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Phoenix Jones and members of the Rain City Superhero Movement pass out flyers with a description of a wanted criminal in Seattle area

A real-life superhero (RLSH) is a person who dresses up in a superhero costume or mask in order to perform community service such as neighborhood watch, or in some cases vigilantism.[1][2][3]

Early examples of this type of behaviour are reported from the 1990s, e.g. with Mexico City's "Superbarrio", who in 1997 donned red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask in order to organize labour rallies, protest, and file petitions to prevent families from being evicted.[4] A "real-life superhero community" in the sense of an online subculture began to develop in the mid-2000s.[5]


List of notable real-life superheroesEdit

Real-life superheroes wear masks or otherwise disguise themselves in order to perform deeds ranging from community services to deterring crime.[6][7]

Some examples documented in the news media include:



  • "Miss Magnetiq" is a superheroine from Linz. She was created by the artist collective qujOchÖ and works as a parody on the Real-life superhero phenomenon. Together with her companions Nickel, Cobalt and Mangan "Miss Magnetiq" tries to prevent the town from catastrophes but always fails.[9][10][11][12]


  • "The Black Rat" is in Sydney.[13][14][15][16]
  • "Captain Australia", featured in the mX and then The Courier-Mail[7][17] and on television's A Current Affair[18] is based in the Queensland capital Brisbane. He wears a green and gold suit and mask similar to Captain America with an @ symbol on his chest and a Batman styled utility belt. Police have expressed their preference that Captain Australia not intervene in incidents any more.[citation needed]
  • Controversial masked activists "The Fauna Fighters" are a Melbourne-based RLSH duo who use a Golden Age of Comic Books superhero motif as method of publicizing animal-rights issues and supporting various animal-rights groups and charities. The Fauna Fighters (Flying Fox and The Thylacine respectively) have been featured in various publications such as That's Life magazine[19] and The Melbourne City Journal.[20] The Duo's open support of "radical" animal rights group Animal Liberation Front gave them a mixed reaction amongst the RLSH "community", but the Fauna Fighters have continued to use the superhero motif to publicize their cause in a movement they deem Art-ivism, a hybrid of performance art and activism. Their activities include clean ups, patrols, protests/petition drives and volunteer work as well as the promotion of vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. They have been active since early 2012.


  • Superinteressante magazine posted an article on The Real Life Superheroes "The Eye", "Entomo" (see the Italy section), "Terrifica", "Superhero" and "Superbarrio".[21]


  • The Age described "Anujan Panchadcharam the Polarman" of Iqaluit, Nunavut, whose primary interests are shovelling the snow off sidewalks during the day and patrolling the streets for criminals at night.[22]
  • "Ark" of Toronto, Ontario was featured in an article for Postmedia News by Douglas Quan, in November 2011, commenting on his reasons and methods on being a Real Life Superhero.[23]
  • "The Crimson Canuck" of Windsor, Ontario, was also featured in the article by Quan,[23] as well as being interviewed on the radio station AM800 by Arms Bumanlag, and was featured in an article in the Toronto Sun.[24]
  • "Thanatos" of Vancouver, British Columbia is a person who dresses in a costume and distributes goods and goodwill to the homeless.[25]
  • The Katalysts Ontario/ the "Justice Crew of Oshawa" in Oshawa, Ontario is a collection of Durham Region-based individuals who patrol the streets at night, do local litter cleanup, and homeless outreach. Including Aftershock, the founder, Regulus, and the Nameless Crusader.[26]
  • "Eclipse" of Cambridge, Ontario, was recently spotted in the Galt and Hespeler area in early 2016, wearing an all black suit. No further information is available at this time.
  • "Lightstep" is a masked patroller currently located in Montreal. He is equipped with a bulletproof vest and a bag with first aid kit, needle collection containers, latex gloves, condoms, socks, gloves and hats.[27][28]


  • "Redbud Woman" is a Chinese real life super hero, that assists with helping the poor and homeless in Beijing, China. She has been spotted many times, wearing a mask, and handing out food to homeless people.[29]


  • "Super Pan" is a Colombian real life super hero who fights against hunger in poverty areas of Bucaramanga.[30]

