Zimmer

Alias(es): Zimmer Barnes
Identity: Public
Alter Ego: William Zimmer Barnes
Category: Social Activist
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Status: Active

Young and restless in the best, most productive sense, his work combines his deep interest in technology and computer science, with his impassioned sense of justice that leads him to patrols on the meaner streets of his adopted home in Brooklyn, NY.

First learning of the movement as a teenager in Texas, he knew he wasn’t fully prepared to jump into the role of hero—not before he could learn more about martial arts, gymnastics, and other creative methods of self-defense. “So when I turned 18, I began patrolling in my hometown. But I knew there was exciting stuff going on in New York, and I had always wanted to live there,” he says. With the movement’s critical mass of heroes living and working in and around the Tri-State Area, moving there became Zimmer’s goal. “There’s only so much you can do on your own,” he continues, “I wanted to learn more, and being part of a larger team was the next step.”

The other major crucible of Zimmer’s life was defined by an even deeper struggle. “I came out in high school, and that was definitely an experience,” he says candidly, “It’s a huge change, not hiding something that’s integral to who you are.” And his involvement in LGBT issues blends seamlessly with his superhero identity. “I don’t hide behind a mask,” he asserts, “that just feels like I’m being pushed back into the closet.” Instead, he works presenting his face to the world, and under his real name. “I’ve had such a positive experience that way. Without the burden of a secret identity, I’ve found I can talk to all kinds of people.”

Geared-up in jeans with built-in padding, and a t-shirt with the binary code for the first letter of his name (“01011010”) emblazoned down the side, he hit the patrolling scene as a part of the original New York Initiative, where his skills as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), made him a highly-valued member of the team. He also became administrator of The Heroes Network, one of the major online forums of the superhero community, marrying his expertise in computer technology to his work on the streets.

Then, in June 2010, everything changed.

A random car accident shattered Zimmer’s shoulder and severely dislocated his elbow, knocking him out of the more dangerous missions he thrived on. “Being so physically-limited sucks,” he says plainly, “but I’m trying to find other outlets. I’ve always tried to mix the mental with the physical, so I can’t make excuses anymore. I can’t procrastinate on the intellectual stuff.” Which translates to a now full-time devotion to investing in the development of new weapons and gadgets, and gaining access the informational infrastructure that underpins the superhero movement’s activities, and yet, is often overlooked. “If you do your research, you can be more active and actually help someone.”

The emergency surgery that followed after the accident, has left with Zimmer with partial paralysis of his arm, and a projected recovery of up to two years—not an ideal situation for someone who “gets antsy not doing enough. But waiting around is not an option,” he says emphatically. In fact, he has already designed a custom prosthetic sheath that will allow him greater mobility in his nerve-damaged fingers—and a possible return to the field, ahead of his doctors’ schedule. “This accident hasn’t changed my desire to change the world, he continues, “but it’s changed the way I go around doing that.”

Cartoonist and creator of Totally Naked Man (https://totallynakedman.com/) and The Schlub (https://theschlub.com/).

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