Power to the People

RL SuperHeroesHave you heard the news? Superheroes aren’t just a figment of your amazing fantasy – they’re totally real. And if you’re living in a large metropolitan area like New York, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, or Salt Lake City, these real life super heroes are fighting crime and keeping the streets safe for law-abiding citizens like yourself.

In her latest book, reporter Nadia Fezzani takes a deep dive into the “Real Life Super Hero” movement and asks some tough questions. For instance, what motivates a person to dress up and go looking for danger? Were they crazy? Were they uniquely brave? The results of her hero’s journey might surprise you.

Even though Phoenix Jones in Seattle uses his mixed martial arts skills to pummel rowdy scofflaws (check out YouTube if you want to see him in action), most of these superheroes don’t exactly “fight crime.” They help their communities with less aggressive pursuits. They work with disabled children, give food to the homeless, and counsel women in abusive relationships. Geist, for example, a hero who sports a cowboy-like outfit, travels around the country lending a hand to people in disaster areas. “I fight for the forgotten,” he tells Fezzani.

You’d think superheroes such as Thanatos, Purple Reign, Nihilist, and Mr. Xtreme would be applauded for their commitment to civic service. After all, hospitals, churches, animal shelters, and recycling centers need all the volunteer help they can get. But that’s not necessarily the case.

As it turns out, dressing in flamboyant costumes and carrying expandable stun batons is slightly controversial. Go figure. “Ninety-nine percent of these guys are ridiculous,” says the Baroness, a concerned citizen from Salt Lake City. “They’re delusional. If you’re going to call yourself a superhero, you better damn well act like one.”

The Baroness is referring to all the superhero wannabes who get their inspiration from the movie Kick-Ass. Phoenix Jones, for example, has gotten in trouble with the Seattle police because of his confrontational attitude, and a particular superhero from the Bay Area once infamously traded blows with the Oakland police. These heroes (and many others) have polarized the RLSH community.

To her credit, Fezzani doesn’t shy away from the controversial elements of being a real life super hero. In the end, however, it’s easy to see where her heart lies (just wait until you read the last sentence of her book, it’s a humdinger). She admits they’re an eccentric bunch of do-gooders, but she feels they have the potential to inspire people.

To emphasize her point, she quotes a superhero called Thanatos from Vancouver. “The world can be a nasty place,” he says, “but I know in my heart that one person can make a difference. If you look at history, it’s always been one person who’s started something big – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Buddha, Albert Einstein. All of them made this world a better place to live.”

[Real Life Super Heroes / By Nadia Fezzani / First Printing: October 2017 / ISBN: 9781459739154]

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