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Post by Brian O'Neill on Oct. 24, 2011 at 8:59 am with 10 Comments »
October 25, 2011 5:57 pm

This is the first in a 2-part series on vigilantes.

I love superheroes.

As a boy my closet was piled high with comic books. The Defenders and the Avengers were my favorite groups, and my brother and I would spend hours reading and re-reading each one. When we were finished we would pretend to rake some leaves and then run down to the drug store with our unearned quarters to get the latest edition.

Even as an adult I have watched, though not without a guilty sense of pleasure, the newest round of cartoons, movies and features involving classic superheroes, such as Superman, Batman, the Flash and Phoenix Jones.

Okay, I slipped that last one in – Phoenix Jones is the nom de guerre of one Benjamin Fodor, aka a real person. Fodor, who recently blew his own secret identity following an assault arrest, is a member of the Seattle (sorry, Rain City) Superheroes.

Phoenix Jones and friends, downtown Seattle (from Sacrament Bee, photographer Ted Warren/ AP)

When I first heard about this group I experienced a boyish thrill that has lain dormant in my imagination for the better part of thirty years. But then came the realization that this new phenomenon of flesh and blood superheroes do not necessarily possess the chiseled physiques, unwavering morality and mind-blowing abilities of my comic book heroes.

Instead, Phoenix Jones and his fellow superheroes (insert air quotes as needed) are a living testament to our times. We now exist in an era where reality blends with virtual reality, where our sense of fantasy can overlap with the fantastic identities we are able to assume in the alternate universe of online gaming.

Either way, it is time to redefine the notion of superhero.

As it turns out, nothing could be simpler. According to the website entitled (of course they have a website!), the group’s creed is as follows:  We are Real Life Superheroes. We follow and uphold the law. We fight for what is right. We help those in need. We are role models. We will be positive and inspirational. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. Through our actions we will create a better brighter tomorrow.

I doubt the Justice League could say it much better.

There is, however, the troubling question of the vigilante in our society. As Phoenix Jones found out, following his extensive use of pepper spray on a group of people, there are a lot of issues surrounding the use of force. Adding my thick policy manual to his website would probably crash the system.

In all seriousness, public safety is a demanding profession requiring substantially more than a decent creed. The propensity for abuse of power is as likely for members of the Rain City Superheroes (and cops) as it would be for members of the Green Lantern Corps (and look what happened with Yellow Lantern!).

And yet. The combination of imagination and good intentions makes news stories of these real life superheroes a singular positive note on an otherwise negative page. Let’s face it, if we were all to stand as tall in our neighborhoods we would be much safer. Unless we got carried away with pepper spray.

The whole idea makes me wish I still had a few of my old comic books around. Since my mother tossed those about 5 seconds after I left for college my only alternative is to stay tuned to the same bat channel for the next edition of the Rain City Superheroes.

I can see it now, “Revenge of the Meter Maid.”

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. smokey984 says:

    Brian said: Lets face it, if we were all to stand as tall in our neighborhoods we would be much safer.

    Amen brother.

  2. reformedliberal says:

    “We follow and uphold the law. We fight for what is right. We help those in need. We are role models. We will be positive and inspirational. We hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the police to adopt this?

  3. Brian O'Neill says:

    Reformed liberal- I’ll be sure to pass on your request to a few of my colleagues. Just a few quick questions:

    Should I mention it to the ones disabled by bullet wounds or burnt while rescuing victims of house fires? Should I pass on your excellent idea to the cops I know who offer up time on their day off for community projects in the districts in which they work? Should I share your sarcastic thought with the widows of my colleagues who died in the line of duty?

    Or should you reconsider your holier than thou attitude directed at people who do a job to which you wouldn’t stoop?

  4. leehallfae says:

    To Brian O’Neill:

    What smokey984 said is echoed by me.

    Be well,

    Jennifer G.

    Ballard, WA

  5. serendipity says:


    Let’s not leave out the number of disabled people you people have shot and killed this year. And ignored when people have tried to get help from you. There are many good foot patrol officers out there. But the few who let us down taint the rest. It’s shoot to kill us right now, Brian, deny that and we can simple google all the stories. The growing stories. Sorry, you really are no longer our heroes.

  6. serendipity says:

    Oh, and pass that on to your colleagues if my comment doesn’t get taken down. We the people don’t really like the way you have treated us lately. Get a clue. Put your guns down and stop murdering people for no reason.

  7. Earth_watch says:

    Thanks, Serendipity. I had intended to comment after Brian’s retort to “reformedliberal”, too.

    Brian, no one is saying there are no good cops out there. There are. But would you please admit, just once, that there are some very bad cops out there, and there are some good cops who have made some very bad mistakes. It’s getting hard to take your broken record comments seriously that “cops do no wrong”. They have. Perhaps you are too close to the police department to be objective, but from a public point-of-view if you could acknowledge this it will help/start to repair the public’s trust.

  8. Brian O'Neill says:


    I will not remove your inflammatory comments because you are taking the time to make your point. Let me make my own. Not one of my colleagues took this job aspiring to be your or anyone else’s hero. Rather, the usual response to that question is that this profession is a calling – to serve and protect, as cliche as that sounds.

    When I take off my badge at the end of the day I walk the walk and talk the talk of an ordinary citizen. From that reference point, as well as from the vantage of my day (and sometimes night) job, I share my viewpoint. So I will ask the obvious question: From what vantage are you suggesting that cops are on “shoot to kill” mode? Have you interviewed officers, perhaps conducted a poll, produced a documentary? Or are you simply taking your own opinion, meshing it with a handful of Youtube videos that were posted to validate your point, and coming to a conclusion that the 500,000 commissioned police officers in the U.S. are out to kill you?

    I would like to think you’re smarter than that.

  9. Earth_watch says:

    Brian, you’re suggesting that Serendipity doesn’t have adequate insight to explain police reactions. Maybe we don’t need insight, we can see the end result and see that it’s inappropriate. If that’s how police are being trained to react, then something’s wrong and needs to change.

    … and yet you then turn around, today, and indicate in your post about Occupy Oakland that all protesters are targeting police, as if that the entire crowd deserved the copy beating they got because one or two people may have thrown rocks. So, it’s okay for you to generalize non-violent citizens as “anti-police”, but no one is allowed to point out your repeated over-the-top defense of all police actions. Really, you’re not coming across as rational and are doing our local police public-image more harm than good.

  10. reformedliberal says:

    Brian, my comment is aimed at guys like this:

    And also, the unions who defend them.

    You own “holier than thou” response is pure projection, and your defensiveness speaks for itself. You people (the law enforcement community) have a very serious cultural problem, and you are your own worse enemies.

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