Thursday, October 28, 2010


Illustrations by David Beyer, Jr.

Operated out of
: Aurora, Illinois and along the Fox River

Alias: Rey Fox

Died: 2001, age 70

Activities: The Fox staged a battle against industrial polluters of the Fox River, using direct action like capping smokestacks, clogging sewage drains, leaving dead skunks on the front doorstep of company executives, hanging handmade banners and signs, a sticker campaign, and even a mock funeral for the river.

Facebook page:

Author's notes: I wrote a lengthy article on The Fox for the Riverwest Currents, a local monthly community newspaper. You can find it free at businesses throughout Milwaukee. The article is largely based on a blog entry posted previously on this blog that reviewed The Fox's 1999 autobiography. The article is also posted on a Facebook fan page that documentary film maker Matthew Pniewski and I set up for The Fox HERE, which will also be updated with links to other articles on The Fox.

Needless to say I've found The Fox to be an interesting and brave character. He mentions in his autobiography that someone produced a comic book about him in 1971, so I'm keeping my eyes open for leads on that.
Included here are illustrations by David Beyer, Jr. who will be drawing a few graphics for the book.


Monday, October 25, 2010


The Watchman has a posse- Riverwest superheroes united at the end of the walk outside the Cream City Collectives

The idea for a superhero themed community walk started when I spoke with my friends Evelyn Sempos and Lauryl Sulfate who were hard at work organizing an event called Girls to the Front Festival. Evelyn is friends with author Sara Marcus who is on tour promoting her book Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, which chronicles the early-1990s “riot grrrl movement” of bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile that combined punk rock and feminist ideology. I haven't gotten a chance to read the book yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I enjoyed many of these bands when I was in high school and I know they were very empowering to many of my female friends, especially because the punk rock scene often had a fair share of chuckleheads and shaved apes.

Anyway! Evelyn and Lauryl, along with a cast of other fine folks, decided they would organize a fest of concerts, workshops, and other activities to tie in with the appearance by Sara Marcus.

I was talking to them about some recent crime in Riverwest, most notably our friend Matthew who was shot in the chest (and is alive and slowly recovering) among other bad news. They had seen recent media on our local RLSH and knew I was working on Heroes in the Night and had the idea of doing a superhero walk to show a community presence. They wanted the walk open to anyone in the community who wanted to join in, not just the Girls to the Front attendees. I thought this all was a great idea- a fun way for community to get together and go for a walk around the neighborhood.
Heroes gather outside the Pink House Studios

There was a short amount of time to organize the event, but we got word out mostly by Facebook and the Riverwest Neighborhood Association e-mail list/google group. The walk took place yesterday evening. The meet up spot was the Pink House Studios, which is a space that offers yoga, pilates,and dance classes, as well as therapeutic massage. This might sound like an unusual meet up point for a superhero walk, but Pink House is very involved and supportive of community events.

About 15 people were along for the walk, most in costume (including myself!), although a few weren't which was ok- we were glad to have anyone along that was interested. People designed their own looks, although J. Jason Groschopf (famed Team Cthulhu leader who has joined us for a couple of patrols- he also was subject of an internet rumor that he was The Watchman) dressed as Captain Hammer (from Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog) and one concerned citizen arrived with his dog dressed as Krypto the Superdog. The Watchman was there and joined us on the walk. Blackbird was caught up elsewhere, but met up with us at the end of the walk.
Groschopf,(on the left!)dressed as Captain Hammer and The Watchman with the group on Humboldt and Locust

We decided an hour or so long walk would be appropriate and stuck mostly to main streets- Center, Humboldt, Burleigh, and Holton. A lot of people honked horns, and one passenger shouted out "ALRIGHT, WATCHMAN! YOU'RE MY HERO, MAN!" Another woman at a stoplight told us to keep up the good work.

I think my favorite moment, though, was a porch full of kids with their dad who had heard superheroes would be walking around the neighborhood at that hour. They were keeping an eye out to see if it was true and were pretty awestruck when they saw it was.
Blackbird and The Watchman stop in the Cream City Collectives

The walk ended at the Cream City Collectives- a social center that has an info shop and library, a screen printing collective, gallery, and meeting space. We said goodbye to the deputized group of RLSH walkers and headed to one of our favorite meet up spots- the basketball courts on Center Street.

The Watchman did an interview there with a couple of guys from Panthervision, who were also along for the walk. Panthervision sounds like a superpower but actually is a news show produced by journalism and film students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It airs on cable access and on their website. Girls to the Front also had someone filming the walk for what I assume will be a video piece on the event overall.

As Blackbird and I waited for The Watchman to finish his interview, Ben arrived. Ben was there to record audio for a short spot on 88.9FM- Radio Milwaukee, a very cool local station. They are doing a series called "Make a Difference" which are short segments on local people trying to make Milwaukee a better place. Ben was there to interview The Watchman and Blackbird for the series, and I answered a couple of questions as well.

I took off after that and left the guys to hang out with Ben and Panthervision.

You win some, you lose some and I think this was a big win for everyone. I am very happy with the turn out. People had a great time and got to experience being a real life superhero, if only for an hour.

