Posted in Heroes, News on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 at 12:00 pm 57 Comments

There are good reasons to be afraid of the dark, but Thanatos, The Dark Avenger, isn’t one of them. Still, make no mistake—he will not go gently into that good night. Rather, he regularly plunges headlong into a pitched battle he characterizes as “a war for good against evil,” in the whirling vortex that is Vancouver, B.C.’s notorious intersection of Hastings and Main streets.

There are no tourists or sightseers there, no casual passersby. No, this is where the city has rounded up and corralled the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, the despairing men and women for whom life holds little hope beyond the next fix. And there, in that devastating mix of the half-waking, half-dead, Thanatos makes his rounds. Delivering his “bundles” of plastic sheets to protect against the cold and rain, dry socks, jars of peanut butter and jam, perhaps a can of meat that can be opened by hand—the most basic of basic human necessities.

“I’ve always been a person who steps in and does something when it needs to be done,” he says, “I saw that these people had nothing better to live for, something needed to happen, something had to change.”

In return, his “Friends,” the addicts and dealers, prostitutes and pimps, runaways and the homeless he meets, talk to him candidly about their lives. He asks them about their circumstances, their needs, and they answer him back. “They’re not stupid,” he says, “they have well-thought out solutions for the problems of people on the street. I don’t judge, I just try to help.”

The name Thanatos comes from ancient Greek mythology, the personification of Death itself, a rather dark choice for someone who leaves such light in his wake. “I have taken on the persona of death,” Thanatos explains, “because I was told by a police officer that all the people living on the street had nothing better to look forward to than death. So if that’s the case, maybe death ought to start taking care of these people—and it might send a message. They’re getting it, they’re getting the message.” And through it all, an unusual metamorphosis has taken place, leading to the blurring of the line between the man he was born, and the Real Life Superhero he’s become. In his words, “I find that the ‘me’ is starting to become more of a mask I wear, and Thanatos is more and more of what I truly am.”

And as he remains locked in war—a war against apathy, against drug abuse, against chronic homelessness—he recognizes that he alone cannot win the war, just the battles. And he doesn’t expect to remain in this fight all by himself. “If one person can do this, we can get ten more, then we get ten more, and so forth. We can make a real and lasting difference in a bad part of town. I do what I can, and hope it inspires other people to say ‘I can do something, too.’”

Thanatos is an advocate for Easter Seals Vancouver. Learn more by visiting:

Thanatos’s Pictures:

Thanatos's Poster Thanatos's Portrait

57 Comments to “Thanatos”

  1. Justin says:

    wow, this guy is incredibly inspirational, I want to find out more about him and how to get involved in that type of work. A lot of these guys I don’t know if they are really making a real difference, but it seems like he has a plan and has it together. Keep at it Thanatos.

  2. Zetaman says:

    The best poster yet! Great Job!

  3. Minuteman says:

    Pure Awesomesauce!
    Great work Mr. Tangen

  4. Looking really cool!

  5. Geist says:


    Great to hear about your philosophy of why you became “Death.” Your poster is SA-WEEEET, My Friend!

  6. Champion says:

    great article and awesome poster.

    Thanatos is truly a hero. to the people in need and to those of us who aspire to be like him.

  7. Nyx says:

    Simply amazing, Thanatos!

  8. moycon says:

    Thanatos is one of the best guys I know. Truly a hero in every sense of the word.

  9. Sparrow says:

    Looking good Than!

    I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for Thanatos. Even among heroes, he stands out. He’s a great guy and the work he does is incredible. A true inspiration and a hero among heroes if I ever saw one.

  10. The Practitioner says:

    This guy is my role model. The homeless in my city are actually oppressed outright by the police and I do my best to follow Thanatos’s example in how I help them.

  11. Sarah says:

    I read about Thanatos in a newspaper article today and found about the work he was doing. This is incredible! It really warms my heart big time.

    I live in Vancouver and have been working with downtown East side artists as a part of my job, and it breaks my heart learning about their lives and what they’ve been through.

    This really inspires me to go out and do something to help people, honestly.

  12. The Shadow says:

    You and the whole team are inspirations. I am a superhero now because of you.

  13. The Shadow says:

    Your costume reminds me of rorschach from watchmen, but you’re not totally insane, I like it. keep up the good work, I hope to be as great as you and the others one day.

  14. celebhound says:

    It’s not hard to believe that there are good people out there who want to help the less fortunate. It is inspiring to learn that there are actually good people out there helping those less fortunate. Thanatos you really are a superhero. God Bless You and your efforts to help.

