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)