I was also very happy with the media, which I think did a fair job and will target an appropriate audience (I'll link to it here when it's available.) Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Operates out of: New Jersey/ New York

Activities: Patrols, homeless outreach, charity

Quote:"Like the night, I cannot be proven or disproved to certain degrees; and also much like the night, when morning comes there will be no trace of me.

I patrol New York and the Northern New Jersey area. It's impossible to define but I feel a certain degree of loyalty to every being that inhabits this earth, a compulsion to watch-to help-to protect."

Author's notes: This Sunday local RLSHs The Watchman and Blackbird, along with myself, will be joining a superhero themed community walk as part as the Girls To The Front Festival. (I wrote an article on the Fest HERE)The fest celebrates the early '90's "riot grrrl" movement through concerts, workshops, and other activities. After talking with the organizers we decided it would be great to end the fest with the walk, which open to anyone in the neighborhood who wants to participate (FB Page for the walk HERE).

My female friends always ask me if there are women RLSH out there, and of course there are- I've profiled a few on this blog. There was a long debate about the place in history of Terrifica, an early take on the RLSH concept in an anti-Valentine's Day themed entry HERE. I've also done Hero Profiles on Executrix, Amazonia, the Herois do Cotidiano (a group of two women and three men)and the marvelous Metadata. Other great lady heroes mentioned elsewhere on this blog* include Lady Hero,Golden Valkryie, Dreizehn, Danger Woman, Scavenger, Lady Catacomb, Rooster, and Tsaf. There are many, many other RLSH women out there and the number seems to be increasing all the time. Recently Shadow-Girl, of Chicago, became active with patrolling and doing hand outs to homeless.

In tribute to Girls to the Front Fest, I chose to profile Nyx today- the first female RLSH I heard about. Nyx became a RLSH in 2006 or 2007 and I got a chance to meet her in September 2009 at the Superheroes Anonymous 3 conference- a very cool and dedicated person.

*And of course there are three delightfully sinister villainesses out there- Agent Beryllium, Fatal Phyllo,and The Overlord.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I was a guest on the Ripley Radio: An On Demand Oddcast podcast. I've been a fan of the Ripley's Believe It or Not franchise since I was a wee kid, so I was excited to be a guest. The interview itself was......interesting.

I expected Ripley's would want to have fun with the story, but the interview was done in a sort of rapid fire jabberjock style- I felt like I wasn't able to speak much about the origins of the book, the people I met, what it was like being on the street with these guys- the questions were bouncing all over and I kept getting cut off by random musings of the hosts.

They were really pushing for the "these guys must be crazy and stupid- am I right or am I right?!" angle. Immediate evidence- instead of a picture I sent of me and The Watchman on street level they dug up some photo of an obese cosplayer dressed as Spiderman.

Always something with those guys- believe it. Still, there were fun moments and I think this is a story Ripley's fans will be interested in.

Link to the interview here:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Watchman- Third Coast Digest Interview

Photo by Brian Jacobson
Third Coast Digest featured a podcast interview with myself last week, conducted by Mark Metcalf and he followed that up with an interview with The Watchman, posted today.

You can listen to it here:

More about the interviews, including link to previous one HERE

HERO PROFILES#49-51: Heroes of Albany

L-R: Fox and Spirit of Albany- special guest Silver Sentinel- Kick-Ass of Albany

Operates out of: Albany, NY

Members: Fox of Albany
Kick-Ass of Albany
Spirit of Albany

Activities: "We do everything, from escorting people that don't feel safe walking alone, to patrolling the streets for crime, to fund raising during the day.
Albany loves us for the most part, sure we get the occasional drunken bastards, but all in all they love us."- Fox of Albany

Author's notes: One of the interesting things about examining real life superheroes is seeing how the concept is interpreted in different parts of the world- the Herois do Cotidiano from Brazil, for example, do a sort of superhero performance art. The documentary Super Amigos looks at the "social luchadors" of Mexico City.

A group of heroes has formed in Albany who include the suffix "of Albany" in their names. Fox of Albany says his persona is an original(although there is also a clandestine environmental activist and comic book character that share the same name), but Kick-Ass of Albany obviously is one who hasn't tried to distance himself from the comic book/movie of the same namesake(there is also rumored to be a Hit Girl of Albany) and Spirit of Albany has modeled himself after Will Eisner's classic detective hero, The Spirit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tea Krulos and Uncle Larry singer/ guitarist Billy Judge Baldus in the Superhero Photo Booth

The Kickstarter campaign was a failure, but not a complete one. I realized that after I thought about the long list of people who I had to thank for their help. I've always been cursed with very little monetary capital, but blessed with lots of social capital. And so a big thank you and a cigar to the following people, divided into categories of the campaign.

The Kickstarter campaign itself
: Although I didn't have success, I think the Kickstarter site is a really awesome idea, and I highly recommend it to others who have wanted to complete their project, but have been held down by monetary concerns. Videographer Matthew Miller introduced the Kickstarter idea and produced the short videos we used for the site. He generously donated his equipment, services, and his very little available spare time to edit.

The Watchman, photographer Paul Kjelland, and Jack of all agreed to donate services as prizes for different pledge levels.