Czech RepublicEdit

  • "Super Vaclav" is a promotional figure for a Czech webhosting company.[31] He purports to combat antisocial behavior of Prague citizens, by pouring buckets of water on individuals smoking near public transport stops. He also assaults dog owners with their own animal's excrement if it is left behind on a lawn.[32]
  • "Pérák" is a masked vigilante based on World War II era urban legend of the same name wearing black dress and mask and using street art to educate the public on Romani Holocaust and campaign for shut down of pig farm on sites of the Lety concentration camp.[33][34]


  • "Dex Laserskater", who has featured in the Finnish magazine Image,[35] has been patrolling the streets of Helsinki since 1997. He has modeled his alter ego after the short lived comicbook hero Skateman. He specializes in guiding tourists, tipping waiters, doormen and street musicians and helping the police.


  • "Captain Ozone", featured in the French edition of Max magazine,[36] and Koikispass magazine,[37] as well as the German edition of FHM magazine.[38]


  • La Repubblica featured "Entomo The Insect-Man", a masked patroller and activist.[39] In February 2009, Rai 4 filmed a night-time patrol and interview with Entomo at the abandoned Italsider factory in Naples, aired on the TV program Sugo.[40] Following an extensive interview on Il Riformista,[41] Entomo was depicted in major Italian and Spanish newspapers, such as Il Mattino[42] and Panorama.[43]


  • The only known superhero in Africa is "Lion Heart". Lion Heart has helped saved the lives of many villagers by teaching important but simple things. He has started a grass roots movement in Africa with many people helping out.[44]


Super Barrio of Mexico City
  • CNN covered Mexico City's "Superbarrio", who is a high school dropout who wears red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask. He uses his unique image to organize labour rallies, protest, and file petitions to prevent families from being evicted.[4]


  • The December 31, 2009 Norwegian publication, Aftenposten featured an article and photos of Real-Life Superheroes. The article included "Life", "Geist", "The Deaths Head Moth", "Dreizehn", "Entomo" and "Superhero."[45][clarification needed]

South AfricaEdit

  • Spinnekop (Afrikaans word for Spider) runs the morning traffic in a Spider-Man garb. Eric Nefdt (real name) does this to raise awareness for kids born with congenital heart defects. (CHD) In 2017 he completed the Comrades Marathon in a time of 11:30:06.[46][47]


  • "Väktaren" (roughly translated as "The Watchman") patrols the streets of Malmö, and has been featured in various media. The police disagree about his actions.[48][49][50]

United KingdomEdit

  • The British tabloid The Sun ran an article on the country's Real-Life Superheroes, including "The Statesman", "Vague", "Swift", "Black Arrow", "Lionheart" and "Terrorvision".[51][52]
  • The BBC reported on "Angle-Grinder Man", a British self-described "wheel-clamp superhero" who claims to use an angle grinder to illegally cut wheel clamps off vehicles which have been clamped in by police and parking officials in Kent and London. Police indicate that they have received no word or complaint of his actions.[53]
  • The newspaper This Is Local London featured an article on "SOS" (whose real name is Steve Sale), a UK superhero who crashed the premiere of the film Kick-Ass.[54]
  • "Knight Warrior" (whose real name is Roger Hayhurst) is a 19-year-old who wears a costume and attempts to break up fights in the Salford area. His mother has expressed concern for his safety.[55]
  • In August 2011, the BBC reported on "Shadow" (real name Ken Andre) who patrols in Yeovil.[56]
  • A vigilante, known as the "Bromley Batman", has been seen in action by several witnesses saving people from knife-wielding gangs and muggers in South London.[57] His activities have been reported as far as Cornwall.[58]
  • "The Black Axe" is a young male that has been seen operating in Birmingham and the Black Country area. Several witnesses first saw him on Birmingham's Broad Street in the early hours of Sunday Morning breaking up conflicts amongst the public. No one knows who "Black Axe" is and some believe him to originate from the Rowley Regis/ Smethwick area.

