For most of us, superheroes are confined to the big screen. We build fandoms around them, and we argue whether DC or Marvel is better.
Still, as excited as we get, we all know it’s not real. It’s just for fun right?
But what if I told you, that there are actual men and women around the world who dress up in costumes and patrol the streets at night?
Yes, I’m serious. These are real people with real jobs and no superpowers. They call themselves real-life superheroes (RLSHs).
In fact, we’ve got one right here in Malaysia. I got to sit down and talk to Crimsonbat, who’s a retail worker by day, and real-life superhero by night. This is his story.
My Grandma Inspired Me
I didn’t have an easy childhood. Mum and Dad split up when I was really young. I was the only child, and they both eventually remarried and had other kids (I’ve got nine brothers and sisters now, from both parents.)
I shifted around a lot and didn’t stay in one home for long. For a time, I stayed with my grandma and aunts on my father’s side in Gombak. I loved my grandma. She was the first person who thought me what kindness was. I used to follow her to the market, where she would give scraps to stray cats. She was really generous and would be the first to rush over to a neighbor’s house if there was a crisis.
I started helping people around the time I was living with her. I was about seven or eight, and I would walk the neighborhood by myself doing small tasks like watching out for hooligans. I’d spy on troublemaking bicycle gangs and warned others to stay away from them, stuff like that.
Branching Out From the ‘Hood
Once I finished my SPM, I branched out from my neighborhood into areas like Wangsa Maju. I was crazy, alone, and depressed. Things were going downhill with my folks.
Going out and being a sort of ‘vigilante’ helped keep me sane.
It was dangerous but I went out anyway. At that time I didn’t have a full costume. I put on a Batman mask and walked the streets armed with only a pepper spray. One night I was walking around Wangsa Maju as usual, when I heard a scream.
Something was wrong. I ran to where I heard the noise, and true enough, there was a hooded guy pushing himself onto a lady. He had a metal rod in his hand. He was trying to rape her!
I shouted at him to get away from her. Suddenly, he turned and came at me with the metal rod! He hit me on the head and broke my Batman mask. But the mask broke the impact of the rod, so I wasn’t seriously injured. Thank god for the mask.
He got scared and ran away after that, and I walked the lady to her home nearby.
Reaching out to the homeless
A couple of years ago, my aunt (my Dad’s sister) got a job in Penang and asked me to live with her. She saw how both my parents weren’t interested in having me around. This made her mad so she said I’d be better off living with her. Off I went.
Penang was the first place I reached out to the homeless, with RLSH friends in tow. At first, it was people I knew online, who pulled their acquaintances in. Some of us had costumes on, some didn’t.
My most vivid memories of helping people in Penang was around the Komtar area. Most of the homeless were senior citizens – they were initially creeped out by my costume, but they soon warmed up.
There was this uncle who was always at the same spot, sleeping on his ‘beca’ or trishaw. One night I got talking to him, and he started sobbing. He said he had a lot of successful children, but none of them cared about him. I was glad I lent him an ear that night.
I also remembered this mother and daughter duo. The daughter drew a picture of me and gave it to me as a present. It was really touching – no one had ever given us a gift. This single mom had been abandoned by her husband, who left a mountain of debt for her to deal with.
We would bring them water, food and basic necessities like tissue paper, wet wipes, and shampoo. The costumes were great for the kids – you could see them light up at the thought of superheroes being real.
Looking to the future
I’ve come back to KL now and waiting for my finances to stabilize a bit before going out again. My crew back in Penang is still going every week to help those sleeping around Komtar.
Hopefully, when I’m ready here in KL, there’ll be other RLSH here who’d want to join me. You don’t have to have a costume, just a willing heart.
Oh by the way, did I tell you that there are real-life superheroes all over the world? There’s even an RLSH Wiki with my own profile on it. The Malaysian RLSH team has its own Facebook too, where anyone who wants to volunteer can contact us.
Have your own real-life hero story? Tell us in the comments below!