Hero Behind the Mask: Skyman

This month’s interview is a little different than my usual interview. This month I interviewed a Real Life Super Hero in my local community instead of a CAUSEplayer. This man has a heart of gold and truly makes a difference in his community. He recently had his birthday and instead of throwing himself a party he arranged a homeless outreach event. As you can see by this example he is truly an inspiration regarding his community and we can all copy a page from the Book of Skyman! Here is to you Skyman! I can’t wait to continue following your adventures!-Mala

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Can you please describe for the readers what a real life super hero is? 
What is a Real-life Superhero (RLSH)? Well, there are a lot of definitions swirling about the internet and definitely Wikipedia! I’m going to give you the definition that I find relevant for myself and the others that I interact with through social media. An RLSH is one that has developed a superhero persona of their own creation that isn’t part of any canon of comic-books. We are our own creations, yet with a nod to the inspiration we get from comic-books.

The costume is intended to either be intimidating or inspiring depending upon what your purpose is. Some wear the mask to keep their personal lives private and some wear it to continue with the iconic imagery that the comic-book superhero has. Now does the ‘secret identity’ really work in the real world? Not so much, however I do know some that have kept up the separation and we don’t know their real names. To them I have much respect… some do have lives that need to be kept.. secret.

Having created a persona with a name and individual costume we travel outside in the real world attempting to make real change in our neighborhoods. An RLSH’s given ‘work’ is only limited by the groundings in reality… we don’t have superpowers! The stereotypical work is primarily through neighborhood watch patrolling and seeking out the ‘criminal element’ At least that’s the hope! Never really happens though, being in the right place at the right time to intervene in a physical altercation or anything related that needs de-escalation is few and far between.

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What inspired you to become a super hero?
Well, its been an evolution of my personality really. You see, back in Junior High in football I was given the nick-name of ‘SkyMan’ as my first name is Skyler. It stuck. When I was diagnosed with a mental illness in my teenage years I needed something to help quell the personal demons I was battling. So I turned to back to my childhood of superhero comics and cartoons. From there I created the inner personality of SkyMan to help Skyler survive the bouts of depressive suicidal idiation and manic cycles.

It was only in 2010 that I stumbled upon the movement/concept/community of the Real-life Superhero. I was still battling the demon of alcoholism that Ive been struggling with for 20 yrs now and one afternoon of drinking was watching the Watchmen movie DVD Boxed set. There was a documentary attached to it entitled “Real Superheroes, Real Vigilantes”

Of course I immediately Googled the term and then found the online movement and saw that there are people that actually do this in real world situations.

What does being a local super hero mean to you?
I truly believe being an RLSH should be a beacon of hope and inspiration. I guess you could say I want to hearken back to the Golden Age of superheroes that were colorfully clad and had high ideals. I also believe that being a member of your locality is where one should start. I live in a major metropolitan area and can spread myself out a bit. The Greater Seattle area is where I operate and am from and live in a suburb. Hailing from Federal Way I have, over the years, become a bit of a local notable. I attend and volunteer at events around town, show up to community led charity walks, been featured in the local newspaper, and have even shown up at City Council meetings to lobby for issues that I find important. I do some neighborhood watch in my community but have found it difficult over the years to fully develop a strategy to defend my local turf.

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What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
Simple and grandiose answer? To save the world, of course!

I know that’s not entirely doable for just one man in some handcrafted armor and some colors though… Really, I want to get to a place where I am happy to live my own life. To have a life worth living. I’m not there yet and some 6 yrs in I don’t expect to be anytime soon. I call myself a ‘crusader’ Well, my crusade is that SkyMan continuously improve Skylers life. Its a selfish answer but its the one I live by.

What differences have you made?
Over my career as a ‘costumed activist’ I’ve foiled a few crimes in progress, saved a life or two by being in the right place at the right time and many, MANY, acts of charitable kindness. I’ve helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless stay alive one more night through the homeless kits and supplies I’ve given out; paid for out of my own pocket mostly. I’ve shared my own personal struggles of battling mental illness and substance abuse with many people by sharing my own ‘experience, strength, and hope.’ Most importantly, being SkyMan and doing the work of an RLSH, being committed to a cause greater than myself, has saved my life on more than a few occasions by not succumbing to my depression.

