Yesterday I blogged in passing about the relatively new phenomenon of citizen superheros, people who dress in costume and patrol the streets hunting for criminals and helping those in need. This morning my co-blogger Adam sent this link to a FoxNews story about the phenomenon, as well as a link to the World Superhero Registry which is mentioned in the Rolling Stone piece. Wondering exactly how widespread this phenomenon is, I did a little Googling and found this profile of the Black Monday Society, a league of superheros, in the Salt Lake Weekly, this Wired Blog link to a story about Citizen Prime, an Arizona crime fighter, and this Wikipedia entry on "real-life superheros" with a host of links to articles about other caped and non-caped crusaders. As you can tell reading the entries, not all of these heros are exactly crime-fighters; instead, many of them are devoted to the general ideal of helping people out and trying to make the world a better place, whether it's organizing labor, cutting wheel-clamps off of cars, helping the homeless, or advocating for the use of public transport. Of course the most fun and danger comes with fighting crime, though at this point tales of successful crime fighting are sparse (at least as near as I can tell following what links I've found.)
Of course, stories about people who dress up in costume to fight crime (or traffic police) are going to be greeted with a fair amount of derision and mockery. And to be honest, some of these crusaders do look a little...well, silly (lack of funds for appropriately awesome costumes is likely the main culprit.) But as cynical as I can be, it's hard not to admire people who are willing to risk mockery (or even injury if they're truly fighting crime) to help others. I hesitate to indulge in psychoanalysis, but real life can be awfully stale at times, and I can't imagine that there are many things in the world as pure as the motivation to be a hero and help others. Sure anybody can raise money for charity, or organize protests, but why not do it in costume? Or take to the streets to battle the myriad small injustices that go unaddressed each day, whatever their nature? No, they're not "real" superheros, people with amazing powers who we would stand in awe of because they would be greater or more powerful or wiser than ourselves. They're just regular people, like you and me, who want to enjoy a little excitement (and maybe a little danger) in their quest to help others. And what's wrong with that?