Superheroes are fun to watch on film, but they’re also totally ridiculous. The outfits are silly, the powers unbelievable, and the villains over the top at best. But there are still people who not only dream of becoming a superhero, but actually take steps to go out and do so. They take to the streets with self-defence weapons like pepper spray, perhaps while clad in body armour, and seek out evildoers in need of stopping.
These are the people who make up the “Real Life Superhero Movement,” a loosely organised collection of would-be vigilante heroes from all over the world. Some are young, some old; some take to the streets, while others are active in social work. All are united in trying, in their own way, to improve society.
Needless to say, this doesn’t always work out for the best. Sometimes these individuals, for all their good intentions and crime fighting props, have no idea how to defend themselves. Sometimes they cross a line. In either case, police need to clean up the mess. These real life superheroes are much easier to find than their comic book inspirations, which has led to more than a few tense encounters.
Here are a few examples of superheroes that have had run-ins with the law.
14. Benjamin Fodor, aka. Phoenix Jones
Jones is one of the most famous vigilante personalities, which made his arrest in 2011 that much more of a news-grabber. Active in Seattle, he was a member of the now-disbanded superhero team “Rain City,” which patrolled the streets and made use of Washington State’s “mutual combat” laws to fight crime as it happened. He was arrested when he intervened in what he thought was a fight, but which police said victims described as “dancing and having a good time.” Four people were pepper sprayed, Jones’ identity was revealed, and charges were eventually dropped. Phoenix Jones still patrols the streets of Seattle.
13. Adam Besso, aka. Bee Sting
There are many reasons a person might want to dress as a superhero and attack criminals, but pulling a gun on a man for the loudness of his motorcycle might not be the greatest decision. That happened in 2012, when Michigan-based vigilante “Bee Sting” confronted a couple driving through Twin Meadows Mobile Home Park.
A fight broke out between Bee Sting and the man on the motorcycle and a shot went off, luckily only hitting an empty trailer. Bee Sting was arrested and charged with felonious assault and wearing body armour during the commission of a violent crime.
12. Tanis Baker, aka. Ringland Ninja
Across the pond, a different sort of hero was taking to the streets of Ringland, Newport, South Wales. Dressed as a ninja and armed with a wooden sword and smoke bombs, he dispersed loitering gangs and kept underage youths from consuming alcohol – incredible feats of heroism, no doubt.
Tragically, Baker’s career as a crime fighter was cut short after he was arrested for carrying what officers worried was a real sword – thankfully, it was only made of wood. He was placed on 12 months’ probation and sentenced to 60 hours of community service.
11. Mark Wayne Williams, aka Petoskey Batman
At best, real life superheroes tend to be regarded as a nuisance, just another source of aggravation for cops. At worst they actively commit crimes, or else obstruct police from doing their job. That second category is the one Petoskey Batman falls into, after he remained on the scene of a crime despite being asked to leave, and in so doing confused a police dog.
If found guilty of obstruction, he could face up to 15 years in prison, thanks to his repeat offender status. Petoskey Batman has been arrested four times. Despite all of that, he still patrols the streets of Petoskey, Michigan, dressed up as Batman, with his partner, Petoskey Batgirl.
10. Matthew Argintar, aka New Jersey Batman
Another Batman, this one from Mansfield, New Jersey, Argintar made the mistake of dressing up like Batman and approaching shoppers in a parking lot while dressed in body armour and a mask, and carrying handcuffs. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of handcuffs.
A likely reason for Argintar’s arrest was the shooting in Aurora, Colorado just a few days before. That crime saw a man enter a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and open fire on filmgoers, killing 12 and injurying a further 70. It’s an important lesson to the would-be heroes out there: think carefully about how you’re likely to be perceived.
9. Stan Worby, aka Bradford Batman
This is a man who delivered a wanted friend to the police. If that’s not the stuff of superheroics, I don’t know what is. The subsequent robbery, though. That’s a tad less heroic.
Stan Worby, though he dons the guise of the Dark Knight, might have a bit more in common with Two-Face. He, along with that same pal he had brought to police, Daniel Frayne, was arrested on suspicion of burglary back in 2013. In his defence, Worby made it clear that he does not consider himself a superhero – he just happened to be dressed as Batman when he brought his buddy in.
