Real Life Super Heroes: The Great Lakes Alliance (Photojournalism)

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They do not have names, nor do they have faces, pasts, or political agendas. The three enigmas who patrol Minneapolis late Saturday night walk swiftly, purposefully. Hyper-alert, they canvas the city for homeless. In the light snow of an unseasonably warm Minnesota winter, they find a homeless man sleeping under a bridge. “We used to wake people up, let them know we’re helping,” explains one masked man. “But when you wake someone up they tend to get angry…so now we just silently leave supplies and go.” This is the real life of real life superheroes (RLSH). The stocky, cheerful man who knows the streets of Minneapolis like the back of his hand goes, interchangeably, by Razorhawk or Jack. While he may be cordial enough to let the sleeping homeless alone, he is not so friendly as to use his real, or civilian, name. Few use his RLSH handle, Razorhawk, calling him Jack instead. But ‘Jack’ comes from his pro-wrestling persona, Jack T. Ripper. Stingray, the newest of the group, adopted this RLSH handle directly from his pro-wrestling name. This patrol is his first encounter with the other two RLSH. The third, and apparent leader, is Geist. Now a pillar of the RLSH community, Geist first joined in 2007. An instantly likeable man with a hearty laugh, Geist exudes the RLSH persona to all he meets. It is Geist who quietly places a hat, hand warmers, instant noodles, and many other items next to the sleeping homeless man Jack lead them to. Although the three work together seamlessly like old friends, they know very little about each other’s civilian lives. To an RLSH, it’s not the name or job or burdens left at home that define someone, it’s the personality and sense of duty brought out while wearing a costume that matters. What ties these men together is a seemingly overwhelming sense of responsibility toward mankind. They are not real life superheroes in the sense of Action comics sprung to life or of defeating an supervillain. None of them are incredibly comfortable with the RLSH term. Some prefer “Masked Adventurers” or “Extreme-Altruists (X-Alt).” The term RLSH easily explains their costumes and handles to a society that has embraced the image of superheroes for generations, though perhaps X-Alt most appropriately describes their motivations.

Magazine class; School of Visual Communication at Ohio University


Conceptualize, photograph and edit.