Every night dozens of people around the world don masks and costumes and venture into the streets to fight crime.
Phoenix Jones and Master Legend are perhaps the most famous, but there are hundreds of costumed would-be crime fighters and their activities range from attempting to apprehend criminals to watching over the homeless while they sleep to make sure their positions aren’t stolen.
These caped crusaders aren’t mutants, aliens or cyborgs — they’re just concerned citizens. They have no superhuman powers. But with advances in technology — such as exoskeletons and bionic limbs — you might think it’s only a matter of time until we see the first grinder superhero.
Actually, we’ve had him for quite some time.
The first real-life superhero may have been J. J. Armes, a private detective who active in El Paso since 1958. His super power? A gun implanted in one of his prosthetic hook that he could fire with his biceps — without using his other hook.
Armes lives in a mansion, surrounded by lions and tigers. He always wears three piece suits, and travels by limo driven by his body guard cum chauffeur. It’s no wonder Ideal Toy Company manufactured a line of action figures based on his likeness, and comic book mogul Stan Lee wants to make a movie based on his life.
On January 5 in El Potrero, a small town in the Mexican state of Guerrero, a man named Eusebio García Alvarado was kidnapped by a local criminal syndicate. Kidnappings are fairly common in Guerrero—the state, just south of Mexico City, is one of the poorest in the country and the site of some of the worst violence in the ongoing battle between the drug cartels and Mexican authorities. Guerrero’s largest city, Acapulco, is known to Americans as a tourist hot spot. It’s also currently the second most dangerous city in the world, according to a study released by a Mexican think tank in February.
Eusebio’s kidnapping, though, was exceptional. He served as the town commissioner of Rancho Nuevo and was a member of the community activist organization Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), and the brazenness the criminals showed in snatching him up pissed off his neighbors so much that they took matters into their own hands.
The day after Eusebio was abducted, hundreds of people from the nearby towns of Ayutla de los Libres and Tecoanapa decided that they could do a better job policing their communities than the local authorities. They grabbed whatever weapons they had—mostly hunting rifles and shotguns—set up checkpoints at entrances to their villages, and patrolled the roads in pickup trucks, often hiding their faces with ski masks and bandanas. Overnight, UPOEG transformed from an organization of advocates for better roads and infrastructure into a group of armed vigilantes operating without the endorsement of any branch of the government. The kidnappers released Eusebio that day, but UPOEG’s checkpoints and patrols didn’t disappear with his return. In fact, there was a groundswell of support. Five municipalities in the surrounding Costa Chica region followed suit and established their own militias. Soon, armed and masked citizens ensured that travelers and strangers weren’t allowed to enter any of their towns uninvited.
These militias captured 54 people whom they alleged to be involved in organized crime (including two minors and four women), imprisoning them inside a house that became an improvised jail. On January 31, the communities gathered on an outdoor basketball court in the village of El Meson to publicly try their detainees. The charges ran the gamut from kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and homicide to smoking weed. More than 500 people attended, and the trial was covered by media outlets all over the world.
I have to say that the Salt Lake superheroes have some the coolest names and costumes I’ve seen so far:
Mike Gailey, a burly former bouncer at a strip club whose crime-fighting persona is called Asylum, said that for him, joining the Black Monday Society was partly about making amends for things in his past, like the time he spent collecting debts for drug dealers.
“I was a thug,” said Mr. Gailey, 31. “There are a lot of guys like me that have pasts they’re trying to make up for.”
Another Black Monday patroller described himself as a former gang member. The group’s co-founder, Dave Montgomery, a tattoo artist known in the street as the black-leather-clad Nihilist, said he was a former alcoholic who put on the mask when he stopped drinking. […]
Mr. Montgomery, or Nihilist, said masks were everywhere once you started to look. What is hidden and what is revealed by disguise, he said, is the basic psychology of a superhero’s life.
“It’s almost Freudian,” he said. “When you wear a mask, you’re actually able to become who you really are. It becomes kind of like a drug.”
Don’t lie, every self respecting geek at one time or another hoped to be struck by lightening, bitten by a radioactive spider, or have some other freakish random accident transform them into something more then human. In short everybody has wanted at some point or another to be a superhero. Personally I began building a crimefighting suit at age 14. Some of old school punk buddies and I used to refer to these fantasies in their most exggerated form as “the superhero madness” and would judge the fiber of new acquaintences by just how baadluy they were infected with the condition.
Well, a few days ago, this guy I know who frequently practices with num-chucks in his front yard and has gotten quite good with them actually, was approached by a shadowy figure in a local bar. “Are you the guy who is also practicing num-chucks on such-and-such street ?” asks the stranger. My friend replies affirmatively. The stranger proceeds to hand him a business card with this url on it.
“Check it out,” the guy says,”We could use a guy like you.”