NEW YORK – They descended on Times Square wearing capes, masks and uniforms. Street Hero. Direction Man. Red Justice.
They call themselves real-life superheroes and on Sunday they were cleaning the streets — picking up litter and handing out crime prevention literature in the city's heart of bright lights. It was the first meeting of a group called Superheroes Anonymous.
Chaim Lazaros, a 23-year-old student at Columbia University and independent filmmaker, created the group after learning about the real-life superheroes — 13 or so were in Times Square — on MySpace, the social networking Web site.
He brought them together in New York for a documentary he is making on the community.
"This is a serious job," Lazaros told the group before they began their litter patrols. "We are out in the streets fighting crime in a legal way."
The superheroes refused to give their real names so as to protect their identities. Most said they actively patrol their own communities.
For instance, Street Hero, who wore a black mask, a black bustier and black knee-high boots, said she was a former prostitute who now attempts to protect women who work the streets. She said she is trained in martial arts.
"I do it on my own," she said. "Mostly after dark. Around the city."
More mundane, though no less heroic in his own way, is the Super: he fixes faucets and does electrical work for people in need.
"I said to myself, if we have to wait around for the city or the mayor to fix everything wrong or dangerous in this city, it'll never get done," said the Super, who wore a red cape, a yellow shirt and a white mask.