In the dark and dangerous car parks of Sydney, a shadow grows. Lurking beneath the lenses of the CCTV cameras, the villainous car parking attendants wait until you have left your vehicle, and then they pounce. But behold, clutching an angle grinder of immense power, an unlikely hero arrives - Clampman. He cuts and cuts until the wheel is freed and the attendants scream in emotional agony.
Little do you know, many cities around the world are home to some underground heroes who require nothing more than occasional back patting in the newspapers. Wearing capes, dresses, masks and ninja suits and sometimes wielding a strange variety of gadgets and weapons, these vigilantes are the bane of criminals worldwide.
Often inspired by extreme acts of both kindness and violence, these superheroes copy-cat their Hollywood contemporaries and claim a wide range of abilities. From the masked philanthropist of Beijing to the ninjas of Yeovil in rural England, here is a list of 10 real-life superheroes who are still keeping our streets safe (ish).
10 The Phoenix
Unlike some other real-life “superheroes”, the Seattle-based superhero Phoenix Jones, is actually a trained fighter. His former 20 person band of merry men included civilians armed with pepper spray, tasers and other “legal” crime fighting accessories. However, he was forced to disband the group following a number of complaints against his group after they began taking lethal and illegal weapons along with them on their patrols. Phoenix still patrols the streets – tackling crime across Seattle with a reduced troupe of 4 - but has said he would welcome back old members if they can show they are willing to follow his strict code of conduct.
9 The Bromley Batman
The Bromley Batman, AKA The Shadow (cue the multiple lawsuits), was recently featured in a number of popular newspapers across the UK. The as-of-yet unidentified masked vigilante was growing tired of seeing crime stories litter the news channels and decided to take the law into his own hands. While his identity may be secret, his superhero alter-ego is known to the police. However, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, he described himself as "younger than 50 and older than 25”, and the people who have seen him have said he has a beard. It’s only a matter of time before the identity of this bearded 20/30/40 something is revealed…
8 The Dark Guardian
The Dark Guardian, a martial arts instructor named Chris Pollack, is a notorious fighter of crime in New York City. Wearing a bullet-proof vest and black leather jacket, Chris is now teaching kids as young as four years old the secrets to his crime fighting abilities. While his crowd-sourcing campaign may have failed to make him enough to open his crime fighting academy in Brooklyn, his spirit has sustained this slight knock-back and he still spends time removing graffiti, picking up trash and talking with drug dealers in the park and keeping them out of trouble.
The Weymouth renegade known simply as Ninja (or Ken Andre to his friends) is a 35 year old father of two, who some have claimed was also a ninja in a past life. A former soldier, Ken has studied martial arts for more than 25 years and says fighting crime is only a part of his many duties. Often, he simply goes out and talks to people who are depressed and considering doing something regrettable, recently talking a suicidal pedestrian from jumping off a cliff. Ken says he will “never stop” and says his mum has started picking up his unique abilities. A true and modest hero.
6 Mr. Xtreme and the Justice League
San Diego, renowned for its very large zoo, Comic-con and Ron Burgundy, is also home to a group of superheroes… the Justice League. Formed in 2006 by Mr. Xtreme, their goals are to fight crime, raise awareness of corruption and assist the homeless. They are adamant they are not vigilantes: they do not punish criminals but only prevent them from committing crimes. They are said to have a positive relationship with the police who are becoming increasingly tolerant of the extra help. So grab your mother’s tights and mask up, for they are recruiting new members.
5 Superbarrio Gómez
A god among the real-life superhero movement, Superbarrio Gomez is a satirist, celebrity and defender of the free people in Mexico. Utilizing non-violent means to quash crime, Gomez was one of the first real-life superheroes to gain significant media attention. He roams the streets of Mexico City, donning a red suit and yellow mask and helps organize civil protests against political corruption. His identity remains unconfirmed, but media outlets have previously “outed” him as Marco Rascón Córdova. Whoever it is who wears the now infamous red cape, we salute you.
4 Entomo: The Insect Man of Naples
Entomo, more commonly known as the “Insect Man”, is the first environmental superhero on this list. Confirmed as a real-life superhero by newspapers, he set up Italy’s first RLSH group in 2008 - Theta Force. Following a short retirement a few years back in 2011, Entomo is back on the streets of Naples and is currently attempting to make a come-back. He was also vital to the creation of the online RLSH community and is known for his catchphrase “Hear my buzz, fear my bite: I inject justice". Nice!
3 Thanatos: The Dark Avenger
Similar to a Chinese real-life superhero named Red Bud Woman, this rather horrifying superhero bases his costume on the Greek personification of death, also named Thanatos. Police officers apparently told him once that “the homeless have nothing to look forward to apart from death”, so Thanatos ingeniously created a deathly costume to wear while handing out blankets and food to the poor. Maybe that isn’t exactly what the police officer had in mind when he gave this as-of-yet identified hero this information, but he is certainly one of the most unique superheroes among the RLSH community. He is apparently a middle-aged Vietnamese gentleman, but little else is known about his personal life, other than his impressive personal fitness. Don’t judge a book by its cover as they say.
Another rather unusual superhero, Ragensi is actually a ghostbuster rather than a crime-fighter. An Ayne Rand enthusiast, Ragensi believes there is a link between many issues often derided as merely science-fiction or horror. He maintains that ghosts, unusual sounds and UFOs are often linked and need to be investigated in order to discover their true paranormal nature. His Facebook page describes him as a “Paranormal Investigator and Masked Adventurer Extraordinaire.” He is unlike your traditional superhero, yet undoubtedly popular among his many clients who have benefited from his work.
Criminals of New Jersey beware, for Nyx, in her striped leggings and gorgeously seductive fish-net mask, is watching from the shadows. She does not intervene herself, but will call the police if she sees something amiss during one of her patrols. A crusader for the homeless, Nyx, like many of the RLSH community, spends her time helping the poor and homeless on the streets of her hometown. She has been interested in superheroes since the age of 16 and has said she would love to see more women join the online RLSH community. Nyx says her greatest hero is her mother, and says she wants to “live the life she never had.” Hopefully, her message will spread and she will inspire more women into her line of work.