Superheroes / HBO Documentaries

We posit that this will be one of the questions addressed in this new HBO documentary that chronicles real-life superheroes. Are these guys delusional, fantasy-obsessed, wannabe vigilantes or brave heroes and protectors? Are these merely glorified cosplayers or Batmen-incarnates or earnest nutjobs? Or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle in Superheroes? Is this a real world Kick-Ass, sans the reality of brutal and bloody violence? Honestly, we’re kinda intrigued.

Where is Phoenix Jones when you need him?

Directed by Michael Barnett, Superheroes debuts August 8 at 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central on HBO.


Superheroes gives viewers an inside look at the world of Real Life Superheroes (RLSH) – a U.S. phenomenon comprised of hundreds of men and women who have superhero alter-egos. The 82-minute documentary follows these real life superheroes who patrol city streets with the goal of deterring violent crime and, if necessary, taking the law into their own hands. Viewers are introduced to “Mr. Xtreme,” the San Diego-based founder and sole member of the Xtreme Justice League (XJL); “Zimmer,” an unmasked, openly gay RLSH from Brooklyn who, along with three RLSH roommates, conducts bait missions to catch criminals in the act; “Master Legend,” who hands out toys to needy kids in Orlando; and others.

They patrol the dark and dangerous streets, seeking out criminals and villains, veiled in secret identities. They call themselves real-life superheroes (RLSH), and they are out to save humanity.

There are currently more than 300 registered superheroes in the United States. Through candid interviews, patrol footage, archival material and motion graphics, SUPERHEROES explores this cultural phenomenon, revealing what inspires these everyday citizens to take the law into their own hands as they try to make the world a better place.

The film spotlights several of the country’s most famous masked heroes, including San Diego’s Mr. Xtreme and the members of Brooklyn’s New York Initiative (N.Y.I.) as they guard city streets with the goal of deterring violent crimes. SUPERHEROES also features interviews with: Stan Lee, legendary comic-book writer and former Marvel Comics chairman, who co-created Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Hulk and Iron Man; Lt. Andrea Brown, a 24-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department; and Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and expert on the psychology of superheroes, both real-life and fictional.

Whether they actually protect the public from crime or are just oddball vigilantes, the vast majority of these men and women are motivated by a heartfelt desire to fight apathy and the so-called “bystander effect.” Some of the superheroes profiled in the film were inspired by the widely reported 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, in which neighbors heard the victim’s screams without coming to her aid. Others decided to turn their lives around after struggling with violence, depression or addiction. Many RLSH channel their energies into doing a variety of good deeds, from giving out food and water to the homeless, to organizing toy drives for children in shelters.

In addition to its premiere at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival, SUPERHEROES screened July 23 at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.

SUPERHEROES is directed by Michael Barnett; produced by Theodore James in association with Freestyle Filmworks and O’Malley Creadon Productions; co-written by Michael Barnett and Theodore James; executive produced by Doug Blush, Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley; edited by Doug Blush, Derek Boonstra and Jeff Chen.

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