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‘Supervillain’ emerges to challenge Seattle ‘superhero’ Phoenix Jones

Seattle has a lot of problems. It rains there constantly, residents have an overarching, new-millennium sense of inferiority toward Portland and now apparently the city is beset with supervillains.

Oh wait, that should read: “Supervillain.” Singular. With those quotation marks denoting that this guy isn’t likely to cut the Space Needle in half with his laser eyes any time soon.

Before we get to the apparent villain of this piece, a bit of backstory. In January of 2011, Seattle resident Benjamin Fodor began patrolling the streets of the city dressed in a bullet-proof vest, and carrying pepper spray, handcuffs and a stun baton. He does so while wearing a mask. It’s color-coded to match his homemade uniform. He calls himself “Phoenix Jones.” Apparently this makes him a superhero.

For the most part Jones is a relatively helpful entity. He breaks up bar fights, catches muggers and prevents crime. However, the police aren’t all that fond of his actions, and he has been arrested for assault while protecting his fair city. If it wasn’t for the “he’s not a superhero” bit, that would be a pretty solid background for a Batman-esque vigilante superhero.

Speaking of The Dark Knight, there’s a theory that his presence in Gotham City doesn’t actually deter supervillains from attacking the place, but instead encourages their existence. The idea is that Batman is so good at fighting regular street-level crime that the only criminals who could survive in his city were those who were truly crazy, or massively well-funded. Thus Gotham has to fear The Joker poisoning the water supply instead of a random junkie in an alley with a knife.

Why bring this up? It seems as if Jones’ presence in Seattle has spawned his own analogous supervillain. In a video released on May 1 by the “Social Villains Alliance,” a man calling himself “Rex Velvet” menaces the citizens of Seattle via dapper mustache and foreboding editing techniques. Also, he has a sword and seems to despise Phoenix Jones, calling him a “tormented, delusional freak in a mask.”

Velvet’s video (which you can see in its entirety below), calls for an end to Jones’ crime-fighting efforts. Velvet refers to himself as “the people’s villain” and claims that the “superhero” is a “nuisance” who is doing more harm than good. He then throws a souvenir silhouette of the Space Needle into an image of Phoenix Jones’ face poorly super-imposed on a nearby support beam.

Batman parallels aside, this seems more like the internet’s inevitable response to Phoenix Jones’ pseudo-celebrity. The ‘net is nothing if not contrarian, and there is a definite collective fondness for the kinds of pop cultural tropes spawned by comic books, so it was really only a matter of time before something like this appeared. I doubt Rex Velvet is the embodiment of the lunatic fringe pushing back against Jones’ tireless heroism, so much as a couple of ‘net denizens with a touch of video-editing skill opting to satirize the entire concept of a grown man dressing garishly and battling evil.

Then again, for all I know, Velvet and Jones are having a fist-fight on top of a zeppelin at this very moment. Seattle’s a weird place.

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