Back to previous post: Making no one more secure

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: J. Daniel Scruggs

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

October 7, 2003

Angle-Grinder Man: A superhero for our times
Posted by Teresa at 09:54 AM *

This is from Sarah Lyall’s “London Journal” column in the New York Times:

“[T]he masked Englishman who calls himself Angle-Grinder Man … has been trawling London for four months dressed in a homemade superhero outfit, complete with gold lame9 underpants and cape, removing the security boots from people’s illegally parked cars.

As a one-man vigilante force, Angle-Grinder Man, who takes his name from the boot-destroying circular saw he wields, has made only a modest impact: by his own estimates, he has freed about 20 cars so far (he does it only part time). But his campaign against the city’s effort to immobilize cars for parking violations and other infractions has touched a nerve in a city of strict parking regulations, zealous traffic police officers, ubiquitous speed cameras and car owners increasingly aggrieved at what they believe is mean-spirited law enforcement.

Although he hardly melts into the background, particularly when he switches on his noisy machine, Angle-Grinder Man has so far managed to elude the authorities by a mixture of luck, cunning and quick work: once he gets going, he can liberate a car in less than a minute. …

Long-haired and lanky, he is becoming well known in some parts of south London. About a month ago, 25-year-old Petite Tendai arrived home to find a boot on her illegally parked car. (“There were no signs saying `no parking,’ ” she declared.) She had barely begun to rail at the injustice of it all when Angle-Grinder Man suddenly appeared.

“Basically, he jumped out of his car in his outfit and said, `If anyone can, Angle-Grinder Man can,’ ” Ms. Tendai said in a telephone interview. “Then he just started sawing it off. It was wicked.” He was gone almost as quickly as he came. “It was just a `good luck,’ and what-not, and then he was off,” she said.
Like all superheroes, he has an origins story: When his car got booted, and he was told it would cost a395 (around $150) to free it, he instead rented a circular saw for a330 and removed the boot himself.
But Angle-Grinder Man knew he was on to something. “There was so much injustice out there,” he said.
He heard the call, and answered it.

I’ve always been a little dubious about the average comic book superhero’s undifferentiated urge to “fight crime”. If that’s how they feel, why don’t they just become police officers, or join the military or the FBI or something? The urge to put on a costume and hit the streets makes far more sense if the person is motivated by a single issue. After all, non-costumed lone crusaders always crusade for something specific. Why should the costumed ones be any different?

Angle-Grinder Man has one specific issue that motivates him. So does that young woman who dresses as a superhero and patrols the NYC singles-bar scene, giving out taxi fares and prudent advice to other young women who are in danger of being abused. (Terrifica! Thanks to Edward Liu for diggin that up.) I’d like to know whether the pattern holds. I believe I’ve heard glancing references to a Mexican lucha libre wrestler who’s taken it to the streets, but that’s all I know about him. Does anyone know about other real-life costumed adventurers?

Addendum: Jon and Emmet both dug up articles on that Mexican superhero, who turns out to be named Superbarrio. The article Jon found, from CNN Online, says:
A high school dropout with a humble upbringing, Superbarrio has become one of Mexico City’s greatest folk heroes. For the past 10 years, he has stood as the champion of the working class, the poor and the homeless.

“I opened my eyes and found myself as you see me with a voice telling me, ‘You are Superbarrio,’” he said, explaining that his name means super-neighborhood. “I can’t stop a plane or a train single-handed, but I can keep a family from being evicted.”

His true identity remains a mystery, masked behind his quirky outfit. By day, he’s a street vendor, but at any time he can squeeze into the flashy tights to fend off evil. Little else is known about the masked man, fitting of a true superhero.

His role is primarily symbolic as the protector of low-income neighborhoods. But on behalf of squatters and labor unions, Superbarrio leads protest rallies, files petitions and challenges court decisions. Rumors also have circulated that he attempted to run for the president of the United States to better protect Mexican workers.

He says his mission is simply to protect the right of ordinary people.
This would tend to support the single-issue superhero hypothesis. So does the piece Emmet found in the New Internationalist:
[I]n the wake of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed up to 30,000 people, new local heroes emerged from the rubble. They put on masks and strode out to rescue their neighbourhoods from the Government92s incompetence. Super Barrio was the first to burst out of the comic books.

