Last week saw the airing of Superheroes, a HBO documentary following the work of real life caped crusaders. Bleeding Cool had a chat with one of the featured superheroes, Zimmer, about being an out and proud real life superhero in more than one sense of the word.
The last time you spoke with Bleeding Cool, you were advocating on behalf of your mother. How is she?
My mother was struggling with a lot of emotional and legal issues. My goal was always for her to have her day in court and not lose everything she had built in the process. She was committed to a psychiatric facility for over a year. When she was found mentally fit to stand trial, she was convicted and sentenced to three years. She's currently appealing the decision.
How long have you been patrolling as a Real Life Superhero?
My first surveillance mission was on March 13, 2007, so I've been doing this kind of work for six years, seven months and twenty-one days.
How often do you patrol the streets?
My missions vary quite a bit. Once, it was necessary for me to go out eleven nights in a row. Sometimes it's more important to devote my resources to research and hacking electronics. I used to be more balanced in doing physical work vs support work, but real life can be unforgiving.
What attracted you to a life of superheroing?
Most people are used to only operating in a bureaucracy, like a school or corporate job. They don't realize how much more power they have. I've been able to build my mind and body and use my talents on missions I select, and make a real difference. More people should try it.
You're an openly gay superhero too. Have you found the real life superhero community accepting of that?
The superhero community is accepting of anyone that wants to do good, period. I've known transgender superheroes, former gang member superheroes, people from all nations and genders and religions and colors and incomes. To us, diversity is a resource, not an obstacle. It indicates someone has had a different life from you, and therefore a potentially valuable perspective.
Does it have any bearing on your decision and life as a real life superhero at all?
The Texas government goes out of its way to flip me the bird, but other than that, no.
What do you do when out on patrol?
I only "patrol" when I need to do surveillance. Most of my work involves a more specific mission, like graffiti removal, missing person searches, providing security or delivering supplies to homeless populations.
You had an accident a little while back on your way to a mission. Can you tell us about that?
I was hit by a car, which broke my right humerus. I had extensive nerve damage from surgery. It's taken some getting used to having two titanium rods in my arm, but it's nothing compared with much more serious injuries others have gone through.
How has recovery been for you? What has helped you most?
I'm stronger now than before the accident. I maintain a weight lifting and exercise program loosely based around P90X, and regularly enjoy parkour and buildering.
Did you continue Superheroing while recovering?
While recovering, I devoted my time to building electronic devices, like an improved, more compact version of the self-defence light I developed for the Initiative. I also developed a prototype wearable solar generator. I also helped with crime research, creating The Oracle Project and a new time-based mapping system.
You also now have your own company, Zimtelligence. Can you tell us more about that?
I launched Zimtelligence to mass produce various prototypes I've made over the years to help in field work. My first product, a wearable solar generator called Apollo, was a success on Kickstarter. I loved the entire process of taking a concept to prototype to product, and I'm looking forward to doing it again. I also really enjoyed the Kickstarter experience and community, it was very pleasant.
Why don't you work with a secret identity?
Many superheroes don't maintain a secret identity. I personally felt like it too much like being in the closet. It also helps when dealing with others in the field, and draws less attention when doing surveillance.
You've recently featured in a documentary, 'Superheroes'. How was that? How do you feel the show represented Real Life Superheroes? Did it help?
Michael Barnett, Theodore James and the entire staff were really excellent. It was a very surreal experience to see myself on screen. I feel like the representation was very fair and even-handed. We aren't put on a pedestal, and we aren't mocked either. People succeed and fail of their own accord, and Mike's filming and editing was done well. The entire editing team did a fantastic job and it's a really great piece of entertainment.
What does the future hold for Zimmer and Zimtelligence?
I'm currently working on two very different prototypes. They both involve a lot of previous ideas and projects coming together into one design. One is wearable and I'm looking forward to testing it in the field, and the other I think could be mass produced and be a new Kickstarter project.
Are you a fan of comics as well?
My favorite comic book authors are Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker, Gail Simone and Chris Claremont. Each has done really different but excellent work, and each kind of perfectly fit what I was going through in various times in my life.
How do you feel about the representation of LGBTQ characters in comics?
A diverse cast of characters in all media is important to me, and it's great when mainstream comics embrace that. The comics industry has prided itself on being ahead of the curve, but television and video games have pulled ahead. There's a lot more work to do.
DC have recently stated that they will not allow marriage for their heroes, and further iterated that love and happiness is something a hero gives up as they cannot have that in their lives, they must live grim and unhappy lives. Firstly, as a real life superhero do you follow that rule too, or do you pursue happiness as much as anyone else? And secondly, how do you feel about the DC decision? Do you agree with it?
Some of my favorite characters are DC owned, and as much as I love them, I have to say I've been reading much less DC after the New 52 Relaunch. I'm just not their target demographic. In terms of superheroes having to be unhappy, I think there's always ups and downs in this lifestyle, but I've seen many superheroes get married and have kids and love what they do, so unhappiness certainly isn't a requirement. I had much more depression and frustration before I found missions as an outlet, so for me is has been very positive.
A lot of people give to charity and volunteer for the holiday season. Do you have any tips for our readers?
The homeless are particularly vulnerable in cold weather. While I don't support Salvation Army's anti-gay policies, I do recommend buying blankets and coats there, as they will sell them half priced if you are giving them away to the less fortunate. Clean socks are always appreciated by the homeless, more than you might think. If you do prepare any food for the homeless, please be sure to wash your hands before, as the person you want to help may have a depressed immune system. It's also always nice to keep some extra socks, old clothes, bottles of water or snacks in your car to give to people on your commute.