Introduction: Are Superheroes Real?
A woman’s piercing scream echoes through the darkness, slicing through the silence of the night sky. The scream is immediately followed by a cry for help. As if supernaturally summoned to service by the scream, someone steps out from the shadows. While standing in an area illuminated by a nearby street lamp, it is evident this being is not an average citizen. Disguised in an unusual outfit and mask, the mysterious man runs toward the location from which the scream seems to have originated.
When the mysterious man arrives, he sees a woman crumpled on the ground, crying, and pleading for her life to a menacing man standing over her. The mysterious man, now aware of the presence of evil, shouts, “Stop, you evildoer!” The evildoer quickly spins around, his attention turning from the frightened woman to the mysterious man. Without hesitation or warning, the evildoer stabs the mysterious man in the stomach with a knife. The mysterious man stumbles back in both shock and pain. He wasn’t ready for that. The evildoer, seeing the mysterious man in a moment of weakness, seizes the opportunity to launch another attack and thrusts another jab; however, this time his attack is thwarted by the mysterious man’s skillful counterattack. With only two punches and in a matter of only a few seconds, the evildoer falls to the ground, unconscious. The woman, no longer frightened, looks at the mysterious man with awe and gratitude. In that moment, through the woman’s smile, the mysterious man recognizes the confirmation of his calling.
By the time police arrive at the scene of the crime, the mysterious man has wrapped the evildoer up in duct tape, preventing him from doing anymore demonic deeds. The police officer, stepping out of his patrol car, says in amazement, “Phoenix Jones?! You stopped a crime?!”
Who is Phoenix Jones? And why was the police officer shocked to learn that Phoenix Jones stopped a crime? The story you just read is a true story based on real events1. Phoenix Jones is actually a man named Ben Fodor. Phoenix is the superhero name Ben chose to use for fighting crime in the streets of Seattle, Washington. The police officer was shocked that Phoenix had stopped a crime because he had once rescued Phoenix from an undesirable situation. Ben, outfitted as Phoenix, tried to use a net gun on a criminal, but ended up getting trapped in his own net, with his face in a puddle of water. The police officer was shocked because up until that moment, Phoenix Jones was considered to be a wacko dressed up in a ridiculous costume and a failure as a crime fighter.
My name is Harbinger Ektoutheou. I am a superhero in the name of the Savior, but I hadn’t always been a superhero. Ever since I was a little boy, I have been fascinated by superheroes. And like many other kids, I wore Superman and/or Batman pajamas with an attached cape. I played with my action figures and used my imagination to create different scenarios for which the superheroes would be needed in order to save the day. And to help me feel like an official superhero, I had even created my own mask out of a paper plate in order to complete my costume. Eventually, however, life redirected my attention to other matters such as sports, girls, jobs, bills, etc. But in recent years, Marvel has released many superhero movies. And as an adult, those movies spoke to my inner child and inspired me to once again think about superheroes. While watching the 2012 movie, The Avengers, I thought, “It would be so awesome to be a real superhero!”
Almost as soon as that thought fluttered away, my mind produced another: “Because it would be awesome to be a real superhero, I bet there are people who have attempted to fight crime while wearing ridiculous outfits.”
I then went home and researched news articles that might have mentioned such people. And as I expected, there have been grown adults who attempted to fight crime while wearing ridiculous costumes! One such example was in Seattle, Washington – a man by the name of Phoenix Jones (a.k.a. Ben Fodor). In fact, during the time Ben had been active in that city, he was the leader of the “Rain City Superheroes” – a group of 10 “crime-fighters.”
Truthfully, Ben Fodor inspired me. But while I admired Fodor’s passion to patrol the city and keep it safe, I also recognized that real superheroes possess more than mere enthusiasm. I pondered: “What if superheroes were real? What would they actually look like? Would they even bother wearing a costume? They definitely wouldn’t wear capes! Edna was right in the 2004 movie, The Incredibles: no capes! Too dangerous! But are superheroes actually possible? Do superheroes exist? Is Ben Fodor a real superhero?”
After much contemplation, I came to the realization that superheroes are not only possible, but they are real! Their appearances don’t usually match our expectations, but superheroes do exist.
Heroes are not specific species born into existence, nor are they genetically modified or engineered and enhanced beings; rather, they are average humans who become above-average people due to the decisions they make out from their free will. How a person freely responds to the challenges and difficulties of life will determine if he/she is a hero. An example of a hero would be a man who risks getting injured by pulling a woman out of a burning vehicle in order to save her life. That would be a heroic act; therefore, we can recognize that man as a hero. But how will that man choose to live the remaining time of his life after the initial heroic moment? Will that incident puff up his pride and cause him to glorify himself? Will he continue to respond in a consistent heroic manner in the future? Will he be a one-hit-wonder? Will he later decide that taking risks for other people is too dangerous and that he’s no longer willing to sacrifice on behalf of someone else? It’s worth thinking about. Anyone can become a hero by simply doing one noteworthy act. Just one outstanding act can bump someone up from average status to above-average status. But should we set our standards so low?
A typical superhero is not a Superman who comes to Earth from outer space wielding supernatural powers; rather, a typical superhero is merely a hero with super status due to his/her decision to go above and beyond the call of duty through sacrificial love on a consistent basis. An example of a superhero would be Mother Teresa — she went above and beyond by sacrificing nearly everything in order to dedicate her life to loving the unloved. What’s more, she proved that a woman can be a superHERo.
Superheroes should be common, but sadly, they are not. In a world inundated with evil, people are often selfish and cause others much pain and suffering. And because of this sad truth, you would think that superheroes shine and stand out against the backdrop of the darkness in this world. Unfortunately, superheroes often go unnoticed unless the spotlight of fame happens to highlight them. Mother Teresa was one of the superheroes who ended up in the spotlight. But there are many superheroes who work in the background, blend in, and go unnoticed. People are usually distracted with entertainment, celebrities, and their own problems, and so the background superheroes go unrecognized. But there’s another reason why superheroes often go unnoticed: they don’t need the recognition. Typical superheroes are not superheroes because they get recognized as being such; rather, they are superheroes whether anyone recognizes them or not simply because of what they do and who they are. Typical superheroes do not live for the praise of humanity; they’re not in it for the audience applause, they’re merely doing it for the cause. They don’t seek to please people; rather, they desire to pursue people with a loving purpose.
In reality, superheroes don’t typically wear ridiculous costumes. So, how can we recognize these superheroes working in the background who go unnoticed? In order to find these superheroes, you need only to find the people who possesses the character qualities of these superheroes. So, find a person who possesses these character qualities and you’ll find a superhero. But what are these qualities? I have dedicated the lessons in this training manual to expounding upon these qualities so that we may discover the depth beyond the surface of superheroes.
Are superheroes real? Yes! And you just might be one of them! Do you want to be a superhero? Do you have what it takes to be a superhero? Many are called, but few are qualified. If you possess all the qualities listed in this training manual, you can be a superhero! If, by the end of this training course, you are in alignment with the Savior’s will and you possess the qualities of a superhero, you will earn your degree of Superheroism from Superhero University and become a certified superhero!