Initially, Super Barrio was three people who took turns donning the scarlet-and-canary tights and cape. But the role eventually fell to a corpulent candy vendor whose simple, earnest pronouncements soon captured attention. Super Barrio became the emblem of the Assembly of Barrios, one of the liveliest of the darnizificado (earthquake victims) groups to evolve. …

The popularity of Super Barrio has spawned many copycat superheroes, including: Super Animal Crusader (wears black with a gold lame9 cape and eagle crest mask); Super Eco, an environmental crusader who began life as a symbol of opposition to Mexico92s nuclear-power program (wears verdant green, with yellow piping and codpiece); and El Chupacabras Crusader, who defends and avenges debt-wracked members of Mexico92s middle class (wears a fanged mask and business suit).
Further examples or counter-examples will be regarded with interest.

Further addenda in due course: Olsen Ross of Olsen Blog has advised us of the existence of Polarman, Masked Hero of Iqaluit, and gives instructions on how to access Polarman’s story and photos while minimizing the irritations of the CBC website that carries them. Short version: As a young man, Polarman was inspired by a picture of the Lone Ranger to devote himself to protecting the children of Iqaluit from the bullying he himself suffered during his childhood there. His first heroic activity, back when he was younger and went by the name of Polar Lad, was to go out in his costume and mask, early in the morning, to shovel the snow off people’s walks. Polarman may not have great power, but he’s got the great responsibility part down cold.

Comments on Angle-Grinder Man: A superhero for our times:
#1 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 10:44 AM:

It would be disrespectful to the office of the President to mention Flight Suit Boy, wouldn't it?

#2 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:10 AM:

As I recall the associated buzz aspects of said outfit, I think most would agree that he should be addressed as "Flight Suit Man."

#3 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:14 AM:

As a Londoner who uses public transport, I'd consider him more heroic if he took the angle-grinder to the cars.

#4 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:33 AM:

Hmm. Other than SuperBarrio, only Spa Man comes to mind, and he was a hoax.

#5 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:35 AM:

Costumed crusaders seem to be quite a fashion in Mexico, going by this article. I had heard of Super Barrio before, but not realised that he was not unique.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Flight Suit Boy. If he were Flight Suit Man, either he wouldn't need to raid the sock drawer, or he'd know better than to care about it.

The whole episode was stunningly inappropriate. Could that little man have put his little issues any more blatantly on display? And could he have chosen a worse time and place to do it?

Rudy Giuliani in drag has infinitely more dignity than Flight Suit Boy.

#7 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:41 AM:

"why don92t they just become police officers, or join the military"--You try squeezing all those muscles into a general-issue uniform some time. Lycra's the only way to go.

#8 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:44 AM:

I'd consider him more heroic if he took the angle-grinder to the cars

Call me a curmudgeon, but that was my reaction too. It's not as though parking were a right. (Or even a good. Heh, I kill me.)

Could that little man have put his little issues any more blatantly on display?

I think the time has come to adopt a new salute: when this particular POTUS appears, everyone waggle their pinky fingers.

#9 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 11:47 AM:

With all the computer geek millionaires in Seattle, I'm surprised that no one's tried to dress up as a nocturnal mammal and fight crime.

#10 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 12:07 PM:

Warren Ellis has a term for caped crusaders and similar superheros: he calls them pervert suits.

And one suspects that the occupants of such suits have issues (in either the Freudian sense, or that of Leviticus 15:2-12).

#11 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 12:14 PM:

Much of Edinburgh was built before cars. There are splendid wide roads in the New Town that were designed for 4 carriages abreast: which are now principally occupied, right up the middle, by cars. Officially the maximum amount of time anyone is allowed to park in the city centre is 2 hours: in practice, as I know from having worked there, car owners nip into the street every 115 minutes and refill the parking meter. The receptionist's job, where I worked, included the duty of warning everyone in the building when the traffic warden was coming along the road.

I walked to work, and loathed them all, but in particular the man who lived fifteen minutes walk away from work but drove his car to work and back because it saved buying himself a resident car-parking permit.

