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Real-Life ‘Superheroes’

Jon Ronson has a fascinating piece at GQ on real-life ‘superheroes’ who dress in costumes and patrol the streets:

Photo by Peter Yang

They’re watching us, murmuring to one another. Their problem is that nobody wants to buy crack in front of three men dressed as superheroes. While Phoenix and his crew stand here, they’re losing all their business.

Phoenix points to two packs of cigarettes under the windshield wiper of a nearby car. “Those are indications that you can buy here,” he says. “So I’m going to take them off and annoy the crap out of them.” He scrunches the packets up and throws them onto the sidewalk.

At this, one of the gang heads toward us. If you were watching from across the road, it would seem as if he just wanders past, but in fact he whispers something as he does: “You keep staying on our block, we gonna have to show you what the burner do.”

“Thank you, it’s great meeting you,” says Phoenix.

The man loops and rejoins the others.

The streets are deserted, and it’s starting to feel exceedingly dangerous. It’s just the dealers and their guns and us. But then, miraculously, a taxi passes. I flag it. The superheroes all have (supposedly) bulletproof vests. I have a cardigan.

…And then, suddenly, the whole gang, all nine of them, some with their hands down their trousers as if they’re holding guns just under their waistlines, walk toward us. I can’t see much of Phoenix under the suit, but I can see by the way his hands are shaking that he is terrified.

…”Are we leaving or are we standing?” says Phoenix. “We’re standing,” says Ghost. “We’re standing,” says Pitch Black.

While, as is often the case, Jon takes a little poetic licence with a few of the happenings, it’s still a wonderful portrait of some of these characters who “exist in some shadow world between fantasy and reality”. Although, if (when?) something really bad does happen in future to one of these guys, it may seem a whole lot more tragic than entertaining…

Read the whole article at GQ.

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