Monday, December 29, 2008

The escapades of "real-life superheroes"

These guys obviously didn't take the hint from The Dark Knight that non-celebrity vigilantes just get in the way. Calling themselves "real-life superheroes" or "reals," they patrol the streets to various levels of success fighting crime and looking like a bitchin' Devo luchadore, if this photo from Rolling Stone is at all reliable. Armed legally with their fists, a "pepper spray cannon" or stun gun (so they don't break any laws), these people are "superheroes" in the same sense that friendly biker gangs are - they patrol when they can, trying to help people and break up small scuffles and minor evildoing along the way. The big stuff still goes to the police, though it's arguable that a visible "superhero" presence in a community could have an effect on crime; even for cowardly, superstitious evildoers, the image of the renegade superhero is pretty well imprinted upon our minds.

Rolling Stone elaborates on their rationale:
Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona.
It's beyond stupid to point out that these people don't have superpowers, intelligent cars or subterranean secret lairs, but civil liberties groups should appreciate the effect they have on society and our good men and women in law enforcement by testing the limits of a citizen's ability to enforce the law on their own. If they cooperate with the police as normal citizens and don't break any weapons laws, it's fair to say they'll have a discouraging effect on street crime. And they get to wear cool costumes while they're at it.

But these guys run into problems not faced by superfolk with more interesting origin stories:

Artemis of San Diego reported on his blog that he had heard a woman screaming outside his home but by the time he had dressed up in his costume the police were already there. Kevlex, 47, who runs the Superhero Registry, says he patrols more in winter than summer in Arizona, when his Kevlar and Spandex kit itches. But the deadliest kryptonite against a superhero is boredom.

“I was out every night, 8pm until 2am, hanging about all the bad corners and nothing happened, nada, zip,” recalled Mr Invisible. “It was raining: even the drug dealers were at home. And often cops are just too good at their jobs."

(Rolling Stone and TimesOnline through BoingBoing - you may also enjoy this article on the Black Monday Society, a similar Utah group)

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