8. Roy Sorvari, aka The Ray
In 2011, with the Occupy movement in full swing and cops and rioters clashing in the streets of Oakland, The Ray donned his crime fighting gear and stepped up to bat.
He awoke in a pool of blood after trying to intervene between what he alleges were police beating protestors lying in the road. He was then arrested, then bailed out with donations sent to the Occupy movement.
Police claimed he had assaulted a police officer, and The Ray maintained his innocence.
The Ray has been criticized for his remarks regarding race in regards to crime. He claims to be wary of persons of colour in particular, arguing they are the ones responsible for much of the crime in his area. Probably not words you’ll hear out of Superman’s mouth.
7. Batman & Flash Take On Child Predators
Chalk this one up to good intentions, poor execution. A group of teenagers from British Columbia, Canada, chatted up online predators while pretending to be underage girls. They would then arrange to meet the men and show up dressed as Batman and The Flash, recording the reactions of their marks and uploading them to Youtube.
The RCMP was a little taken aback by their actions, and ordered them to stop immediately. Danger to the vigilantes aside, citizen work like that has the potential to derail actual criminal investigation. That said, some have commended their actions, saying not enough is being done on official channels.
6. Douglas Odolecki, aka Drunk Driving Checkpoint Man
We’ve seen heroes out protecting their streets, heroes that protect the innocent, and heroes that weren’t heroes at all, but really criminals dressed up in costumes. Douglas Odolecki is not a man who dresses in costume, and he’s not a man who does anything worthwhile. But the man leaves a mean superheroic sound bite.
Tasking himself with warning motorists of drunk driving checkpoints, Odolecki was issued a citation for holding a sign telling drivers to turn around to avoid the police. It’s not a noble goal, but according to the New York Post, this is what he said: “He’ll go ‘anywhere I’m called, anywhere I’m needed, anywhere I see injustice happening.’”
It’s always a gripping showdown when Batman and the police square off. They often disapprove of his methods, and he of their corruption and lack of drive. So it was surely a tense moment when the man known as Chibatman, the man who dresses as Batman and drives a custom bike down Japanese highways, was called in to have a chat.
This is a story that ends much better than the rest on this list. The detective he met with just wanted to chat about his bike to ensure it met regulations. They also made sure his cape was fastened correctly when he was driving. As for Chibatman, Rocketnews quotes him as saying “The whole reason I’m doing this is because I want to make people smile when they see me on the road.”
4. The Flashing Blade
Back in 2007, before the Real Life Superhero craze had really set in, a group of police officers in Tyneside, UK, were in a bit of a jam. They were confronted by a group of armed criminals, and things were looking grim.
Enter The Flashing Blade, a man described as being in his 40s, and who was wielding a samurai sword. He charged in, laying about his blade and catching at least one of the criminals with it. The crowd dispersed, he vanished, just as quickly as he’d arrived. Police maintain that they recommend against attacking criminals, but that the man likely saved the officers from harm.
3. Christian Tyler Hardee, aka The Viper
Some places aren’t too big on masked vigilantes, which makes the superhero life a bit harder. That was the case for The Viper, a man who patrolled the streets of Columbia, Tennessee armed with plastic weapons. His mission: to find crime and report it to the police.
The cops weren’t so crazy about his masked antics, and asked him to cut it out.
2. Wheel Clamp Man
Add locked tires to the list of injustices being taken on by superheroes. Perth, Australia found itself home to an unusual take on superheroism: Wheel Clamp Man, whose trusty angle grinder became the bane of tire clamps everywhere.
The police, obviously, were less than pleased with his actions, and asked citizens to please report him if they saw him at work.
1. Batman & Robin & Robin’s Father & Smurf & The Hoff
Sometimes there are threats too great for any one hero to face. In moments like these, a group will band together, joining forces in the hopes that combined might will carry the day. And so it was that Batman, Robin, Robin’s father, a Smurf, and David Hasselhoff (a costume, not the real man), chased down a criminal that had attacked Robin and assisted Musselburgh, UK Police in apprehending him.
As with all superhero battles, there was some collateral damage. A few shelves at the grocery store where the man was captured did get messed up. The police took to Twitter to apologize for the inconvenience, and also to thank the supers for their assistance.