People who drive cars persistently complain about where they are not allowed to park, or where it is too expensive to park, or when they get penalised for parking illegally. In Scotland, wheel-clamping (security boots) is illegal: instead, the parking officials simply remove the illegally-parked car, and it costs the owner a fair amount of money to get it back. It doesn't happen nearly often enough, but it's a delight to my soul when it does happen.

#12 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 12:16 PM:

Properly speaking, Angle-Grinder Man is neither a vigilante nor a costumed hero: they dress up to fight crime. Angle-Grinder Man dresses up to commit crimes: he's one of the breed of costumed villains....

#13 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 01:05 PM:

A further example: the Guardian Angels, circa 1979 and going on from there.

#14 ::: Jonathan Korman ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 01:09 PM:

Pinkman is a San Francisco Bay Area superhero who wears a bright pink leotard and rides a unicycle. ("Rides" is an inadequate description -- he zooms and twirls like a manic cartoon drunkard.) Not so much interested in fighting crime as in fighting ennui.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:06 PM:

Yonmei, unless your guy in Edinburgh is a pathological case (and therefore not suitable as an example), if it's worth his while to drive a short distance every morning and re-park his car, then your city doesn't have a serious parking problem. I mean, look at his behavior: he's assuming that he'll quickly find a nearby space. You also don't have much of a problem if people can routinely park so close to their offices that it's easy to dash down and refill the meter. And if people are just refilling the meters on what should be two-hour spaces, what you actually have is an enforcement problem.

There are long-established techniques for ascertaining whether a car has been parked in one spot for longer than it should. If those aren't being employed, then your city's parking meters are being used as a revenue stream, not a traffic control device. If your constabulary doesn't want to be bothered keeping track, they can just re-set the machines to charge half the price for one hour's parking. It won't solve the problem, but it'll make the car-parkers' current solution to it a lot less attractive.

Sennoma, I've got no use for parking-space hogs and vehicular scofflaws, but I also know what it's like to live with the capricious and arbitrary enforcement of parking regulations.

My neighborhood does alternate side of the street parking. This means that on Mondays between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m., you can't park on the north side of our street, and the same goes for Tuesdays on the south side. No way are all the cars thus displaced going to find legal spaces, because we don't have that much excess capacity. Instead, for those three hours everyone double-parks on the unaffected sides of non-arterial streets. If everyone cooperates, it works just fine. Traditionally, you're supposed to stay within earshot so you can hear the honking if you've parked in someone who needs to use their car, but when I had my car I'd put a sign in my front window that gave my cellphone number.

The Brownies -- our traffic law enforcers -- know all this perfectly well. Sometimes they'll ticket all the double-parkers anyway. This is usually because they're making their ticket quota. More rarely, they'll be throwing their weight around in some local dispute. What's infuriating is that there's no way to foretell when they're going to be doing it: Greetings! You have just made an unscheduled contribution to the city's revenue stream!

Those aren't cheap tickets, but they're nothing compared to having your car towed. The time that happened to me in Manhattan -- I was parked on a stretch that's permanently and infallibly full of parked cars, none of which I'd ever seen towed away -- it took two days to get through the city's deliberately user-unfriendly fine-payoff and reclamation process. Needless to say, between the fines, the towing charges, the impoundment charges, and the lost income, it was appallingly expensive.

Reclaiming a towed car in Brooklyn isn't quite so Dantesque, but it's still costly and inconvenient. There's a spot on the next block over which we eventually determined, via a painful process of trial and error, was a tow-away zone only at certain times. This isn't official. It isn't signed as such. It's just what the Brownies decided to do.

When you get a parking ticket here, is it any defense to point out that the pertinent sign is missing, or got rotated 45 degrees in an accident and now looks like it applies to the cross-street, or that someone spray-painted over it, or that a freak storm plus high winds had covered it in dirty frozen-on slush an inch deep, or that some strange rearrangement of the signage at that intersection had resulted in the sign's being relocated to a spot so far up a lamp post that it wasn't legible from the ground? It is not. You'll still get nailed sometimes, no matter how hard you try. That is, you'll get nailed unless, like the real fatcats, you pay for garaging every time you park.

