Real-life superhero

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A real-life superhero (RLSH)[1] is a person who dresses up in a superhero costume or mask in order to perform community service such as neighborhood watch, or in some cases vigilantism.[2][3][4]

Early examples of this type of behaviour are reported from the 1990s. For example, Mexico City's Superbarrio Gómez, who, in 1997, donned red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask in order to organize labour rallies, protest, and file petitions to prevent families from being evicted.[5] A "real-life superhero community" in the sense of an online subculture began to develop in the mid-2000s.[6]


Police response to the actions of real life superheroes is typically negative.[7] An article from The Globe and Mail reports that the police "fear for the safety of these 'superheroes' and argue that sometimes they can get in the way of police work and become a liability".[8] Police have expressed concern that RLSH insert themselves into situations without knowing all the facts and indicate that this is "not a smart thing to do".[4] Police have indicated that super heroes who physically involve themselves in preventing crimes are practicing vigilantism.[9]

Different organisations have used the concept of the real-life superhero for other purposes. In Austria, the artist collective qujOchÖ created Miss Magnetiq as a parody of the real-life superhero phenomenon. Together with her companions Nickel, Cobalt and Mangan, Miss Magnetiq tries to protect the city of Linz from catastrophe but always fails.[10][11][12]

Real-life superheroes have also been used for publicity and marketing campaigns. Super Vaclav was a 2011 promotional figure for a Czech webhosting company.[13] Purporting to combat the antisocial behavior of Prague citizens, the company released YouTube videos featuring him pouring buckets of water on individuals smoking near public transport stops and assaulting dog owners with their own animal's excrement left behind in parks.[14] While garnering many views, the campaign did not appear to translate into takeup of the webhost being advertised.[15] Metro Woman was a short-lived publicity stunt in 2005 intended to gather support for the Washington purple line metro project.[16]

Fictional depictions[edit]

While superheroes in the strict sense are characters with superhuman powers, superhero fiction depicting vigilantes with no such powers have long been part of the genre, notably with Batman and Iron Man. Such characters are also known as "costumed crime fighters" or "masked vigilantes". With the development of the real-life superhero community, there have also been more realistic depictions of masked vigilantes in fiction performing the actions of real-life superheroes, such as in the comedy films Hero at Large and Blankman, and the comic book Kick-Ass and its film adaptations. The concept has also been depicted in television series, including a story arc in the second season of Hill Street Blues (featuring a delusional man who believes to be a superhero and calls himself "Captain Freedom"), the Bones episode "The Superhero in the Alley," the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Hero to Zero," and the NCIS episode "Secrets."

List of real-life superheroes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is a RLSH? ⋆ Real Life Superheroes". Real Life Superheroes.
  2. ^ "Superheroes: Interview with Michael Barnett". Superheroes. HBO Documentaries. 2011. Archived from the original on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  3. ^ Sweeney, Phil (2011-10-23). "Head to Head: Is vigilante justice acceptable outside of comic books? - Opinion -". Louisiana State University: The Daily Reveille. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Superhero Phoenix Jones: 'I'll keep Seattle safe'". BBC News. 2011-10-14.
  5. ^ "Defender of justice Superbarrio roams Mexico City". CNN. July 19, 1997. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  6. ^ World Superhero Registry (2006), internet archive link; Real Life Superhero Project (2010), internet archive link.
  7. ^ Flock, Elizabeth (October 19, 2011). "Real-life superhero movement growing, but not getting warm reception from police". Real Life Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  8. ^ Chowdhry, Affan (16 November 2011). "Who are these real life superheroes?". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 18 November 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  9. ^ "Cops not fans of real-life superheroes". United Press International. January 18, 2009. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "Miss Magnetiq. Eine neue Superheldin ist geboren" [Miss Magnetique. A new superheroine is born.]. qujOchÖ (in German). 17 September 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  11. ^ Affenzeller, Jürgen (23 September 2014). "Neue Helden braucht die Stadt" [New heroes need the city]. TIPS (in German). Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Miss Magnetiq: Die Stahlstadt als elektromagnetisches Feld" [Miss Magnetiq: The steel city as an electromagnetic field]. Crossing Europe. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  13. ^ "SuperVáclav končí, za kampaní stál registrátor webových domén" [SuperVáclav ends, web domain registrar behind the campaign]. (in Czech). 31 October 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  14. ^ Cmíralová, Michaela (5 October 2011). "Prahou obchází nový hrdina - SuperVáclav, a nekompromisně trestá přestupky" [A new hero - SuperVáclav - bypasses Prague and punishes offenses without compromise]. (in Czech). Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  15. ^ Pavlinova, Alsbeta (4 January 2013). "ATL + BTL = integrovaná komunikace". (in Czech). Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  16. ^ Miller, Mitchell. 'Metro Woman' Enlisted to Help Purple Line Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, WTOP-FM. Published April 6, 2005.

External links[edit]