Mr. Ravenblade, Mr. Xtreme, Dark Guardian and hundreds of others. Some with elaborate costumes, others with haphazardly stitched outfits, they are appearing on city streets worldwide watching over the populace like Superman watched over Metropolis and Batman over Gotham City.
As people become disillusioned from financial woes and a downtrodden economy and look to put new purpose in their lives, everyday folks are taking on new personas to perform community service, help the homeless and even fight crime.
“The movement is growing,” said Ben Goldman, a real-life superhero historian. Goldman, along with Chaim “Life” Lazaros and David “Civitron” Civitarese, runs the New York-based Web site Superheroes Anonymous as part of an initiative dedicated to organizing and making alliances with superhero groups.
According to Goldman, who goes by the moniker Cameraman because of his prowess in documenting the movement, economic troubles are spawning real life superheroes.
“A lot of them have gone through a sort of existential crisis and have had to discover who they are,” Goldman said. People are starting to put value in what they can do rather than what they have, he said. “They realize that money is fleeting, it’s in fact imaginary.”
Estimates from the few groups that keep tabs put the worldwide total of real-life superheroes between 250 and 300. Goldman said the numbers were around 200 just last summer.
Mr. Ravenblade, laid off after a stint with a huge computer technology corporation, found inspiration for his new avocation a few years ago from an early morning incident in Walla Walla, Washington.
“I literally stepped into a woman’s attempted rape/mugging,” Mr. Ravenblade said. While details were lost in the fog of the fight, he remembers this much: “I did what I could,” he said, adding that he stopped the crime and broke no laws. “And I realized after doing what I did, that people don’t really look after people.”