Weird, Wicked Weird: Maine's Real Life Superheroes. Yup, for real.
Originally posted: http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/844777
By Kathryn Skelton, Staff Writer
Her mom thought she was doing drugs, slipping out at night, wandering the streets.
Mom didn’t realize her little girl was actually busy atoning and avenging.
As the self-styled superhero “Dreizehn” (that’s the number 13 in German), she’d slip out and look for trouble, interrupting drug deals and vehicle break-ins. Think “Kick-Ass,” but in real life. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the teenager got beaten up, badly.
Dreizehn moved to Maine from a big city outside New England a few months ago to join her similarly self-styled superhero boyfriend, “Slapjack.” Several nights a week they walk Lewiston-Auburn for hours on end as roving Good Samaritans, looking for trouble.
The streets here? Much less mean, in her limited experience.
Most nights their foot patrol means giving bottled water and granola bars to the homeless and maybe yelling at a graffiti artist, all the while costumed and armed with batons, knife-proof protective wear and brass knuckles electrified with Tasers.
Dreizehn and Slapjack are in their 20s. Their parents? They still have no clue.
“You kind of have to be a little unstable to do it,” Dreizehn said. “Going out at 2 a.m. with a mask on and thinking you’re going to save the world, it says a lot about you.”
They got started for different reasons. About four years ago, Slapjack said he read an article in VIBE magazine on the Real Life Superheroes movement, a worldwide community, to which they now belong, of people who dress up, assume names and do varying degrees of charity work and criminal deterrence.
Close friends of Slapjack had their home broken into. Another was hit by a drunk driver, part of Slapjack’s motivation now to hang outside bars. He calls police to report plate numbers when he sees people that he suspects have had too much to drink get behind the wheel.
“I believe in civilian patrols. The police can only be so many places at once, especially at night,” Slapjack said. “I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep an eye on their communities.”
He picked his code name from a favorite card game played with his grandmother.
The younger Dreizehn has been going out longer, since 2003.
“I started out, really, just bored, and didn’t want to cause trouble,” she said.
In looking to thwart mischief, there was also an element of making amends for her brother.
“He was robbing and completely destroying our family through his actions,” Dreizehn said. “It made me want to do something so nobody had to go through the pain I had to.”
She dresses to add bulk to her frame — a compressed chest, a man’s trench, men’s boots. Sometimes, in her experience, just walking up to someone is enough to make them stop whatever it is they’re doing, mainly because she appears to be a 200-plus-pound man wearing a full black and red mask with sheer white fabric eye holes.
Once on patrol, Slapjack found an unconscious man collapsed in the middle of the street and dragged him to the side of the road, potentially saving him from being run over.
But it doesn’t always go swimmingly.
“I got hit by a car,” Dreizehn said. And once, in what she believed was a meth buy, “I got ahold of what they were dealing. I ended up really taking a beating. I had my mask taken off. I managed to crawl and bite my way out of it. I had a death grip on (the meth).”
She picked her code name as a nod to her German heritage.
Why the names at all if everything’s on the up and up?
Their reasons are threefold. First, they say they don’t want their workplaces or families finding out, then worrying, questioning or demanding they give it up. Second, the couple doesn’t want to be harassed; they are, occasionally, snitches. A superhero named “Shadow Hare” began showing his face around Cincinnati too much and “the city completely turned on him,” Dreizehn said.
Lastly, putting on the costume, and wearing the name, is like becoming someone else.
“Your fear goes away,” Slapjack said.
Added his girlfriend, Dreizehn: “I wanted to be able to put a mask on so I could be somebody greater and better.”
They met through the Real Life Superheroes group. There aren’t too many others in Maine. He can name two, “The Beetle” and “Mrs. The Beetle.”
Taking it to the street
They go out on foot patrol two or three nights a week, often between roughly 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. She likes walking both cities. He prefers Lewiston.
Dreizehn and Slapjack cover about 5 miles at a stretch, carrying food, water, note pads, flashlights, cameras, night-vision goggles and cell phones. Ninety to 95 percent of the time, they’re just two people out for a walk. Two costumed, very prepared people.
If and when it comes to it, she’s clearly the scrapper. He’s never gotten in a physical confrontation.
“You’re McGruff; I’m the Punisher,” Dreizehn teased, walking through Kennedy Park on a Tuesday night in May.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday tend to be busiest, with more people on the street.
“But you never know; crime never takes a day off,” Slapjack said.
He keeps a map at home synced up to the local police crime bulletins, looking for neighborhoods or streets with patterns and familiarizing himself with people wanted on warrants.
Lewiston police Lt. Mark Cornelio checked around the station — no one he spoke with was aware of a pair of costumes on the street.
“Without knowing what their crime-fighting (is), it would be tough to say whether we agree with it or disagree with it,” Cornelio said. “My thing, I would rather have people be good witnesses.”
There’s also a reason for official police training and the lessons that come with it, he said.
Dreizehn and Slapjack said they were inspired to make themselves known now because of the “Kick-Ass” movie.
It’s not as easy as it looks on the screen.
“It was a funny little movie,” Dreizehn said. “But it’s completely disillusioned. It’s nothing like we do.”