As a fan of superhero comics I wondered what it must be like to be a real life superhero, the truth at least with the people on film was stranger than any fiction I had read. The programme centred around 3 people who were or believed they were superheroes, their story was told in segments throughout the programme. For the purposes of this blog I have split out each person and written their part of the story, or at least as I saw it.
We were first introduced to The Dark Spartan – real name Will a 27-year-old accountant living in Torbay, Spartan lived with his wife and two young children and was happily sat around in full costume eating his tea before going on patrol.
Will's costume was made up of police riot armour which he had bought off ebay, and he was happy to pose outside his home in full costume for all to see, no secret Bat cave or Fortress of Solitude for Will.
While been interview Will wore a mask that looked like it had been drawn on with marker pen, this was presumably to hide his identity. What I found worrying was despite wearing his drawn on mask, he was happy for his wife and children to appear on camera for the world to see. Well at least all those who watched the programme.
Spartan is filmed as he walks the streets or Torbay at night hoping to help any one in distress or in trouble, he seemed genuinely put out when the police intervened in a drunken street brawl before he managed to get there, and just stands in the crowd as the police do their job.
At the end of the night Spartan is reduced to trying to help drunks find there way home safely, but even they seemed to ignore him, “That one should be safely on his way home” says Spartan as the drunken man zig zags passed him, perhaps thinking to himself did I drink that much tonight.
In the end and under pressure from his wife to stay safe Will is reduced to looking for a sidekick, and where would you look to find a sidekick, yes you've guessed it Facebook. He eventually settles after an interview on the Black Void, a man wearing a basic lycra Spiderman type costume and carrying a cane. Black Void was happy to admit that his main weakness is his irritable bowel syndrome, which on reflection could be a problem if things turned nasty, this is also not a weakness you would ever hear Superman admit to.
Black Void & Dark Spartan
At the end of Dark Spartan's story, It’s revealed that he or his sidekick is yet to stop any actual crime.
Next up was Noir – a 17 year old comic book fan Kieran from my home county of Yorkshire. Kieran explained to us that he was called Noir because he dressed in black apart from a poorly made red mask, and the word for black in French was noir simple really. Kieran suffered from panic attacks which is not the ideal condition to have for a would be superhero, however he had an optimistic view on life and just wanted to help people, and you couldn't help but like the young man. In his first interview he excitedly told the interviewer “I saved a baby from a burning building, I stopped a car thief and I brought down a drugs ring,” when asked if this was true he admitted that it wasn't but this is the sort of headline he would like to have soon.
Kieran is later shown in the local park on the swings where he talks about a girl who has been mugged, and tells us how he would like to help her, now you cannot knock him for that. Unfortunately for Kieran he didn't knew where the girl lived, or had any idea on how to find her.
In the end he is reduced to knocking on doors and showing his newspaper clipping to locals asking if they know her, unfortunately for him after find out where she lives the girl is too traumatised from the mugging to meet him or appear on TV.
Undeterred Kieran writes her a letter and buys the girl a box of Maltesers, which he anomalously leaves on her door step. When asked how he feels about doing something good to help a stranger Kieran firstly says that he is ok “but its not the same feeling Spiderman has when beating Venom,” but then adds “You don’t need a mask or a costume to be a superhero, It’s what you do, not what you look like or what you wear that counts,” the phrase out of the mouths of babes comes to mind. At the end of Kieran's story it does seem a little sad to see him walking off alone, and I couldn't help thinking that if he had a few more friends he wouldn't be trying to be a superhero.
Lastly we meet The Shadow – real name Ken from Somerset who we first meet disguised as a bin bag in a back street, I must say he did look impressive as he jumped out and I will admit I rewound my recording to see it again (I am easily fooled). Ken AKA The Shadow models him self on the legendary Ninja warriors of old, and like Dark Spartan & Noir wants to help anyone in need. Unfortunately that's where the similarity ends with Ken, as he comes over as some one who is one step away from doing someone real harm if given the chance or is pushed too far. At one point while talking about dealing with a gang of boy racers, who have been terrorising a local car park for years despite complaints to the police from residents. He shows us his array of weapons that he keeps locked up in his back garden shed, as well as all the usual ninja weapons pointed stars, swords etc., there were a few guns hung on the wall. It was a armoury that the Punisher would have been envious of, and while I suspect most of them were only replicas, it was a worrying sight and I would encourage Kens local police to give him a visit just to check it out.
Ken planned his strategy for getting rid of the boy racers in his back yard using model cars and an action man toy, while watching this I could not shake the feeling, that any second his mum would come out and shout “your tea is ready.”
We were then shown scenes of The Shadow creeping around in the dark at the far side of the car park which was unfortunately for him empty, undeterred he decided the best course of action was to hide in the bushes. Which would be a good strategy if you did not have a film crew with you, The Shadow then treated us to more information than I actually wanted to know. As he explained how he could silently wait for hours undetected, and that he would even pee himself rather than move and give his position away. This is something I have never read of Batman doing, and I will add I don't want too.
The night ended with a voice from the film crew saying “Ken I'm going to bed,” to which Ken broke cove hopefully still dry and went along with them. However he did throw a smoke bomb to the ground, to hide his rather unsuccessful unnoticed getaway.
So that was it and to be honest although their intentions are good, the fact is superheroes don't work in the real world. In this week of riots across the country how many of us have wished there could be a superhero to deal with them all, I know I did, do I after watching this, not any more.
Superheroes of Suburbia, which was first shown on Friday 5th August at 7.35pm.