Greetings Nightwing Loves Power Girl fans! I have been reaching out to members of the Real Life Super Hero community all this week, asking for an interview to get a more in depth look at these brave people. I had the pleasure to interview a real life superhero going by the name Night-Shadow. All of his answers are unedited. The interview went great but a side note should be applied here; since the conclusion of the interview, Night-Shadow has vanished.His Facebook profile is gone, all mention of him on the Internet cannot be found, and attempts at contacting him have failed. It’s a great piece that I hope you all enjoy but, Night-Shadow if you’re still out there fighting the good fight, please contact me and let me thank you again. Until then, please enjoy the interview and good luck out there Night-Shadow…
**Update on 11.30** Night-Shadow is back. Here is his profile page.
I am a sucker for a great origin story. Since it’s the basis for any great story, could you please tell, in as much detail as you can, how and why you became the real life superhero Night Shadow?
Sadly my origin story doesn’t quite make me out to be the ‘good guy’ right from the start; in fact I was rather the opposite before putting on the mask. When I was younger I was a bit of an anarchist mixed in with a bad crowd, however this was all by choice. I wanted to commit misdemeanors, I wanted to vandalize and I wanted to take drugs. When I was sixteen I began selling marijuana and it was around this time I learned how to fight and how to take a punch. I loved the scene I was in, surrounded by the lowest form of humans I could find. To be blatant; I loved being ‘bad’.
Of course it all got to me at one point, no matter how desensitized I was to violence and filth, something snapped at one point and I told myself this wasn’t me. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. I distanced myself from my friends and I spent most of my time in solitude after that. I hated myself as I looked back at all the damage I had done to others lives. It was a year later when I was 17 that I had the idea to first do something about local crime. This was years before I came up with the concept of ‘Night Shadow’ or before I ever heard of the Real Life Super Hero (RLSH) community (I’m not sure if they existed back then). I figured if I could do so much harm when I put my mind to it, why not do something positive instead?
I hated society, I disliked most people and my life was still a mess, but that was when I first began trying my hand at vigilantism. It was for selfish reasons, I was overwhelmed with guilt and needed a way to battle my own demons. I had little to lose and wasn’t afraid to die.
I wanted to turn my life around, be somebody with a purpose. I would sneak out of my room at night (I lived with my parents when I began doing this.) and I would lurk around all the areas in which crime was often reported. Lucky for me I very rarely encountered another person in those streets, otherwise I might not have lived to write this (although not a high crime area, stabbings and shootings where occasionally in the news). I barely knew how to fight and I would go out armed with a knife I didn’t know how to use (it looked so easy in the movies).
I would like to point out that my inspiration for vigilantism was in fact taken from a Batman comic. It was Batman Black and White issue #4, when the ‘innocent guy’ character says “… we’re put on this earth with free will. We can choose to do this or that. We can choose to be good or bad. But sometimes I think most people are good and NOT bad because they’re scared they might go to jail or hell or someplace.” He then goes on to quote ‘some guy’ by saying “Anything done out of fear has no moral value.” After that he says “I figure the only way you can be truly good is if you’ve tried being good and you’ve tried being bad, and being good feels better.”
This was indeed the story of my life. Maybe I had just been a part of too much violence and hatred, but being good just felt better in my mind.
The first ‘crime’ I encountered was about two weeks after I first started patrolling. I went to one of my old hangouts because I had heard sounds coming from there. When I got there I found one of my old friends and some other guy beating on a third guy who was on the ground. My first thought was to pull out my knife before I realized that might make things a lot worse. Instead I grabbed my friend and pulled him off the guy. Me and him began fighting instead and both of us left that night with one black eye each. The guy on the ground managed to get away, though. Not exactly a thrilling start to my career as a vigilante. It gets better.
I had assimilated into society, I had a minimum wage job, I donated money to charity, I occasionally helped the homeless and at night I continued my vigilante work, only now I wore a mask. I must admit the mask proved useless as it barely hid my identity, I just wanted to be like one of my comic book heroes. The original mask was only a cheap ‘Zorro’ style mask and I wore a fedora to hide my hair. I looked rather ridiculous, but I felt like a hero. I soon adapted a cape which proved dangerous in fights as people tend to pull on them in an effort to knock you to the ground. They’re usually successful in this.
After over a year of this I had helped many people, yet only stopped a few crimes (breaking up fights, and chasing drug dealers away. Again, I’m lucky I didn’t get killed.) My daytime life became overwhelmingly busy and I soon decided to hang up the cape. I figured I had changed enough, I could stop risking my life. Perhaps I stopped because I feared I would get killed if I continued, and it seemed I finally had some reason to live now.