The project had 41 backers, ranging from $5 donations to ones over $200. I would like to thank these 41 people for believing in the project enough to invest money, especially in hard financial times.

The internet campaign
: Many people tried to help spread the word on the internet, via Facebook, MySpace, and their blogs and websites. Thanks to all of these people, some I don't even know. There are so many people who shared the links to the Kickstarter, media articles, and the Superhero Dance Party. Many people mentioned the campaign or attached a widget to their site. I would like to thank for not only allowing me to hang around their forum, but also for reprinting the Kickstarter page and media coverage on their main site. Many RLSHs offered encouraging words. I was also quite honored to receive the Award For Literary and Journalistic Excellence in Support of the RLSH Culture which was issued at the Superheroes Anonymous 4 Conference.

Treesong became a Heroes in the Night correspondent when the two of us collaborated on posting his reports about the Superheroes Anonymous 4 conference, so I want to thank him for that and his support.

Real Life Supervillains also offered their evil support- I would like to thank the crafty Overlord and the wily Lord Malignance for posting the project on their blogs and the other supportive villains, too. "Morally neutral" people helped out, too- for example my friend Lacy Landre posted the widget on her site for vintage clothing and collectibles- A-Hem Vintage. My friend, painter Chris Miller, entered the scary world of online comments sections to promote the Kickstarter link.

Flyer campaign: I made a flyer with the Kickstarter info, and mailed copies to some of friends around the country, so thanks to Kelly and Shannon (both of MN), Sarah (FL), Bae Lee and family (AK), Holly (NY), Julie (ID), and Gabe (KY) for hanging flyers in your home towns.

The media campaign- Operation Full Orchestra
: One of the benefits of the campaign was a drive to land some media. First I would like to thank the "editor-in-geek" of the Forces of Geek website, Stefan Blitz. He offered a free banner ad on the site and posted a Q and A interview with me about the book.

Riverwest Currents
editor Jan Christensen has been helping me edit the book and in the October edition of the paper she rewrote some info about the book for a couple paragraph write up, accompanied by a great photo by Paul Kjelland.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a story accompanied by a video. Thanks to Mike De Sisti for producing that and editor Tom Tolan, who edited the piece and bravely joined us on patrol twice! The Journal Sentinel piece was picked up by other websites here and there and led me to being a guest on The Rob Breakenridge Show, a radio talk show that airs across the great province of Alberta.

Third Coast Digest has produced a wonderful two part podcast series. The first was posted last week and was an interview with me, the next airs this week and will be an interview with The Watchman. Thanks much to Mark Metcalf, who conducted the interviews, Brian Jacobson, for taking some awesome pictures for the website, and managing editor Erin Petersen, who oversaw the operations, along with a team of sharp interns.

Lastly, I'd like to announce that this attention has led me to be a guest this week on Ripley's Believe it or Not Radio (a podcast or as they call it, an "oddcast" on their website)- a link will be posted here when it debuts later in the week.

The Superhero Dance Party: David Beyer, Jr. drew the fun graphic for the flyer, and two of my favorite local bands- Uncle Larry and Danny Price and the Loose Change proved what awesome guys they are once again by playing the show and ignoring my lack of money. Rounding out the entertainment was opening act Paul Kuhn, who played a great set and DJ Lady Blackheart.

The Watchman and Blackbird, in addition to helping me with the aforementioned media, made a guest appearance at the show and got to meet a lot of people attending the show. Thanks to them for all the support.

My sister Megan and her husband Nick took money and sold raffle tickets at the door. That was a huge relief to me so I could walk around and talk to people.

We raffled off 23 prizes. Some of it was stuff from my own collection- some comic books and a framed portrait of Thomas Jefferson that was hanging in my office. Other people donated prizes- Felix Frankee Bofil, a talented artist and anti-litter advocate donated shirts and postcards, local jewelry maker Alana Coppinger of Dragon's Fire Creations donated necklaces, esteemed author Hoam Rogh of Shady House Publications donated books, Comics biz guru Tim Demeter donated design/consultation service, Jan Christensen donated a plot in a community garden, and my girlfriend, Laura Gorzek donated free photo sessions. Laura and her friend, photographer April Heding also operated the popular Superhero Photo Booth- you can see the results HERE.

I also need to thank Laura for her support of me. It takes a brave woman to enter into a relationship with a madman in the middle of a Kickstarter cyclone. But instead of distancing herself from the madness, she began e-mailing her friend list, designed the text for the dance party flyer, and helped organize the event.

Many of you are probably wondering what happens next. I honestly don't know.
I am going to take a few days off from thinking about it and then try to think of a new strategy.

Thanks again, everyone!

Monday, October 11, 2010


The Watchman and Blackbird at the Superhero Dance Party

I hosted a Superhero Dance Party last night to tie in with the Kickstarter campaign. I'll be writing more about that and posting some pictures tomorrow. I was quite honored to have The Watchman and Blackbird make an appearance at the party to meet some of the people there. Many people recognized them from a huge amount of media over the previous week. There was a full orchestra of media on the RLSHs, a lot of focusing on The Watchman in particular- there was a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, which was picked up by the local A.V. Club section of The Onion, as well as, and Later in the week Third Coast Digest ran a story and podcast interview. I've also heard reports of it being talked about on atleast three local radio stations.

