Inside a hotel room in this New England port city, a superhero assumed his disguise before hitting the street.
Dressed in a black fedora, white shirt with skinny black necktie, and a studded belt, 24-year-old Chaim “Life” Lazaros looks like any other hipster from New York City. Except for his black mask.
In real-life he’s a radio personality at a college radio station, but in superhero mode, Lazaros spends his time comforting homeless people.
And his eye-catching uniform helps his cause.
“You will get stares, questions on the street from people who are interested and curious,” Lazaros said. “They are always inspired. I got emails from soldiers in Iraq saying ‘It’s so inspiring to me to see people back home helping each other.”
Three years ago, Lazaros and Ben Goldman, a documentary filmmaker, created “Superheroes Anonymous,” an organised group of real-life superheroes.
Lazaros said there are now roughly 200 fellow superheroes across the country — costumed civilians who patrol the streets behind self-made superhero personas.
Their missions are varied, from conducting homeless and sex worker outreach and picking up litter to looking out for crime and teaching first aid skills.
In early September, about 20 members gathered in New Bedford from across the country for a three-day event that included a hip hop concert, beach clean-up and workshops on how to disarm an enemy.
“Scavenger,” a 28-year-old social worker, stood outside a local coffee shop during a break.
Dressed in a velvet bustier and black tassled bodysock, the tight spandex revealed only her eyes. She said crows and vultures inspired her costume, as they are the recyclers of nature.
“They clean up and they use things to live. So I take garbage off the street,” Scavenger said, explaining that money she earns from picking up litter goes to buying things for homeless people.
At home, Mike “KnightOwl” Johnson is a firefighter and emergency medical technician from Ohio.
This towering 26-year-old in a bright yellow jersey with an owl logo and a black head scarf said he became a superhero as another way to make a visible difference in the world.