Did you know… that there are actual real-life superheroes?

It’s true! Reporter Nadia Fezzani interviewed, trained with, and even patrolled with multiple people who participate in the “Real Life Superhero” (or RLSH) movement. These people dress in costumes and body armor and go out and fight crime, keep the peace in their neighborhoods, or provide supplies and relief to the poor, homeless, or disaster-stricken. They also are active online and have created a sort of support group for themselves.

Fezzani interviewed multiple RLSHs both in person and over email and telephone. She asks questions about their early and personal lives, the inspiration for their costumes, what their signature method of superheroism is, and more. She wanted to understand why the RLSHs do what they do, and how they differ. Many of these heroes have had difficult lives, many have families and jobs, and some have even been arrested and done jail time. But they all have something in common: they were inspired by the fictional heroes of their youth, and they want to give back to their community.

And, of course, you can’t have superheroes without supervillains! Fezzani takes the time to talk to some real live supervillains (RLSVs). They range from online trolls to actual villainous organizations, but for the most part, a lot of the villains feel they are foils to the heroes. They sort of police the RLSH community, to weed out the “heroes” who only call themselves so for the online fame, for the media attention, or who harass other heroes. Some of the real-life villains and heroes are even friends! (Now there’s something you don’t find often in the comic books =P )

The book is short – barely over 200 pages – but I found myself stopping and mulling over it a lot. Fezzani writes succinctly, and yet, there’s a lot of food for thought. The reader becomes just as fascinated as Fezzani herself did about these heroes, and one can’t help thinking about their formative years, the events that made them into heroes, the dangers they face. It’s a world that shouldn’t be real, and yet is, and it’s somewhat hard to fathom after trying so hard to convince yourself it can’t be!

Yet, at the same time, you might even find yourself brainstorming about your superhero name would be and what your costume would look like.

There isn’t a lot of graphic violence in this book, which makes it excellent for teen or squeamish readers (like me), who want to learn more about the RLSH movement but who might not want any blood and guts. Again, it’s a short read at just over 200 pages. The pages are filled with larger-than-life characters who truly want to make their communities, and the world, a better place. It’s both humbling and inspiring. A fascinating glimpse into an unreal – but very real – world.

– Kathleen

Fezzani, Nadia. Real Life Super Heroes. 2017.