“Real Life Superheroes”: Up with Costumes, Down with Crime on the Streets of Seattle

the shins as superheroes

indie band, the Shins, spooning as super heroes

I just want to point out that in order to be a “super” hero, you need to have a “super power” (even if thats just being a frickin’ maniacal billionaire- see Bruce Wayne or Bill Gates). Otherwise, you’re just a “hero” which ain’t all that bad, so why try and front like you can cling to or walk through walls, or like you have bulletproof skin, clairvoyance, or the gift of flight.

From an actual story in the actual news:

**********************************************
SEATTLE, Cascadia
real life superhero
Green Reaper, Penelope, Thorn, Thunder 88, Buster Doe, No Name, Catastrophe, Gemini and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. These are the names of the costumed superheros who are now patrolling our city, ensuring your safety… I know. We’re excited too.

The PI reports late on Thursday that a group of masked vigilantes calling themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement has been patrolling Seattle streets for a few weeks now. They wear costumes, they ride around in a Kia at night looking for trouble and occasionally, they get stabbed. Seattle Police think they’re silly at best, dangerous at worst. They cite cases where one darkly clad crusader was nearly shot when he came running out of a park in the middle of the night, or when a woman saw a bunch of costumed freaks pull up to a gas station and thought they were there to rob the place.

“Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle” seems to be the one member that the cops and the media have the most info on–and still, it’s not much. We know he’s a 22-year-old man who met with police at the station last month in near full regalia: black cape, blue tights, black fedora, white belt and mask. He’d have brought the rest of his gear, he told them, but it was being repaired after he got stabbed trying to break up a drug buy. But don’t worry. Jones tells the PI that he and his squad are professionals.

“I don’t condone people walking around on the street with masks. Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background, and we’re well aware of what its costs to do what we do.”

The crew appears to draw a lot of its marching orders from real life super heros dot org. That’s right, dot org. Also, another site noted by the police has an actual “manual” for becoming a super hero. It’s packed with info on picking out fly crime fighting “threads” and weapons, assembling a kick-ass utility belt, keeping your “hero health” in tip-top shape and finding pressure points on your enemies that will render them incapacitated.

Nowhere on the site are any tips for finding a girlfriend [or boyfriend?] or holding down a job.

It’s not clear how the Rain City Superhero Movement is alerted to crimes. They may have police scanners, they may have inside sources, or simply internet access to the Seattle Police Dpt blog. They don’t, at this point, have a skyward pointed spotlight of any kind or a direct line to Mayor McGinn.

But they do have our attention. And it’s likely that that’s all they wanted in the first place.

*************************************

Okay, so at first glance… kinda bad-ass, if you can get past the LARP feeling of it (Life Action Role Play). But I have something to say here, and its a critique simultaneously of these Puget Sound vigilantes, and of Batman, the Justice League, and some of Marvel’s “crime fighters”. And thats this:

who the fuck decided that these things were “crimes”?

Minor drug possession? Vandalism? Petty drug deals? I’m sorry, but feeling some-kinda-way about the Prison Industrial Complex, I’m actually more invested in de-criminalizing this bullshit than reinforcing the cops, let alone beating people up, who 98% of the time are poor and brown and probably desperate.

If owning-class men with the means to buy utility belt gadgets felt like hunting down “criminals” outside of the system, why not pick up the slack of the police, and chase after white-collar criminals? Its pretty widely agreed (especially in the wake of ENRON, Bernie Madoff, toxic loans, and mortgage scams, though thats clearly the tip of a melty iceburg), that corporate crime is the most rampant and most severe crime and has the lowest rate of crime-busting! Go kick some ass, LARPers!

prison industrial complex

If you want to make me feel more safe, I’d love it if you could storm board meetings, planning commissions, law offices- hell the police department itself, and bring some real justice into the picture. In the mean time, how about everyday people take everyday steps to learn more about community accountability and transformative justice so we can more effectively end violent neighborhood drug circuits, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and workplace harassment. These are things that we are more than capable of handling in-house (thank you very much, but you can be on your way officer), and even be stronger as a result of it.

