In Arts & Entertainment

Tea Krulos with a group of Real Life Superheroes at Chicago Comic Con.

Local writer documents Real Life Superheroes in new book

Real Life Superheroes (RLSH) are people who dress up in costume and perform services to help their community from patrolling the streets, reporting suspicious activity to police, handing out supplies to the homeless or, in rare cases, "fighting crime" on their own.

Tea Krulos was first introduced to the concepts of Real Life Superheroes in 2009.

"As a lifelong fan of comic books and unusual and unique people and subcultures, I was immediately hooked," says Krulos, a writer, artist and contributing blogger to OnMilwaukee.com.

Krulos went in search of a Milwaukee-based RLSH and found The Watchman, a street patroller who wears a red rubber mask, suit and trench coat.

"I had a long, fascinating interview with him in person one night and determined that the short magazine piece I had successfully pitched did not scratch the surface of the story and decided to write a book," says Krulos.

Krulos started a blog, "Heroes in the Night," and later penned a book with a similar title, "Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement." Chicago Review Press published the book.

During the research stage of the project, Krulos traveled to meet RLSH in Minneapolis, Rochester, Brooklyn, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, New Bedford and Washington, D.C. He has been quoted as an expert on the subject in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People, Seattle Weekly, Scientific American and dozens of other newspapers, magazines and websites around the world.

Krulos will make an in-store appearance in support of his book at Boswell Book Co. on Friday, Oct.11 at 7 p.m. It will be followed by an after-party at Stonefly Brewery, 735 E. Center St.

The free event will feature a "Real Life Superhero Costume Contest," performances by Nineteen Thirteen, DJ Beta and a silent auction that benefits HOPE, a charity organized by RLSH that donates supplies to the homeless.

"One thing I like about HOPE, and I think this is one of the RLSH success stories, is that there is no overhead or administrative costs. The supplies go straight from the source to people who need them," says Krulos.

Recently, we caught up with Krulos and asked him a few questions about his writing and his fascination with RLSH.

OnMilwaukee.com: What about Real Life Superheroes do you find so interesting?

Tea Krulos: What really appealed to me was that they were a subculture that hadn't been thoroughly explored in book form before. I was fascinated with what made these people tick and as a fan of unique individuals and comic books, the story was a good fit to me. I took an objective approach and tell some RLSH stories that might be considered successes and some that are failures. Ultimately, I let people come to their own conclusions on this colorful movement.

OMC: Do you want to be a RLSH?

TK: At times I did kind of see the appeal of the RLSH. I've had friends who have had pretty gruesome experiences getting mugged. When I hear those stories, of course I wish I could jump out of the shadows dressed as Batman to scare their attackers off.

OMC: Why might this book appeal to people who aren't into comics or superheroes in general?

TK: Well, the book is classified as pop culture/ social studies. I think it'll appeal to anyone that is interested in unique groups of people and subcultures. I tried to keep the comic book references accessible to a general audience and I think the appearance of the Real Life Superheroes is an interesting aspect of our society.

One thing I really love about the story is you could be sitting on the bus or standing in line at the grocery store and the person next to you could secretly be a RLSH. You would never know. Even if you're not into superheroes I think people will appreciate that this group does a quirky thing to try to make the world a slightly better place.

OMC: What are you working on now?

TK: I'm currently working on my second book for Chicago Review Press, which doesn't have a title yet but will be about the lives of paranormal investigators, cryptozoologists, ufologists, anyone who is dedicated to investigating and tracking unknown entities and creatures. One of the recurring groups featured in the book will be the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee. I've got a good start on it already and its been a fun adventure.

OMC: Where do you live? Where did you go to school?

TK: I currently live in Riverwest. I was born in Milwaukee and shuffled around the suburbs as a kid. I graduated from West Bend East High School.

OMC: You are an artist as well, right?

TK: I used to be quite involved with creating and editing comic art and people still ask when I'm doing a new issue of Riverwurst Comics, even though the last issue was done in 2006. Right around that time I switched gears and focused on writing. I've freelanced for quite a few local publications, and a few places beyond. This is my first book and the second book I mentioned will be out in 2015.

Heroes in the Night is available at Boswell Book Co., Barnes & Noble, and most online vendors, including Amazon. Or buy it directly from the publisher.

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