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How do you keep yourself safe while patrolling?
I made one rule for myself that I’ve pretty much adhered to over the years;
‘Never patrol alone’. Does it mean I get out there on the ‘mean streets’ less than Id like?

Of course. But I’ve always believed that there is strength in numbers and you cant have eyes in the back of your head or keep your situation awareness up constantly. Our heads weren’t born on a swivel.
I do carry a fully stocked and functional utility belt that carries personal self-defense devices; pepper spray, baton, and stun knuckles It also has a fully stocked trauma rated First Aid kit. So I don’ t go out on patrol without the ‘tools of the trade’ However, I’ve been in patrolling groups where the others I’m working with carry enough protection for the lot of us so I’ve been known to only go out in my armor.

I also wear a Level IIIa bullet-resistant vest. For many years I operated without one to prove the point that you don’t have to have it to do the work… also, its always been outside my budget and very hard to find plus sizes. I lucked out around Christmas last year as one of my teammates picked up the tab on a functional vest he found for me. So after many years I do have one that I wear for patrol and crowd control purposes.

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Do you feel that others can be super heroes without a costume? If so, why?
I feel that we all have the ability to emulate the compassion, tenacity, and true heroism that the comic-book inspired superheroes show us. The costume, or super-suit as we call it in the RLSH community, is just the tool we use to draw attention to ourselves. To be a true superhero get outside yourself and do something for others. Whether its as brave as helping to feed the homeless or something as simple as smiling to your neighbor…. that’s enough.

How long have you done this in your community?
SkyMan the Tri-Colored Crusader was given form on Arbor Day 2010 in a local park where he helped with trail maintenance and planting.

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What advice do you have for becoming a real super hero?
Advice for somebody wanting to join the RLSH Community and to become one?
First, do some cursory research on what you are passionate about and search for your inner heroes identity. Do plenty of internet research into the people involved in the movement and read about us and what we do. Why? There are always people coming and going in the community that I find it troublesome that the lack of research and examination isn’t done.

Also, please try and be creative with your persona. There are a lot of black-clad ninja looking folks out there that think they have to be Batman and skulk in the shadows. I’m here to tell you as one of the more experienced, seasoned, and active RLSH out there that that mindset and attire don’t work. Its not in the imagery of the iconic golden-age era of superheroes that wanted to present a friendly image to the general populace. I understand that names and creativity are difficult… but nobody said that being a superhero was simple, much less easy!

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Favorite Comic Character: Captain America! Sure, Steve was given the super-soldier serum that turned him into a super-strength powered person but before that the tenacity and patriotism of the scrawny youth was what made him a real hero.

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman! He is an alien from another planet trying to fit in when we all know he cant. His a God among mere mortals and is an anomaly.

Favorite Book: How to be a Superhero by NightRider. Its one of the very first published manuals out there and documents the very early days of the RLSH Community.

Favorite Video Game: I grew up on Super Mario Bros. And my SNES.

Favorite Convention: Emerald City Comic Con… even though its become a larger than life event. I’m going to stay loyal as I won my 4 day pass this past year.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): I’m a member of a local team of RLSH in the greater Seattle area, the Emerald City Heroes Organization (ECHO)

Facebook: is the one major form of social media I participate in on a daily basis.
https://www.facebook.com/skyler.nichols

Twitter: SkyMan253

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Hero Behind the Mask: Erika Earl

I am please to share with you the first of the Heroes Behind the Mask series for 2016! Since I am also writing for Cosplayer Among Us Magazine this will only be a monthly release.