The point at which I started feeling some sympathy for Angle-Grinder Man was when they quoted Ms. Petite Tendai's story about finding that her car had been clamped for parking in an area that didn't have a "no parking" sign. I don't think she'd feel the same way if she'd found herself having to pay a parking ticket. She'd still feel it was unfair, but there wouldn't be that sense of unjust oppression you get when you're arbitrarily nailed with a very high fine plus the tedious job of getting your car back.

You could argue that in-city driving arrangments have to be painful, because that's the only thing that'll keep people from automatically taking their cars everywhere they go. For instance, I used to be in favor of building multi-story parking structures on the sites currently used as single-level parking lots. I didn't understand that would be a problem in its own right until I read that article I quoted in The Fabric of the CIty that said,

"Every study done on this issue has shown that parking supply is a key determinant of urban auto use. Major additions of parking to the area will inevitably foster a higher level of car use there and on connecting highways, avenues and streets."
So, okay. Parking not only needs to be finite; it needs to be troublesome. But it ought not be arbitrarily enforced, which is what I'm (perhaps erroneously) hearing in this story. If people get penalized for breaking known rules, they'll grumble, but they don't usually decide to play Robin Hood. Petite Tendai doesn't sound like a habitual scofflaw.

Angle-Grinder Man certainly doesn't sound at all like your stereotypical "I'll park where I damned well please" type. Those guys do exist, but they don't go forth to do battle on behalf of other drivers. They don't care about other drivers. That's how they grew up to be jerks in the first place.

#16 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:15 PM:

I mean, look at his behavior: he's assuming that he'll quickly find a nearby space.

People drive in to Edinburgh city centre for all sorts of reasons, only one of which is that they work there. Scumboy in my old workplace relied on arriving between 8:15 and 8:30, which is about the only time window when you could rely on finding an empty space nearby.

I particularly think of scummy scumboy because he was deliberately trying to avoid the costs that the city wished anyone who lived in the city centre to incur if they chose to run a car. (No one who lives in the city centre of Edinburgh, unless disabled, needs a car. There's excellent public transport.) He wanted to own a car but didn't see why he should pay for it. I thought of him as no better than the kind of person who takes their dog for a walk through a public park and lets it crap wherever it wants to, without bothering to clear the mess up.

If those aren't being employed, then your city's parking meters are being used as a revenue stream, not a traffic control device.

The means employed were traffic wardens. Unfortunately, not enough.

#17 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:23 PM:

Angle-Grinder Man reminds me of the character Robert DeNiro played in Terry Gilliam's movie, "Brazil". He was the guy in orange over-alls who swooped down to people's apartments to do home repairs. Technically, he was breaking the law --- the repairs were supposed to be done by the official repair staff. But they were inefficient and arrogant, and working with them meant going through impossible paperwork. The DeNiro character represented one guy's frustration with a corrupt, unworkable system. I think Angle-Grinder Man may see himself along the same lines. Is he REALLY a noble Robin Hood figure? Well, you could ask the same question about Robin Hood himself, assuming he actually existed.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice that the first string of comments to the Angle Grinder Man piece focused on the rather unrelated subject of President Bush. Are we obsessed with him or what?

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 02:53 PM:

No more than I'd call myself obsessed with a pebble in my shoe.

#19 ::: Edd ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 03:06 PM:

I remember one Marvel comic book that was about a 'real' superhero. It was THE HUMAN FLY, published in the late 1970s ( His schtick was that he performed stunts to prove to those who'd lost limbs or been badly burned that they too could bounce back as he had.

DAZZLER, also from Marvel, was supposed to work in reverse, with a real person tapped to sing as the superhero. The real-life singer's career never took off, but the comic book character is still around, albeit sans a title to call her own.

#20 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 03:10 PM:

TNH: But it ought not be arbitrarily enforced, which is what I'm (perhaps erroneously) hearing in this story

I went and reread the story, and I think you are correct: what yanked AGM's crank so hard was the arbitrariness of the enforcement. In that case, mea culpa to you and fair play to the man in the gold lamé jocks. :-)

JM: the first string of comments ... focused on the rather unrelated subject of President Bush. Are we obsessed with him or what?