Although there has been a lot of positive response, there also has been some negativity to it- the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel comments section is pretty harsh and at times gruesome. The A.V. Club definitely aren't true believers, either- they called for The Watchman to be unmasked. After waiting for the comments sections to cool down, The Watchman has crafted this response to all of the attention, which I am sharing here in full:

I understand how odd or even crazy this can seem. We can't just rely on others to take care of the world's problems though. Think of the world, or even just your neighborhood as your house. If you have a leaking roof, a broken pipe in your basement, or faulty wiring, you would likely hire roofers, plumbers, or electricians to take care of those problems. Hopefully the problems get fixed and you can stop worrying about them. Often though, the problem doesn't get taken care of. The problem was bigger than they realized, the company took longer then they should, they were under staffed, the needed supplies were too scarce, they were inexperienced, they just didn't care or tried to rip you off....whatever.

Now you still have these problems going on. You can have the person(s) come back and try to get it right, you can get someone else and hope they do it better, or you may just have to grab some tools and supplies and work on the problem yourself. (OK, maybe not the best idea with the wiring.) The world works a lot like this. We have problems, so we hire other people and expect them to take care of it. It doesn't always work though, and so we have to try something else. That may just mean getting off our butts and doing something about it.

That's what I'm doing. I'm trying a new approach to solving some problems. Maybe it won't work. So what? At least I tried to do something rather than telling myself it was somebody else's problem and waiting for the roof to cave in on me.

The Watchman is just a name. The mask and the rest of my getup is advertisement. It is my way of letting people know there is someone out there who does give a damn. It gets people asking questions and starting discussions. It gives me the opportunity to explain what I'm doing and why. It allows for a chance to inspire in others the desire and feeling of empowerment to stand up and do something themselves.

Some people say they worry I’ll be injured or killed doing this. Others say they wish me harm. I assure you, I have no death wish. I have no desire to leave my wife without a husband, nor my children without a father. But what would be worse, to be killed trying to better the world, or to live as a lazy coward and eventually die anyway but for nothing? I would rather my children know their father was a man who stood for something rather than grow to know me as a little sheep who cowered his days away behind closed doors, tucked in an imagined freedom from the shared responsibilities of mankind that are casually shirked by so many of us.

I will continue on, and when I am gone, whether soon or a great many years from now, I will look down and smile, knowing that so long as hope remains within a few of you, there is yet a chance for all of us.

-The Watchman

Friday, October 8, 2010



- Hot Springs, Arkansas

Crossfire the Crusader
is a RLSH who intervened in a life threatening situation last night. Well known for his good humor, Crossfire relayed the incident in a post on forum, which is reposted here with his permission.

Just got home from the police station...Here's the story.

I was not in gimmick (note- this is the term many RLSH use for their attire) - I was in bed trying to catch a nap before work tonight. I grabbed a pair of shorts as I ran for the door and responded. I told (fellow RLSH Silver Sentinel via phone) that I was in my Submariner costume.

Earlier this week my neighbor was attacked by her ex-boyfriend and we were afraid he would come back to try again so we've been on guard. The ex-boyfriend hid in the building that time and attacked them when they came home. Tonight he got into their apartment somehow and waited for them there. He was in their shower with the knife when they arrived home. He sat there for hours with his knife watching for them to come home tonight.

I had just drifted off when I heard a commotion outside my door. I grabbed a pair of shorts and my nightstick and ran out the door. I could hear fighting from the room across the hall. The downstairs neighbor came running up and I told him to call the police. I banged on the door with the nightstick and the young lady opened the door. She had been cut on the hand and was covered in blood. She shouted "Help us!" and pointed to the living room.

I ran in and found her boyfriend struggling with her ex-boyfriend who had an eight inch knife. They were half on the couch with the knife between them and the blade was between the boyfriends shirt and his skin. The boyfriend was holding the blade away from him and had the ex pinned to the couch with his body weight.

I stuck the nightstick between the blade and the man's chest and ordered the ex-boyfriend to release the knife. He refused and I told him several more times. I noticed that he had released his grip on the blade a little and asked the girlfriend to grab the knife if she could get it. He tightened his grip and I moved the nightstick and put it to his forehead and told him "let it go NOW!"

He dropped the knife and we wrestled him to the floor and held him there until the police arrived.

When the police arrived the neighbors told them that the superhero stopped him...they said I was going to trade my clown suit(note- Crossfire also works as an entertainer for children and is referring to his clown persona) in for a cape. None of them know about Crossfire yet...LOL.

The perp has been arrested and the young lady is safe once again.

I got a good laugh at the station as I heard the perp telling the officers how the fat guy with the bat took his knife away.

That's the story and now I'm dealing with an adrenaline hangover...and I gotta get ready for work.

I've also been told that all this happened while Crossfire is recovering from a bout with the flu. Heroes in the Night recommends plenty of rest, fluids, and soup in between saving lives.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


L-R: The Watchman, Mark Metcalf, Tea Krulos in the WMSE studios

The fine folks at Third Coast Digest featured a podcast interview with me today. Under the direction of managing editor Erin Petersen I was interviewed in the WMSE (91.7FM) studios by Mark Metcalf.