If there’s one take-home lesson from these bold (if politically uncritical) costumed warriors, its that we don’t need to sit around waiting for the state (in the form of courts, cops, jails, and inadequate public defenders), to make our communities safer. We can step up and do that ourselves by practicing restorative justice and even transformative justice. Indeed, community responses that sideline punitive/ retributive measures are quite possibly the only thing that will make our neighborhoods into better places.

Up up and Away,
Sunshine Superboy

oh, also (PS) the superhero manual has a page about women’s self defense including eye gouge techniques and stuff. Guess what? Anyone of any gender can read it (if they can read english)!

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3 Responses to ““Real Life Superheroes”: Up with Costumes, Down with Crime on the Streets of Seattle”

  1. If you’re interested in “real-life superheroes,” Citadel Press released my humorous nonfiction book [I]I, Superhero!![/I] last month, and to spread the word, we’re giving away a PDF of the first 1 1/2 chapters for free. Just write me at whitebread@theamazingwhitebread.com and ask for it!

    (NOTE: I will NOT add your email address to a mailing list, share it, sell it, or otherwise use it for anything other than sending you the free PDF file.)

    Here’s what other authors are saying about I, Superhero!!

    “The Amazing Whitebread might protest that he lacks the typical attributes of a superhero, but Mike McMullen certainly has the talents one wants in a writer: the reportage skills of Clark Kent, the compassion of Peter Parker, and the integrity of stately Wayne Manor or the Baxter Building. And he can turn a phrase like Eel O’Brian can turn his head. This is a fun, funny, touching book.” – Matthew David Brozik, author of The Government Manual for New superheroes

    “I, Superhero is a funny exploration of what ensues when real people try to act as superheroes. But without actual training. Or skill. And wearing stretchy pants. This book underlines—in a very entertaining way—the mismatch of a fast-food approach to want without the work.” – Dr. E. Paul Zehr, author of Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero

    “If you have been patiently waiting for that special spider bite, a radiation accident, or the shattering trauma in the alley—stop! I, Superhero provides a model for finding your guru, choosing a costume, and finding the mission that makes You, Superhero.” – John Shelton Lawrence, author of The Myth of the American Superhero

    “I, Superhero is a hilarious and yet sincere book that actually manages to take a seemingly ridiculous topic and give it emotional resonance. It is probably the funniest and the most humanely genuine book that I’ve read all year.”
    – Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, award-winning author of “Gauntlet” and “Teo Torriatte”

    Full reviews can be found at EatSleepGeek, Comixtreme, and Random Acts of Geekery!

    Mike “The Amazing Whitebread” McMullen

    http://www.theamazingwhitebread.wordpress.com
    http://www.theamazingwhitebread.com

  2. Maybe somebody will bring back the panthers.

  3. i think you misunderstand what’s going on. most of the time these people will see and do very little on their patrol. maybe feed a starving kitten and help a drunk. it’s more for the visibility than anything else, which can be seen as both selfish and selfless. i heard five gunshots the other night that couldn’t have been more than a few blocks away. la times has a crime report that’s like my own crime computer. a lot of crime occurs between 5-8pm — what if I just walked around the neighborhood, being a witness to who comes and goes? Police used to walk beats and it’s the same idea of getting to know the neighborhood and helping where you can. These guys don’t carry firearms or use excessive force. In fact, the recent instance of Phoenix being punched brings to light the idea that these guys will take a punch for you more than punch someone for you. I think it’s important people know what their doing if worse comes to worse so the comment about military and martial arts experience seems very valid, but the first rule of these heroes is run away and call the cops. It’s nothing fancy, but it makes it easier for the criminal to be caught and the police to do other things. Between that and the deterrence factor, I think they are a little more than your article mocks them out to be.

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