The sun still rises, but make no mistake: These are dark times. One never knows when he or she will be strolling down a busy city street, only to get caught up in a terror attack. Or wake up, check his or her smartphone and learn that the world is one step closer to nuclear armageddon.
It’s all enough to make anybody feel helpless.
But while some throw up their hands, surrendering to fate, other everyday people put on a uniform and take action.
No, I’m not talking about cops or soldiers. I’m talking about superheroes. Real-life superheroes. Because whether or not you’re aware, they’re among us and they’re making a difference.
I first heard about the superhero known as Civitron about a decade ago. No, I didn’t see him in action on the nightly news or in some Daily Bugle-style newspaper – his alter ego went to high school with some close friends of mine. And one day, they just casually mentioned that they knew a real-life superhero.
No big deal.
Now, more than ever, so many people need to know that hope still exists. For me, there was no better time to reach out to the Massachusetts-based Civitron and learn more about what compels him to put on a superhero costume and try to make the world a better place. So I turned on the Civi-Symbol and waited patiently for a response. And by “turned on the Civi-Symbol,” I mean I sent him a Facebook message.
And while the name “Civitron” might make you think of a Transformer, it actually reflects his purpose as a superhero.
“I’ve never officially declared a singular mission,” Civitron said. “However, my name loosely translates to ‘instrument of the people.’ So, I try to help people wherever and however I can. I like to think of myself as a sort of knight-errant in search of adventure.”
Not so Different from Batman
No, Civitron doesn’t duke it out with a Joker-style arch-nemesis on a regular basis, but he shares more in common with fictional comic book heroes like Batman than you might think. For example…
- Civitron teams up with other superheroes: Superheroes Anonymous, a society for real-life costumed heroes, is among the groups Civitron has partnered with to make a difference. Together, they’ve participated in the Walk for Hunger and March of Dimes, helped rebuild homes in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and assisted the homeless in New Bedford, MA., New York City, and Portland, OR.
- Civitron is a leader: Yes, like Batman, Civitron is an inspiration to those who want to make a difference. The hero has hosted toy and food drives, in addition to superhero workshops. The purpose of these workshops? To help others identify their superpower, Civitron said, “that certain spark that makes you special. Everybody has at least one.” Civitron also formed the New Bedford, MA. chapter of SCUL, a sci-fi-themed bicycle gang, named The Starchasers.
- Civitron has a sidekick: No, not Robin, but close … the Mad Owl – Civitron’s son! His father’s greatest supporter, the Mad Owl is a super-environmentalist, guerrilla gardener and animal rights activist.
The Origin of Civitron
So how does someone go from being just like you or I to a costumed adventurer? True to his superhero nature, Civitron doesn’t give the most straightforward answers.
“It’s either a very short or very long story,” Civitron said of his superheroic beginnings. “I could tell you about my upbringing, the lessons of parents, and the stories of my father fighting crime vigilante-style in the streets of Boston. Hopefully, it suffices to say that I’ve always wanted to be a superhero and I come from a long line of people-helpers. When I discovered the real-life superhero community, I knew that I had to join them.”
When asked about his father’s “vigilante days,” Civitron explained that his dad didn’t talk about them much until just before he passed away. What Civitron does know is that, despite his father’s reluctance to be a hero, he was always ready to help those in need of assistance – something that cemented his place as the superhero’s own personal hero.
“He taught me the importance of humility and self-sacrifice for the greater good.”
Civitron’s Greatest Challenges
Civitron is quick to admit he’s not perfect. Yes, underneath that cool costume, he’s just like anybody else. There are days when it’s just easier to shut the blinds and focus on a video game. Sometimes, the weight of global issues, such as world hunger, climate change and tyranny are too much to bear.
“The challenge there is to harness that negative energy and channel it into positive action,” Civitron said. “In ways both big and small, we become superheroes when we strive to be superheroes.”
Civitron defines “superhero” as anyone who continually places themselves in situations which require the best of them in the service of others.
Speaking of others, though, let’s be honest – we’re not living in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man isn’t swinging overhead while Wolverine and Captain America run by. In the real world, becoming a superhero isn’t as common as getting a 9-5 job. Fortunately, Civitron said he’s received nothing but encouragement and support from his friends and family.
“To them, my donning a costume and committing to a life of superheroism was inevitable.”Civitron: The Geek
If you’re going to adopt a codename and put on a costume, it’s a given you’re also into fictional heroes, right? Batman and Green Arrow, along with older pulp heroes like The Shadow and The Spirit, have always been among Civitron’s favorite fictional heroes. But with age came an appreciation for latter-day characters like Madman and Hellboy as well.
“These stories helped me see that there wasn’t just one way to be a superhero,” Civitron said. “You could have fun with it and be sort of an adventurer.”
Then, there are Civitron’s fellow real-life superheroes who inspire him, such as Dark Guardian, Superbarrio and Angle-Grinder Man.
“Zetaman of Portland, OR. was the first real-life superhero I discovered online,” Civitron explained. “He helped the homeless and patrolled for crime. A lot of others have taken on this style of superhero-ing. I’ve made a lot of friends along the way, and he doesn’t patrol anymore but he will always be my favorite.”
Through his desire to do what’s right, Civitron has surely become a favorite to many (aside from his son, of course). But at the end of the day, Civitron isn’t in the superhero business for the fans.
“For me, the greatest rewards of being a superhero have been the relationships with others within the community, as well as the people I’ve helped along the way.”To learn more about Civitron or the groups mentioned in this article, contact the superhero directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. No Civi-Signal required!