Posted in Heroes, News on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 at 1:38 pm 90 Comments

Heroes come in every shade, from light to dark. And Z, who describes himself as “by definition, a radical. No other way to say it,” struggles to embody the full spectrum on a near daily basis.

First entering the scene in 2001, he began from a place of anger and depression, looking to lash out as strongly as possible, all in an effort to “tame the flames inside my head.” He patrolled his neighborhood, searching out a fight, welcoming the chance to engage, clad in battle gear that included a full, daunting mask. “Look, you have a list of people in your life who should die. People who hurt, molest, rape. I’ve seen how much damage they’ve done in my life, and in the lives of others, stealing the innocence from those they claim to love.”

A personal torment that led him to attempt taking his own life. Twice.

“The second time, I tried a little harder. But when I woke up, I realized that I had a lot of things I was able to do. I found a reason to live, and decided to go down in a good light, rather than for nothing.” Still, the past clings to him, and he grapples to access his better angels. “As much as I’m capable, I’ve lost quite a bit of that darkness. On purpose,” he says. “The me before was consumed with cocooning myself inside that darkness, it was my truth, my edge.” But with the realization that an aggressive stance would only be met with aggression in return, he came to understand that those actions closed people off from his point of view. “I’m starting to think of people in a more connected way now,” he says.

So he began patrolling again, this time without the mask, and correspondingly, with a very different endgame in mind. “Now I’m more interested in a more pragmatic approach, avoiding conflict. I can still handle myself, if need be, but I would rather engage a potential criminal creatively, distract them, start a dialogue,” he continues. “As much as I want to, I can’t write anyone off. I can’t ignore the fact that people need to be redeemed, and nearly everyone in the world can be redeemed.”

And that list of those he wanted to suffer? “The biggest sign of maturity is that the list keeps getting smaller,” Z explains, “until there’s no one on it, and you realize that these are human beings caught in the web of the loss of their own compassion. And when you refuse compassion, you’re the same as they are.”

Oftentimes at odds philosophically and tactically with the wider Real Life Superhero movement, Z is a founding member of “The New York Initiative,” committed to maintaining the safety of their Brooklyn, NY neighborhood, while “providing a better communication network for help resources.” Yet the life lessons handed to Z through his participation in the community of heroes have not been lost on him. “It’s a beautiful thing if you can let yourself sink into Time, and be present. There are too many things to live for, no matter how perception messes with you. That one took me the longest.”

An accomplished artist, sculptor and designer, Z could easily go off and live life as a fully private citizen, but professes to never feeling the need to live in that manner. “I like to be in the worst parts of the world,” he says, “I need to because I think I have a plan, and I want to make sure that I never forget that reality. My patrol is every day of my life. I am a lifer.”

To learn more about Z, the artist, visit:
Z’s Photographs

Learn more about keeping your neighborhood safe at:

Z’s Pictures:

Z's Poster Z's Portrait

90 Comments to “Z”

  1. well developed armour


  2. Geist says:

    Z is so bad-ass. It’s clear that he has the potential to become among the most vicious among us if he feels the need to protect others from viciousness. But those would be his only terms for that response.

    “Like force meets like force. I wouldn’t do anything to you that you’re not already trying to to me or someone else.”

    I was pleased to meet Z during the photo shoot and he was perhaps the most surprising to speak with without a costume and mask. Here’s an intelligent guy who is not only clever and funny, but also shows more than a little charm. It became clear, however, that when the gear goes on, he’s all business and there’s not just a darkness brewing within, but it’s now come to the outside.

    You captured him perfectly, Peter and Hillel!

  3. UNITE says:

    Dude I really like the way you look but the only question is have you ever fought against people who hurt others, or do you do like awesome combat? but the only thing I always wanted to ask is why don’t you ever get on YouTube fighting, or the news? That’s what I don’t get about you guys helping old homeless people, its ok but where’s all the action crime fighting? come on, you make a web site because others were on the news just helping people and getting people off the street, come on you have to step up your game like batman or ironman.

    P.s. just saying.

  4. Z says:

    If the circumstances are right, and this project gets big enough, I’m going to be donating the custom steel chest rig pictured here for auction, all proceeds going to a charity to be determined. I’m thinking something with kids or abuse victims. I feel like all monsters start there, at the beginning of the cycle.

    Just a heads up.

  5. Z says:

    Actually, the mask as well.

  6. SkyMan says:

    That is a beautiful idea about donating your gear towards a charitable cause. I would definitly be a bidder! Also, Im very proud of you for overcoming the darkness that dwells in each of our own hearts. There are many, including myself, that are still struggling.

  7. Geist says:

    See, I told you he’s a nice guy!

    (Psst!: He must not be wearing the gear right now. But keep your back to the wall and your eye on the door…)

  8. Z says:

    I’m not really sure what you’re saying here, UNITE… You want me to call the press before my team does a patrol, or maybe do some tricks on camera for you? There’s a documentary coming out, my team is in it… you’ll see some of the more usual stuff we end up dealing with like drunk drivers and muggers and con men and emergency medical situations…

    Is that enough exhibitionism for you?

    There are articles out there about me, not many, but there’s something proactive going on in every single one of them, and it ain’t handing out sandwiches. Google is your friend.

    Btw, Geist, I feel like you’re the official RLSH cheerleader. Go, Z, Go! Rah rah rah! hehehehe.

    But for real, the real hero here is Pete Tangen, who is utilizing this opportunity to raise money for charity with the sale of these posters through this project and the subsequent gallery show. Kudos, dude. I only do any kind of media when it’s charity, or a “war journal” (i.e. action demo furthering the idea of self-empowerment), and the potential for this to generate some serious charity $$$ is the reason I’m involved.

  9. Z says:

    National program for sexual assault survivors

  10. anonymous says:

    I know this seems random, but i realy like your artwork. The clock was clever.

  11. Shawn says:

    You make Chuck Norris seem like a bad name, Awesome armor.

  12. Z says:

    Anonymous, thank you. I believe that art is a huge part of what we’re doing here, be it personal expression or what have you. My own personal art is the art of daily proactive movement, of allowing the raw and deep core of me that wants and needs to express itself in the most base way, which is NEVER remaining quiet when there are horrors in my sight and ALWAYS finding creative and innovative ways to balance things. There is more art in daily life than will EVER go on paper, or into an album, and we have got to stop trying to escape daily life in favor of fictional universes that, while they may hold our attention and inspire us to greater heights, will always secretly let us down if we place too much emphasis on their importance in our lives.

    I personally believe that unless you’re moving to make a real effect in the world, art is simply a commentary on life. Which is why I can’t live just for art, much as it moves me.

    I think that the part of this community that is so attractive to most is that you can help people AND be your “most true self”, as is in Zimmer’s profile. You can choose to cultivate a persona either purposefully or, in my case inadvertently, and then use that persona to spread your message in a much more tangible way, with a focus, a manifestation, an Avatar of Good, if you will.

    What I’m trying to say is, we’re not trying to convince anyone that we’re the coolest, toughest or most heroic people on the planet… not by far. We’re just representing hope. And trying to show people that some truly do live up to their own standards, and never back down no matter how much the world tries to convince us that it’s hopeless.

    I won’t believe it. And you shouldn’t either. TRUST YOURSELF.

  13. moycon says:

    Awesome outfit Z, Really well done.

  14. RazorHawk says:

    I love the idea of the donating for a cause. I think you are right Z, monsters are created young. The best way to combat evil is by working to stop it where it starts. Also RAINN is a great program and offers many ways that anyone can help out to fight abuse. There are many volunteer opportunities out there.

    That being said. Z is a great guy and tough as nails who has alot of conviction. He is a man of strong beliefs and he definitely stands behind them. Plus he is a great craftsman as his masks will testify to,

    And if you look at his portrait, you will notice he keeps my initials close to his heart. Awwww, thanks buddy!


  15. lead sharp says:

    Someone who marches towards the light are just as much, if not more so, an inspiration as those already there.

    I think that when people say that you are ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’ this is more what they mean.

    Good luck on your march.

  16. Death's Head Moth says:

    Z I really like the idea of raising money for charity by selling gear. just let me know were to send it and I’ll contribute gear (moth-a-rangs, batons, signed or unsigned. ect)

  17. Trinity says:

    Very slick uniform!

  18. O says:

    Dear Z,

    Jeezy creezy lemon squeezy! Just rip my heart outta its cage, whydontyou? Love you, love your artwork, love the getup, love the words behind it all. Please accept this dinky lil doodle — http://i51.tinypic.com/fog7zs.jpg


    P.S. Hatha yoga if you don’t already. Trust me.

  19. Z is a visionary and a leader is truly, creatively combating what ills society. i hope he’ll get the platform and support needed to widen a valuable, Hood-levl source of grassroots crime prevention and assistance. Alot of cocktail party do gooders wouldn’t dare walk the streets Z and others ( myself included ) do.

  20. dcsguardian says:

    z. . .i’m glad you are there. . .


  21. Z says:

    O: You’ve got some good sketching chops going on there. Very expressive anatomy, excellent gesture. Love it. Would almost like to see you take it further and do a finished piece. Seriously. Btw… if you haven’t heard of Ashley Wood go check him out. Your gesture is reminiscent of his early Popbot-type stuff.

    To my RLSH friends far and wide: Lets take this a bit further, shall we? I’m thinking if we auction off a few things from this shoot at some point in the future, we can generate some serious money for charities of our choosing. That is how we take a bit more of ourselves and give it back to the world.

    DC and Cap… Both of you humble me with these words. I can’t claim to be a leader of any kind, only one who tries to live by example and sometimes falls very flat at it. But when I look at the potential of this movement, I am more than certain that we can repopulate this world with peoples of accountability, action and TRUTH.

    The TRUTH is that NO ONE has to put up with corruption, injustice or apathy anymore. If we all focus on bettering ourselves and elevating self-worth, we will suddenly realize what we are capable of. And what we are capable of is taking back this city, this country, and this world.

    So if it turns out that we have to be leaders of anything, let it be leaders of initiative.

  22. O says:

    Dear Z,

    Good god, man! What a talent for flattery. This Ashley fellow… he’s startlingly wondrous– ty. And a finished piece of only you? Greedy, greedy. (I jest) Pseudo-finished. http://i51.tinypic.com/3wldj.jpg
    You’re a living muse.


  23. Void says:

    Your armour is way better than mine, mine only consists of a black cloak with a hood. I also have a mask and full light black clothing. One day I wish to meet you Z…….

  24. Z says:


    That’s gorgeous. Seriously.

  25. O says:

    Dear Z,

    Flatterer. <3 Glad you like it!
    Stay inspiring.


  26. Z says:

    O, do you have a website? I have some people that would like to see your body of work.

  27. O says:

    Dear Z,

    You’ve got mail!


  28. anonymous says:

    Z, thats very poetic. but i think that one of the main functions of the real life super hero community is more, less for the actual participants instead of those being aided. i think your art is important as a means of expression because what you do is not so much an expression of a “true self” so to say. but more so a way of expressing an embodiment of what YOU want to be. most of you have spent a little too much time on the streets probably turning aspiration and hope into anger and distress. requiring an outlet all in its own. your art serves the idea that your creativity lies not in the real life super hero community. but through the bordom and dissatisfaction of your persona. because whether any RLSH want to admit it. there you are your persona. but your persona is not you.

  29. Z says:

    I find it interesting that you can tell me what my expression is and more importantly my intentions and why I do what I do.

    I’d find it more interesting if you didn’t use circular logic and…odd grammar. Not sure what you’re trying to say with the awkward word choices and punctuation. Sorry to be a jerk and point it out, but it makes what you say extremely vague.

    I’m also disappointed that all you got out of this was boredom, sadness or dissatisfaction. There are larger motivations than that. I hope you find your way.

  30. anonymous says:

    in truth my opinion doesent matter. I dont know you. and as of yet im not apart of your community. but if i see more in this then i do now, i could consider getting a valid opinion first hand.

  31. Void says:

    hello Z how are you today……yesterday I met this suspicious person who I decided to follow…..I ignored every other type of injustice which was going around me and followed him into a flower shop. There he started something in a random code…….The florist replied and said ” please get out of my dtore you drunk!”. He refused so I dragged him out and thre him on to the street. I only found out later that he was a police officer :( He forgave me but I think that I’m under scrutiny from the police now…….Have any advice?

  32. Z says:

    Words first, violence as a last resort.

    Had you spoken to him first, you may have realized that he had no alcohol on his breath.

    There are probably a dozen other details you may have missed as well. Look before acting.

    Other than that, you are a private citizen. Don’t get a record by doing things without thinking about them first. If you feel you’re going to make a bigger problem by acting, or if you feel you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you might not want to act without prior training.

    And actually, yeah, let me stress getting SOME kind of training or at least doing your research before hitting the streets. They hit back. And not always in ways that you can combat.

  33. Z says:

    Read Article 35. Defense of Justification.

    Specifically, 35.15, although in this case you might want to check out 35.25 for larceny and criminal mischief, which a raging drunk would probably fall under unless he attacked, in which case it would revert back to 35.15 (defending a third party from violence)…

    35.25 says that while you CAN use physical force in the case of criminal mischief, there’s no justification for using DEADLY force, which if the man had hit his head when you threw him on the street, and died, you would have been up the creek.

    You see, when talking force and justification of, any force in which it is possible to cause death is considered “Deadly Force”. This is why police officers are required to learn martial arts, which are disciplines not of kicking as much ass as possible, but learning how to subdue and counteract violence with as little physical damage as they can cause.

    I’d suggest, overall, that you read these articles, learn a martial art, and really take a long look at your motivations for leading this life.

  34. Void says:

    I’ve already looked a the motivations……..I will continue…..but I do not know any type of martial arts……I usually just use my speed and strength to defeat my enemies, what art did you learn?

  35. Void says:

    And I do normally check the background before doing anything but this was an immediate case, a citizen might have been in danger. It doesn’t matter to me even if I am jailed, I will do my best not to let criminals have their way during my watch……..I couldn’t exacly research him as I followed him inyo a florist’s, also the fact I saw a gun didn’t help in his case…….

  36. Z says:

    There’s really nothing more I can do or say to help you here. Sounds like you’ve already made your decision, and that’s something you’ll have to live with.

    And knowing martial arts, as I have already said, is about discipline and knowing how to hurt people less should you be forced to enter combat to save someone. Sounds to me like no one was in any immediate danger, and the force you used was, as you’ve said yourself, not justifiable by law.

    You seem like you have some personal truth issues to deal with. I wish you nothing but the best.

  37. Fear says:

    z, you give a great inspiration for what we should be out to do, and express some of the best ways to go about that; your goals are most noble, and I hope only the best in your efforts, and those of everyone else out there. Stay safe, stay strong, and stay as diligent as you are.

  38. Void says:

    Thankyou for your opinion Z, I don’t normally act so irrationally……it was becasue of an incident which happened before……

  39. clive liu says:

    greatings from Beijing China!!!!

    man ! you are soooooo cooooool !!!!

    wish you can send a picture to me and say HI to the Chinese people.hahahah….

    I have a question:
    how it would take to put on those armour? I mean , when there is a danger how fast you can transform from a regular person to a hero?

    I know this is a broning real world, thank you for bring sth different to the real life.

  40. clive liu says:

    correct my mistake, “how long it would take to put on those armour?”

    by the way , I am a martial art teacher in China.

  41. Z says:

    Anonymous: there is much more than what you see here. Inquire within.

    Clive Liu: this is my heavy armor for advanced combat situations. It’s was made before I had access to more streamlined armors which can be worn all the time. So to answer your question, it took about 5-10 mins to get this on, but in most situations I wouldn’t have taken the time to armor up if something heavy was going down right at the moment.

    I never even wear it anymore. Over time you just focus more on blending in and still being protected. The most that ever even shows anymore are the bracers.

  42. clive liu says:

    thank you Z, you look like a ninja.
    one more question : what kind of martial arts you v been trainning ?


  43. Z says:

    Nothing set, just bits and pieces of different martial arts and streetfighting techniques over time… it’s taken a long time to figure out not to hurt anyone, and it used to make me pretty much worthless in a sparring match where I can’t just end the fight quick… It’s something I”m working on…

    It’s tougher to pull punches than demolish someone. Seriously.

    I go into training for Systema this month.

  44. The Shadow says:

    Wow Z…. keep up the good work.

  45. It is crucial for each of my main characters to have a personal struggle with inner darkness. With a past of abuse perhaps, or an unseen chemical imbalance… Probably because I’ve been at that place too, and it’s a real experience that can take you either up or down. What is most admirable is that few can take that darkness and turn it into something good. It is a gift, and I see in your art that it’s still there, but I see it in your actions that you’re growing to cope with it, to use it as fuel to keep rising above it. Impressive–although your artwork is terrifying to me, I confess. It comes from a far darker place than I can imagine.

  46. Nonbeliever says:

    Dear Z,
    I personally, do not think that what RLSH are doing is really is classified as being a ’super hero’.
    It’s awesome that you like your community, but do you need to dress up like a hero to hand out toys to homeless kids? Don’t think so.

  47. Z says:


    Can you read? Or did you just troll around making this post on all our profiles?

    Seriously, you just made a fool of yourself. Wrong guy.

  48. Eliass Grim says:

    “I can’t ignore the fact that people need to be redeemed, and nearly everyone in the world can be redeemed.” If anyone is a testament to this statement, it has to be you. Afterall, you gave yourself another chance, which is sometimes the hardest thing of all.

  49. Z says:

    Yeah, that’s a point I’ve been pondering lately. I always said I was starting with myself.

    Now I believe in me, so I can believe in anyone.

  50. Gryphonsbard says:

    Very impressive. . .

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