  15. Mark says:

    haha, Great use of Greek mythology. I’m probably one of the few who recognized your name from ancient lore. I absolutely love the reason behind you naming yourself as such, its genius. You are a very inspirational person, and I hope others aspire to be like you. I for one want to be a rlsh after I get things in my life sorted out. I’m tired of lifting in the status quo, who turn a blind eye to people in need, or give what is minimum. America can drop food water and shelter to our troops in Iraq in no time at all, but we have people sick and slowly dying in our own streets and no one does a thing, People walk by and treat them (or act like) they are less than a person, and sadly I cant say I haven’t done the same when I was younger. I think that’s what pisses me off the most. Well you are doing a great job, keep it up 

  16. Elemental says:

    Your cause is good and i am proud that i came across this page..I see my self as an hero who fights for the rights of the people, someone who cares for the environment and I am not afraid to go head on with those bad guys. i am not American, but I hope I can be recognized here..please let me join you. Are you the only ones who are allowed to have a costume? It would be cool if you help me design one so that i can post it on the web!..Love you Work!!!

  17. peter says:

    Check in with the community at their primary site, and join their conversations on their forums. Thanks for being interested in this!

  18. peter says:

    Check in with them at their primary website,

  19. Sokay says:

    Your project is totally awesome !

  20. Daniel says:

    Wow! Great Job! Cool!

  21. DC says:

    than. . .a personal hero of mine. . .it’s good to see ya. . .


  22. Shivkar says:

    The incarnation of Death. Not cold and distant that today’s world believes in, but the warm messeng that would hug you when it takes you to Hades.

    A great tweak to tha name of the Reaper, and its mission. You’re truly a guardian, and a great man.

  23. Dan says:

    Hi Thanatos,

    I am a fellow Vancouverite and have spent the last 10+ years living and working with groups and individuals that have tried to create some type of positive social change (from living in a shared community in the DTES, to working as a social worker, to bringing homeless and street-involved people home with me, to taking part in peaceful and less-peaceful forms of protest or resistance…). I am interested in this Real Life Superheroes trend and what might inspire people like you to choose this method over other options. If you are willing, I would love to interview you (it can be done anonymously, you can choose the time and place and so on) and then post that interview online as others I know would be interested in your story.

    If you care to share, I can be contacted at the email provided. If not, no problem, I understand.

  24. [...] A few months back, I had came across a news story about “Real Life Superheroes” operating in various cities throughout North America (see this video for something of an introduction, and this official site for more detail).  That story spoke of people dressing up in spandex and body armour, capes and masks, and going out and doing things like chasing drug dealers out of parks in New York City or assisting families of less-legal Hispanic migrants in Miama, and so on.  At that time I sort of chuckled and didn’t think too much else about it, until my younger brother sent me an email asking if I had encountered a fellow in Vancouver’s downtown eastside (the DTES) who goes by the name of Thanatos, The Dark Avenger. [...]

  25. Jonathan says:

    This is by far one of the most inspirational stories on this site. As soon as I read why you chose the name Thanatos, I burst into tears because it just held so much meaning to me. I’ve been one of those people, addicts and dealers, with nothing better to look forward to than a long dirt nap. I grew up in a place in Richmond, Kentucky called Smith Village, and then was in an out of different Projects most of my life, one in particular: Ballard Drive. That’s the vile, drug infested hole that took my mother’s life. Addiction, poverty, hopelessness and despair are all that wait in places like that. And reading everything you’ve had to say, just struck a chord in me. It was literal death that took my mother away from me. But maybe if I had found the strength within myself, or if someone like you had been there, the death she met could have saved her. I’m still crying while I sit and type this, and feel rather silly, but I hope you read this. Thank you for bringing at least a glimmer of light to the world, even if that is all it turns out to be. All of you, but you and Z most importantly because the two things I know most about are addiction, and abuse. Thank you again, and good luck. With someone like you taking this name, I hope that everyone that suffers will meet ‘death’, so to speak.

  26. Good job man, keep up the good work.
    The Gentlemen

  27. [...] Vancouver has its very own Dark Avenger, Thanatos, who works to help people on the streets in Vancouver’s downtown east side. How did I now [...]

  28. Blue says:

    Great Man!!! Very Cool!!!

  29. Nex says:

    I salute you thanatos. You are not a hero though. I mean no disrespect. please alow me to explain, you are a legend. more people talk about you and alot of others more than you could imagine. heroes can be remembered, but legends never die. you’re a good man and may gods light shine brightly on you and those you are serving to protect and save.

  30. VancouverGuardian says:

    Hello Thanatos, I’m a member of the vancouver guardian angels, we are a small group. We’ve been here for a little while patrolling east hastings etc, breaking up swarmings and fights etc. It’s good to find a site like this and that you do something similar to what we do.

    Good stuff!


  31. z says:

    nice job thanatos!

  32. caleb121 says:

    hey im the x and i want to be apart of this tell your gang i live in pleasent hill mo,.

  33. paladin says:

    yes its a war we all must fight. and we also must let the glory of god (or god himself) be our guide at least sometimes for demons really do ride in the night winds.