I am very excited to introduce you to Erika! She teamed up with the amazing and kind hearted owner of the Penalty Box in Salt Lake City to raise money for a cause near and dear to her own heart! They were very successful! Keep reading to find out just how successful her event was! Not only has she found time to raise money for a great cause but this cosplayer also works with Salt Lake Comic Con in additional to her other life obligations! She was kind enough to talk about all these busy things in her life!-Mala

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Name: Erika Earl

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
The people that I get to Causeplay with

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
The events get better each time and it’s fun to see the progress.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
It was a Make A Wish Dreamnight at the Hogle Zoo

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? It depends, if it’s for children definitely my fairy.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment(s) : All of the Causeplayers on the Carousel at the zoo together.

What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them? I personally fund raise for the National MS Society because I have MS and it is a cause that means a lot to me.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I can’t really think of anything I consider silly. Everything is fun if you look at it the right way.

Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
All of the cosplayers I know inspire me in cosplay. In life I’m inspired by anyone who has the courage to be their true self.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Don’t be afraid to beg.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Nothing until next year that I know of but you never know what will happen.

You recently had a CAUSEplay event what is your event called? We change the name every year but it relates to MS and Cosplay

Why did you choose MS for this event?
I was diagnosed with MS over 12 years but because I don’t look sick it’s really hard to spread awareness. All of the money raised went to the national MS society 

Why did you choose to host this at the Penalty Box and how do you think this choice influenced your events success?
Bill Rowe is a good friend and Neff Michael’s fund raising enthusiasm is inspirational. There are no two people I would rather work with more for this event. (Note from Mala, Neff was previously interviewed for his own CAUSEPlay efforts so please check out that interview as well!)

 photo Capture_zpsx4wtqg60.jpg Please tell us the process to making this event happen.
This year was a little easier because it wasn’t the first time around. After getting in touch with Bill and Neff and getting the okay to have the event at the penalty box I rounded up raffle donations, I had help from friends and Geek Hangout Utah on that. Salt Lake Comic Con created the flyer that I both posted and passed out and from there it was pretty easy.

What would you say was unique about your event ?
We try to incorporate as much orange for MS as possible. This year we had orange mardi gras beads and orange glow sticks. Most of the pictures had some form of orange.

How much did you raise for MS in total?
We raised $1701.00 in two nights.

Do you see yourself doing something like this again?
I do, next year we will be back.

If someone is interested in creating an event like yours what advice do you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to get told no and keep going.

You mentioned that you also volunteer for Salt Lake Comic Con, tell us what you do for them? What is it like?
I am the Director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con, It is the most amazing job I have ever had. I thrive on chaos and love the event so much.

How important are volunteers for conventions from your perspective? The volunteers are incredibly important for the event. With such a large group of volunteers you would probably be surprised at haw hard each one of them works.

Salt Lake Comic Con seems to have a heavy focus on cosplay, how do you think that has shaped the Utah cosplay community?
It has made everyone feel welcome and as if they have a place in the event.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? Cosplayer

What was your first costume/cosplay? A Zombie

What is your dream cosplay?
There are a lot of them but a Mandalorian is pretty high on the list

How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
I hope I’ve convinced new people to join the community.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m an executive secretary at a cancer hospital and I am the director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I like the jobs I have [Symbol]

Tell us something random about yourself: I have more pets than any one person should probably have and I love them all.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars

Marvel or DC: DC

Favorite Comic Series: Batman

Favorite Comic Character: The Joker

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman, he just annoys me

Favorite Book: Coraline or the Graveyard Book

Favorite Video Game: Plants versus Zombies (any of them)

Favorite Convention: Salt Lake Comic Con

Facebook: Erika’s adventures in Cosplay

Batkid Begins (2015)

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I am very excited about this blog. And because of my excitement I am not going to rate this documentary. It is too great in my opinion. This is the first blog that my passions (the various aspects of my blog) get to merge! My family can attest to my passion for movies. They can also attest for my love of costumes. And the joy I have gotten for using my hobby to make a positive impact on my community. Just recalling the few confirmed moments that I made a difference in someone’s life makes me happy.