Mark is an actor who portrayed memorable and prickly characters that waged losing battles against the toga party loving members of Delta House, Twisted Sister, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer,among others. Although these characters are sinister and plotting, I found him to be a really nice guy. He moved to Wisconsin in 2000 and now works at First Stage Children's Theater and is an advocate for the local arts.

There is a short write up by Mark, some great photos by Brian Jacobson, and the interview itself

This will be followed up next week Thursday with a podcast interview between Mark and The Watchman.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

HERO PROFILE #48: Paladin

Operates out of: Calgary, Alberta

Skills: "Trained as a security professional and in martial arts"

Activities: Patrols, crime prevention and intervention

Quote: "If everyone took the time to at least call in suspicious or dangerous situations, then a lot of what happens in our city would not take place.

In many cases, I was the only person willing to act, even though there were other people around. Nobody called the cops, nobody spoke up, nobody did a thing. If I hadn't been there, there would have been assaults, thefts, possibly rapes in the case of some of the girls I've helped. Some of those could have escalated to murders if they got out of hand.

Not everyone needs to be as aggressive as I am in helping others- if a situation looks unsafe and they aren't comfortable getting involved, all it takes some days is a phone call to the police. That's the secret to making this a safer city- everyone taking enough ownership to say that they will not allow others to be victimized in front of them without taking SOME sort of action, even if that action is just picking up a phone."

Author's notes: I bumped the Hero Profile up a day early to accommodate listeners who heard about the blog during an interview with me on the The Rob Breakenridge Show, which airs on radio stations in Calgary and Edmonton. To tie in, I decided to profile Calgary RLSH Paladin, who I just encountered today after searching the Canadian RLSH files.

I would like to invite Canadian visitors to my Kickstarter page, where you can pre-order a copy of my book by

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


You can imagine my surprise when I received a voicemail a few weeks ago from Zetaman, telling me he was at the Superheroes Anonymous 4 awards ceremony in Portland, Oregon and that I had received the conference's Award for Literary and Journalistic Excellence, to applause in the background.

The certificate just arrived in the mail, and here it is:
Endorsed by Zetaman and Civitron

Since I wasn't able to attend the conference in person, I thought I would make a short acceptance speech here on the blog:

Dear Real Life Superheroes, costumed activists,vigilantes,meta-villains, friends who followed a Facebook link because you're bored at work, citizens of Troll City, internet surfers, my fellow citizens of the universe-

Literary and journalistic excellence is something I strive for and think is important. Why? Because it is vanishing. So much "reporting" is done by sitting in front of the computer, copying and pasting other people's work. The concept that the real story is out on the street and needs a thorough understanding is replaced with blog style twitter reporting.

When I decided to write about real-life superheroes I knew that I needed to get out there to meet these people in person and see their worlds as they see them. That has led me to a great adventure traveling to Minneapolis, New Bedford, Vancouver, Seattle, and New York City. I also put forward as much research and communication as I could.

I've spoken with over 150 real life superheroes (and associates) by phone, e-mail, and in person. I've traced people doing something similar to the real life superheroes (early prototypes) as far as the 1970's. I've also read a lot of comic books.

I have experienced a full range of emotion while working on the writing. I have found the story to be everything and anything- inspiring, crazy, uplifting, stupid, brilliant, amazing, alarming, wonderful, and occasionally awful. There are many, many real life superheroes I consider a friend and enjoy talking to. I also enjoy my friendship with villains. I consider myself a neutral party and by doing this I think I can give an honest portrayal. People will take away any number of different conclusions after reading my book depending on their reaction. Some might shrug their shoulders and laugh it off, others may be inspired deeply.

Writing about real life superheroes has been one of the great experiences of my life. The story is endlessly fascinating to me. After reaction to some local media, I see that the public is grossly misinformed about what real life superheroes are and what they do.

I think this book will help change that.

And here is a short tour of author Tea Krulos' office, produced by filmmaker Matthew Miller-

Monday, October 4, 2010


"You've Gone Too Far This Time, Riverwest." Milwaukee's Onion AV Club Editor Tells Public- Calls Superhero "Dopey"- Calls For Watchman To Be "Unmasked"

Full report found HERE

And why not put a Kickstarter link here:


Photo by Mike De Sisti

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story mainly focusing on The Watchman (Heroes in the Night and this blog specifically were also mentioned) in today's edition on page 1 of the Local section.

The online version also includes a three minute video shot on the street during patrol and features footage of The Watchman, Blackbird, and a cameo appearance from myself. I think the video is extremely well produced and portrays the local RLSH in a very positive light.

Both the article and the video were by Mike De Sisti.Here is the link:

If you have arrived at this blog via the article, I would like to invite you to check out my Kickstarter page and preorder the Heroes in the Night book here:

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Illustration by David Beyer, Jr.

To tie in with the Kickstarter campaign, Heroes in the Night will be hosting a SUPERHERO DANCE PARTY a week from today on Sunday, October 10 (less than two days before the campaign expires) the goal is to raise some small last minute funds but also simply to have fun.

