Phoenix Jones

Now this is my kind of news.

It turns out there is a ‘real life’ super hero doing the rounds in Lynwood, a small town outside of Seattle, Washington. He doesn’t have his own super-vehicle as yet; he has a female accomplice drive him around in a Kia, who waits for him while he does his thing. People have stabbed him a couple of times and he’s been threatened with a gun, but he has, in his defence, thwarted a car theft by chasing the would-be-thief away.

My excellent friend, film reviewer extraordinare Dave Hoskin, loves super heroes and is a devotee of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, Watchmen. I sent Dave the newspaper article from

– and he replied with a comment about ‘creeping fascism’. Sounded like left-wing pinko gobbledygook to me, and when I espoused this opinion, he responded with the following;  

“Creeping fascism = exactly how it sounds: a slow but seemingly
inexorable tilt towards the extreme political right. With someone like
Sarah Palin and “news” organisations like Fox being so popular, it’s
hard not to see America sliding down that particular slippery slope.
Twenty years ago these people would have been a joke. Now they set the
political agenda, and whether or not you like their politics, it’s
their insistence on stupidity, empty symbolism and barely disgiused
racism that earns them the fascist tag.

As to what this has to do with superhero dude… well, superheroes
have always had a strong whiff of right-wing power fantasy about them.
Whether it’s Batman, Superman or Dirty Harry, characters like this
always have a disdain for “liberal” shibboleths like the Miranda
rights, innocent until proven guilty, stamping out police brutality
and so on. As far back as the late 70s comic writers have started to
question the idea of superheroes and how they can ultimately install a
benign dictatorship if they so desire (you won’t be surprised to hear
that it was my main man Alan Moore doing a lot of the heavy lifting
there). Watchmen was obviously the point where all this really leaked
out into the mainstream. Dr Manhattan is basically God and he’s used
as a weapon to fight against the Communists, the Comedian is a cross
between Oliver North and Captain America, and Rorschach (the most
popular character in the series) is Travis Bickle–a psycho that reads
far-right-wing nut journals, regards homosexuality as a weakness and
is the living embodiment of zero tolerance.

Alan Moore was always a bit worried that people seemed to like
Rorschach so much, but then he shouldn’t really be that surprised.
Superheroes are appealing because they operate in a world of easy
certainty. Bad people are always easily identified by their costume or
their deformity, and the superheroes maintain the status quo because
they basically go out and give the Bad People a good hiding. Rorschach
just pushes this trope to its extreme. He gives up the idea of “soft
on crime” after encountering one incident of hellish depravity (most
superheroes have a moment like this that changes them from an ordinary
person to a crime-fighter–Batman’s parents being shot, Daredevil’s
dad being rubbed out by the mob, Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben getting
killed–comics fans call this the characters’ “secret origin”), and
becomes a character that readily uses torture and murder to “get
results”. And it’s precisely that ability to “get results” that drives
a tool to put on a costume and wander round his neighbourhood
intimidating people and dispensing vigilante justice. He doesn’t have
a badge, he doesn’t have training, he doesn’t have sanction to commit
violence. Instead, he has a costume, and to people like him, that’s
the only authority he needs.

Christ I do go on. Sorry about that.



One Response to “Phoenix Jones”

  1. I don’t seem to be able to “like” your post on my PC.

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