Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Héroes en la Noche


Below is a translation of an article that appeared recently in the Colombian magazine SEMANA. Heroes in the Night author Tea Krulos did a phone interview with a reporter from SEMANA and the reporter also spoke with some real life superheroes, including Milwaukee's The Watchman.

Special thanks to Samaritan of New York City, who provided the translation. Samaritan was recently profiled on Peter Tangen's Real Life Superhero Project HERE.

TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE!


A phenomenon in the streets of the various cities, walking the line between reality and fiction. These are the Superheroes, 100's of average citizens who fight against evil, dressed in trousers, capes, and mask.

It's one o'clock in the morning, two drunken gang members are exchanging insults, punches and kicks in a park in Milwaukee, USA. Then suddenly someone who was hidden behind the trees steps out of the shadows and shouts "Stop what you are doing!" The two youths remain frozen, suspended staring at the man dressed in black wearing a red mask with "W" on his chest, who with hands on his waist, threatening to intervene if they don’t stop the fight. The scene isn't from a comic nor from a movie, it's any day in the life of "The Watchman," an average, big guy who is currently 35yrs old, who by day works in an office and by night walks the streets of his neighborhood to "fight against crime”.

Watchman (vigilante) is a part of a movement known as the Real Life Super Heroes, a well organized 400 mortal men and women, who, like the business card for www.reallifesuperheroes.com says, an internet page that is used to connect them, choose everyday to mark a difference. They are not crackpots in costumes as it might seem at first glance. These modern heroes are our neighbors, our friends, our family members. They are artist, musicians, athletes and yes, politicians. The majority patrol the streets of their cities looking for thieves, rapist, and drug traffickers. Others hand out food to homeless, donate toys to sick children in hospitals or hand out copies of the constitution to transients so that they learn about their country. There are also others who care for prostitutes; protect drunken women in bars to prevent men from taking advantage of them.

All of them create their identities and costumes, which generally include a cape and mask. They also have their accessories to help them complete their missions, like a 1st responder’s first aid kit, pepper spray to drive off bad guys, and a cellular phone to call police in case of problems. Some go out alone and others in groups similar to the Justice League of Superman, Flash, the Green Lantern and company.

"It's an incredible movement" a week ago commented Dark Guardian, superhero and administrator of reallifesuperheroes.com. "We help people, and fight crime, and do it with our own money". Chirs Pollak is the real name of this New York teacher of martial arts who at night patrols the city to look for drug dealers who work in the parks. Chris feels he was a kid with lots of problems until he started to read comics and discovered what he wanted to be like the protagonist in these adventures. And so he bought a bullet proof vest, cut proof gloves, boots, shades, flashlight, and a megaphone, and went out to pursue delinquents.

The phenomenon of the superheroes that don’t fly and don’t have x-ray vision has grown during the last few years so much so that it has expanded into some European countries. In England, for example, the famous Statesman, a banker who cleans up the streets of London, and says the he has helped the police catch more than a few bad guys. It’s has been four years since publications like The New York Time or the magazine Rolling Stone started to publish articles on this theme. At that time it was calculated that there were approximately a 100. Two years later there was talk of 250, and today they say 400. Though they admit it is almost impossible to get an accurate number, for many youths join the movement week after week.

These superheroes of flesh and bone have become so famous that they already have a documentary movie, which premiered at the most recent Sundance film festival. They have also received photographical exposure thanks to Peter Tangen, who fell in love with the stories like that of Knight Owl, an anonymous EMT who served in Iraq and who after becoming a superhero decided to write a manual so that his colleagues could learn from firsthand knowledge. Peter has also covered the life of Mr. Xtreme, who after he was abused as a child decided that he needed to protect the defenseless and had been patrolling for some ten years now. Also that of Life, a film producer who every night wears his tie, mask and hat to food, soap, shavers and tooth brushes to the homeless in New York.

“I believe that the phenomenon has grown due to interest in comics, movies and TV series base on the theme. Also because many of us want to change the world and since we have always seen superheroes as powerful beings who can get the job done, who we try to emulate” commented Life to this publication. He organizes meetings for superheroes through the net site www.superheroesananymous.com, and who real name is Chaim Lazaros. “The Heroes have always been there, but only started to network with each other after the “hero boom” on the internet. In 2007 I united them to make a documentary and complete my transformation into one of them."

Tea Krulos is an independent journalist who writes a blog called “justice seekers without superpowers," and is finishing a book on the same theme he’s planning to call “Heroes in the Night”. Krulos says that the first real superheroes he found during his investigation was active during the 70’s. He was a fat man with a beard who was called Captain Sticky, and he was devoted to uncovering scandals. Years later, other appeared. Like the Mexican born Superbarrio, an ex-masked luchador who defended the housing rights of those injured in the earth quake of 1985 who participated in the presidential elections. Then the phenomenon kept growing until it became what it is today.

“One of the most amazing things about these superheroes is the range of people who participate in this is varied. There are rich, poor, Christians, Atheist” said Krulos about a week ago. But when they put on their outfit they are all the same. They see the wrong that is happening and say this nigh I will go out to help instead of staying home and watching TV.

But not all of them have had good luck in this. Like Dark Guardian who accounts to being threaten and having a gun pointed at him, even though nothing has happen to him yet. The British Newspaper, The Times, published a few years back a story about Mr. Invisible, a Californian who took years getting ready to hit the streets. When he finally did, he found himself confronted with a man yelling at his wife. He wanted to intervene, but the woman punch him in the face and broke his nose. Then he sat on the sidewalk and a beggar urinated on him. The publication commented, what has been done to confirm his invisibility.

For other the hardest part isn’t confronting delinquent but confessing to their love ones that they are superheroes. They explain that not everyone likes the idea of them going out dressed up at night. “Hey today isn’t Halloween!” someone yells at Watchman, he takes it with a sense of humor, it’s precisely his look that has saved him. “In general, Gang members get distracted with my outfit”, he says. “They laugh and they ask me what the hell I am. In a short while they forget they were fighting or causing problems”. And so he is satisfied that he completes his mission to “Make the world a safer place".

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