Once the Rain City Superheroes are assembled and “super’ed up” in masks, camouflage clothing and karate outfits, they’re ready for action — marching down University Way in a line that takes up the width of the entire sidewalk and immediately attracts attention from the drunk people spilling out of bars.
“Ohhh my gosh, crime fighters!” comes one catcall. Then: “What character is that?” To which Jones replies: “I’m not a character. I fight crime, and my name is Phoenix Jones.”
Batman might ignore the jeers of the general public as a distraction from the job, but Phoenix Jones stops and talks with anyone willing to engage him. He’ll pose for pictures, explain who he is, even engage in an occasional freestyle rap battle. Public relations is part of the job, he says — inciting the next generation of crime fighters.
“I can’t be everywhere at once,” Jones says. “But we can certainly inspire people to stop crime everywhere.”
As the night wears on, it becomes clear that public relations is, in fact, most of the job. Real crime does occur in the University District, but not necessarily when superheroes are right there to stop it. This is palpably annoying to Jones, which is why he makes no bones about using tactics off-limits to law-enforcement personnel — entrapment, for example — to keep things interesting. When he spots a crew of people who look like they’re up to no good at a bus stop, he instructs Buster Doe to take his mask off and go try to buy some drugs from them, in a sort of reverse undercover operation. But the characters inform Buster they’re looking to buy, not sell, so the Rain City Superheroes move on.
Jones has had his share of dustups, he insists, though he’s careful not to reveal where on his body he’s specifically been wounded, so as not to tip off enemies. But for the most part, he should count himself lucky that he hasn’t been seriously hurt, says Detective Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department, with whom Jones has an uneasy relationship.
“You’re running around in the middle of the night in a ski mask, and people don’t know what your intentions are,” Jamieson says. “You can be a crime fighter, but you don’t have to dress up in a costume to do that. If you see a crime, call 911.”
At that notion, Jones demurs. Real police are hamstrung by red tape and paperwork, he says. What he does may be risky — even if it’s only preventing a few frat boys from bloodying one another’s noses — but he’s convinced it makes a difference.