While most focus on the destination, Phantom Zero looks to the journey. Starting “from nothing, literally,” he has gone from zero to Real Life Superhero, mentor and inspiration to many, without ever forgetting where he came from. “I wouldn’t be nearly as empathetic as I am, had I not experienced some pretty dark and low things,” he says.
Phantom Zero’s journey began in a densely populated, highly urbanized town across the river from New York City. There he went on regular patrols, and came to realize that the local police were doing a fine job of keeping the neighborhood safe. His focus then shifted upon moving to a smaller town in Central New Jersey, and he now devotes most of his energies to working one-on-one, helping often random people through their personal crises, steering them toward resources or organizations to further them along their journeys. “Being a Real Life Superhero is a way that I can be someone better than I ever thought I could be,” he explains. “We forget the bad parts of who we are, dropping the reminders of our identities which are painful, compensating for our flaws and the ‘shadow aspect’ of ourselves,” a Jungian concept that suggests the “darkness” in man’s soul is also the fount of genuine creativity.
“For me, “ he says, “it was the recognition that it’s all been a learning process, every aspect of being a Superhero is learning. One thing I think I should stress is, that as a Real Life Superhero, I don’t have any sort of formal training in anything. Anything. I’ve had to pick up what I can do, what is a reputable charity, and the like, on my own. It’s been very enlightening in more than an academic sense, picking up certain skills, picking up bits of wisdom, learning about problems people have, problems that we all face. It’s like opening up your eyes to what’s going on in the world.”
Though he wears a striking black and white costume (with a shock of red), to conceal and protect his real identity, he also does so out of a life-long love of all things theatrical, including make-up, props and illusion–and in the process, has created a new, anonymous-yet-recognizable representation of his individualistic expression. And often that expression comes in the form of the written word. “I have a lot on my mind, and I usually do a lot of writing. It’s a way for me to put order into things. It’s also a bridge to help make others understand what I’m thinking, to make those thoughts accessible from other perspectives.” Again, sharing the journey. And the knowledge he collects along the way.
“When we lose the sense of what makes us human, he lose rational thoughts along with it—at which point evil takes over, and we do monstrous things,” he says. To combat that, when newcomers to the Superhero movement seek him out for advice, he offers his own perspective, gained from his constant quest for intellectual stimulation. “Go out there and have the courage to try something, to go out and do it. You can look to the luminaries and learn from them, but understand that every individual has something to offer. Find what’s yours and share it with the world. Life is not worth living unless you can laugh, love and feel.”