I remember when the story this documentary is about went viral. This documentary shows the journey taken to make a child’s dream of becoming Batman for a day come true. This is why I CAUSEplay! To make someone smile. To make a difference in that persons life. You may not think that running around in costume can make a difference but in the eyes of a child it can. Some children are too sick or the families too poor to go to somewhere like Disneyland. For them to see their childhood hero, their idol, can make a difference in their lives. It might not seem much to you as an adult but that moment can capture the child’s imagination and give them hope. Something positive to look back on. And for some kids can give them the a little bit of change in their life.

1118-batkid-maw-getty-redesign-2I dream of getting to work with Make-A-Wish! To make that difference again. I have had many friends get this opportunity. I won’t deny my jealousy of this.  It is one of the most cited positive memories and reasons why people CAUSEplay.

I learned so much about Make-a-Wish with this  documentary. And what it takes to make a wish happen. Even on a small scale there is a lot of work. This is an organization that works hard to make a difference one kid at a time. As they say in this documentary, to give back a little bit of the childhood taken away by illness and cancer.

Just as an FYI, I may be extremely biased toward this documentary in many ways. I also have a Masters in Public Administration where I studied nonprofits and disability studies, so I totally geeked out in many aspects of this documentary getting a behind the scenes look at Make-a-Wish. Especially when all those years of school helped with understanding the implications of this wish/event had for the organization and the City of San Francisco who helped make this happen.

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The newspaper that a San Francisco company made to assist with this wish.

The most amazing thing about this wish is how it effected the world. Through social media people were able to experience the wish at the same time as the Madke-A-Wish recipient. The sense of community and love this wish inspired is truly amazing. How many people, complete strangers, came together for one child. Not only to make the wish happen but to help the family out after. A sense of community was created in San Francisco that day and how many people brought it up in interviews is truly inspiring. The most inspiring part to me is that one simple childhood dream affected so many of us.

The enthusiasm of each interviewed person brought tears to my eyes. You could see this wish bringing out the inner child in everyone involved. So many people joined in different creative ways to make this the most memorable day possible. I often wonder where our world would be if we weren’t socialized to suppress our imaginations. Forced to give up our dreams because of needing health insurance, needing to work a job you care nothing for to have a place to live or put food on the table. What if we could dream big and achieve it? What if we could all be Batkid?

This documentary makes you happy. If you need something to make you feel good and inspired to make a difference watch this documentary.

Batkid Begins Facebook.
Batkid Begins website.
Make-A-Wish

Heroes Behind the Masks: Portland Superheroes Coalition

I believe that the world needs more Muppets and this weeks feature has them! Major KUDOS to anyone who adds these amazing characters to the world. BTW I saw them at a distance at Emerald City Comic Con 2014 and they are amazing! If I wasn’t on the escalator going the opposite way I would  have grabbed a picture of them! Okay, enough fan girling!  Though I have never personally meet this amazing group, several friends of mine have nothing but amazing things to say about the participants and creator of the Portland Superheroes Coalition. The do a little bit of everything and have a high level of professionalism.  Maybe one day I can join them and the awesome that they do!  A girl can wish right!  –Mala

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Group Name: Portland Superheroes Coalition

Location(s):  Greater Portland, Salem and Eugene areas.

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Mission Statement: Helping others through fundraisers and community events.

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When was the group started?
The group was initially created by myself and another cosplayer July 2012 after the Batman movie theater shooting, but then sat dormant until January 2013. In Jan 2013 was Wizard World Portland, and so much fun was had meeting other cosplayers that things were ramped into full gear and our first event was in April of 2013 for a college graduation.

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What inspired the creation of Portland Superheroes Coalition or CAUSEplay in general?  
I was always that kid that made things and took apart toys and who loved Halloween. Over the years Halloween became a favorite holiday and I started making more and more elaborate costumes, and eventually wanted to do more with my costumes than just Halloween; and wanted an outlet with a positive aspect. Basically all parts fell into place that way, and other people were recruited and invited.

