There are numerous other heroes in the region. Among them: The Beetle of Portland, Maine, who couldn't be reached for comment; someone calling themselves "Samaritan" from Providence, who recently contacted Civitron, and said he had been walking his beat for the last couple years, unaware of the larger RLSH movement; and the retired Ms. Kismet of New Bedford, whose MySpace page notes that "I carry a backpack, which hold[s] a great number of useful superhero things, like . . . alcohol-based hand sanitizer (it does the trick without promoting bacteria resistance)."
Instrument of the people
Civitron's heroic name comes from the Roman civi (of the people) and the Greek suffix tron (instrument), and describes how he sees himself. He is of Puerto Rican and Italian decent, with the build of a runner and someone who takes his martial-arts training seriously.
"Something I say all the time is that I'm not really Civitron alone," he tells me later by phone, as he watches over his neighborhood. "Civitron is a creation of everybody in my life who helped me get to this point."
This eclectic hero-forming collective includes Civitron's mom, whom he credits with teaching him to be a strong person, but not a "tough guy." "He's always wanted to save the world," she says.
Civitron's partner, Jennifer, is also supportive of him. Their six-year-old son has even adopted his own superhero persona, Mad Owl, complete with a brown-and-gold owl costume.
But other than the father and son having secret identities, the three actually seem like a pretty normal family. Jennifer goes to school for biology. Civitron — who has a very warm, Zen-like personality, almost constantly smiling — has worked as a counselor, and currently is involved with a day program for autistic patients.
Whereas many comic-book superheroes are reviled in their communities, Civitron has legions of fans. They include the former RLSH Green Sage, a friend from New Bedford who has retired his own hero costume but still supports Civitron's efforts, and Tem Blessed, a positive-message rapper from Providence who has collaborated with Civitron on a food drive. The two plan to work on projects together in the future.
Civitron says his first meeting with his sensei, Rebelo, was in a comic-book store. Rebelo is proud of Civitron and his colleagues.
"His actions make others aware that they can act heroically, too," says Rebelo. "Helping a food pantry, picking up litter, distributing food and clothes to the poor — these are actions that so many people have given up on. You hear so much about not being a snitch, about not getting involved. There's a famous quote from Charles Barkley, 'I'm not a role model.' Civitron is saying the opposite of all that — that he is a role model. He wants to be involved and do something positive."
Don't expect the New Bedford Police Department to build a bat-signal anytime soon, though.
"We prefer to be the only costumed crime fighters out there," says Lieutenant Jeffrey Silva, a police spokesman. He says the department is aware of real-life superheroes, but they have yet to cross paths with them.
"Although they might be well-intentioned, we don't endorse citizen patrols, because we don't know the level of training," says Silva. Even so, he concedes that any help to police is welcome.