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Seattle Jonesing for a superhero

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments · Blog

Phoenix Jones

Phoenix Jones

Batman never had to deal with this. Oh, sure, the authorities wanted him on numerous occasions, trumping up charges to make the Dark Knight look like a menace to society instead of the superhero he was. But Commissioner Gordon knew an ally when he saw one. Then again, Batman never pepper sprayed a bunch of club-hopping partiers on the sidewalk.

Phoenix Jones is no Batman. The self-described “leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement,” he patrols the Streets of Seattle, striving to keep them safe for everyday citizens. On his Facebook page, which currently has more than 20,000 fans from all around the globe, Jones says, “I symbolize that the average person doesn’t have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing.”

Then again, the average person doesn’t dress up in a superhero costume, complete with fake six-pack abs, and walk the streets at night hunting for trouble. Jones found more than he was looking for early Sunday when he doused a group on the sidewalk with pepper spray, inciting one angry woman to start swinging a shoe at both Jones and a member of his posse, or sidekick, or crime-fighter-in-training, or whatever you call the lesser heroes who assist masked crusaders. This one was dressed up like Run-DMC in clown makeup.

The Seattle police, who have come under fire in recent months for repeated instances of alleged excessive use of force, hauled Jones off to jail, where he spent the night until his $3,800 bail was posted. They also confiscated his outfit. That didn’t stop him from performing his superhero duties on Monday in his backup suit, even as assault charges and a Thursday court date at the Hall of Justice hung over him like a glowing bat in the night sky.

Jones claims he was breaking up a fight. The pepper-sprayees and police claim there was nothing going on. He said-they said. But, wait. There’s video of the whole incident. Because any good superhero always has a film crew in tow, a 14-minute clip of the episode exists and has been posted on the web. Of course, the quality is a little lacking, especially in the beginning when the camera is trained on the purported fight taking place a couple of blocks away. Were the people involved really brawling? Who can say? There’s little doubt, however, that the folks involved did not appreciate Jones’ intrusion, and they let him know in a rather aggressive and violent way that sent him and his superpals running for cover.

Fans from as far away as Australia, the Netherlands, and Brazil have posted supportive messages on his Facebook page. The Seattle Times has run letters to the editor cheering Phoenix Jones and what he stands for. The comments posted on the Times’ website run overwhelmingly in favor of him and against the police. (“Who does this guy think he is? Assaulting innocent people is the job of the SPD!”)

Turns out Phoenix Jones’ real name is Benjamin John Francis Fodor. Not exactly Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Not even Peter Parker. Real superheroes have strong, or at least alliterative, alter egos. Most of them are either independently wealthy or work at newspapers, giving them a credible alibi for sniffing out crime. Ironically, here the newspaper has outed him, running his real name and perhaps giving the local crime syndicate an opening to threaten his loved ones or his dog or at least smash up his mailbox with a baseball bat.

Here’s hoping they don’t bring him down. He may be a nutter, but he stands for the people. Even when they don’t want him to.

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