Aug 16th 2011 By: Caleb Goellner
If you spend enough time skimming the increasing number of profiles about the "real life superhero" movement
, the sparkling sentiment behind helping others can quickly lose its luster. Are these costumed citizens really
making a difference or are their adventures and potential demises just easy punchlines on the evening news? Leave it to GQ
of all publications to blow the dust off the tired RLSH narrative with some embedded reporting that points out that for Seattle's Phoenix Jones and friends, anyway, there's some actual bravery behind the still kind-of-insane way they make a difference
Apparently the younger than 22-year-old Phoenix Jones has taken more damage than most humans this side of the armed forces. Despite urinating blood, suffering from high fevers and nursing cracked ribs sustained in the line of duty, the father of two unironically continues to break up fights and convince crack dealers to get off the streets in costume. What's not to like?
Over the course of a few visits with superheroes like Knight Owl (who didn't know of Watchmen's
Nite Owl when he picked the name), writer Jon Ronson sheds light on the practical thinking that goes on in the minds of some costumed heroes. Many realize capes are generally a bad call in their line of work, for example, and know a grappling hook would be a waste of time on one of their patrols:
"If you're going to do some serious crime fighting, there'd better be a good reason for a cape," he nods. "And grappling hooks-no, no, no, no, no! What? You think you're going to scale a building? What are you going to do when you get up there? Swoop down? Parachute down? You're not going to have enough distance for the parachute to even open."
That's not to say today's costumed heroes operate at Batman's level. Ron counters a number of superheroic strategies with mere citizen common sense, demonstrating that elaborate detective work is perhaps best left to trained professionals.
What's most encouraging about Ronson's piece is that it cuts to how effective the presence of the right kind of heroes can be in the right circumstances. Phoenix Jones, who apparently works with autistic children for a living in his civilian identity, is calm, upbeat and downright respectful of would-be lawbreakers who harass him on patrols. In a climactic standoff, armed drug dealers who could easily shoot Jones and his allies Ghost and Pitch Black back down to the trio's presence on their block and simply walk home for the night. This is the result of a guy suffering from tetanus putting on a mask, some armor and a taser and standing his ground. What's not to like about a guy like that?