Wednesday, November 25, 2009
(Normally I will be posting one of these every Thursday, but seeing as tomorrow is a holiday, I thought I'd post the first one today.)
Operates out of: Milwaukee, WI aka “Brew City”
Group affiliation: Great Lakes Heroes Guild
Sidekicks: The Watchdog joins on some patrols. Wonder Boy may appear at future charity events.
Current Activities: Charity work and safety patrols
Quote: “When I first started out, I avoided the police like the plague. I was a bit paranoid about being treated like a nut. It is what I would have thought if I saw somebody running around like I was, so I understand that. I just didn't want to have to deal with it. Anything I reported to them was done either anonymously, or as "_____ _____", the guy behind the mask. I figured it would work better than calling 911 and saying ‘This is The Watchman, and I'd like to report a crime.’ Imagine being that operator.”
Additional author notes: Obviously, as you can see from previous blog entries, The Watchman is the beginning and a key part of my book. He introduced me to the scene. I've met with him several times and talk to him on a regular basis, and so it makes sense to start with him as my first featured hero. I admire The Watchman's dedication and he recently had a great feature on him on the local FOX news affiliate, pasted below:
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
(This article was originally published in the December 2009 issue of the Riverwest Currents, which is a Milwaukee community newspaper. Above by Tea Krulos, bottom photo by Paul Kjelland.)
OPERATION: SIDEWALK CHALK
Mission of a “Real Life Superhero”
By Tea Krulos
THE WATCHMAN is a “real life superhero,” a growing movement of people who adopt costumed comic book -style personas. These people do charity events and safety patrols of their neighborhood, looking for criminal activity.
Patrolling with the Real Life Superheroes
I first met the Watchman last March. I was writing a profile on him for Milwaukee magazine, and we met on a cold night in Gordon Park. Since then, I’ve met up with him several times. I joined him and his colleague MoonDragon, also of Milwaukee, for a patrol of National Avenue on June 12. MoonDragon patrols National Avenue, and wanted to patrol an area where two Milwaukee police officers had been shot a couple days earlier.
The Watchman and I cruised up to Minneapolis on June 27 in the Watchmanmobile to meet his Great Lakes Heroes Guild teammates Razorhawk, Geist, and Celtic Viking. Our meet up spot was the statue of Mary Tyler Moore. We patrolled the streets, and dropped off food at People Serving People. The sun was rising as we headed toward the Wisconsin state line.
The Watchman also lent his time to patrol Riverwest during the Riverwest 24 bicycle race on July 24. He patrolled on foot and by car, keeping a watchful for anything hazardous that might disturb the cyclists.
We have also been interviewed twice. The first time was in July and was for a possible real life superhero reality show being developed by a production company. The second time was this November for a segment on FOX 6 News at 9.
Messages in Chalk
My latest adventure with Watchman, was on November 7- he had a plan for a bit of public art. He picked me up, wearing his new costume: a red rubber mask, red leather gloves, spandex shirt with his logo on it, and a black trench coat. He had a bucket of sidewalk chalk. The idea for this night’s project came from one of his superhero colleagues.
“I came up with the idea after reading something on the Heroes Network forum, posted by Thanatos.”Watchman told me.
The Heroes Network is a site where RLSHs share information and ideas. Thanatos is the green skull masked RLSH of Vancouver. Thanatos suggested that RLSHs go out and create chalk outlines, like one you would find at a murder scene, and then label it with the fatal ills of society.
Lying on the Sidewalk
We set off, with me lying on the concrete and The Watchman doing the chalk work. In the alley behind Stonefly, we left an outline with the word GREED in it. DRUGS was left near the marsupial bridge underneath Holton Street.
We left two in Cathedral Square Park, GANG VIOLENCE and DOMESTIC ABUSE. We chalked two on the river walk, near Wisconsin ave, and Wells street, ALCOHOL ABUSE and CHILD ABUSE. We left the last one outside the Journal Sentinel building on 4th street, labeled POVERTY. We finished this one in the nick of time. A Bucks game had just let out across the street at the Bradley Center, and Watchman was just lettering the “Y” in poverty as the light turned green, and a large group of people began to walk over the outline. Some looked startled or confused; some didn’t seem to react at all.
“Hopefully people see it. I guess I hope that even if it wakes just a little bit inside of them and makes them think enough about it to make them change something in their lives or help prevent any of those things, then I think it was successful. This is one of those cases were we aren’t going to know if it does any good, but it’s worth trying.”
Watchman’s team, the Great Lakes Heroes Guild will raise money for Christmas toy charities for the second year in a row. In addition to charities in Minneapolis and Florida, The Watchman will use his share of funds raised to bring toys to the Gingerbread House charity in West Bend, WI.
You can help these heroes out with this great cause, by donating funds at: glhg.webs.com/psptoydrive.htm
Below: Video produced by The Watchman chronicling the outlines.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Above: Geist and Tea Krulos in Rochester, Below: Razorhawk in Saint Paul.
Photos by Paul Kjelland.
After meeting with my hometown heroes, I was able to meet some of the heroes of Minneapolis in mid April, 2009. I met Razorhawk and Celtic Viking for a mission to look for clues for a missing college student near the Mississippi river in Saint Paul. The next day I met with Geist for a driving patrol of the rainy streets of Rochester, MN.
In late June me and The Watchman hit the road and drove from Milwaukee to Minneapolis to meet up with Razorhawk, Geist, and Celtic Viking for a patrol of downtown Minneapolis, and a food drop off at People Serving People, a charity that provides families with temporary housing.
Watchman produced the short video below on the night:
By Tea Krulos (This article appeared in a slightly different form in the September 2009 issue of Milwaukee magazine.)
