First, I like to remember that there’s always new readers, so here’s a short intro– my name is Tea, and in 2009 I ran into a story that forever changed my life. I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, and the “underground,” and I found a report of a movement of people that adopted their own comic book style personas and called themselves “Real-life Superheroes.” I wrote a magazine article about a RLSH here in the Milwaukee area named The Watchman and thought there was a bigger story so I traveled around the country, met about 100 RLSH, went on patrols, did research, interviews, had some strange moments, got punched in the face, and met a lot of cool people I’m still friends with today.
The result of all this was my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement (2013, Chicago Review Press). There’s also a brief revisit to the RLSH (and a man who called himself the Phantom Patriot) in my new book American Madness (Aug. 25, Feral House).
I’m currently working on a research project that studies subcultures/social movements in the year 2020 and their responses to topical issues. That’s about all I can say about it right now. I’m not trying to be mysterious (or am I?) I’m just not sure what the final form of this project will be yet.
A logical place for me to start with this was the RLSH community, where I already had connections. Word of the study was spread on my Heroes in the Night News Facebook page. Many RLSH shared it on Facebook and on a RLSH thread on Reddit.
There were 56 responses, which I believe is a good sample size for this movement. It’s unknown exactly how many active RLSH there are– it isn’t like a club where people pay membership dues, anyone can say they are a RLSH, and people often disappear into the night (or the Internet).
I asked three RLSH I thought would have good insight for their estimate on active RLSH. Rock N Roll, one of the organizers of the multi-city Initiative teams says “maybe 100.” Discordia, who runs the site RLSH News places it slightly higher at around “120-140” or up to “200 if being generous.” And Razorhawk, a well connected RLSH, puts the range “between 100-200.”
My goal was to ask about topical subjects– the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling is useful to see if a group leans strongly one direction or another on issues or if they’re split.
The “RLSH 2020 Survey” was 10 questions long. Questions 1-3 asked for name, city (or cities) they were active in, and any team affiliation.
Florida and California led with participants with 8 and St. Petersburg led the count by city with 6. There were 5 from Texas and Oregon, 4 from Seattle and 3 each from Illinois, Tennessee, and New York City. 15 other states had 1-2 representatives.
Several teams were represented, with the most coming from various branches of the Initiative and the Xtreme Justice League, followed by Bay Coast Guardians (St. Petersburg), ECHO (Seattle), PATCH (Chicago), and Firebirds (Dallas). Update– I’ve been informed that Bay Coast Guardians and Firebirds are divisions of the XJL.
Q4: Asked what activities RLSH engaged in. Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer. The results:
Homeless outreach: 50.88%
Patrols and Outreach: 66.67%
Q5: Asked who RLSH had voted for in 2016. My main reason for including this was to see if there had been any major shift in the community from 2016 to 2020. RLSH respoded:
Clinton: 35.85% (19)
3rd Party: 30.19% (16)
Not eligible: 18.87% (10)
Didn’t want to: 5.66% (3)
3 skipped the question
Q6: See chart below. More than one answer was allowed.
Worst: 49.09% Bad/Bad: 49.09%
Bad person/good president: 3.64% Good person/bad president: 1.82%
Good/Good: 1.82% Best: 1.82% Mixed feelings: 9.09%
Q7: Who will RLSH vote for in November?
Interesting in that after Biden (47.17%), 3rd Party candidates came in second (33.96%), similar to results from the 2016 election. I should have specified this more. If any RLSH are reading this and voting 3rd Party, please comment on this blog post to tell us if you’re voting Green, Libertarian, or something else, I’m curious to know. Trump got 5.66% and 15.09% said they are not voting, though I didn’t ask specifically if that was because they were ineligible or didn’t want to.
A clear majority here– 83.93% of RLSH support Black Lives Matter, 5.36% (3 respondents) said they prefer the term “All Live Matter,” 1 respondent said they were indifferent, and 8.93% (5 respondents) said none of the answers above reflected their feelings.
Another clear majority and perhaps not surprising as many RLSH wear a mask for long periods of time, sometimes while they’re running through alleyways. 91.07% said people should wear masks to prevent COVID while 8.93% said people should choose whether or not they want to.
When I first started interviewing RLSH in 2009, they would often tell me that RLSH shouldn’t “be political” and I noted several cases where RLSH from extremely different backgrounds and belief systems worked together on various efforts.
But that was a different time. This answer was split Yes: 23.21% No: 28.57% Depends: 53.57%
Thank you to all RLSH who participated. I’m keeping the info on who partook confidential, but one was Superhero of Clearwater, Florida, who took the survey just a three days before he died. You can read my obituary of him here: teakrulos.com/2020/07/20/death-of-a-superhero/
And please support the fundraiser in his honor here: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero
There is a giveaway for FREE copies of my book American Madness on Goodreads, open through Aug. 10. You can enter here: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309615-american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-th
It’s available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
and wherever books are sold.