Years later I moved to Ireland (personal reasons I can’t get into,) and soon found a home in one of the towns here.
Although this town I live in is quite peaceful, we have the occasionally bar fights breaking out, drunks walking in front of traffic, attempted rapes, burglaries, and people abusing animals (this is far too common here.) and of course this county and the surrounding counties have a few stabbings and reports of pedophiles or child-abusers. All in all it is far safer than the city I used to live in back in the states.
I thought about going out and doing it all again, being a nighttime vigilante, but I felt it was too unrealistic. I wasn’t a teenager anymore and this was just a silly dream.
Soon I began hearing about the way the Irish government protects their criminals and defends pedophiles. This really bothered me, but again, there wasn’t anything I could do.
A little while later I read a story in the paper about a pedophile in Ireland who was let free by a judge. The story of what the pedophile did sickened me, these stories always do. Like I said, no matter how desensitized we think we are, some things can crush us with no warning. My thoughts went out to the child involved, the pain she must now live with, the pain her family must now live with and the fact the man who did it is walking free.
I wasn’t going to go after him obviously, that was unrealistic; even if I could find him, what could I do? The police won’t arrest him. I decided that the only thing to do is to prevent such things as best I can. Keep a watchful eye out for anyone suspicious. But if I was to do that, why not protect other people from having to suffer or lose a loved one? And if I’m protecting people again, why not look out for animals? All living beings are important.
I was older and had more experience, I decided it was time to hit the streets again. This time would be different, this time I would be prepared. I began learning martial arts (Taijutsu), I bought body armor, I bought a dark trench coat and I bought a mask. I was even trained (through Kobujutsu) to use weapons such as the Jo staff (my preferred weapon as it is not lethal.) Of course the new costume wasn’t complete until I found my old black fedora. This costume was perfect for what I planned on doing: patrolling at night. I would be invisible. The mask would protect my identity. Wearing a mask in public is illegal, but so is vigilantism as well as carrying weapons in public. My methods aren’t accepted by the law, but in a town where the police never leave their station, I felt I was doing something positive for the community again.
I began going out every night and coming back just before the sunrise. I taught myself stealth techniques and always kept to the shadows. I must have looked insane if anyone could’ve seen me… but they couldn’t. No one could. That was when I became Night Shadow.
What makes you qualified to do this sort of work? What kind of training have you undergone?
I feel like I’m being interviewed for a job with this one. I suppose my past experience in fighting, my current training in martial arts (I’m still relatively new to this.) and my training in weaponry as well as my general understanding of the way low-level criminals think makes me qualified enough to be a vigilante. I’m also, by nature, a night-owl, so patrolling at night feels natural, and having been doing this for some time I’ve learned to make no noise when I patrol at night. Besides that, martial arts, tai-chi and meditation have taught me to be extremely patient, which is very important when trying not to make a sound during a patrol, as well as being important for suppressing fear and other emotions that can be dangerous during patrolling.
Tell me about the most heroic thing you’ve done so far.
Unfortunately I’ve never taken down the Mafia, stopped The Joker, or flown around earth faster than the speed of light to save someone. The truth is that my heroic feats aren’t as heroic as what millions of other people do each day (i.e doctors and volunteers). Preventing two drunk people from breaking each other’s faces sounds mildly heroic, but I would have more respect for someone who volunteered at an animal shelter or perhaps gives money to a charity that helps abused children. Hero is an interesting word to try and define, but at the end of the day, a hero is anyone who makes an active attempt at helping another living being. I would say that I do not have a ‘most heroic’ moment, but rather all the little things I do to help and to protect add up. My entire journey as a masked vigilante is my most heroic moment.
Can you tell me about a moment in your career when you doubted doing this type of work?
There are some things I never outgrew from my teenage years; for example I still dislike society and the justice system still seems flawed to me. I’m a pessimist and a cynic. Sometimes I can be almost nihilistic, and yet I don’t doubt what I do. I never doubt what I do. The truth is that if I let go of my life as a masked vigilante, I would feel myself useless. I don’t enjoy much in this world, but being part of a positive change is amazing. I believe the fact that I never doubt myself might be considered a flaw, but I find that doubt would be useless here.
Does your community accept what you are doing? Are they aware of you?
