Category Archives: Superheroes

Tea’s Weird Week: “The Superhero Complex” Podcast Examines the Phoenix Jones Story

It’s been almost ten years since my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement (2013, Chicago Review Press) was published. Writing that remains one of the great adventures of my life. For years I worked my day job(s) and spent many nights on patrol with people who had adopted their own homemade superhero personas, a secretive subculture of Real Life Superheroes (RLSH). I went out on patrol or participated in RLSH events in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, New Bedford, Vancouver, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle. More on that last city in a moment.

During that process I met several people that I still consider to be friends today. I also learned how to write a book and a lot about the writing process in general. After many rejections from agents and publishers, I sold the book to Chicago Review Press in 2012. Since then, I’ve had five more books published. My book American Madness, which I think is my best, also spun out of this work (though it went in a very different direction). I’m currently working on what I hope will be books 7 and 8.

One of the most memorable moments of working on Heroes was a rather terrifying night I spent following RLSH Phoenix Jones in Seattle. I wrote two chapters about him: “Mr. Jones and Me” and “People Fighting and Pepper Spray and Superheroes and…I Don’t Know,” the last title a quote from someone on the phone with 911. Phoenix Jones, who claims he is a “perfect crimefighter” doesn’t like me, because when I described the “Pepper Spray Incident,” the total shitshow of him attempting to break up a fight (alluded to in that chapter title), he became upset that it wasn’t a flattering portrayal. I only wrote what I observed firsthand (though through a cloud of pepper spray, of course.) As I mentioned– it was a terrifying night. There were a couple moments that night where I thought my goose was cooked.

Now, a new podcast, The Superhero Complex, reported by David Weinberg (and produced by Novel for iHeartRadio) delves deep into the Phoenix Jones story. It’s highly recommended by me. In Heroes I largely just shared my experiences being out on patrol with Jones, but David digs into his past (Jones is an amazing bowler, it turns out), documents the falling out with his team, his arrests, and his misadventures in the years beyond when Heroes was published, so I learned a lot listening to it. It’s revelations about Phoenix Jones are interesting and, many times, disturbing.

The Superhero Complex has got a great mix of people weighing in on the Seattle story and this unusual subculture I was engrained in for many years– and still have some contact with.

I was interviewed for the podcast and am featured in a couple episodes so far. In episode one, “Out of the Shadows,” I talk briefly about the Bald Knobbers, a masked vigilante gang in the Ozarks from the late 1800s. The Knobbers started by hanging livestock thieves, but devolved into doling out punishment to unmarried couples living together and whipping people accused of “being ornery.” In episode four, “Under the Spotlight” I talk about the infamous “Pepper Spray Incident.”

The first episodes are out and you can listen to it here:

Tea Krulos with Phoenix Jones on the streets of Seattle, October 2011. Photo by Lucien Knuteson.

SEE ALSO: Heroes in the Night: Inside the Superhero Movement is still available here:

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My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Tea’s Weird Week: Hey, I Invented a Batman Villain Based on an Obscure Myth About Bingo

This column, as many Tea’s Weird Week columns tend to be, is just another ride on the Universal Randomizer. My friend Vonnie messaged me about her group, the Milwaukee Pagan Unity Community, hosting a Bingo and benefit raffle night. I really wanted to play Bingo with the pagans BUT I had to get to Door County for an article I’m working on (that’s a whole ‘nother story). Dammit! Next time, Vonnie.

It’s been many years since I’ve played Bingo, but it reminded me of a random “fact” I read many years ago.

In 1929 a toy salesman named Edwin Lowe was developing playing cards for Bingo, a game he was basing after he saw people playing a similar game called “Beano” at a carnival (which was in turn, probably inspired by an Italian game named Lotto). To make the cards, according to an article titled “The History of Bingo“:

(Lowe) commissioned an elderly mathematics professor named Carl Leffler and requested the professor create 6,000 new Bingo cards with nonrepeating number groups. The cards were increasingly difficult to produce as the number combinations dwindled. By the time the task was completed, Professor Leffler had gone insane.

Good story– if it’s true. The Wikipedia entry for “Bingo card” says this story is a “myth” and I didn’t find anything that would add credence to this, just the same line recycled over and over without a source. But does this not sound like the origin story of a Batman villain? I think it does, so I took the liberty of creating one. Good timing, too, with that new Batman movie everyone is talking about!

Here’s the backstory: Prof. Carl Leffler is under a tight deadline to find 6,000 Bingo card combinations by the end of the week for the game release. As he stares at the cards filled with dots containing numbers spread throughout his office, they begin to swirl around his head, overcoming his brain. The hallucinations of rolling numbers overtake him and he decides to give himself electro-shock treatment to try to get them out of his head, but the shocks push him over the edge.

Breaking into the toy manufacturing plant who hired him to create the Bingo cards, Prof. Leffler, now calling himself BINGO MASTER, creates giant Bingo balls of death, a stunning Bingo stamp gun, and a giant flying Bingo card that he rides like a flying carpet. After a crime spree of robbing museums (and Bingo halls) he is caught by Batman and Robin and sent to Arkham Asylum, which he breaks out of periodically with relative ease (as all Batman villains do).

My friend David Gloyd II mocked up some art of the Bingo Master in action (he based it on the cover of Detective Comics #140 (1948), the Riddler’s first appearance).

The Bingo Master! Art by David Gloyd II.

It’s a no-brainer, right? DC, if you’re reading, I’ll sell you the character rights for 1 million dollars. And hey, I’m not a greedbag like Bob Kane, I’ll pay David half for the character design. Let’s make it happen!

Please Clap Dept.: The Shepherd Express reviewed my book Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches, comparing the tone to a Tom Waits song. Hey, I’m not drunk, the piano is! I’m currently working on an audio version of the book. Author Tea Krulos Remembers the Brady Street Pharmacy – Shepherd Express

Tea’s Weird Week Season 4 ep06, Scenes from Paranormal Chicago Con: Me and Heidi Erickson report live from the Paranormal Chicago Conference, interviewing paranormal investigator (and conference host) Jack Chavez, tarot reader Coco La Bruja, author Dan Guzman, Dale Kaczmarek (Ghost Research Society) and Bob Anderson (Bob After Dark). Plus weird news, trivia answers from Miss Information, and we close with a track by our sound engineer, FlatlineAudio138, “Fatal Error.”

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep06: Scenes from Paranormal Chicago Con (
Spotify//Soundcloud//Google Podcasts//iHeartRadio//PlayerFM//Apple//Stitcher//Pocket Casts

Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)