You mean Flight Suit Boy? No, we're not obsessed at all. *waggles pinky*

#21 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 03:12 PM:

I mean, "mea culpa to you, from me" -- my mistake. It sounded like a nyah, nyah when I reread it. (Note to self: the preview button is your friend.)

#22 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Wasn't there a story circulating around the weblogs a year or so ago about a superheroine rescuing young women from being picked up in bars?

Another example of "single issue superhero."

(Sorry I can't come up with an exact reference, but several weblogs paid attention.)

#23 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 03:28 PM:

Erik, I think that's who Teresa was referring to in the original article:

"that young woman who dresses as a superhero and patrols the NYC singles-bar scene, giving out taxi fares and prudent advice to other young women who are in danger of being abused."

I remember the mentions of her, too, but I can't find them either. Has Google abandoned me in my hour of need (OK, my 30 seconds of vague curiousity)?

#24 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 04:16 PM:

Y'all, it's Flight Suit Lad.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 04:23 PM:

Naw, you're forgetting his Texas origins. It's The Flight Suit Kid.

#26 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 05:18 PM:


Bush is from Connecticut, dammit.

I rather like Flight Suit Lad, though...

#27 ::: Edward Liu ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 05:32 PM:


The New York City superheroine is named Terrifica, with the nearest article about her at

I did meet the lady in question at a party once, since, in her civilian garb, she worked at the same institution as my wife. Apparently, she was a performance artist at that time, with a lackey-with-videocamera in tow recording her exploits for posterity.

Unlike the other superheroes mentioned so far, she actually looked pretty decent in the spandex outfit, or at least as "decent" as anybody can look in a real-life spandex superhero outfit.

-- Ed

#28 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 07:10 PM:

TNH: But it ought not be arbitrarily enforced, which is what I'm (perhaps erroneously) hearing in this story

But the solution is the opposite to the one implied in the post. Much parking enforcement - certainly in south London which is where the subeject of the original post is said to operate - is somewhat inconistent. That allows people to get used to getting away with parking illegally and getting self-righteous if they are occasionally caught. The solution is to do more enforcement, not less. If people's expectation of incurring a penalty goes over a critical threshold, their behaviour improves. I am amazed daily at the selfishness with which many people are prepared to park. The prospect of paying a ticket is clearly inadequate discouragement, the inconvenience of getting a clamp released has a real effect.

I live and park and use public transport in South London, so I find it mildly amusing that the only time I had ever heard of 'angle grinder man' was on a New York blog. Curious to know whether that's because I lead an unduly sheltered life, I googled to find his site. The (not very pleasant) flavour of it comes across in this sample:

As there are not enough car parking spaces in London and because the public transport system is a joke, drivers (paticularly builders and other tradesmen) are forced to park illegally on a regular basis. These are people who have paid for road license tax discs! Having allowed this crisis to develop, central and local government should be sued for shambolic mismanagement, not allowed to claw back revenue from the very people whom they have let down! And that is the reason that most cars are clamped. Money. The borough of Southwark alone clamps hundreds of vehicles per day, in side streets and in uncongested areas, at a release fee of a385.00 a throw. Is it any wonder that the Traffic Gestapo are paid such high wages? Never mind parking permits, why are these guys allowed a license to print money!??

There is no clear evidence on the site that a car clamped on a public road has ever been cut free - the prictures of a-g man supposedly in action are fairly obviously taken in a private car park. Which makes sense, because anybody daft enough to let him loose on their car clamped by legal authorities on the public highway could be completely confident of finding themselves in court facing charges much more serious than a simple parking violation.

In short, this whole story looks like self-publicity taken rather more seriously than it deserves by a couple of journalists who should perhaps have been a little more sceptical.

#29 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 07:48 PM:

All this chatter about Flight Suit Lad brings the better-forgotten spectre of Super President to mind.

On Saturday mornings in 1967 and 1968, President James Norcross would slip away to his secret crimefighting cave deep beneath the White House, don his mask and tights, and use his cosmic power of altering his molecular structure ("to steel! to granite! or whatever the need requires") to battle villainy.

As Don Markstein says at the above Web site, "The Super President show lasted exactly one season, and spun off no comic books, Little Golden Books or any of that stuff. Today, many adults who watched the show in their youth have trouble convincing their friends anything this off-the-wall actually existed."