  34. sin nombre (aun) says:

    hola thanatos !! soy una persona normal la cual impide el crimen en la ciudad de Mexico hay una pequeña pero elaborada asociacion la cual esta colaborando con uno de los mas ricos en petroleo de este pais no estoy pidiendo ayuda la ciudad aun no me reconose pero nesesito que esten alertas a q esto bajo amenasa , de seguir con mi trabajo acabaran con todos y cada uno de ustedes aqui ya calleron 2 con cuidado les saluda un aliado espero vernos pronto

  35. nathan says:

    what are those metallic objects in your jacket?

    Admin answer: They are zip ties.

  36. Zinthos says:

    I have so much respect for you and the other heros to meet you in real Life would be somthing i would never forget. We need more people like you in this world. Wish I could do as much as you do. I know ill try to do my part.

  37. Revolver says:

    As one who dreams and wishes one day to bear the harness of justice and fight the evil Apathy, I can tell you, the only way to become as Thanatos has become is to start giving to those who have nothing or less. How can one have less than nothing you ask? Take the time to have a conversation with a houseless person or a prostitute or a meth addict and you will know. I am Revolver and this is the revolution I’ve been waiting for which I never believed could happen, but I WILL answer the call, bet your balls or garters on it. I kneel to the fine men and women such as our honorable Thanatos and would sidekick to him in a heartbeat.

    You are going to heaven, sir. first class.

  38. sean says:

    Wow these real super heroes are doing more good then the cops out there. I find a majority of them don’t stop crime and tend to harass every day people. They should be more like this Thanatos.

  39. DrNicket says:

    sean, I appreciate how you must feel, but the Police Officers you speak of answer to many authorities before they can act. They must perform their duties within a set of guidelines being made narrower and narrower by the people themselves. I’m not suggesting we throw out the book and dive back into frontier justice, but selfish or otherwise guilty people and criminals make their job very difficult by twisting the legal system in ways it was never meant to function.
    We need to set an example for our protectors, both costumed and uniformed, by being helpful, cooperative and understanding.

  40. Limitless says:

    Hey, Thanatos, how are you? I’m thinking of taking up the life of crime-fighting and righteousness where I live (the city of Ottawa). I know you’re based in Vancouver which is far away, but if you were to come down at anytime, I’d love to do a team-up kind of thing with you. Contact me if you can!

  41. Derek Andrew says:

    “No, this is where the city (vancouver, B.C.) has rounded up and corralled the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, the despairing men and women for whom life holds little hope beyond the next fix”.

    The sentence from the above article is misleading. The City of Vancouver does not corrall or round up the unfortunate and plunk them smack in the middle of the Downtown Eastside. To write such a thing trivialises the circumstances in which many Downtown Eastside residents find themselves. Many there live on the streets for a multitude of reasons including; mental illness, poverty, they’re hard to house, addiction but, they are not forced to do so due to City of vancouver policies or by-laws.

  42. Mothman says:

    Doing good Thanatos.Keep up the good work.

  43. [...] Thanatos in Vancouver, who’s been patrolling the streets for four years dressed in a green-and-black mask, [...]

  44. Destroyer says:

    Keep up the good work, I heard about you on the news a while ago and I admire what your doing, I could only hope too join in one day and do my best to help out.

    “Every man is guilty of the good he did not do.”

  45. Maríagrizel says:

    No sé escribir muy bien en inglés pero quería decirte que se necesitan más personas como tu. Llevas una vida admirable y no sé como haces para ayudar a tanta gente, haces la diferencia.
    Yo soy boliviana aquí la obra social es muy dificil de realizar a pesar de que la mayor parte de la gente está bastante dispuesta, lo peor es que no llega donde debe y los que la reciben la comercian.
    En el barrio en el que vivo solía llevarse una vida tranquila pero los pandilleros fueron invadiendo ahora tienen perros con los que atracan a las parejas. La mayoría de ellos son niños de unos 12 años o más invadidos por la clefa.
    En todo caso quise compartir algo de mi ciudad, y personas como que pueden hacer algo por ellos son inspiradoras.
    Gracias amigo.

  46. Onyx says:

    i am mexican, i also want justice, personaly i would use the rorschach way, and i like your suit maybe someday ill be an active superhero, and i will change a little the rorschach suit like you did, but i will mantain that shifting mask :)

  47. Onyx says:

    my probably name Chronos, you are a truly inspiration

  48. Hector J. MacHines says:

    Awesome, another superhero in Canada!

  49. the canadian says:

    whats it like doing this in canada? any recomendations for starting up?

  50. ? says:

    Hearing a story like that makes me feel inspired. I appreciate what you do for people. I have been thinking of becoming a hero myself. If there are any heroes in Florida, please let me know so I can get plugged into a group.

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