The town I live in has a few individuals who are aware of my presence, though considering I try to blend with the night, not many people see me until I want to be seen. I have been recognized on a few occasions, though people mostly think of me as the strange man with no face who stopped some people fighting on various occasions. It seems a few younger people know me from my facebook page, as just last week when I was patrolling I walked by some people at a local pub and I was recognized as “The super hero from facebook.” I also overheard some people mentioning ‘Night Shadow’ while I was at the local grocery store (without my mask of course.) It can be interesting to hear people talk about my alter ego right next to me without even realizing I am Night Shadow. It seems I’m accepted and I’m proud to say I have yet to be laughed at for my costume (As opposed to my old costume when I first became a masked vigilante when I was a teenager.) In fact I would say Night Shadow is more accepted than my non-costumed self.
I respect what you do and have often wondered if I could get into the real world superhero life, but being a family man now I know it’s something I could never do. What advice would you give someone who wants to walk down the road you’ve traveled?
The best advice I could give is not to do it, but that won’t stop anyone who wants to be a ‘real life super hero.’ So I suppose my advice is to really think about what you are doing here. Think about your goals and consider if you are physically fit enough to either fight or run. Most important is to consider who you will be leaving if you get killed. If you have children or a spouse or if you care about someone, don’t do this. Every night I go out I leave with the understanding I may not return. This isn’t a comic book, this is real and reality is the scariest thing you’ll ever face. If you’re still persistent in doing this, learn self-defence, learn to fight, learn to take a punch, learn to run faster than you thought possible. Learn discipline and learn to control your fear and emotions. Find your strengths and your weaknesses and before you ever leave the door hoping to stop crime, ask yourself if you’re ready to die for your beliefs.
What do you think would happen if you were confronted with an arch nemesis, not like that “Rex Velvet” character who showed up awhile back, but someone more dangerous like a Joker or Bullseye. Would you handle it yourself or call in the authorities?
Haven’t we all fantasized about what we would do if we ever encountered one of these super villains? I suppose I would deal with an arch nemesis alone rather than involve the authorities who would most likely end up getting themselves hurt. I think it’s important to get into the mind of your enemy, that way you will always know what to expect of them. You’d think Batman would already know The Joker as well as he knows himself after all this time. Personally I find it scary how I can sometimes agree with the comic book super villains. I would either find some way to stop them, or find myself teaming up with them somehow. Then again, The Joker seems like he might be fun, whereas real life criminals aren’t.
As for Rex Velvet, he was… amusing. At least he never went around poisoning the town with laughing gas.
What do you think of the real superhero movement as a whole?
It’s hard for me to give many positive comments on the RLSH community, though I will say that as long as so many people want to help others, there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. The problem is that the movement is a bit confusing to me most of the time. For example, often times I see people putting on bright costumes and masks, adding RLSH to their title and yet not making any attempt to fight crime or hide their real-life identity. Then we have the large group of people who put on masks and feed the homeless. That’s great, too, they’re helping the community, but why do they need the masks? Why call themselves super heroes? And while I’m on the topic, I’ve never been comfortable with calling myself a real life ‘super’ hero. I’m just a human, I have no super powers. Yet I’ll keep the RLSH in my title for the sake of not being confused with role players.
In ten years where do you see yourself? Is being a vigilante something you see as sustainable?
I have a job and a normal (boring) life during the day, the one thing I look forward to is patrolling during the late hours. If I’m not still doing this in ten years, I’ll most likely be doing some other dangerous stunt in an attempt to help people. Perhaps I will have found others like myself in the span of ten years and can form a team. As for now, I prefer working alone.
What do you say to someone who says you’re crazy for risking your life or doesn’t take you seriously?
I would ask them how I am the crazy one for going out and doing something to help make the community safer while they’re at home watching TV and ignoring the pain and suffering of people in need of help. I can see why people would call us crazy or not take masked vigilantes serious, but I believe it’s from a lack of understanding. And if helping the helpless is crazy, then perhaps it’s time we all refrain from being sane? (Pardon the Joker-ish sentence.)
Finally the staff of nightwinglovespowergirl.com would like to thank you for your time, and want to know if there is anything else you would like to add to this interview?
I would like to thank you for choosing to interview me as I’ve had an opinion on the RLSH movement a long time, yet never had anyone ask me my personal view. I would also like to make it clear that my views are not the views of the entire RLSH community, rather I believe many in the community might disagree with half of what I’ve said. Lastly I would like to compliment the staff on an amazing website! I’ve been a comic book fan since I first read Watchmen (and I still have the original 1987 second edition of the book right here on my shelf.) and have never stopped reading comics since. I’ve spent the entire morning exploring the site and look forward to listening to your podcasts. Thank you for having me.
Thanks again Night Shadow! Hope you guys enjoyed the story, I sure did. If anyone needs help or just a cool friend to follow, Night-Shadow can be reached via a quick search on Facebook. Till next time folks…