HBO Superheroes Documentary: Real-Life Crusaders Against Crime

Self-Appointed Superheroes: (L to R) Dark Guardian, Zimmer, Z, Mr. XTreme, Zetaman, TSAF, and Superhero
Self-Appointed Superheroes: (L to R) Dark Guardian, Zimmer, Z, Mr. XTreme, Zetaman, TSAF, and Superhero
Check out HBO’s quirky documentary Superheroes to premiere August 8, 2011, at 9PM. The film, which has already won acclaim at several film festivals this year, including Slamdance, introduces us to several real-life, well, superheroes—from Brooklyn hipsters crime-fighters to not-so-in-shape middle aged men. We are introduced to colorful characters such as “Mr. Xtreme”, “Master Legend”, and “Thanatos.” These people, sometimes termed RLSH for “real-life-superhero”, are among hundreds of men and women who patrol the streets under the guise of a costumed alter-ego. Here’s a peek beneath the capes:

There are many reasons why someone would become a superhero, and some have chosen missions as down-to-earth as helping people avoid parking tickets or passing out supplies to the homeless.  Perhaps others do it out of a sense of righteous indignation at the helplessness of crime victims—some have even identified the Kitty Genovese case and “bystander effect” as a formative cause. Perhaps some do it out of distrust, disappointment, and disillusionment with both government and police. Perhaps, for some, it comes from sheer boredom and vanity. Whatever the reason, crime-fighting is no joke! Stan Lee, former-executive of Marvel Comics and superhero comic legend who created memorable crime-fighting personas including Captain America and Spiderman, seemed quite concerned about the safety of these real-life superheroes. After all, it seems unlikely these people have extraordinary abilities that could save them from a fatal gunshot wound. Check out a clip from interview with Team Justice. I hope ‘delusion of grandeur’ and ‘beer belly’ are both bullet-stopping superpowers.

I applaud these superheroes’ stupidity valiant efforts but what I’m starting to worry about is not their safety but our safety. Imagine a common robbery situation in, say, Williamsburg with hostages. The criminal, desperate and paranoid, doesn’t necessarily want to hurt anyone and just wants a quick getaway with the cash. Enter stage left, a fabulously dressed “sonic grenade”-tossing, Taser-wielding assailant. Suddenly the risk factor for injury just increased exponentially for everyone at the scene. Uh oh. Let’s just hope this superhero can really put the moves on.

One last point to think about is this—if superheroes are out there, with a fondness for the spectacular, then why not supervillains? I’ll end on a conversation between Jim Gordon and Batman in the film Batman Begins.

Gordon: And what about escalation?

Batman: Escalation?

Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar… they buy armor-piercing rounds.

Batman: And?

Gordon: And you’re wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops. Now, take this new guy [referring to the Joker.] Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical. Like you. Leaves a calling card.

Cathy Chen now lives in Brooklyn, dresses as ridiculously as a superhero, but never answers distress signals.


  1. Christopher Morgan

    Well I see at least two of them that are breaking rule one of costumed vigilantism, capes. The should remember what happened to Dollar Bill. But I mean really, I am assuming that these folks have read comics and are at least familiar with Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Do we REALLY need a Rorschach running around, or Comedian for that matter? Nope. If the great Moore taught me anything superheroes are nothing more than sociopaths and really big children.

  2. TheNeverFrownClown

    I agree, to an extent, with this in that some of these “heroes” don’t seem to have a clue what they are doing and sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt. If some of these out of shape middle aged men shown want to help (not saying there’s an age limit, but you should be able to jog at least a block or two without getting winded) they can do just as much good without a costume. Theatrics can play a valuable role, but the wrong costume just puts you in more danger. Some of the other heros shown seem to have serious merit to them, though to what degree is unclear. I applaud those who are taking a serious approach in what they are doing and the risks involved. These are tough times and they don’t seem to be on the verge of improving anytime soon. I am not suggesting anyone in a costume go out and kill criminals. As soon as murder to any degree comes into play, this whole thing may go overboard quick. If you have the skills, the NON-lethal tools and the will to do what seems to be needed with the very real risks in mind, carry on Heroes. Good Luck.

  3. Miller

    I agree with TheNeverFrownClown.

  4. Life

    I am the founder of Anyone can be a SUPERHERO! It just takes the right mindset and heart. Check out for more info

  5. ClandestinoSinDestino
  6. Cathy Zhu Chen

    Check out these [url=]RLSHuman endorsed by Stan Lee[/url] like this [url=]modern samurai[/url] who can cut through a bullet. (Too bad he’s not patrolling Billyburg.) As for the RLSHeros without cool moves, just make sure your costume is kick-ass. It’s a good distraction tactic.

  7. Z

    Haha we’d never patrol Williamsburg. Your biggest enemy is yourselves.



  8. Ram

    Not anyone can be a SUPERHERO, only a few people can be.

  9. Charles Drummond

    Saw this documentary the other night. The actions scenes are so intense, made me really feel like I was there. [url=][/url]

  10. Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    It’s a documentary. If you’re watching, you are there.

  11. Nelson

    I do not think so.

Comments are closed.

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