originally published May 27, 2013
There has been a lot of speculation and opinion-flinging in respect to the modern-age superhero. The movie Kick-Ass tells the story of a high school kid who slips on a superhero onesie and wanders the streets, trying to put an end to criminal activity and stick up for the little guy. The twist in the movie is that the protagonist, as a result of getting whomped by some bad guys and requiring some intensive medical treatment, has reduced nerve sensation and can withstand pain more than the average kid.
The people who are doing this in real life have no such medical advantage. But there are hundreds around the world who have tried it, fuelled by childhood fantasies of being as mighty as Superman, as agile as Spider-Man and as bad-ass as Wolverine. Law enforcement, people who actually studied and trained to take down evil-doers, aren’t crazy about this idea.
But if the right person is pouring their guts into such an endeavor, is it such a horrible thing? Wouldn’t our world be vastly richer if Batman were real? And, in lieu of Batman, do we need to ask for better than Phoenix Jones?
Phoenix Jones has a real name, and that name is printed in bold on his Wikipedia page. But I’m going to refrain from printing it here, because I’m sold on the fantasy and anonymity is a fundamental part of the character. If people can get all princess-romantic watching Will and Kate tie the knot and indulge in traditional royal excess, then I can certainly be excused for getting a little wistful when the pages of a comic book are brought to life.
Jones’ origin story is simple enough. Mild-mannered [name redacted] walked back to his car one day to find it had been broken into, using a rock wrapped in a ski mask. His son then proceeded to slip and hurt himself on the broken glass. A short while later he was driving by a bar when he noticed a friend being pummeled. Jones whipped on that ski mask (which he’d kept in his glove box), dialed 911 and jumped out of the car, creating “a commotion” until police showed up.
This incident was the one that smacked Jones upside the head and revealed to him a gaping vacancy in the city’s collective morality. With more than seventy ordinary citizens milling about outside that bar, why didn’t anyone step in? Why did apathy triumph over action?
Jones knew that, if he were to take on the responsibility of trying to negate the evil in his city, he would need to be anonymous. If the police were to arrive, Jones felt the best way he could stand out from the criminals was to be the guy in the super suit. He concocted his shell with the utmost care and attention, incorporating a bullet-proof vest, stab plating, and of course a cup, in case the bad guys got a little junk-happy with their kicking. He rigged himself a full-on utility belt, complete with pepper spray, stun baton, tear gas, handcuffs, a first aid kit, and maybe a few Batarangs. I can’t confirm the Batarangs, but if he doesn’t have any, he should get some.
The name was chosen because of the mythical Phoenix, which rises from the ashes, and because the last name ‘Jones’ is one of the most commonplace surnames in America. He felt he was an ordinary man, rising from the ashes of a broken city, cast into the shadows by the dark forces of greed and violence, and forced by circumstance to push against the tide, to fight for those who cannot defend themselves, and to bring light to the murky, lost metropolis of Seattle.
How could anybody have a problem with this guy?
On January 2nd, 2011, Jones chased away a car thief while the owner stood by, gaping in awe. This made the news, and prompted ABC to do a follow-up story on the guy in that crazy get-up. They followed him around Seattle one night, and got footage of Jones attempting to prevent an intoxicated man from getting into his car. The man became a little ornery (as drunks are wont to do when guys in superhero outfits get in the way of their party), and appeared to want to fight Jones off. The cops showed up, and good triumphed over evil.
In September of that year, as a bus driver was outside his bus, handing out fliers (maybe they were religious materials, or perhaps he was trying to illicit help from the public to save the Hill Valley clock tower), someone tried to steal the guy’s bus. Phoenix Jones swooped in and doused the guy with pepper spray. The hijacker got away, but not without a dollop of agony and hopefully a lesson learned. The police took hours to respond to the call.
That’s Phoenix and his wife, who goes by the name ‘Purple Reign’. The two are at the head of the Rain City Superhero Movement, a group of ten citizens, all with military or martial arts backgrounds, who have joined together to fight crime. Jones himself is also an MMA fighter, though not in the costume.
In October of 2011, Jones was arrested after breaking up an alleged fight – though the story from that night indicates that it may have simply been a group of rowdy drunks, joking around. Jones’ use of pepper spray may have been a tetch on the excessive side. He was held for seven hours before making bail, and the charges were subsequently dropped. But it was this incident which brought Jones to court and forced him to reveal his secret identity to the public.
But this has not deterred Jones from his mission. He has been stabbed and shot, doing damage only to his suit. He had his nose broken in a fight, but he remained resilient. One tale from last year reveals that Jones, along with El Caballero and Midnightjack of the Rain City Superhero Movement may have foiled a plot to bomb the local courthouse.
So yes, perhaps these vigilantes will need to operate outside the law, rather than as an extension of them. And sure, they could benefit from proper law enforcement training and from all of them having a rig like Phoenix Jones to keep them safe. But let’s not discourage this sort of crime-fighting. We need to encourage the activists for the plight of good, the few souls who are willing to take the risks and bring down the bad guys.
We live in a world with a lot of supervillains, and I say we could use more soldiers on the good guys’ side. Keep at it, Mr. Jones.