Video clip here. Entertaining review here.

#30 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2003, 09:26 PM:

Bill Higgins --- you made my day with the reference to Super-President. I must have watched that show exactly once in my childhood, but the memory lingers. However, I remembered Norcross as being president of some other country. I thought it was some recently de-colonized third world country, populated by people of a different skin color than their chief executive.

But the drawback with big-deal heroes is the same, whether they're sawing the denver boot off of someone's car, vowing to fix California's budget crisis, or using super powers that aren't found in the Constitution. They're all the stuff that dreams are made of. They're what we desperately wish for, not what we need, or what we end up getting.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 12:18 AM:

Flight Suit Lad. I hereby declare it.

I want to see the scene where he applies to the Legion and gets given a really hard time.

#32 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 10:08 AM:

When I was in high school, my friend Andy used to dress up every once in a while as Captain Utopia, Communist Superhero. A couple of us took turns as his sidekick Manifesto, but our costumes weren't nearly as good.

Captain Utopia didn't have much of a clearly defined mission as such; I think the theme was mostly settled on because the only cape we had handy was a big red PRC flag. He looked damn good in the suit, though.

It was awfully rewarding to go down to the grocery store with a superhero, though, and watch the young kids gaze in awe at Cap U's magnificence. So I suppose some good was done in the sense-of-wonder and battling-ennui departments.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Flight Suit Lad. I hereby declare it.

I yield with good grace before so much grace.

I remember Super President. (icky shivers)

#34 ::: Olsen Ross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 05:48 PM:

Here is a further example:

Yesterday I posted a link to an article on Polar Man: The Masked Hero of Iqaluit!

#35 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 08:36 PM:

There was someone in the UK some years back who dressed up in a costume and collected dog turds from the street and posted them in the dog owners letterboxes, but I can't find a reference.

#36 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 11:42 AM:

the last story I read about A-G man in the British press had him cutting down speed cameras. There is definitely a vigilante group that does that. I think the leader call shimself "Captain Gatso". I rather hope that a speeding lorry takes them out one night when they're at work.

#37 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2003, 01:31 PM:

I have to say that Polar Man seems to do the best at actually defending the helpless of all the "super" heroes mentioned here. Plus, he shovels snow off of peoples' sidewalks for them. Would Superman do something so mundanely helpful?

#38 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 08:13 AM:

Ironically, Teresa, all applicants rejected by the Legion of Super-Heroes get a working flight belt as a consolation prize.

#39 ::: The Man ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2003, 10:23 AM:

With regards to the complaints about the arbitrariness of parking enforcement, I offer this explanation:

A city has many things it needs to do with a very limited budget. Paying enough people to enforce all the parking violators all of the time would mean that a city would have to reduce services in other areas. A far more efficient way of doing it is to say, well, any given illegal parking job MAY be punished at any point. If you are parked illegally and you get a ticket for it, you deserved it; you were parked illegally! Saying "I park here every day and they never gave me a ticket before" means nothing. Every day that you parked there, you were taking a risk, and this time you got burnt. Don't like it? Take a bus.

A more feasible way to deter illegal parking without raising city costs: make the fees higher. With more on the line, fewer people will be willing to take the risk. Yeah, we'll have to listen to a lot of griping, but eventually people will get used to it and decide for themselves whether the risk is worth the convenience.

On the other hand, it should be the city's responsibility to make sure that no-parking zones are clearly marked.

#40 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 10:41 AM:

Superman wouldn't have to shovel, Jeremy, he could use his heat vision. :-> That said, I don't think he would, no.

#41 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2003, 04:35 AM:

Some years back here in Santa Cruz we had a costumed crusader, who I happened to meet in his secret identity: Mister Twister.

Mister Twister was a clown who made balloon animals for people, but also fought the scourge of the vile Meter Maids by feeding parking meters, often right in front of them.

