Comic Book Heroes in Real Life

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Is there something about putting on the costume of a comic book super hero that causes people to become heroic?

During a protest last week in Bangkok, Thailand a LP gas truck was hijacked. Protesters parked the truck in front of an apartment building and opened a valve, ensuring that government police could not open fire on them. The hijackers were confronted by the tenants they endangered.

Then came Batman to the rescue! Out of nowhere, a person in the crowd, wearing a Batman suit and holding a video camera, jumped out and ran towards the truck, as seen in this video from Channel 3 news. The running Batman brought much-needed laughs and amusement to the stressed-out residents and protesters alike. The tension in the scene was lowered significantly.The Batman then climbed on the back of the gas truck and yelled, "Batman is here!", distracting the protesters in the area and brighten up the atmosphere.

While the crowd was distracted, a government official sneaked into the gas truck and drove it away. Batman made his exit on the back of a water truck that had been standing by, in case a fire had started.445superheroes.png

I read this story and thought, "Hasn't this sort of thing happened a lot lately?" And I was right. It appears that a Spiderman costume is most effective at inspiring heroic behavior -or maybe the most effective at inspiring worldwide publicity.

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Kevin Godin-Prior of Manchester, England was on his way to a charity fundraiser when he stopped in a store and found a would-be thief attacking the shopkeeper. The 53-year-old mortgage consultant confronted the attacker and said, "You've made a big mistake here, mate. You don't know who you are dealing with." He then lifted his sweater and revealed the Spiderman costume he was wearing underneath. Godin-Prior fought the man and sustained minor injuries to his head and neck, but would not let the man go until police arrived.

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An autistic boy in Bangkok was nervous about his first day of school. He climbed out onto the ledge of a third-floor balcony at the school and refused to come inside. Fireman Somchai Yoosabai learned that the boy loved comic book super heroes and went to the fire station, where he put on a Spiderman costume! Somchai keeps the Spiderman suit and an Ultraman suit to wear when speaking to children and conducting fire drills. As Spiderman, he was able to coax the 11-year-old off the roof and inside to safety.

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Five-year-old Riquelme Maciel spotted smoke coming from a neighbor's house in Palmeira, Brazil. A baby was sleeping inside! The baby's mother, Lucilene dos Santos was afraid to enter the blazing building, but Maciel, who was wearing his Spiderman costume, rushed in and grabbed the one-year-old girl named Andrieli from her cradle. Maciel was hailed as a hero by neighbors and the local fire department.

duncan.jpgSurprisingly, Superman costumes don't figure in such heroics nearly as often. Andy Duncan didn't encounter any crimes in progress when he put on a Superman costume last week, but he felt heroic as he got on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Lyndsay Linton in Leeds, England. Duncan made a grand entrance at the call center where Linton works, complete with theme music. She said yes, but asked for an upgrade on the engagement ring Duncan gave her.

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Conversely, putting on the costume of a comic book villain seems to attract trouble. 20-year-old Spencer Taylor was arrested at a movie theater where The Dark Knight was playing. Police say he was trying to steal posters and other movie memorabilia. Taylor was wearing the costume and face makeup of the Joker. Police took two sets of mug shots, with and without the makeup.

In an unrelated case, army specialist Christopher Lanum was shot and killed by police while wearing a Joker costume. Lanum had allegedly stabbed and killed another soldier at Fort Eustis in Virginia. Police confronted Lanum and his girlfriend at Shenendoah National Park a few hours later. Police opened fire when Lanum pointed a gun at them. Friends say Lanum had been obsessed with the character of the Joker.

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The hero-villain inspiration doesn't always hold true. In the case of Dr. Raymond Adamcik of Melbourne, Florida the super hero costume may have inspired villainous behavior. 54-year-old Adamcik was dressed as Captain America for a pub crawl. He was arrested for a number of charges including battery, disorderly conduct, drug possession, and trying to destroy evidence. He was accused of groping women and lewd behavior involving a burrito in his pants.

So maybe it isn't the costume after all. Maybe some people are just hero types, and others are not.

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April 23, 2009 - 4:17am
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