Note to Milwaukee area backers- all backers who have already contributed or contribute between now and then get into the event for free.

-Sunday, October 10, Starts at 7PM
Paul Kuhn
Uncle Larry
Danny Price & The Loose Change
DJ Lady Blackheart
Superhero raffle!
...Superhero photo booth!
Admission- $8, $5 in superhero costume

Free admission with pledge of $5 or more on

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HERO PROFILE #47: Phantom Zero

Operates out of: New Jersey

Activities: charity, philosophy

Author's Notes: I've been wanting to post this set about Phantom Zero for awhile- things were too hectic to do this Thursday. In the following post, I talk briefly about a well played video Phantom Zero made in 2008. After that you will find an extensive interview I conducted with PZ by e-mail over a couple of weeks. An interesting dialog with a fascinating and mysterious RLSH.


Will real life superheroes still exist 100 years from now? Pretend it is the year 2110 and there is an official RLSH museum. What items would we find in it? In a dark corner, illuminated by a spotlight, we might see Citizen Prime's famous suit in a plexiglass case. We might see Master Legend's beat up Justice Van parked on a giant rotating disk. A small alcove might display the collected masks of the Black Monday Society, illuminated with eerie lighting. Another room might hold cases of tools of the trade- moth-a-rangs, bolos, and body armor. Mannequin heads here and there would hold masks, cowls, and goggles. These are just some random guesses of a few of the things you might find in such a museum.

Another thing I'm sure you might find is a digital display projecting Phantom Zero's YouTube video "Attention: Real Life SuperHeroes," posted October 25, 2008. The video has had over 101,000 views (as of this date)and was many people's intro to the RLSH concept and helped many RLSH network.
Here is the video:


What inspired you to become 'Phantom Zero?'

A number of events inspired me to be Phantom Zero, up to and including:

A love of various bits of media.
In my childhood, even my early childhood, I loved comic books and the superhero genre; I've had a life long love of theatrical make-up and costuming, more specifically, things which are based in practical special effects and things which are horror themed.

I endured and survived a particularly stressful childhood, but managed to come out of it relatively sane and stable.
I still carry with me many of the positive things I had to nurture and believe in to get through: a belief that things no matter how hopeless seeming can get better, that you can endure rather than just give up, that you can and will fail--but from that failure still learn, and knowing that life is not worth living unless have the capacity to feel (even if you know that may make you vulnerable, and may get hurt). If anything, the adversity in my life bred adaptability. In particular, it made me profoundly compassionate and doggedly passionate in responding to the injustices and plights of others. It also, for better or worse, it made me different and made me stand out in many ways. I've managed to take inspiration from the source of what many consider negative experiences, and rather than use them as a source of equally negative feelings and emotions, flip their perspective, learn from them, and use them as a source of strength in my life. For example, I wouldn't be nearly as empathetic as I am now had I not personally suffered through or witnessed some horrid things. I'm drawn to help those who are going through traumatic situations because I've been though a few myself.

I've always tried to adhere to a "do-gooder" philosophy.
Before I came up with the idea of Phantom Zero, I have always tried to be helpful to both friends and strangers who may have needed assistance. I've been characterized as a concerned, kind, and generous by people who know me. The roles I've played have been confidant, incidental guide, inspirational/motivational speaker, and anonymous helper. I've talked people down from engaging in self-destructive behavior, researched and referred people to professional help, and assisted more than one stranger who I came across who found themselves in a rough spot before I even knew what a real life superhero was.

Through reason, I was able to make order of the chaos that was my earlier life.
It was only later in my life, during my higher education, that I could attribute meaning to what preceded. Logic and reason gave me the ability to define so much, not through sensing and supposition, or by feeling out what was right, but by rational thought. It gave me a sense of understanding and fairness which helped to temper my judgment and discretion in many ways.

The death of my father.
My father died suddenly, shortly after he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He was a person who had unorthodox, unique, Quixotic ideals, a person who used charisma and improvisation to commune with people, with and while he and I were very different people, the spirit of his ideals and inspiration was passed on to me. He was a positive influence to many and he affected countless lives as both an educator and a friend. He, too, was also an exceptionally compassionate and caring person. His loss left a great void in my life, but also left me with a great legacy to uphold. Part of my motivation is a great desire to fill the role in the cosmos my father once inhabited. It is a bit tragic that he never got to see me achieve many of the things I have with the gifts he gave me. Dare I say he would be quite proud of me.

I had learned about the real life superhero community.
It was just something which flashed by on cable television months before I became a real life superhero, but there the idea remained, waiting. It has piqued my interest enough and rattled around my head until one day I searched the subject online. I thought to myself: here is something interesting. I became curious about the community as a whole. So I examined it, researched it from the periphery, but after coming so far realized I’d hit a brick wall. Being a "normal" or a "civilian," especially at that time in the development of the community, my access was limited. I was unable to go further.

