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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