Friday, May 15, 2009

Costumed Crime Fighters? I don't think so.

It pains me to think that something which has become a major part of my life, comics and costuming, has gone down a dark road with a lot of potential for people to get hurt. I'm talking about this phenomenon called Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH) where average people dress up in their costumes and patrol the streets of their cities. I have so many problems with this that my head is about to explode thinking about it. You are not the Twilight Guardian, Batman or Captain America. You are a regular human being with limitations.

Is it a noble idea to want to better your community? Sure it is. However, this is not a comic book, People. This is real life where you do not have Batman's superior martial arts skills and intelligence. You do not possess the protection of a rock hard exterior like Thing. You can't phase through a wall like Shadowcat.

Let me express that I do completely support using a superhero identity to help with charity events (I do plenty of this myself), school programs, reading programs at libraries, and all of the options that exist where no one is in harm's way. I come from a family that is very community-minded. I think it is extremely important for everyone to do what they can to make their neighborhoods better.

However, there are professionals in law enforcement that you have to consider and for everyone's sake, I hope you do. Picture a cop coming upon a scene that was only described by Dispatch as being a disturbance or fight. He gets to the scene and sees someone with a covered face and a tactical belt filled with unknown items. That person is going toe to toe with a guy wearing jeans, a tank top and has a bandana on his head. The cop has no idea that Lord Darkity Dark of Justice is "the good guy." If that cop has to deal with the distraction of a costumed "hero" that takes focus of the other individual. Now if you take the worst case scenario, where the cop draws a gun and someone gets shot - well, that will ruin his life in terms of guilt, desk duty, years of therapy, and a possible loss of income not to mention being sued (which happens all the time) for not using his best judgment.

The following is an excerpt taken from the worldwide registry of these so called superheroes who post every bit of media attention on their website:

(http://www.wpix.com/news/local/wpix-super-heroes-help-poor,0,7128849.story
The gang hits the streets of New York to help less fortunate people by Vanessa Tyler, wpix.com Staff reporter - May 14, 2009) The “Dark Guardian” has made it his mission to rid Washington Square Park of drug dealers and some have even confronted him. He says, “We’ve had people flash a gun at us. But I’m not backing down.”

To illustrate my point, these "superheroes" claim that they only tote what they are legally allowed within the law and for some that includes devices like pepper spray. Let me explain something: real criminals don't care about your legal pepper spray when they have illegal firearms and possibly a large gang to back them up. People who are like this Dark Guardian or another called Nyx (NJ) who carries mace, a tazer and a baton, are looking for a thrill and looking to get hurt. They are purposefully endangering themselves and causing problems for law enforcement. There are others in this worldwide registry who are recognize the potential for physical danger and limit their activities to delivering goods to the homeless and helping with fundraising for local charities.

What other problems is this fad causing? There is talk that more anti-mask laws will be passed. Yep, just like the comics. Most schools and plenty of businesses already have rules in place prohibiting the wearing of face coverings and carrying anything that could be considered a weapon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art wouldn't even allow fans to don their costumes during the Superheroes exhibit they had in 2008 because of the security issues of masks and (fake) weaponry. For another example, the Halloween Parade at my nieces' elementary school has so many rules that it's not even fun; family members are not allowed near their children; the children are herded through a fenced area and parade around the baseball field; no fake weapons, ropes or props are allowed. We live in a time where we are surveilled constantly. Security forces need to identify people for the safety of others and the businesses they work for. While I don't agree with this much surveillance, I certainly do not want the government to remove yet another freedom and one as silly as how a person chooses to dress with the passing of anti-mask laws. Many states have anti-mask laws instituted already, though not well known, because of the times during the civil rights movement and the harmful measures of the KKK.

New York has had such a law since 1965 and it has been modified and currently reads:
  • An assemblage in public houses or other places of three or more persons disguised by having their faces painted, discolored, colored or concealed, is unlawful, and every individual so disguised, present thereat, is guilty of a misdemeanor; but nothing contained in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any peaceful assemblage for a masquerade or fancy dress ball or entertainment, or any assemblage therefor of persons masked, or as prohibiting the wearing of masks, fancy dresses, or other disguise by persons on their way to or returning from such ball or other entertainment; if, when such masquerade, fancy dress ball or entertainment is held in any of the cities of this state, permission is first obtained from the police authorities in such cities respectively for the holding or giving thereof, under such regulations as may be prescribed by such police authorities.

If you are one of these individuals that claims to be a hero, please take some more time to examine what it is you are doing. If you are helping the homeless, teaching kids to read through the use of comics as a medium, or drawing attention at a charity event, then I applaud you and thank you. If you like helping through first aid, then join a volunteer rescue squad or fire department. If you want to fight criminals, go to the academy, get a badge and kevlar and do the job right. If you just like seeking thrills, then go bungie jumping instead and wear your costume as you jump off the bridge. You'll still make the headlines you so obviously desire.

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