Here's a news article I searched up on him:

Thanks to a media circus and citizens' support, Mister Twister has won the freedom to feed parking meters.
In Santa Cruz, California it is illegal to put coins in parking meters without consent.
Mister Twister uses tips from his balloon creations and entertainment to feed expired meters before parking officers can write tickets.
Recently Mr. Twister was slapped with a 13-dollar fine for unauthorized meter-feeding.
The city ended up dropping the citation and repealed the ordinance that barred strangers from plugging parking meters.
Even the mayor admitted the law should not be on the books and that it never made much sense.

There was also a rather funny editorial cartoon of him frantically feeding a parking meter with "15 Minutes of Fame" written on the side

Anyway, that's a costumed crusader who retired sometime after actually winning his crusade, since now anyone can feed the meters of strangers.

#42 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2003, 08:07 AM:

Thank you, Kevin.

I believe we have enough data to say that real superheroes tend to work in support of single issues, or on behalf of the needs of specific populations. I don't expect the writers at DC and Marvel to take notice of this anytime soon.

#43 ::: Prentiss Riddle ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2003, 09:15 AM:

More on Superbarrio: My understanding is that there is more than one Superbarrio. Supposedly the careful observer can tell because his physique and his speaking style (highfalutin' vs. street talk) change from day to day.

Superbarrio may have influenced Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos in his habit of wearing a ski mask at all times to disguise his civilian identity.

Superbarrio has visited the US on occasion, once for an event I was associated with, which is where I learned the scoop about his multiple alter egos.

A member of the Mexico delegation at the conference gave me a souvenir which was one of my most prized possessions until it disappeared in a move. It was a poster drawn in comics style showing Superbarrio and Wonder Woman flying through the air over a giant condom with the exhortation, "a1Usemos el condf3n!" (Let's use a condom!). Since I lost mine I've never been able to track down another, but, coincidence of coincidences, it appears blurrily in the background of Richard Linklater's movie Waking Life.

#44 ::: Polarman ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 09:56 AM:

I am Called Polarman I live in iqaluit I am posting because I want to correct some one on a case of mistaken identtidy I started out as Polarboy first to stop bullies from hurting others, stop people from becoming bullies and also stop all other kinds of abuse like Drinking Sniffing solvents child abuse like neglect and abandonment to physical and mental as well as sexual abuse towards young kids I shovel snow because I can get kids to help out and stay out of trouble on the streets I sometimes have been called to babysit and even do birthday parties.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Hello, Polarman. Thank you for dropping by. You're a very good superhero.

#46 ::: Polarman ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 10:35 AM:

Hello Teresa! It is me again I wanted to say that another comunnity not far from here called Baker lake once had an inuk super hero who could fly and was very strong They called him Super Shamou With his red suit Blue cape and shorts and rubber boots He gets his powers from an a magical necklace made of Polarbear teeth Another super hero from the seventies has recently resurfaced in Ottawa a few years ago and has come up to visit Iqaluit on occasion is the once famous well known Captain Canuck in a modified red and white suit simular to the original costume I suspect that the canuck Identity has been passed down from generaton to generation scince the origional guy has retired I don't have any photos but if I get some I will have someone post them for you to see here

#47 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 04:57 PM:

Is it just me, or was a large part of the backstory for last night's Angel a big shout-out to Superbarrio? :-> Sort of.

#48 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 05:31 PM:

I saw that aspect of it too, Eloise.

#49 ::: C O'Connor ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2003, 05:32 PM:

Battle Of The Century 2004

Saturday January 24 2004
The Camden Underworld
174 Camden High Street, London. NW1 Info: 020 7482 1932

Angle-Grinder Man, the world92s first wheel-clamp and speed camera vigilante cum subversive superhero philanthropist entertainer along with New York City rocker Adam Bomb are taking grinder to guitar for a no-holds-barred assault on the London rock scene.

Adam Bomb, who is the lead guitarist on the new solo album from Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, "The Thunderthief," has just completed 30 shows across the UK in 30 days on his September 2003 Smash & Burn Spectacular Tour and is returning to the UK in January / February 2004 for 45 shows on the Third World Roar 2004 Tour.

Angle-Grinder Man is taking time out of his clandestinely appointed rounds to get in the ring on select dates during the Adam Bomb Third World Roar 2004 UK Tour, starting with January 24th at The Underworld in Camden Town to take on Adam and his band in a match up that will rival such events as Tyson vs Holyfield and King Kong vs. Godzilla. The shred of metal against the power of blazing rock guitar will send sparks flying in this must-see international extravaganza.

