally cut wheel clamps off vehicles which have been clamped in by police and parking officials in Kent and London. Police indicate that they have received no word or complaint of his actions.
- The newspaper This is Local London featured an article on "SOS" (whose real name is Steve Sale), a UK superhero who crashed the premiere of the film Kick-Ass.
- "Knight Warrior" (whose real name is Roger Hayhurst) is a 19-year-old who wears a costume and attempts to break up fights in the Salford area. His mother has expressed concern for his safety.
- In August 2011, the BBC reported on "Shadow" (real name Ken Andre) who patrols in Yeovil.
- TreeHugger reported on "Captain Ozone" starring in ecological television PSA’s, making appearances at grade schools and hemp festivals, creating a video documentary on environmentalism, and also organizing a public demonstration for renewable energy.
- The San Diego Union-Tribune and United Press International wrote about heroes like "Mr. Xtreme", a security guard who moonlights as a "costumed crime fighter" handing out food and juice in San Diego, California.
- "Captain Prospect" and "Sparks" were featured on NPR Intern Edition for spring of 2009.
- "Captain Oyster" aka Liam Davenport was featured on Sirius XM Radio's "The Ron & Fez Show" in October 2011. He described patrolling his Queens neighborhood looking for late-night crimes to solve through "intimidation and intellectual discourse".
- "Thanatos", "Life" and "Phantom Zero" were featured in an article by The Globe and Mail. They discussed their different views and methods on being real-life superheroes.
- CBS Atlanta reports "Crimson Fist" patrols Atlanta twice a month to help those in need.
- "Wall Creeper" and "Zen Blade" were featured on Westword, Denver's alternative weekly publication.
- MSN mentions "Tothian", "Master Legend", "Captain Prospect", "Geist", "Captain Jackson", "Nyx", and "Michael Brinatte", owner of "Hero-gear.net" in an online article.
- Cincinnati, Ohio–based NBC affiliate News 5 WLWT reported on "Shadow Hare", a 21 year old from Milford who dresses up like a superhero. This was later rebroadcast on CNN
- "The Watchman" and "Moon Dragon" were featured in the August 2009 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
- WTOP-FM, a radio station in Washington, D.C., reported on "Metro Woman", a short lived publicity stunt intended to gather support for the Washington purple line metro project.
- ABC's Nightline news program interviewed real-life superheroes "Squeegeeman" and "Captain Xavier Obvious", who patrol New York City. The heroes have also been documented in Radar Magazine, Time Out New York, and HDNet's Deadline!.
- ABC News and NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! radio program interviewed "Terrifica", a New York City-based woman who patrols bars and parties in an effort to prevent inebriated women from being taken advantage of by men. Since the mid-1990s, Terrifica has donned a mask, blonde wig, red boots and cape, because in her words women "need to be protected from themselves".
- Jack Brinatte, known as "Razorhawk", appeared on Fox News America Newsroom.
- WITI (TV) interviewed "The Watchman" and showed him on a patrol of the city.
- Empire Magazine featured "Geist" in a sidebar article, "The Real Kick-Ass".
- NBC News ran a story documenting a 20 year old Columbia, Tennessee, resident being stopped by police for patrolling the streets after midnight in a black and green mask and costume. The man referred to himself as "The Viper", and claimed that he was "just a guy trying to do what was right in tights".
- The Sunday Paper & the Chattanooga Times Free Press ran an article about a husband and wife team, "Crimson Fist" and "Metadata", in Atlanta that help the homeless in their area.
- Telemundo ran a news piece about "Dragonheart", a bilingual Real-Life Superhero who operates in Miami, Florida.
- On 8/4/2011 GQ magazine ran an article called "Seven Real Life Superheroes" featuring "Mr. Xtreme, Superhero, Geist, Life, Master Legend, and Insignis"
- Portland has a hero named "Zetaman". The man behind the cape is Illya King, "a married man with no kids." His story was detailed by The Willamette Week.
- Star Tribune of Minneapolis featured "Geist" and "Razorhawk" in a lifestyle feature article, "Real-life superheroes fight injustice with flair."
Real-life superhero groups
- "Superheroes Anonymous", the first annual gathering of real-life superheroes from all over the United States, who cleaned Times Square, helped the homeless, and handed out crime prevention materials.
- Multiple media outlets have run reports on the "Rain City Superhero Movement," a group of real life super heroes in Seattle. The group includes "Buster Doe," "No Name," "Troop," "Penelope", and "Phoenix Jones (Benjamin Fodor)."
- The Washington Post reported a story about superheroes "Captain Prospect" and "Justice", members of the "Capital City Super Squad" in Washington DC.
- Central Florida News 13 did a story on "Team Justice", a group of costumed superheroes giving Christmas gifts to the homeless.
- The Salt Lake City–based newspaper Salt Lake City Weekly reported on the patrols of "The Black Monday Society" and the superhero identities of its team members "Insignis", "Ghost", "Ha!",and "Silver Dragon". Fox News Salt Lake City ran a story on the team as well.
- The Jibsheet ran an article about a group of 10 "Real Life Superheroes" in Seattle trying to help the homeless prevent their belongings from being stolen by gangs.
- KSTP-TV reported on "Razorhawk", "Geist" and the "Great Lakes Hero Guild" while they patrolled Minneapolis. The segment was re-broadcast nationally on ABC Overnight News.
Police and RLSH
Police response to the actions of real life superheros is typically negative. The police "fear for the safety of these 'superheroes' and argue that sometimes they can get in the way of police work and become a liability". Police have expressed concern that RLSH insert themselves into situations without knowing all the facts and indicate that this is "not a smart thing to do". Police have indicated that super heroes who physically involve themselves in preventing crimes are practicing "vigilantism".
While "superheroes" in the strict sense are characters with supernatural powers, superhero fiction depicting vigilantes with no such powers have long been part of the genre, notably with Batman (1939) and Green Arrow (1941). Such characters are known as "costumed crime fighters" or "masked vigilantes", but are often also classed with "superheroes". With the development of the "real-life superhero" community, there have also been more realistic depictions of "masked vigilantes" in fiction, as it were "fictional real-life superheroes".
- Hill Street Blues (season 2, episodes 25–28: "The World According to Freedom", "Pestolozzi's Revenge", "The Spy Who Came in from Delgado", and "Freedom's Last Stand" (1982))
- Bones (season 1, episode 12 "The Superhero in the Alley" (2006))
- Rookie Blue (season 1, episode 11 "To Serve or Protect" (September 2010))
- The comic book Kick-Ass received a 2010 film adaptation, along with the 2013 sequel; other films include Defendor (2009), Super (2010) and Zebraman (2004).
- Franklin & Bash (season 2, episode 2 "Viper" (June 2011))
- Castle (season 4, episode 2 "Heroes & Villains" (September 2011))
- NCIS (season 9, episode 15 "Secrets" (February 2012))
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (season 13, episode 19 "Street Revenge" (April 2012))
- Perception (season 3, episode 2 "Painless" (June 2014))
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We would prefer that Captain Australia didn't intervene in incidents
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