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: www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-the-superhero-complex-94326228
SEE ALSO: Heroes in the Night: Inside the Superhero Movement is still available here: www.ipgbook.com/heroes-in-the-night-products-9781613747759.php
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)
My first book, Heroes in the Night, was published in 2013 and was a deep examination of the Real Life Superhero (RLSH) subculture. I’ve had a plan to write a piece sometime in the near future titled “Heroes in the Night: Where Are They Now?” One of the most sensational people I wrote about in the book is an MMA fighter turned RLSH named Benjamin Fodor aka Phoenix Jones, leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement.
Where he is now is in, as Seattle station KOMO News notes, “super trouble.” On November 21 Fodor sold $500 of MDMA (“Molly”) to an undercover cop (who was tipped off that Fodor was dealing) and delivered it to him at a Starbucks. The agent sent Fodor $500 for a second delivery of Molly, but Fodor didn’t deliver. Around the time of this drug deal, Phoenix Jones was active, according to his Twitter, with posts from September-November 2019 saying he was repairing his “super suit,” “mapping and patrol areas and crime reports” in relation to taking out a local gang, and searching for a stolen vehicle.
After Fodor didn’t deliver the second purchase of Molly, the police agent switched tactics and decided to pose as a frisky young woman who wanted to party with Fodor and his girlfriend.
The Seattle Times reports:
Fodor and “Laura” exchanged text messages over three days. At one point, Fodor gave “Laura” his full name and encouraged her to Google him.
“Laura” responded: “OMG I just googled u … Superhero’s are hot lol. You really a superhero?”
Fodor and “Laura” made an arrangement for Fodor to deliver $225 worth of cocaine for a birthday party on January 9, where Fodor and his girlfriend were arrested with four grams of coke. They are scheduled for a court hearing on February 3.
Last I heard, Phoenix Jones was quite pissed off at me. I don’t think he was wrong to feel that way. In 2015, I was a guest on the radio show dedicated to all things strange, Coast-to-Coast AM, with the great George Noory. I was there to talk about my second book, Monster Hunters, but we spent some time talking about Heroes in the Night. I knew I had limited time on the subject, so I decided to roll with talking about one of the most frightening nights of my life– the night of the “Pepper Spray Incident.”
To recap: In October 2011 I voyaged out to Seattle to meet Phoenix Jones. My second night there, I was on patrol with Phoenix Jones, his teammate Ghost, and a videographer named Ryan. We spotted a group of people fighting in the street. Phoenix Jones ran into the midst of the battle and pepper-sprayed the combatants. The scene that followed was pure chaos– an angry woman beat Phoenix repeatedly with a high heel shoe, I was punched in the face by an angry, pepper spray soaked Russian, me and Phoenix were almost run down by angry, pepper spray soaked Russians in an SUV, I was almost arrested with Phoenix Jones (the officer let me go after I explained that I was a writer.)
Phoenix spent the night in jail. The incident was reported around the world and became a joke on Saturday Night Live. I wrote about that night in a chapter of Heroes in the Night titled “People Fighting and Superheroes and Pepper Spray and…I Don’t Know.”
I think Phoenix Jones was angry at me because I chose to share on Coast-to-Coast AM this moment where he had fucked up, a scene where the defender of Seattle caused a scene of dangerous chaos. People running around burning with pepper spray, screaming in Russian, and punching each other made for good radio.
I did not mention the charity events he had organized. I did not mention that he had inspired an entire team of Seattlites to spend their spare time patrolling the Rain City to protect their fellow citizens. I did not talk about how he had placed a car-jacker under citizen’s arrest or how he had dedicated his life to trying to be a superhero and helping people out. I always try to give a fair assessment of people, a nuanced look that talks about their good qualities and bad qualities. A lot of people I write about seem to be a mix of both. On Coast-to-Coast AM, I failed to do that.
Let’s back up for a second. In 2011, 20-year-old Phoenix Jones busts on the scene, energetic about being the world’s greatest superhero. I think he had heart and genuinely wanted to be a hero. But everyone told him he couldn’t.
Phoenix Jones was inspired by the RLSH movement, but found himself aggressively rejected by most of the people he hoped would be his peers. Not only rejected, but some RLSH developed an unhealthy obsession with his downfall. They said he was a liar (I think he embellished or fabricated stories to give him more street cred), a cocky egotist, a sell-out, a scammer. I believe some of this was jealousy over the massive amount of media attention he received, though the media was also not always kind to him. They called him an “idiot weirdo,” and brought up discrepancies in his stories. The police thought he was a pain in the ass. The City Attorney of Seattle dropped the charges against him for the Pepper Spray Incident, but reprimanded him as a “deeply misguided individual.” A loud chorus was calling Phoenix Jones a failure.