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Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? 
We are not 501c3, just a group of volunteers who all want to do good things in the community and make people happy. We have no bank accounts or money to spend on huge things such as filling for 501c3, and personal monies we do have is used to either buy hospital toys or for group purchases like business  cards to give out when people ask of us. We are fortunate to have Sponsors who contact us and ask what we need, and who provide us with extra money and toys for our special visits. We all work on the honor system basically.

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How can someone join Portland Superheroes Coalition?
People who have top-notch non mass-produced outfits can send us an email with a few photos of their character, where they will be voted on by the most active members of the group. There are a few rules listed on our website people must follow too, such as being 18+ years old and expectations of keeping up to date on group outings.

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Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
We have only 1 chapter but will travel and have Heroes from Seattle down to Eugene. www.facebook.com/PortlandSuperheroesCoalition

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What type of costumes do you accept?  Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it?  What do you look for in a costume?
Currently we are pushing for more superheroes and superhero-type characters than pop-culture. We do have a selection of video game, Muppets, Star Wars and a few other genres in order to appeal to wider audiences though. Needs can always change due to group activities and what is asked of us when invited to an event.  High quality top-notch family-friendly suits only as mass-produced and store-bought are not allowed. We try to raise the bar a step higher than regular cosplay in both class and interaction to give a unique experience while in the public.

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Do you accept crossplay costumes?  Gender bent costumes?   Customized characters?
We do have crossplay and welcome it if it’s done very well. The expectations from dressing at a Con versus going into the public for events are totally different, as the public is far more picky and less forgiving if a character isn’t as accurate as possible. Also if a character doesn’t meet the public’s expectations, it will cause a distraction and reduce the illusion we are going for. We do not accept custom made-up characters for the same reason as they can be a distraction due to people asking too many questions.

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Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Yes, and we love it! Between the almost 50 Current Members we have a great knowledge base and abilities on everything from sewing to fiberglassing.

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How many people are currently in your group?
As of today Jan 5th, 48.

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How is the leadership determined?
I am the founder and one who handles all emails, Facebook and events. When a person submits a Hero for consideration, a non-typical event has been asked of us, or just something slightly unusual is happening, we have a private forum where all Current Members are addressed and a Core Group of the most active Heroes to get ideas and suggestions from. Very few things are done without asking another person something, as I believe a group should have group input.

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What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We attend fundraisers and charity events, community festivals, school functions and assemblies, walk in parades, help with canned food drives, spend the day at children’s museums, greet at movie premieres, attend games with many local sports teams, setup photo booths for donations, and visit children’s hospitals.

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Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We never make our own events, we only go somewhere after invited.

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How did you build you “clientele”?
Just from word of mouth, or from giving out cards while attending an event.

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Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Make A Wish Oregon are 2 that we are very proud to support. We have worked with many others and have had very awesome experiences. We attended an event at Christmas time for the Oregon Air National Guard and they are very excited for future fun.

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What is the most amazing thing Portland Superheroes Coalition has accomplished so far?
Helping current and past Doernbecher patients and Make A Wish kids hits us pretty hard and makes everything all worth it. Just making people happy is a main goal and we are accomplishing that at every event by giving people a few minutes to meet a childhood Hero, especially adults who will “let their guard down” to be a kid again.

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Where do you see Portland Superheroes Coalitiongoing in the future?
No way to tell. It’s all done with volunteers and you never know who is coming or going, so you just plan for the moment basically.

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Do you use any fun terminology specifically for Portland Superheroes Coalition?
No.

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Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
It can be exhausting but totally worth it. Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.

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If people want to donate toys, or money to help with toys, how can they do this?
It’s best for them to message before donating to work things out.

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What future events do you have?
We go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital every 3 months. Events with the Portland Winterhawks and Portland Trail Blazers are also set, and an event for a large group of foster children.

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/PortlandSuperheroesCoalition

Twitter: www.twitter.com/supers_pdx

Email: portlandsuperheroes@yahoo.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/PortlandSuperheroes

Instagram: www.instagram.com/pdx_supers

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Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! And adventures!! Or tell me about a CAUSEplayer or a group you think are making a difference! Email AdventuresWithMala@gmail.com with your stories!