I was honored to be a guest speaker at Ripon College (in Ripon, WI), a small town college near Fon Du Lac, and the place where Harrison Ford first took an acting class. Professor Marc Eaton teaches a “Sociology of the Paranormal” class there, and decided to take a few days discussing Real Life Superheroes in addition to ghosts, UFOs, ESP, and cryptozoology.
The class was assigned to read some chapters of my book, Heroes in the Night, and last Friday they were paid a visit by The Watchman, a RLSH and star of some of the selected material they read. I drove up this morning with Wendy and ran through my RLSH slideshow, talked briefly on my upcoming book Monster Hunters and the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, and answered a few questions. No one fell asleep!
Afterward, I joined Marc and three students for coffee at the campus Starbucks and talked more on the book and one of the class assignments, which was creating a superhero persona.
This is the second time (that I know of) that Heroes in the Night has been part of class curriculum. Madeline Smith teaches a module class titled “Vigilante Nation: Vigilantism and Violence in American History and Culture” through the University of Hull in Yorkshire, England. The class featured reading an interview Smith conducted with me, as well as reading from the book for a section of the class on RLSH.
I certainly hope this continues and that more classes take time to read the book. If any teachers or administrators are interested, feel free to contact me!
Heroes in the Night is still available here:www.chicagoreviewpress.com/heroes-in-the-night-products-9781613747759.php
You can pre-order Monster Hunters here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/monster-hunters-products-9781613749814.php?page_id=21
I really had fun this weekend. A lot of the time writing (for me, anyway) involves me being anti-social, staying at home at the desk. So when I have a weekend of getting to see friends, old and new, it is a hella cool time for me. My girlfriend Wendy (a talented photographer, who took the photos below– her website is HERE) and I hit the road and visited West Bend and Chicago for a couple of events I was invited to participate in.
Friday, I participated in the Museum Of Wisconsin Art‘s member show, which was superhero themed. I judged a costume contest along with Real Life Superhero The Watchman (one of the subjects of my book Heroes in the Night, available HERE) and fashion designer Miranda Kay Levy, who you might have seen on Project Runway. She asked me to help judge and you know when an acclaimed designer like Miranda asks me for my fashion opinions, we’re in for a rare situation. There were about 10 or 12 entries in the contest and they were all great, very creative.
I had some waves of nostalgia rolling in to town, as I was briefly a resident of West Bend in 1996. I finished my Senior year of high school there. More importantly, it’s where I met an incredibly unique group of individuals who became my friends. I think my life adventures really began in West Bend.
In addition to the costume contest, I tabled with Heroes in the Night, sold a few copies, and talked with a few people who were genuinely interested in what I was up to. People got to talk with The Watchman, who was there with two of his kids– Wonder Boy and Guardian Girl.
The next morning, we headed down to the Chicago Ghost Conference. Real Life Superhero Razorhawk (of Minneapolis) had been invited to do a panel on what being a RLSH is all about and he had Chicago RLSH Citizen Prime and Wraith as well as myself as guests. Attendance was low, but we didn’t let it get us down. I got to chat with a couple people I’ve met over the last year or two who will be featured in my next book, Monster Hunters (out in June 2015, you can pre-order HERE).
I also met a few new people involved with the field of paranormal investigation. I did an interview with second generation ghost hunter Alexandra Holzer, which will make for a great future article somewhere. I even got my photo taken with B movie host icon Svengoolie.
I am planning a one day Milwaukee Paranormal Conference for June 6 (see website HERE), so perhaps the best thing I got from the conference was taking a look firsthand at things I thought worked and things I thought did not.
A fun weekend hanging out with a lot of great people I’ve had the fortune of meeting, and in many cases, writing about.
PLUS: Pre-Order Information!
I’m proud to announce that the cover of my upcoming book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement can now be revealed. It’s a secret I’ve guarded as vigorously as a superhero’s secret identity until now.
The photos, l-r, top-bottom: Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones (with myself in the background making an Alfred Hitchcock/ Stan Lee style cameo appearance) Milwaukee RLSH The Watchman, early RLSH prototype Terrifica, who patrolled bars in Manhattan, and Zetaman, of Portland, Oregon.
More book info:
Publication date: October 1, 2013, Chicago Review Press.
272 pages. 22 black and white photos, 25 color photos, 10 black and white illustrations.
Paperback: $16.95 (CAN $18.95)
E-pub/Adobe pdf/ Kindle: $13.99
Want to pre-order a copy?
Amazon link HERE
Barnes & Noble link HERE
Powell’s link HERE
Independent Publishing Group link HERE (book description is up, but not pre-order option)
Information for Indiebound coming soon!
I’ve also set up my Goodreads author page, so please stop by. I’d be honored if you’d hit the “become a fan” button and add Heroes in the Night to your “to read” list. My Goodreads page is HERE