The catalyst moment came some time later.
Ultimately, I was inspired by a person who I had come to casually know through a number of channels. This person—a good, kind person—confided they had something earth shatteringly horrible happen to them. I was shaken by the brutality of the incident, the madness in the reasoning why it happened, the denial and accusation leveled upon the victim, and the injustice of the circumstances surrounding and following it. There was absolutely nothing I could do for that one person--not to save them, or help them, or fix them, or grant them justice. It had shattered them on a profound level and the complications haunted them, and even though they had in a way come to peace with what had happened, bore the brunt of that burden alone. My heart sunk. We both broke down and we cried. My tears were tears of anguish, anger, and mourning. It was then that I had a very profound and solemn epiphany. I made a pledge to that person that night, and promised: As there is great evil and injustice in this world, I will counteract it by trying to increase the amount of good.

All of the above collided on that night of uneasy rest. After some thought, and rummaging through items I had lying around, Phantom Zero was born. I snapped photos of myself, posted them up, and made my introductions with some people who I’d all ready come to know as a civilian. After that point I started on the normal circuit of learning. My desire to help others was suited for the role of a real life superhero, though much of finding out what would and wouldn't work for me was trial and error.

How did you develop that specific persona?

I wanted something appropriately mysterious and theatrical in the mood of Gothic horror and Victoriana while also giving a nod to pulp heroes, like the Phantom Detective. A natural outcropping of that was the "Phantom," calling back to aspects the tradition I loved--everything from Lerox's rendition to Lon Cheney, Sr. to the pulp heroes that would use the name to the Phantom of the Paradise.

I love literature, myth, and Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces." I don't believe in the occult or occult practices, but have an interest in the symbolic meaning therein. In Tarot, there is something known as "The Fool's Journey"--which is a metaphor for a person's transition through life and the learning process. We start from nothing, literally from zero, and its where all journeys begin. Its at that spontaneous point of absolute nothing I started, thus the "Zero" part.

Phantoms--being insubstantial. Zero--being nothing. Overarching and bridging those two concepts was that of complete and total anonymity—something which I have retained as a staple of my identity (or non-identity, as it is). From nothing to nothing. I eventually evolved the costume from its more pulpish “Mysterious Stranger” look into its more current “Skull Mask” forms, and it is still evolving along with me.

What philosophy do you follow as an RLSH?

I don't think I follow any particular "real life superhero" philosophy. The concept of being a real life superhero is more of a nebulous self-ascribed broad stroke, or to better call it, a floating signifier. I don't consider myself (or that viewpoint) a standard or role model in the community—especially now.

I consider good sense, sound judgment, and practicality to be of the utmost importance. I think all activities real life superheroes engage in should be legal, safe, and sensible. I stress pro-social activities which are accessible to your average citizen.

Part of being a real life superhero is having the ability to send a message with a powerful efficacy, but the medium is also the message. Real life superheroes exist as a challenge to the apathy, banality, complacency, and mediocrity commonplace in the hum drum status quo of blind, repetitive worker bee every day life. They make people question the reality they live in. By being, they inform and educate individuals as to their own untapped potential in a world of unchecked possibilities.

I believe the greatest personal reward one can glean from being a real life superhero is taking the journey; finding one's own path and one's own truth. Breaking free from the negativity of "can not" and "nevers," gazing upward and onward towards better and brighter things.

As a personal philosophy, I support freethought, individual rights, and personal responsibility. I eschew collectivism and exploitation.

You created one of (if not the) most watched videos relating to rlshs, a video where you call on people to make videos introducing themselves. Let's talk about that "era." What was the RLSH scene like? How was it different than today?

Its post-Terrifica, post Super Barrio, and post-Heroes Collation, so I wasn't one of the first in that antediluvian age. I came in during the era before the mass media blitz. Before Watchmen, before Kick Ass, before the offers of reality television shows, documentaries, and major news coverage. Few people knew what a real life superhero was.

The community existed as a sand box. It was shielded from the outside world. It was, for the most part, an small community corresponding on line--unlike now, where it is very open.

A lot of people of that previous generation wanted it to stay that way. Some of them only thought about the world inside that sandbox box. There are those who did, and still do, live a healthy (unhealthy?) chunk of their life in that box. It always struck me as strange that some real life superheroes, part of the world, proclaimed world changers themselves, weren't thinking outside that box. Even while people were taking potshots at the community, the box-thinkers were adamantly against any action to deter detractors or sway opinions in a more positive direction.

(And, yes, I understand some people consider themselves vigilantes, and want to keep their shadowy alter egos out of the public eye--but when you are a member of a public message board and you have a MySpace profile talking about your psedo-legal escapades in your own personal Punisher War Journal, ask yourself--would Batman want or even need a MySpace page? Would a vigilante even want to dress up like a bat, or a mongoose, or wear a cape--and then announce it to a group of individuals they know nothing about in a forum where security is, at best, lax? Would they congregate in the most obvious, easy access locale, under a banner that announces "Hey! I'm the scourge of all evil! RIGHT HERE! Captain Bob! I patrol Downtown Burbank!" risking everything to hang out with their online buddies?)