It makes me sad to think that all of this rejection possibly led Fodor down the wrong path. If everyone– the RLSH, the authorities, the media is chanting “you are no superhero,” I would think it would wear him down over the 9 years he has tried to do good as Phoenix Jones. Maybe he thought “if that’s what you’re telling me, I’ll just deal drugs instead.” Think of the jaded cops who get worn down and turn dirty, dealing drugs with the same people they are supposed to arrest.
Phoenix Jones, if you ever read this, I want to say that I hope you don’t give up on your dream to be an inspiration– I think you slipped, like most people do at some point in their life (I know I have). You should still strive to be a positive influence– the world needs it.
Sources: “Real-life Superhero ‘Phoenix Jones’ in super trouble, facing drug charges,” KOMO News.
My book Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement, features my adventures with Phoenix Jones and other RLSH. It’s available here: https://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/heroes-in-the-night-products-9781613747759.php?page_id=21
My upcoming book American Madness (August 2020, Feral House) also has a Real-Life Superhero tie-in. It tells the story of Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot, and his descent into conspiracy theory culture. Pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967/
The #TrumpConspiracyCounter has the goal to track every time Trump promotes a conspiracy theory or theorist in 2020. Here’s the update for January 21-28.
The conspiracy counter was ticking along slowly until an impeachment trial inspired TWEETSTORM! got the wheels whirring. In the last week Trump has retweeted conspiracy mongers almost 50 times.
09.) Our featured theory today is the image the President of the United States pinned on his Twitter January 23, seen here above. It’s his second count this year of personally promoting Spygate directly, the unfounded allegation that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. Spygate is something Trump is still obsessed with, even though there’s no proof that Obama directed the FBI to spy on Trump (or that he hung outside Trump Tower with a giant suction cup and a pair of binoculars).
10.) January 21: Retweets his son Donald Trump Jr.’s retweet of Breitbart News. Technically every retweet of Junior should count, as like father, like son, he is a conspiracist who has retweeted InfoWars and promoted theories about the Clintons and George Soros. Can you imagine, though, if the conspiracy counter also included members of the Trump Empire family and administration? I’d have to hire full time staff to update the counter around the clock! This click is for the Breitbart retweet.
11-19.) January 21: Mark R. Levin, host of Levin TV on Blaze (or as I like to call it, InfoWars Lite), a network ran by conspiracy monger Glenn Beck (formerly of FOX). Trump’s retweets of Levin retweeted not just Blaze, but Levin’s sharing of other conspiracy peddlers like Breitbart News, Peter Schweizer (see last week’s column), and The Right Scoop.
20.-22.) January 21: Three retweets from Dan Bongino. In the past, Bongino has been a frequent InfoWars guest. He hosts his own podcast, The Dan Bongino Show, and is a major proponent of the Spygate conspiracy theory, penning a book titled Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump.
23.) January 22: Trump retweets a photoshop from White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino, a picture of him walking with an explosion labeled “Deep State” behind him. Deep State is a classic conspiracy term that refers to an undefined, shifting group of enemies, including Democrats, intelligence agencies, the media, Satanists, and whoever else conspiracists feel like throwing in.
24-31.) January 24: More retweets Peter Schweitzer / retweet of endorsement of Schweitzer’s book and Dan Bongino.
32-36. January 24: Retweets of Gregg Jarrett. Jarrett is a FOX legal analyst and author of books titled The Russian Hoax and Witch Hunt. Nuff said.
37-55.) January 25-28: More retweets from aforementioned #TrumpConspiracyCounter entries Breitbart News, Gregg Jarrett, Mark Levin, Dan Bongino, and Jack Posobiec.
56.) January 27: Trump retweets Dana Loesch, former NRA spokeswoman, host on the short-lived NRA-TV channel(2016-19) (and before that, Blaze and Breitbart). Not surprisingly, the NRA and their media is ripe with conspiracy theorists, including Loesch. Among many other things, she helped peddle a conspiracy that ISIS was behind a push for stricter gun laws because “terrorists agree, they want you to be disarmed,” Loesch said on NRA-TV.
#TrumpConspiracyCounter now has a Twitter page: https://twitter.com/TrumpConspirac3
“Krulos is one of the best chroniclers out there of the total craziness of our world today, and he does not disappoint in this book. He has a wickedly keen eye for high strangeness and a great voice to bring it to light.”– Mitch Smith, Goodreads review of Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review