In the Real Life Superhero community, Urban Avenger stands tall among equals. And for more than the most obvious of reasons. “I’m on patrol, even when I’m not on patrol,” the San Diego, California-based hero states, “even when I’m not in my costume as a visual deterrent for crime, if I see something going down, I will act. Anytime, anywhere.”
As a former victim of crime himself, Urban Avenger always had a strong sense of social justice. And when some of his friends alerted him to the growing movement of creative altruists across America, he was intrigued. “I saw a movie once where someone asked ‘Why don’t more people dress up in costume and help others?’ and I thought ‘Yeah, why not?’,” he says. “And when I looked into it more online, I was so inspired by what I saw, that I knew this was something I had to get in on, something I could do to make a positive contribution to the world. I wanted to go out and actually stop people from being victims of crimes.” And once that seed was planted, there was no stopping its growth.
Joining up with the locally-based Xtreme Justice League in Fall of 2010, Urban Avenger can most typically be found working neighborhood patrols, in his ever-evolving gear (“I recently changed my body armor out to be more cyborg-like,” he says). Having only recently arrived on the scene, he hasn’t seen a lot of action, but that’s alright with him, too. “I know, even though it’s hard to substantiate it, that just being out there is a deterrent. I patrol a lot around the bar district, and while people might not notice me on my own, if I’m dressed up, people will notice, and I do get attention. So maybe people won’t try and get away with something when they see me that way.”
And a lot of the time, Urban Avenger is hard to miss. Enter Power Bocks, the spring-loaded, elastic-like stilts that are the most distinctive part of his gear. “I read about the springs on the forums,” he says, “they’re really great for exercise and leg muscle development, and when I heard about what they could do, I went ‘Holy cow, that’s like straight-up Superman,’” he enthuses. Each of the boots consists of a foot-plate with bindings (much like a snowboard), and a fiberglass leaf spring. On the springs, which elevate his 5’7” frame to a towering 6’8”, and using no more than his own weight, he’s able to jump roughly four feet in the air, and run up to speeds of 20mph (“I’m at 12 now, but I’m working my way up,” he says).
He debuted his bocking gear in October 2010 at the Los Angeles AIDS Walk as part of Team Being Alive. “Once I did that—6.2 miles, in the rain—I was inspired to keep doing charity walks on my stilts. I think it’s a really great way to contribute to an event, to literally stand out. And I do wear them on patrols, just usually in plainclothes,” he says. But even with all that visibility, the Avenger is discovering that there are certain tensions that come along with the job.
“It’s hard to balance this work with the rest of my life,” he says. “Most of my family doesn’t know, so it’s sort of awkward. I want to be able to tell the truth, but sometimes I have to make up excuses why I can’t go hang out with my friends. I don’t like lying, but at the same time, I don’t think this is something I’m ready to tell the whole world about. I not really ready yet to deal with the repercussions of ‘coming out of the phone booth’,” he says.
So until then, he’s dealing with his impending local fame the best way he knows how: With a healthy dose of humility and awe. “I spoke with this really famous writer recently,” he says, “and here is this guy whose stuff I’ve read, and he’s excited to meet me. I mean, I’m just a guy who dresses up in a costume. I felt so honored that someone like him would be impressed with someone like me. It just blew my mind.” Something he’ll just have to get used to.