It was a frigid 9 degrees on March 1, chilling me as I paced through Gordon Park. It was just after sunset, and I was waiting to meet one of Wisconsin’s own superheroes, The Watchman.
The Watchman pulled up to the park, not in a high tech Batmobile, but a pretty normal looking four door Pontiac. He exited his car and began walking through the empty park toward me, and for those first strange moments I felt somewhat unprepared to interview a costumed crime fighter.
He extended a motorcycle gloved hand to me in greeting. The rest of his costume includes a simple domino mask, a red hooded sweat shirt with The Watchman logo stenciled on it, army boots, and a black trench coat.
The Watchman is part of an expanding group of people across the nation and world calling themselves “Real Life Superheroes” (often referred to as “RLSHs”). These people are living out their dreams of adopting costumed personas and hitting the streets anxious to thwart evil.
Watchman said his name is not directly inspired by Alan Moore’s social superhero epic comic (and now movie) Watchmen, but admitted the graphic novel is a “RLSH Bible.”
We began to stroll around the perimeter of the park, and as Watchman told me about his double life, the only sound was the faint noise of traffic in the background, and the crunching of ice under our feet.
“I’d like people to think, hey, maybe these people are doing good, and take notice and hopefully get a little inspiration. Not necessarily to dress up and go out the way we are, but to do something.” Watchman explained, as we passed the park’s playground. The swings were creaking in the wind. He continued,
“You know if everybody made little changes in what they did, gave more to charity and watched out for their neighbors a little more, we would not have as many problems as we have. That is what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Watchman admits that “most patrols are pretty uneventful,” but adds that “from time to time something comes up.”
On one of his patrols he encountered a group of teens tagging a building with graffiti and trying to break into the building’s shed. The Watchman appeared in the night and “scared him off,” he said.
The Watchman found himself in a bad situation when he got a tip about an underage party on the south side and decided to stake it out.
“I normally leave parties alone. I was a kid once, too, but I like to check up on them sometimes to make sure they aren’t out of control.” He said.
The Watchman saw a group of four or five guys leaving the party with a girl, probably about 15, said Watchman. He sensed trouble.
“It was pretty apparent the girl had too much to drink and the guys were trying to take advantage of the situation, so I intervened.”
The girl’s brother came out of the party to check on her, and when he saw the Watchman he mistook him for the villain and pulled out a knife, according to Watchman. Watchman jumped in his car and took off. Later, from a distance, he saw the girl leave the party with her brother.
“I was mad at how it all went down but I remind myself that at least for that night, the girl probably just ended up with a bad hangover instead of being date raped.”
The Watchman helped form a league of Midwest RLSHs, called the Great Lakes Heroes Guild, which now claims approximately 14 members. The leader of the group is Razorhawk, of Minneapolis, who also runs a website, hero-gear.net. The site creates modestly priced costumes for RLSHs and business is booming as Razorhawk has filled orders for heroes across the nation and beyond.
The group’s first mission was to donate toys to charity groups for Christmas. Watchman participated and made a rare public appearance by donating toys to a charity called the Gingerbread House.
Hoping to join these ranks is Milwaukee’s own MoonDragon, who has just begun to get a feel for his double life, putting on the mask for the first time a month previous to my meeting him. Watchman says he has been patrolling for years, and he met MoonDragon “mask to mask” to join him on patrol and offer his advice.
It is 5 days after my meeting with Watchman and 50 degrees warmer when I join MoonDragon on the busy intersection of National and Layton. I am joining him for a foot patrol of the area between 19th and 27th on National, through the alleys and side streets and Mitchell Park.
MoonDragon was wearing a ski mask with lightning bolts on it, a black hooded sweatshirt, and army boots. Watchman and MoonDragon have “toned down” versions of their costumes for street patrol, and flashier spandex costumes with capes and more elaborate masks for charity events and other public appearances.
Both heroes carry a practical arsenal, a can of pepper spray, note pad, flashlight, digital camera, and first aid kit. MoonDragon is also planning on carrying a pair of eskrimas, a Filipino fighting sticks made of rattan.
It is a quiet night. There is a small group of boys playing soccer in the park, and an old man sitting with his dog at a park bench. They give us a curious look.
“Sometimes I’ll be hanging around with my friends, having a beer and I’ll be thinking to myself- I should be out there right now.” MoonDragon tells me as we turn into an alleyway. He says as of now, none of his friends, no one in fact, knows his secret. Not even his fiancée.
“I will have to tell her soon though.” MoonDragon says. “Maybe I’ll just nonchalantly make an offhand remark about patrolling the streets at night in a cape and mask.”
Author Tea Krulos with The Watchman. Photo by Paul Kjelland.
As a lifelong comic book fan, an admirer of unique individuals, and freelance writer, I jumped at the chance to write a short feature on my local Milwaukee real life superheroes for Milwaukee magazine. As I worked on the article, I learned about the many facets and characters of the scene and soon was confident I had enough material for Heroes in the Night. I began interviewing and researching.
As a freelance writer, I have written for the Shepherd Express, Milwaukee’s weekly paper, Milwaukee magazine, the Riverwest Currents, Third Coast Digest, Alt- magazine, Café Racer, Blood and Thunder Roller Derby magazine, and write a column examining bar legends in the Alcoholmanac.
I also acted as managing editor for UnderCurrents, a monthly A and E newspaper, and Riverwurst Comics, an anthology of alternative comics. In both of these editorial roles, I helped promote both publications, setting up gallery and live music events, sending out press releases, and talking about the projects on radio and local news television.
Heroes in the Night is my first book.
I am 31 and live on the east side of Milwaukee in the Riverwest neighborhood with my comic book collection.