Comicbook World #52- Phoenix Jones & the Rain City Superhero Movement

You pro'lly think the dudes who hang out at your comic shop are kinda weird... but I'm thinkin' they got nothin' on this brotha Phoenix Jones, leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement...

Apparently Phoenix Jones runs the streets of Seattle confronting petty criminals and would-be drunk drivers. He claims he started wearing a mask and makeshift costume to identify himself as a crime-fighter. Despite it's shabby appearance, Phoenix's suit conceals a bullet-proof vest, and combined with his taser/nightstick and can of mace, constitutes the beginnings of a superhero arsenal.

I Gotta give props to my dude K!ser who posted this, because I had seen people talking about it on social networks but not bothered to check it out until I saw it on his blog Invisible Soldier. K!ser really got my wheels turning when he suggested that the existence of these so-called superheroes meant there were pro'lly gonna be super-villains too, and he coincidentally posted the video below, where Jones elaborates on an incident where criminals got the upper hand on him. I think that video tells the first story about the flip side of the superhero coin.

Lets say for arguments' sake that this dude is not kidding around. He really tucks his kids in at night and puts on his ill-fitting super-suit and goes out breaking up fights, chasing car-thieves and generally putting himself and his friends in harm's way in the name of justice and stuff. I have been reading comics and hanging around other nerds long enough to know that others have thought of this, but this is as far along as I personally have seen it go. When I was a shorty, I got with friends and we wrapped our elementary school brains around the concept of transforming ourselves into superheroes at length, but we always ran into the same road block: The ass-whupping Phoenix Jones took is inevitable, so I started making comics instead.

Now, when I look hard at this story, you know what it looks like to me? Phoenix Jones: Year One. Assuming these Rain City dudes are not just doing this as a publicity stunt for a comic shop or some graphic novel one of them is working on, AND assuming that getting his nose broken at gunpoint doesn't shut it down, this is just the beginning of this story. A question I asked immediately: who beat him up, and did they unmask him? If so, they know who he is, and if not, why not? Did they lay a trap for him, HOPING he would intervene? Either way, that's some supervillain shit right there...

At the end of the Year One-ish movie Batman Begins, the not-yet commissioner Jim Gordon suggests that Batman's arrival on the scene has actually spawned a proliferation of costumed villains by showing him the Joker's calling card. In addition to setting the stage for the massively popular sequel The Dark Knight, this bit of dialogue drops the often-employed axiom that the existence of superheroes by their nature inspire criminals and nutjobs to become equally super-villains in response. It's a chicken-or-egg question that's asked a lot in modern comics, and if the next school shooter, kidnapper or cannibal serial killer is caught wearing a mask and matching underarmour suit, we'll have our answer.
But that's not the only way this story can go, of course. Really, this whole business reminds me of Watchmen, the Alan Moore/ Dave Gibbons collabo that inspired the recent Zack Snyder opus not to mention decades of depressing, wordy knock-offs. All the superheroes in Watchmen start out like Phoenix, all altruism and flying fists and elbows, but their experiences darken them to the point that when my sister watched the movie, she said to me "I can't tell the good guys from the bad guys"...
In fact, I'd say this humble friendly neighborhood crime-fighter is one good ass-whupping away from becoming Rorschach, the finger-breaking, midget-smashing man without pity who is easily the most popular (and in my opinion the most likely to exist) character in Watchmen. Like Phoenix, Rorschach's reasons for fighting crime were innocent enough. And he was content to simply thrash criminals and leave 'em for the cops too until the constant contact with the dark side of human nature pushed him over the proverbial edge. Phoenix Jones seems like a wholesome guy and a tough customer, but if criminals set their minds on breaking him and he refuses to hang it up, a probable outcome is that his own tactics become more and more severe. Already showing a willingness to use violence sparingly, Phoenix Jones' restraint will be tested sorely if he stays in the crime-fighting game, especially once things get personal with the criminals...
So far, I haven't even mentioned the Rain City Superhero Movement teammates that Jones has inspired at all, but they contribute to the Watchmen connection as much as anything. In the story, the absurdity of grown people dressing up in costumes and running around punching and kicking people is addressed often. Unlike the uber-cool design and direction of Snyder's movie adaptation, the deadpan drawing style of Dave Gibbons on the comic really forces you to face up to how silly people look in costume, and the Rain City dudes looked downright cringeworthy on Good Morning America. If this has to continue, I'm hoping that some rich benefactor or government shadow agency will step in and fund these cats so that one dude will be able to retire his bathrobe in favor of a better ninja get-up. Maybe they can bring in someone to redesign Phoenix Jones' mask and costume so they match too. I mean, damn! Get it together, fam! But seriously, I for one would love for these guys to be outfitted with advanced non-lethal weapons, a bunch of tricked-out motorcycles  and costumes that rival the Hollywood designs.
Honestly, even though the nerd in me would like to hope for the best, it seems like this can only end badly. If he doesn't quit, Jones will probably get killed or maimed doing this, and becoming an ultraviolent criminal vigilante or worse seems like the next most likely outcome. Who knows, he might even become corrupted into a super-villain himself, like Daredevil in the recent Shadowland crossover, or that dude the Plutonian in Irredeemable.. Like Harvey Dent says in The Dark Knight, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain".
We'll see...
(CLICK HERE for more Phoenix Jones coverage on GhettoManga)


Arkonbey said...

Great article and food for thought. They're doing this alone with no backup or real training and zero authority.

All I could think of after reading it was an old Alan Davis/Paul Neary short comic from '81 called "The Origin of the Crusader". It shows the origin of a Batman-esque hero who trains and trains and when confronting his first real baddies ("Hold, evil doers! The Hour of your retribution is at hand!"), he's mowed down with an Uzi.

The last exchange by the bad guys as they drive away goes: "What was that?" "Some madman in a costume. He's dead as a door knocker!"

I hope those guys don't end up making some kids fatherless.

samax said...

yeah, same here!

B_Steelo said...

That's why Punisher is the only "superhero" to depend on in this world

samax said...


ross said...

obviously i don't want these guys to get killed or anything, but otherwise i am all about this. this shit rocks. Phoenix Jones and the Rain City Heroes are awesome, and even though it remains to be seen i think they seem like the real deal, even if that means they just break up drunken brawls or hand out food to the homeless or whatever for their entire vigilante careers. that's still awesome and completely worthwhile stuff. i love the way they handled that interview, they were so clear and concise and so on-point.

i gotta disagree with you on their costumes though, i think the get-ups are AWESOME, haha. i love that homebrewed look, though, like fuckin' Casey Jones!!! YEAH!!!


samax said...


I will be happy to be wrong. This sets off my pessimistic instincts... but if they can stay clear of organized crime, that will help.

If they last, you will probably see it spread. I have seen lots of cos-players that take tae-kwon-do classes and swear they could fight crime.

I guess if the guardian angels can do it, the Rain City Superheroes can, too. Just watch out for that DARK side, Phoenix...

Anonymous said...

I think his intentions are great, but dressing like an over-the-top nutjob like some of his friends and others in the community do falls into the realm of, "I'm doing this just because I want to look like a superhero and be recognized." Criminals are not going to be scared of these people, or likely to take them seriously, so it would be better if the outfits looked more paramilitary and contemporary, as well as practical.

Also, if your doing this kind of work, you have no buisness doing it if your not training for it. Take martial arts classes, join the wrestling team, familiarize yourself with the law and exercise regularly.

This can go far beyond "nerds in costume" This should be about doing whats right and helping people, not playing pretend.

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