With great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity

De­spite re­cent bad pub­lic­ity, the Real Life Su­per­heroes move­ment is grow­ing. Its mem­bers preach do­ing good while dis­cour­ag­ing vig­i­lan­tism, DOU­GLAS QUAN writes.

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA -

By day, they are reg­u­lar Joes with full-time jobs, bills to pay and mouths to feed. By night, they are masked and some­times-caped cru­saders, who troll the streets look­ing to help the needy, stamp out crime, and ful­fil their comic book-in­spired dreams.

But lately the mostly anony­mous mem­bers of the so-called Real Life Su­per­heroes (RLSH) move­ment in Canada and the U.S. have been feel­ing a bit of angst and more than a lit­tle mis­un­der­stood af­ter a bout of bad pub­lic­ity.

First, there was the ar­rest last month of Seat­tle’s high-pro­file crime­fighter Phoenix Jones (whose real name is Ben Fodor) over an al­leged as­sault. Jones, who wears a black and gold uni­form com­plete with Bat­man-like fake abs, says he un­leashed a can­is­ter of pep­per spray to break up a fight.

Then, last week, Cana­di­ans learned about a group of B.C. teens who posed as un­der­age girls online, lured men into en­coun­ters, and then con- fronted them at des­ig­nated meet­ing spots in Bat­man and Flash cos­tumes while video cam­eras rolled. Po­lice im­me­di­ately re­buked the st­ing op­er­a­tions, say­ing the teens put them­selves at risk.

“I’m sorry if I am be­ing cau­tious, but you do un­der­stand ... we are in a frag­ile state be­cause a few of us have been seen as, well, vig­i­lantes or worse,” said Ark, a Toronto-based su­per­hero in an email.

Mem­bers of the move­ment, which was the sub­ject of an HBO doc­u­men­tary ear­lier this year, in­sist their mis­sion is sim­ple: to do good deeds and in­spire oth­ers to do the same. That in­cludes par­tic­i­pat­ing in neigh­bour­hood pa­trols, work­ing with char­i­ties and help­ing the home­less.

Sure, their cos­tumes are gim­micky, but the sticks in peo­ple’s minds and draws at­ten­tion to their causes, they say. Vig­i­lan­tism, they in­sist, is not con­doned.

There are more than 600 peo­ple around the globe listed as mem­bers on the web­site www.re­al­life­su­per- he­roes.org. Most are based in the United States.

There are at least a hand­ful of re­al­life su­per­heroes scat­tered across Canada. One of the newer mem­bers to the move­ment is ex-re­servist Crim­son Canuck, a mar­ried, 24-year-old fa­ther, in Wind­sor, Ont., who works as a tele­phone technician.

He says he was drawn to the move­ment out of a de­sire to make the city bet­ter.

“I don’t want my daugh­ter to be afraid to go down­town,” he says.

Crim­son Canuck, whose out­fit con­sists of a crim­son shirt, red tie, black vest, grey slacks, com­bat boots, black fe­dora and par­tial face mask, re­cently blogged about his first-ever down­town street pa­trol.

Be­fore he left the door, his wife “called me a fool and made sure I brought mace, in case things got hairy,” he wrote.

But things didn’t get hairy. In fact, it was a quiet night.

“No ac­tion,” he wrote. “Not even a car alarm.”

He ended the night in­stead by grab­bing some food from Mc­don­ald’s and shar­ing some of it with a home­less man in a wheel­chair.

PHOTO BY PETER TAN­GEN

Thanatos, a mem­ber of the Real Life Su­per­heroes move­ment, hands out food and blan­kets to the home­less and helps pa­trol the streets of Vancouver’s Down­town East­side.

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