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Anyone who’s passed through a multiplex has a good understanding of the rules of superheroism, but it’s usually confined to on-camera antics. And they’re usually somewhere a bit more glamorous than rural Arizona.

The most recent Rolling Stone has a quasi-exposé about the phenomenon of “reals,” grown men who don self-designed costumes to fight the forces of evil…which usually means local purse-snatchers and the occasional drug dealer.

We’re not going to fault them for doing a little amateur police work in their spare time, and a secret identity can come in handy for lots of reasons, but did they really need the costumes? Nobody questions the occasional good Samaritan, but when you start strapping on shin-guards and ordering a SUPRHRO vanity plate, you’ve gone too far. As the Dark Knight so memorably put it, “I’m not wearing hockey pants.”

Most of the heroes get their outfits custom from a shop called Hero Gear in the Twin Cities—and they pay about as much as a you’d expect to at a boutique. But naturally, it’s worth it. Joshua Bearman, the writer, explains:

As a means of establishing a superhero identity, it is difficult to overstate the importance of the costume. Real Life Superheroes devote much of their time to researching, procuring, making, comparing, fine-tuning and otherwise fetishizing their looks. The costume itself is the radioactive-spider bite, the source of their abilities. Without a costume, after all, you’re just another do-gooder schmuck.

Apparently they’re taking back Halloween.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom