Out of all the real-life superheroes patrolling the globe, none have captured the populace's attention quite like Seattle's Phoenix Jones, a twentysomething crime-stopper who brazenly hangs out on drug pushers' turfs and defends the Emerald City's neighborhoods with a maniac optimism.
Jones owes his high profile in part to journalist Jon Ronson, who covered Phoenix and the Seattle superhero scene in last August's issue of GQ. Since reporting on Phoenix's unique brand of crime-fighting, Ronson — who penned The Men Who Stare at Goats and investigated UFOs with pop star Robbie Williams — has become Jones' Lois Lane. The author developed a rapport with the photogenic superhero and has since expanded his GQ piece into a new eBook about the real-life superhero movement. Ronson spoke to io9 about his experiences with the Evergreen State's foremost masked man.
How did you first hook up with Phoenix for these adventures?
I noticed him when first got famous in a piece on CNN. He felt like one of my people, he felt like somebody that I was destined to meet. He was funny, odd, and kind of in this shadow world. All of the other real-life superheroes seemed to be a bit kind of stagnant, and among the community, here was this guy rising up among them. I wondered what that would be like for the psychology of the community. So I contacted Peter Tangen — who is this superhero emissary — he's the guy who hooked me with Phoenix. At the same time, I was talking to the New York [superhero] initiatives and they said, "You don't want to meet Phoenix Jones! You just want to meet us!"
No kidding. What's the difference between Phoenix and the New York superheroes?
Phoenix and the New York guys, their motives are very similar. What's difference really is their attitude and presentation. But — I want to try to say this without sounding insulting to the New York guys — the New York guys seemed very frightening and menacing, and it became obvious to me why Phoenix had captured the public imagination. We want our superheroes to be like the Adam West Batman, not The Dark Knight.