By Jake Clapp
Deep in the heart of New Orleans, a being lurks — part man, part ghost. It waits to overcome evil and save its home from the predators that would do the city wrong.
He is The Black Ghost, and the night belongs to him.
Many children — and even some adults — dream of being superheroes. But Will Warner is as close as it gets.
Warner, a 42-year-old counselor, filmmaker and teacher at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, created The Black Ghost in 1998 while in the Navy.
He used it as a way to pass the time by creating film shorts and comic strips.
Warner returned from his service in the Navy shortly before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.
“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, the 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.”
People watch the movies and read the comic books and imagine just what it would be like to be Spiderman, Batman or Superman, and wish that they could have the power to jump buildings in a single bound or hang upside down from a web.
To many, though, the superhero is much more than just heroic powers and spandex costumes. It is a symbol representing 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, 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 people would find only in a comic book, movie or television show, but recently hundreds of people have begun to take it to the streets.
In just the past few years a grassroots movement has formed called the Real Life Superhero Community.
Men and women across the country make their own costumes and head out into their communities to serve and protect.
Their Web site, Reallifesuperheroes.org, has a full roster of male and female superheroes across the country.
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 life can be different through hard work.
Warner took his character and developed it into a real superhero the kids of New Orleans could follow.
Starting out with a digital camera and a laptop, Warner set out to create the first episodes of The Black Ghost television series to air on a public access channel.
Since those first days in 2005, The Black Ghost has grown into a full production with the help of 30 volunteers.
Warner constantly works side by side with the New Orleans Police Department to raise public safety awareness.
Through his social work with kids and teenagers, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin named The Black Ghost the official New Orleans superhero and an Ambassador of Hope for the city.
Warner stays busy, as he and his non-profit production company continue to shoot The Black Ghost and planning a workshop that allows high school seniors to earn college credit by working on The Black Ghost set.
“I’ll know that my work has meant something when I can see kids with blankets tied on run around the yard pretending like they are superheroes, like I did as a kid,” Warner said. “When you go about it the right way, a superhero is a symbol of hope and society. That is all I want The Black Ghost to be.”
Contact Jake Clapp at email@example.com