United StatesEdit

Real-life superheroes are notably prevalent in the USA compared to other countries, which may be attributed to the greater popularity of superhero comic books.[59][60][61][62]

  • "Dark Guardian" is a martial arts instructor who fights crime and helps the needy in New York City. He takes on drug dealers, pimps, and gangs. He works to inspire positive change and the hero in others.
  • Phoenix Jones is a mixed martial artist who patrols Seattle in a bulletproof vest and stab plating. Initially wearing a ski mask to intervene in a public assault, Jones later developed a full costume and adopted the pseudonym.
  • Widow Spider is a mysterious superhero who patrols in Atlantic City New Jersey. Widow Spider has been a superhero for 7 years. Self taught in eskrima, parkour, ninjutsu and professionally karate, Widow Spider takes to the streets at sundown. Taking inspiration from DC comics Robin and Marvel comics Spider-man.
  • Shadow Hare is a 28/29-year-old from Milford, Ohio who dresses up like a superhero.[63]
  • "Captain Ozone" has starred in ecological television PSA's, made appearances at grade schools and hemp festivals, created a video documentary on environmentalism, and organized a public demonstration for renewable energy.[64]
  • "Mr. Xtreme", a security guard who moonlights as a "costumed crime fighter" handing out food and juice in San Diego, California.[65][66]
  • "Inferno Flame" based in Kentucky of the United States, he is most known for helping the homeless, protecting his city in a safe way, and giving clothes out to people who need them, he is part of the team called Guardians with the leaders name being "The Patriot". His YouTube channel is titled 'Inferno Flame'.[67]
  • "Captain Prospect" and "Sparks".[68]
  • "Captain Oyster" aka Liam Davenport[69] describes patrolling his Queens neighborhood looking for late-night crimes to solve through "intimidation and intellectual discourse".
  • "Thanatos", "Life" and "Phantom Zero".[70]
  • "Crimson Fist" patrols Atlanta twice a month to help those in need.[71][72]
  • "Wall Creeper" and "Zen Blade" in Denver.[73]
  • "NightBug" and "Rock N Roll", a husband-and-wife team from the San Francisco Bay Area, co-founded the California Initiative as a branch of the Initiative Collective in 2011.[74]
  • "Tothian", "Master Legend", "Captain Prospect", "Geist", "Captain Jackson", "Nyx", and "Michael Brinatte", owner of "".[75]
  • "The Watchman" and "Moon Dragon" were reported patrolling Milwaukee in 2009.[76]
  • "Metro Woman" was a short-lived publicity stunt in 2005 intended to gather support for the Washington purple line metro project.[77]
  • "Squeegeeman" and "Captain Xavier Obvious" patrol New York City.[78][79]
  • "Terrifica" is a New York City-based woman who patrols bars and parties in an effort to prevent inebriated women from being taken advantage of by men. Since the mid-1990s, Terrifica has donned a mask, blonde wig, red boots and cape, because in her words women "need to be protected from themselves".[80]
  • Jack Brinatte, known as "Razorhawk".[81]
  • "Doctor Mystery" patrols Lancaster and Palmdale, California, where he gives homeless people relief bags of food, toiletries, socks and water. He reportedly has assembled a team consisting of Obsidian Spectre, Professor Singularity, Spectrum, and Haven.
  • "The Watchman" patrols a city.[82]
  • "Geist".[83]
  • In 2010, 20-year-old Columbia, Tennessee, resident was stopped by police for patrolling the streets after midnight in a black and green mask and costume. The man referred to himself as "The Viper", and claimed that he was "just a guy trying to do what was right in tights".[84]
  • Atlanta husband and wife team "Crimson Fist" and "Metadata" help the homeless in their area.[85][86]
  • "Dragonheart" is a bilingual real-life superhero who operates in Miami, Florida.[87]
  • Mr. Xtreme, Superhero, Geist, Life, Master Legend, and Insignis.[88]
  • "Impact" has founded two chapters of the Xtreme Justice League in the southern United States; he has made homeless outreach and safety patrols in several cities from North Carolina to the gulf coast of Florida.
  • Portland had a hero named "Zetaman".[89]
  • Frequently found patrolling Oregon City is "Guardian Shield"
  • Gresham, Oregon also has "Arachnight" - A spider themed hero.
  • In Salt lake City, Utah, a teenager calling himself "The Savior" was said to be seen patrolling the downtown streets dressed in a black morph suit with a bullet proof vest and combat gloves on. No actual source or any substantial evidence was ever presented or was found to cite this claim.
  • "Metal Church" is a helmet-clad vigilante currently operating in Chesterfield Township, Michigan.
  • "Black Wildcat" conducts neighbourhood watches and homeless aid in greater Boston. She frequently advocates for autism on social media.
  • "Moretz" is a real life superhero based in South Carolina who mostly does community service.
  • "Samael "is a real life superhero based in Iowa City who has been seen multiple times with "Geist" of Minnesota

Real-life superhero groupsEdit

SkyMan, Red Ranger, El Caballero, and Dragon (members of Emerald City Heroes Org, or ECHO) monitoring the 2017 May Day protests in Seattle.

