How to be a Brooklyn superhero

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a guy who puts on a mask and helps the homeless. Chaim Lazaros, AKA, Life. Photo by Sarah Bibi.

Home-made superheroes are on the rise these days. First came the movie Kick-Ass, which explored the “realism” of a normal person becoming a superhero. Now there are 20 self-declared superheroes who dress up in costume and try to help strangers in our own Gotha —err— New York area.

Chaim Lazaros was a mild-mannered film student when he stumbled on MySpace pages of so-called superheroes who had been popping up across the country. Collectively, their deeds were a combination of neighborhood watch patrols and people just being really nice.

Lazaros and others came by Pete’s Candy Store for the bar’s bi-monthly series of talks to share the superhero message. On one end of the superhero spectrum is Phoenix Jones, who patrols Seattle’s bars around closing time, breaking up drunken fights at great personal peril (in January, Jones had his nose broken when a man pulled a gun on him while he was breaking up a fight), while there is another hero who goes around putting coins into expired meters so that the cars don’t get a ticket. Staten Island has Dark Guardian, a mixed martial arts instructor who patrols with a bullet-proof vest and knife-resistant metal plates—if you watch his posted videos, you’ll get the added treat of superhero dialogue like, “You gotta get out of here, bro.”

Lazaros, who initially encountered this community of self-styled superheroes because he wanted to make a documentary about them, soon found himself creating his own superhero persona, Life (the English translation of his Hebrew name). Dressed like the Green Hornet on the HIgh Holy Days, he provides socks, toothbrushes, and other grooming necessities to NYC’s homeless.

Photo by Sarah Bibi.

So if his identity isn’t a secret, why the mask? Lazaros says that many homeless are wary of more official social service channels, and the outfit convinces them that he’s not repping the man. (In fact, he tangles occasionally with NYC’s Homeless Services Department.) Plus, costumes give volunteerism a badass, even cinematic vibe — as depicted in the poster for the not-yet-released documentary on the real-life Superheroes.

In addition to helping the homeless, Lazaros is trying to encourage others to find their own inner superheroes. (“Terrifica” and “Zetaman” are already taken.) Being a superhero, he says, is about actively looking for good to do, and powers are just what you can do well. For New Yorkers interested in the superhero lifestyle, there is an open invitation to go out with Lazaros on patrol (he usually goes once a week). You can reach him through Superheroes Anonymous or attend monthly superhero workshops at Spacecraft Brooklyn, where new and established heroes gather for a meetup — and in case you’re wondering, there’s already a “Super Barrio.” Presumably, he spends his days rescuing a princess from a giant king lizard.

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