Round 2 with Angle Grinder Man will take place at The St. Valentine's Massacre Party in Dudley at JB's on February 14th and round 3 on February 25th in Southampton at The Brook will be filmed for an upcoming DVD release.

Advance tickets are available for a36.00 at the World92s End Pub (nxt to The Underworld)
Ticketweb 08700 600 100 , Stargreen 020 7734 8932
and Way Ahead 020 7403 3331

#50 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2003, 06:10 PM:


Okay, I'm afraid I need some clarification here. Is this some sort of wrestling match? Or is the show going to involve A.G. Man literally attacking a band and/or its equipment with an angle grinder? If the former, the odds seem unfair, even for a superhero such as Angle Grinder Man. If the latter, I hope that the actual grinding happens (a) late in the set, because it's going to bring the music to an emphatic-if-spectacularly-noisy end; (b) with the proper use of safety goggles all 'round; and (c) with the guitarists holding their axes well away from their bodies.

Thank you.

#51 ::: True Superhero ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2003, 04:56 PM:

A true superhero would be working to put Flight Suit Boy behind bars, where he belongs.

#52 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 01:23 PM:

Superhero themes again: Article in the Washington Post about the Guardian Angels, complete with discussion of their red jackets, red berets, and nicknames. (Not that they're a new organization, though I believe this is the first time I've heard of them.)

#53 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 04:49 AM: is down.

Thanks for the info on other superheroes.

#54 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 02:02 AM: is back. Yay!

I've tried to introduce our new Mayor of Denver, Colorado, to Angle Grinder Man's site. I hope their philosophies agree as I suspect they might.


#55 ::: Xupa ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 06:45 PM:

To hell with Superbarrio, Pinkman and Human fly.
They're just publicity stunts. Ok, they've got a great cause...not superheros.
Terrifica just sounds like a meddler, on behalf of people who got themselves into trouble on their own.

Angle-Grinder man is a real hero.
A true vigilante.
The ONLY real Superhero.
Right ON, Angle Grinder Man!

#56 ::: LL ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 04:10 AM:

T ll y cr-htng, fcs twstd wth ht, msrbl sds.
mgn yr tpn trffclss strts, wth chldrn plng nd cclsts gvng ch thr chr wvs s th pss;
nd ll th thsnds f dsplcd mtrsts jnng y n yr 100 yr ld stnkng swt ndrgrnd r xpnsv crmpd bss!
r r y rch ngh t s txs?

#57 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 06:59 AM:

LaLa, I live in the most beautiful city in the world*, with streets it is a pleasure to walk down. (When you can breathe because of the car fumes.) We don't have an Underground, however.

*okay, okay: one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 07:43 AM:

Lala, you need to work on reading for tone. "Car-hating miserable sods" is not what's going on here.

#59 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Thanks, but as someone who's just moved out of the Great Wen to get away from the traffic stench, I reserve the right to be a car-hating miserable sod.

(But Angle-Grinder Man is still my kind of anti-authoritarian superhero, even if I'd prefer him to be putting the clamps *on* clandestinely. ;) )

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 06:45 AM:

That's your privilege. But the piece wasn't about loving or hating cars. It was about real-life superheroes, and what motivates them.

When I first read about Angle-Grinder Man, what struck me was that here was another single-issue superhero, and that the other real-life superheroes I'd heard of (my readers helped identify them as Terrifica and Super Barrio from my vague descriptions) were committed to very specific issues. Then we found out about Polarman, Masked Hero of Iqaluit, from Olsen Ross, which both confirmed the pattern and made everything more interesting.

Speaking of which -- Hello again, Polarman; sorry I missed your second comment until now. So Captain Canuck is real? I'd heard the name, but though he was just someone's comic book character. I'd love to see photos. What issues motivate Captain Canuck to go forth and battle evil?

#61 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 07:42 AM:

Spiderman has turned to the dark side and is using his powers for evil in Curitiba, Brazil. He seems to have fewer super powers in real life.
Spiderman foiled.

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 09:02 AM:

With great power comes great lubrication.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.