Another part of my motivation was to debunk the emergence of poser real life superheroes. There were people who were just full of it--arm chair misanthrope net-trolls with an over abundance of time who were making outrageous claims which stretched the limits of possibility and probability. It was a very self-serving, parasitic thing to do: bottom feeding off of trusting, good, very genuine, very real people. Being very anti-social, and exemplifying antihero ideals, while at the same time not having the spine or spirit to be anything remotely real, pro-social, or heroic at all. The only real thing they'd do would be to set bad examples and make claims which destroyed credibility for those who were actually real.

There was a world of ideas, a mass of potential. There was a newness to it. It was an unexplored continent, plentiful with natural resources. There were people, inspirations, who had walked the walk, found their own truth. And here, on the horizon, was media interest, lumping together the former ideologues with the latter poseurs.

I felt that individuals needed to be heard. And they needed a platform they could do it on. On their own terms. Self-generated media is the only type of media over which someone has complete and total creative control. Some place they could represent themselves. It was a very fluid time. I felt if we let the media, or a select few motivated individuals with misplaced intentions, do it for us, they could take it in whatever direction. Make it a total lark or goof-ball piece (like most had). Probably crash it into the ground and cause it irreparable harm.

Results were mixed. Some videos were humorous and obviously fake. Some were real and radiated honesty. I felt, either way, the viewer could decide, with evidence given, truth from fiction. The viewer could also absorb the full spectrum of what the community had to offer, distilled, enough to pique interest and stoke hunger for more knowledge about a growing idea. Whether to support or critique it, I wanted the viewer to step away from the experience feeling a bit more informed, rather than just making a sweeping generalization without even looking at the content they were condemning.

Many people responded to the video and it inspired more to find out more and has been viewed by more than 100,000 people. Did you expect such a reaction? Did you expect the video to live on as it has?

I absolutely expected such a reaction. I just hoped it served the citizens who carry the banner of real life superhero (or what have you). I hope I did my part to help make it entertaining, interesting, and informative. While I harbor a slight guilty conscience, as the video promotes something I am a part of, (though I tried to act in the role of a master of ceremonies, the video promoted the community and concept of real life superheroes, and by proxy, myself, which may be considered an ethical breech), I think it did its job.

While I feel the idea still has merit, the video has lost much of its momentum in the wake of coverage with greater popularity and wider scope. Its lost much of its relevance, now that the concept of a real life superhero has been fictionalize and regurgitated, serving now more of a snapshot of a more innocent, more ignorant place and time. While it is a living thing, a chronicle of that time, it is also a dying thing. It exists only on the whim of its contributors. It has suffered from entropy, as the content, voluntarily given, can also be voluntarily taken out of that stream. (And that, I feel, is the most beautiful thing about it—the ability of the individual to self-promote and the control their own active participation or non-participation, not bound to the whim of others.)

What are some highlights as your life as Phantom Zero?

Trying my hardest to keep my promises to people who have trusted me.

Many of the best things I've done as a person (let alone as a real life superhero) I can't talk about in any detail. They aren't my confidences to break. They were only burdens that were shared with me for the slightest moments of time. Most of the time, it not even being myself who changed someone's life, but encouraging someone to break out of a bad cycle of behavior, or to leave a bad situation, or to hold out another night, or to seek out help. For me, its just time. Its me listening to them, asking questions, offering suggestions, or doing research. Giving them just enough so that they realize there is another way, that there is hope. Just knowing I was there, that I might have made a difference, is the greatest achievement. And all it took from me was being a decent human being.

I guess I feel a bit validated that one person can make a difference, even if its just one person at a time.

What do you see for the future of Phantom Zero? What things would you
like to try to achieve or develop?

I only consider this the very first step. Literally, my longevity permitting, this is only the beginning of my journey. But I can't know the future. I can only try to anticipate as best I can and be prepared for what is to come. I never thought I'd reach the place I am now, for example—but I never discounted it.

I've written before on the stage of development of a real life superhero where, much like Campbell's hero, "they may freely walk in both the mundane and special worlds." The challenge is balancing the many aspects of RLSH and my mundane identity, and find some kind of middle path, some equilibrium, so I can maintain both my lifestyles while retaining and purifying the essence of both. I wouldn't want to change so much in any direction that would invalidate the reasons I started doing this to begin with.

I think the greatest achievement/development I'd like to see, if you would pardon the cliché, would be in myself. (An oft credited statement Ghandi once made: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”) I hope to continue to expand my base of experience and knowledge and develop the part of me which is represented as Phantom Zero. I know I'd love to live in a world where I could truly embrace, exhibit, and act as a paragon of all the virtues which I consider exemplary, where I could continue to overcome and sublimate all the shadows dwelling in my heart and lurking in my mind, and in doing such continue becoming a more complete, perfect, self-actualized person.

I'd also like to note: I'm still trying to figure all this out. There is no absolute authority, perfect path, or right way to be a real life superhero (though, in my opinion, there are an abundance of opinions, paths people have tread before that have experienced to be flawed, and wrong ways to do things). I'm still a work in progress.

That said, I've recently been approached by a number of curious individuals. I'm all ready helping others start on the path of being real life super heroes. I'm eager to see whether they will truly enjoy it and how they will grow and develop, and what they themselves will have to contribute.

I'm willing to learn what they are willing to teach me.