New Orleans man uses alter-ego to reach community

By Jake Clapp

Villians of New Orleans, beware. There is a new protector of the city.
He is The Black Ghost, and the night belongs to him.
Superheros have become a part of American culture. People watch the movies and read the comic books and imagine what it would be like to be Spider-man, Batman or Superman, or to have these heroes in reality.
For many, though, the superhero is more than just heroic powers and spandex costumes.
It is a symbol of peace, hope, protection and the ability to change the world.
“It’s difficult to make any kind of generalization about the meaning of the superhero,” said Brannon Costello, department of English assistant professor. “An appealing element of the superhero is that it is densely packed with meaning and significance.”
For years this symbol was something you would find only in a comic book or movie, but recently hundreds of people have begun to take it to the streets.
A grassroots movement started in just the last few years and is termed the “Real Life Superhero Community”.
Men and women across the country are donning their very own costumes and heading out into their communities to serve and protect.
Their website,, has a full roster of men and women superheroes from across the country and the codes and ethics they live by: altruism, responsibility and virtue.
Some heroes, such as Master Legend of Orlando, Fla., go out and patrol their neighborhood streets in search of crime; others seek to change the world by actively showing that life can be different through hard work.
For the Black Ghost of New Orleans, change comes about by not just beating up the villain but through social work and the education of youth to show that there is a better life.
The man behind this black mask is Will Warner, a 42-year-old filmmaker, teacher and counselor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.
In 1998, while in the Navy, Warner created the Black Ghost as a way to pass the time by creating small film shorts and comic strips.
He returned from his service in the Navy shortly before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
“Around the time of Katrina, I saw the violence and hurt throughout the city, and I knew that I could create something to give to the people to give them hope,” Warner said. “Growing up, I had heroes like the Lone Ranger, Green Hornet and the Shadow, and I knew that kids these days don’t have the same type of heroes with the same type of values to look up to.”
Warner developed his character into a real superhero the children of New Orleans could follow. He set out with a digital camera and an Apple laptop to create the first episodes of “The Black Ghost” television series to air on public access.
Since those first days in 2005, The Black Ghost has grown into a full production with the help of 30 volunteers.
Warner now uses the character and his television show to help his community.
By setting up film workshops for the teenagers in his community, Warner works toward teaching useful film-making skills to aspiring filmmakers as well as teaching cooperation and social skills to youths who might otherwise be exposed to a harsher life on the streets.
His social work with children and teenagers has led to The Black Ghost has even been named the official New Orleans superhero and an Ambassador of Hope for the city.
During the past semester, Warner has produced several episodes of The Black Ghost TV show, including an episode that he allowed kids, ages 10-17, from his area to create and work in the different positions around the set.
Warner has also been busy organizing the annual “March of the Superheroes” planned for October. The march, in cooperation with the New Orleans Police Department, is to raise public safety awareness and will involve a parade of citizens, police and several superheroes from across the nation, through the streets of New Orleans.
Warner has already begun to see the positive effects of his work in several of the children he’s worked with, but he says his work is far from finished.
“A mother of one of the kids I worked with told me that her son has really been different since he worked on a Black Ghost episode in one of the workshops and now he can’t stop talking about being a filmmaker,” Warner said. “It’s kids like this I made the Black Ghost for, and there are so many more out there that need help.”
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