10 Notable Real-Life Superheroes (Aside From Phoenix Jones)

By Andy Hughes in Daily Lists, Nerdery
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 8:05 am
Recently, TR covered the somewhat infamous story about Seattle based "superhero" Phoenix Jones, who was arrested for interfering with what he claims was a fight and attacking people with pepper spray. This event was covered by multiple American sources across the country and even got the Taiwanese CG news treatment. As if getting thrown in a jail cell with a broken nose wasn't enough, Jones was later forced to unmask himself in court and his arrest almost cost him his civilian day job as a teacher (with Kid'n'Play hair, apparently). Despite this, he says he will continue his role as a superhero. I believe the word Rob so aptly used to describe him and his behavior was "knuckleknob". For the record, other heroes seem to be having similar reactions.

Real Life Superheroism seems to be a bit of a divisive subject for the nerdosphere: on the one hand, I imagine many of us are so in love with the idea of the superhero we secretly (or not so secretly) yearn to have the courage to strap on a costume and go have adventures, and thus respect those that do. On the other hand, most of us realize this would be pretty stupid/dangerous, and the people who actually do this sometimes appear less like heroes and more like insane cosplayers desperate for attention. But most of these guys are harmless, and simply want to make the world a better place (less crime-fighter than activists, organizers, fundraisers etc.). Whatever you feel about them, these folks (usually) serious about what they do, and some have invested lots of their time and money into fighting the good fight: you can't really make fun of someone for helping sick kids and feeding the homeless, even if they do it while wearing a leather American flag. To quote Voltaire, you may not agree with what they do, but you can totally still read a top ten list exploiting their right to do it. Or something. Anyway, like it or not, these characters are all around us and have been with us for a while, so here are some of the more famous figures in the movement.

10) Superbarrio
For the many of us who desperately wish El Santo was real, there is the mighty Superbarrio who, since the '80s, has brought Lucha power to the street in an attempt to fight corrupt landlords and protect the welfare rights of tenants in low-income neighborhoods (his name means "super neighborhood"). Unlike most of the folks on this list, Superbarrio is less of an actual patroller and more a symbol and public figure, standing up for labor rights. He's also something of a pop-culture icon in his home country, inspiring merchandise, cartoons, and even making a satirical bid for U.S. president like a beefy, be-masked Stephen Colbert in 1996. Although he's quieted down a bit since, recently he has been seen Occupying the Mexican stock exchange, which is more than we can say for Superman.

9) DC's Guardian

In comics, heroes with their home turf in their names don't tend to be heavy hitters (with one obvious exception) but DC's Guardian, also known as DC's Hero, is one of the more visible heroes out there. He's also been one of the key organizers of hero leagues in the past few years, encouraging heroes to serve in various cities across the country. While he is perhaps the most protective of his identity of the superheroes on this list, he says he does it so others can see him as whoever they want, and not out of some ego-driven thing, which is reassuring. And though his main trait seems to be soft-spoken selflessness I must admit he does have a pretty sweet uniform.

8) Mr. Silent

According to the World Superhero Registry, Mr. Silent is actually retired, but I include him on this list because he was one of the first real life superheroes I became aware of and certainly one of the most stylish. Unfortunate that he chose a mask that muffles his voice like that, but he and his partner Doktor DiskorD are one of the most well-known duos to walk the mean streets of Indianapolis. Though they have encountered real crime in the past, these two eventually preferred to concentrate on performing good works while on patrol instead of getting into trouble. But that didn't stop them from embracing the superhero mantle full-on, as they even contacted Warren Ellis to "say a prayer to Jack Kirby" for them.

7) Life

An unusual name for a superhero, especially one who dresses in a mask that conceals less of his face than the Spirit's, but Life (an English translation of Chaim, his real name) considers himself a helping hand to the homeless. Even for this crowd he seems very idealistic and fresh-faced, though that doesn't mean he isn't realistic about the situation, and he considers the bureaucracy of modern government and institutions to be as much of a villain as anything else. He's also down to earth about what the life of a hero has done for him, saying in one interview that he has run up "massive credit card debt." I'd say you could totally be a vigilante hero and make money, except those people are called "mercenaries" and their costumes are generally much more boring.

6) Master Legend

The word "notable" in this case might mean "notifiably batshit," but in a way that denotes some awe. Because reedy-voiced Orlando patroller Master Legend is certainly one of the wildest of the RLSH bunch (it's not pronounced "relish", but that doesn't mean you can't try). Like all the other masked figures on this list, he primarily concerns himself with good works, but unlike them, he has an iron fist. No, I mean he built himself a club thing that he calls the Iron Fist and uses to smash things, mainly to send a message to child abusers and not on anybody, I hope. He also has a potato gun, which isn't exactly standard hero equipment but a level above the usual procedure, I guess. In addition, he claims to have died twice already and have been influenced by voodoo. So there's that. Apparently he really likes hanging out and breaking stuff in front of this wall. He's on here just to let you know that not all of the guys who dress up and go out on the street are straight-laced moral paragons: some of them like to kick back and break stuff.
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