Superheroes, a new documentary film by Michael Barnett, will premiere on HBO on August 8. Barnett spent a year traveling around the country filming vigilantes — in particular Thanatos in Vancouver, Mr. Xtreme in San Diego, Dark Guardian and Life in New York, and Zetaman in Portland.
From all over America, these everyday citizens don masks, homemade costumes and elaborate utility belts in an attempt to bring justice to evildoers everywhere. There are currently more than 300 registered superheroes in the United States. Through candid interviews, patrol footage, archival material and motion graphics, Superheroes explores this cultural phenomenon, revealing what inspires these everyday citizens to take the law into their own hands as they try to make the world a better place.
The film also features interviews with: Stan Lee, legendary comic-book writer and former Marvel Comics chairman, who co-created Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Hulk and Iron Man; Lt. Andrea Brown, a 24-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department; and Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and expert on the psychology of superheroes, both real-life and fictional.
Whether they actually protect the public from crime or are just oddball vigilantes, the vast majority of these men and women are motivated by a heartfelt desire to fight apathy and the so-called “bystander effect.” Some of the superheroes profiled in the film were inspired by the widely reported 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, in which neighbors heard the victim’s screams without coming to her aid. Others decided to turn their lives around after struggling with violence, depression or addiction.