Real Life Caped Crusaders

By Garth Olson
The Valley Wire

Photo by Peter Tangen
Photo by Peter Tangen

Apparently, real life super heroes are popping up everywhere. It’s a concept that started nearly two years ago and has been growing quickly, thanks in part to Hollywood photographer Peter Tangen.
Tangen started the Real Life Super Hero Project after reading about a real life super hero in a magazine.
“Having done the photography for the Spider-Man, Batman Begins and Hellboy movie posters, I was immediately inspired by the idea that superheroes really exist,” Tangen said.
Real Life Super Heroes
Across the country, men and women are reinventing themselves as real life super heroes. And yes, they’re dressing up in super hero costumes, which can include capes, masks, and you know – super hero garb. But beneath the outlandishness of the costumes, seriousness quickly takes over. Real Life Super Heroes are fighting the good fight against all sorts of serious problems from the homeless, child abuse and poverty as well as crime and drugs.

One example is RazorHawk, who wears a yellow beak graphic on his costume of blue and black. He lives and operates in the Twin Cities area, and a few folks know his true identity. Along with safety patrols in the Minneapolis, RazorHawk is coordinating HOPE2011, which is a homeless outreach event that will be held during Comic-Con in San Diego in July. His team, The Great Lakes Heroes Guild, works with homeless, and during the event in San Diego, his team plans on passing out over 100 backpacks of clean clothes and personal care products to people who have no place to live.
“We are out there of our own volition, we are not being paid,” RazorHawk said. “We are trying to make the world a better place. It’s not all about jumping from rooftop to rooftop but affecting change and getting people to recognize how bad some of the problems our individual cities face.” His motto is, “family first, saving the world begins at home.”
The Watchman
In Milwaukee, The Watchman wears a red mask and a trench coat; sometimes he’ll wear a cape. Not long ago he stated that only his wife and kids knew his true identity, but out of necessity a few co-workers and a few cops learned of his identity. Along with patrolling areas of Milwaukee and by getting more residents involved with community watch groups, The Watchman also works to raise donations and toys for his Christmas Mission.
“Being a Real Life Superhero isn’t glamorous, he said. “It’s hard work and takes a lot of patience and motivation. It’s not Batman. We don’t have super powers…it’s really about being a good neighbor, watching out for people and lending a hand when
it’s needed.”
Peter Tangen
As real life super heroes started popping up across the country, Hollywood photographer, Peter Tangen developed the concept, The Real Life Super Hero Project. He stated that the various local media outlets, like local news stations, seemed more focused on the costumes than the bigger picture of community service. In the beginning the media, like local tv news stations, “seemed to be mocking” the super heroes and casting them in a “negative light,” Tangen said. Tangen’s photography project quickly helped shift the focus towards the individual service work of the super heroes and away from just the middle-age guys in costumes” angle.
“The Real Life Super Hero Project inspired a deeper story that the media missed,” Tangen said. Tangen, whose work can be seen online at, created movie-like posters of the real life super heroes and helped transform their image from campy to super cool.
“I researched the super heroes and discovered that the media was missing the real story, one of truly inspiring people who selflessly give their communities,” Tangen added. “They are in fact marketing good deeds and since we live in a world of symbols, they understand their value and use symbols to make their work visible to the public.”
The art directors for the project include Bryan Allen, Paul Hoegh-Guldberg, Kevin Bachman, Martin Gueulette, Rick Lynch and Robert Russell.
Tangen’s Work
Tangen recently visited Milwaukee and Minneapolis while working on the project. Currently, he’s back in Los Angeles, where he’s self-employed as a Hollywood photographer. He’s done the photography for many movie posters including Wedding Crashers, Elf and many comic book and horror films like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Tangen grew up in Minneapolis and stated that he specializes in photographing movie stars for movie posters. Those photo sessions can last an hour or for a full day in the case for the Spider-Man posters. As for the Real Life Super Hero
Project, Tangen added that more and more creative people have donated their time as the project keeps evolving.
“Writers, editors, 3D graphic artists, motion graphic artists, web designer and camera operators… about 100 people have volunteered their time and resources in support of this project.” Currently, there are over 150 Real Life Super Heroes across the globe and thanks to Tangen, and his team’s creative work, that number is growing steadily.
Real Life Super Hero Project photographer Peter Tangen also did the photography for the movie posters for Batman Begins and Wedding Crashers.
Tangen grew up in Minneapolis and currently lives in Los Angeles.