Thursday, September 8, 2011

RLSH Historical Artifacts


One of the most exciting things about writing Heroes in the Night has been researching what I call the early prototypes of the Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH). These are people who invented their own costumed persona and headed out into the world to do good. I've written about these early prototypes before and have recently found more artifacts pertaining to them. First, a brief intro to what I consider to be the first documented prototypes.

The Fox: Environmental activist from Aurora, Illinois, active 1969 until his death in 2001. The Fox launched a campaign of monkeywrenching and protesting against companies polluting the environment. He incorporated a disguise of a trench coat, fedora or fur hat, and sunglasses.

Captain Sticky
: Consumer rights/ quality of living activist from San Diego, active in the 70s and 80s. Died in 2003. Captain Sticky used his flashy appearance to draw attention to issues like abusive nursing homes, slum lords, unhealthy or unsafe products. His name comes from his love of peanut butter.

Human Fly: Daredevil with a charitable streak from Montreal. The Fly did stunts like walking on the wing of an airplane and broke a record by Evel Knievel by jumping over 27 school buses. Accounts say he donated a large percent of his earnings to a children's hospital charity. Active mid to late 70s, when he mysteriously disappeared.


New Musical Express
was a British music newspaper, somewhat similar to the early days of Rolling Stone. In this 1975 issue, featuring a cover story on Bob Marley, writer Stan Findelle pens a two page story on Captain Sticky.
This is probably one of the earliest examples of poor RLSH media relations. The writer is not at all impressed with Captain Sticky and spends most of the article wryly making fun of the Cap's weight, humor, demeanor, etc. It is your typical condescending-Brit-meets-fat-Yankee type of piece.
Still, I found some interesting facts to be gleamed-

- Sticky aka Richard Pesta worked in the glass fiber and foam industry, where he became wealthy and retired (for awhile anyway) at age 28.

-Sticky apparently did invent a working peanut butter gun as well as "peanut butter grenades" made of peanut butter, vinegar and alka seltzer.

-Sticky relates that he was patrolling San Diego when he got a police escort- they thought his wildly decorated Stickymobile, which featured several American flags, must be transporting someone in the Navy or a guest from a foreign Navy.

-Here's a great excerpt from the article, one of the few spots the writer takes the story somewhat seriously:

What Sticky is armed with, however, is a shrewd acumen for the peculiar appetites of the news media and how to manipulate its power for the purpose of his freelance do-gooding. This, plus the fact that underneath all the gimcrack and chickenfat, Sticky is deadly serious.

"There is a philosophical difference between do-gooders and actually doing good," he cloudily pontificates. "A do gooder is pure at heart but naive to power politics. I'm sophisticated in tactics which intimidate bureaucracies which I feel are the festering sources of evil in our society."

With a true sense of schmaltz he declares, "If I were to wear a pinstripe suit while trying to aid the oppressed, I would have no efficiency. Thus my characterization. When I stage a surprise raid in my costume, you can be sure I'm not ignored." It would take a strong person indeed to remain oblivious to a bearded, crash-helmeted Rasputin running wild in nightmare pajamas, gold lame boots and a peanut butter bazooka. You can be sure wherever he treads, the news cameras aren't far behind.

-The article goes on to describe his confrontation with a nursing home abusing it's patients, an appearance at a carnival for mentally handicapped youth and the writer joins him at a guest lecture appearance at the University of Southern California. At the lecture he hands out a Captain Sticky comic book to the students.
(Rare item alert! There also was a comic about The Fox made in the 70s. I will give a cash reward for either of these items. Human Fly had a 19 issue Marvel series in the 70s- these are easy to find on Ebay.)


Our next item appears with permission from writer and comic artist Jay Allen Sanford. Jay is the co-creator of Rock N Roll Comics, and has done work with Revolutionary Comics, Pacific Comics, and Carnal Comics, among many other companies and publications. He also writes and draws comic strips for the San Diego Reader and at one point featured Captain Sticky in his comic strip "Famous Former Neighbors," which you can read by opening the thumbnail posted below.

"My memories of the Captain are mainly of seeing him driving around San Diego in the late 70s and early 80s." Jay tells Heroes in the Night. "He was always leaping in and out of the Stickymobile, even when just pulling up to a taco stand. Very energetic guy!" Jay also says he saw footage of Captain Sticky visiting Mexico, with an inside look at the Stickymobile. This footage was apparently pulled because of copyright violation, but Jay is trying to track it down.


Captain Sticky also probably had the first RLSH theme song, a polka march titled "Stick With Captain Sticky." It was featured on the Rhino Records comp album The Rhino Brother's Circus Royale, the 7th record released by the label. The New Musical Express writer mentions the song in his article, calling it "a marshmallow of a ditty." When the Captain recalls the writer is a music critic he asks him what he thinks.
"It'll never make the top 100," I predict tactfully. Nor the top 20,000 for that matter.

You can tap your toe along with the tune below.


In a June entry ( Matthew Pniewski, who is working on a doc about Midwest RLSHs titled More Than Just a Mask shared with us how he had tracked down a memorial dedicated to The Fox. He also found an archive of material on him at a small, local museum. He discovered that the museum sold The Fox's autobiography (Raising Kane: The Fox Chronicles)and a documentary on The Fox titled The Legend of The Fox. This was particularly funny to me because I had written an article on The Fox for the Riverwest Currents with the exact same title before knowing the doc existed. I bought a copy of the doc from the museum by mail order- they only except check or money order, and it is only available on a plainly labelled VHS tape.

The doc is what I expected- a simply made PBS style look at the Fox River with talk from local scientists, residents, politicians, etc. The cool thing is you get to hear The Fox himself talk, his face hidden in shadows. This must have been made shortly before he died in 2001.


Another interesting find is this test footage of the Human Fly. It was posted on the blog Micro Kahn ( after the author tried to track down what happened to the mysterious daredevil. Canadian film maker Steve Goldman shared documentary footage of the Fly in action and interviews with the guys who were the Fly's managers- Joseph and Dominic Ramacieri, pepperoni-making brothers from Montreal who were bored with the meat biz and wanted to get into a more exciting line of work. Apparently there is talk of Goldman trying to make a Human Fly feature film. Video follows- really interesting to see the Fly in action and its got a rockin soundtrack, too.


  1. Hey Tea. The NME is still in print in the UK (although sales are declining rapidly these days.) The writer's sneering attitude towards Cpt Sticky is a hallmark of most NME articles.

  2. Excellent finds, Tea, I wasn't aware of these. The Fox, Night Rider, Ms. Mystery, Phantom Avenger, Curtis Sliwa and the Magnificent Thirteen, the Lavender Panthers, Max Mercury and Captain Sticky. Long live the 1970s superheroes!


    Some links from Superhero's blog