United StatesEdit

  • "Superheroes Anonymous", the first annual gathering of real-life superheroes from all over the United States, who cleaned Times Square, helped the homeless, and handed out crime prevention materials.[90]
  • Multiple media outlets have run reports on the "Rain City Superhero Movement," a former group of real life super heroes in Seattle. The group includes "Buster Doe," "No Name," "Troop," "Penelope", and "Phoenix Jones."[91][92]
  • The Washington Post reported a story about superheroes "Captain Prospect" and "Justice", members of the "Capital City Super Squad" in Washington DC.[93]
  • Central Florida News 13 did a story on "Team Justice", a group of costumed superheroes giving Christmas gifts to the homeless.[94][95]
  • The Salt Lake City–based newspaper Salt Lake City Weekly reported on the patrols of "The Black Monday Society" and the superhero identities of its team members "Insignis", "Ghost", "Ha!", and "Silver Dragon".[96] Fox News Salt Lake City ran a story on the team as well.[97]
  • The Jibsheet ran an article about a group of 10 "Real Life Superheroes" in Seattle trying to help the homeless prevent their belongings from being stolen by gangs.[98]
  • KSTP-TV reported on "Razorhawk", "Geist" and the "Great Lakes Hero Guild" while they patrolled Minneapolis. The segment was re-broadcast nationally on ABC Overnight News.[99]
  • P.A.T.R.I.O.T (Primary Anti-Terrorism Regional & International Ops Taskforce) is a team of both RLSH and crime fighters. Located in various areas throughout North America and Europe, the team strives to make their respective communities a better place.
  • The Observants group is a RLSH team that is based in several different locations. Most Observant members are based in the US but there are a few based in the Netherlands


  • "The Protectors" are a small team based in Ontario, Canada. Primarily consisting of the members known as Shockwave, Starblazer, and Winter Protector, the team aims to uphold the safety of their town by fighting criminals and patrolling the streets.
  • "The Trillium Guards of Ontario" are a group of Real Life Superheroes that focus mainly on homeless outreach missions, and other charitable work. Some members also do what could be termed free-roaming community watch patrols...basically the same as neighbourhood watch, but the entire city is their neighbourhood. Started in 2011 by Ark Guard of Toronto, Blackhat of Ottawa, and the Crimson Canuck from Windsor, the team has expanded over the years to include Canadian Justice; Urban Knight; T.O. Ronin (formerly Hidden Sparrow); Ninja Knight, and Nameless Crusader. Nameless Crusader and Ninja Knight are also members of "The Katalysts." Crimson Canuck retired around the end of 2013, but was very instrumental in helping build the Real Life Superhero movement in Canada.



Police and RLSHEdit

Police response to the actions of real life superheroes is typically negative.[101][102] The police "fear for the safety of these 'superheroes' and argue that sometimes they can get in the way of police work and become a liability".[103] Police have expressed concern that RLSH insert themselves into situations without knowing all the facts and indicate that this is "not a smart thing to do".[3] Police have indicated that super heroes who physically involve themselves in preventing crimes are practicing "vigilantism".[66]

Public receptionEdit

Fictional depictionsEdit

While "superheroes" in the strict sense are characters with superhuman powers, superhero fiction depicting vigilantes with no such powers have long been part of the genre, notably with Batman (1939) and Green Arrow (1941). Such characters are known as "costumed crime fighters" or "masked vigilantes", but are often also classed with "superheroes". With the development of the "real-life superhero" community, there have also been more realistic depictions of "masked vigilantes" in fiction, as it were "fictional real-life superheroes".


See alsoEdit


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