At PopMythology.com, in addition to using pop culture as a way to promote heroic qualities and virtues, we also periodically feature real-life people who, in some way or another, are using superhero symbolism to promote goodness and positivity in the world and in their communities.
Today’s real-life superhero is Roger Tinsley, aka “DangerMan, the Urban Superhero,” a pioneer in the RLSH (Real-Life SuperHero) Movement.
Born and raised in Detroit, Tinsley’s initial career was providing security services to an illustrious list of celebrities including the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackon, Magic Johnson and Muhammad Ali. For many years he was also active as an advocate for crime victims’ rights with various public organizations.
He later settled in Los Angeles and developed a career in acting and comedy. And DangerMan has become his most enduring character.
Whereas Batman’s arch-enemies are the Joker, Two-Face and Bane, DangerMan’s foes are ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, street violence and human trafficking. And he’s kicking their butts.
Year-round, he travels throughout the country and speaks to children in schools, hospitals and youth centers, particularly those from low-income and at-risk backgrounds. He spearheads literacy, safety and public health initiatives and supplements his activism with products like DangerMan comic books and live-action films.
Currently, he is preparing to launch a 5-country, 30-city bus tour next year called the DangerMan Dream Tour.
I’ve known and been a fan of D-Man (as I call him) for some time now and recently had the pleasure of chatting with him in this interview.
PM: How did you get the idea to put on a costume and become a real-life superhero? And why did you make that career transition?
DANGERMAN: Well, in 1998 there was a Hispanic family that was on the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles and they were taking their four-year-old to a birthday party. They got off the freeway into East L.A. while trying to find their way going through an alley, a bullet crashed through the back window and killed their daughter.
When I heard the news report it made me very sad and I knew right then I had to do something because here we are in America, the greatest country in the world, and our kids are in danger. I knew I had to do something. So I became DangerMan in the fall of 1998.
It wasn’t a career change, because I had a full-time job as an actor/comedian so at that time it just became one of the things I did but with a purpose and a passion to protect and defend kids.
PM: Why not just work with kids as Roger Tinsley instead of putting on a costume and having an alter ego?
DANGERMAN: Teaching and motivating kids as the Urban Superhero DangerMan makes a stronger impact on children as opposed to going as plain old Roger Tinsley. The children enjoy it more to see DangerMan come alive, a Real Life Super Hero.
PM: All superheroes face obstacles and enemies. In the comics they fight bad buys, but in real-life this takes many forms. One of your enemies, for example, is ignorance. It seems you’ve faced this foe in the past on occasions like with the racist attacks on YouTube and the hacking of your Facebook profile. What would you say has been your most difficult “enemy” over the years?
DANGERMAN: One of my biggest obstacles is the fact that I’m an “urban” superhero, or black, and because of that funding hasn’t been what it should. But I keep plugging away. I’ve been very well received at most places I show up at and now I’m invited to a lot of events. So I think it’s about to change.
My biggest national sponsor has been the Aetna Foundation for five years now. It’s not a lot of money. I’ve had many other sponsors: Amtrak, Pitney Bowes, General Motors, Target, California Endowment and a few others. But I’m a guy who thinks out of the box so we are becoming more creative.
PM: You recently had the chance to meet and work with Stan Lee on Stan Lee’s Academy of Heroes for his World of Heroes YouTube Channel. Stan is, of course, a hero even to superheroes. What was that like?
DANGERMAN: The opportunity to work with the great Stan Lee was unreal and I’m just amazed because as far as comics and superheroes there is no one bigger. The days we spent together were amazing. He is so kind, funny and smart. He really appreciated my work and what I had done to create DangerMan.
This was the second time I met him but this time he really knew who I was. I actually worked on Spider–Man three times and on the outside of my trailer door I had a picture of DangerMan. This has taken my brand up several levels.
PM: Could you share one story or one moment in which all your efforts and struggles to do this work felt worth it?
DANGERMAN: Well, I’m the hardest working real-life superhero in the business. I sign autographs and sell my books and take pictures with thousands of people every week (at no charge). I visit schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, hospitals, community centers, soup kitchens. I get a lot of love.
But what stands out the most was a phone call I received from an eight-year-old Jamal on Fathers Day who thanked me for the impact I had on his life when he was just four years old. He called and thanked me. I’ll never forget it even despite all of the awards and certificates.
PM: There is a growing trend of real-life superheroes. What are your thoughts on this and how does it feel to be one of the forerunners in this cultural movement?
DANGERMAN: Yes, there is a growing trend – some good and some bad. Wisdom is lacking in some of these young people. How do I feel about being a visionary? I just give all the glory and honor to God.
A lot of these guys say I inspired them and a lot were inspired by the movie KickAss. So I’m very careful to make sure I set a good example because people are watching and taking notes. There are really only two black real-life superheroes and the other one is a kid in the state of Washington who needs a lot of training.
PM: Speaking of real-life superheroes and the “kid in the state of Washington,” a short while ago I wrote a post about a controversial incident in which Phoenix Jones of Seattle got into a street fight. As a veteran superhero, what words of wisdom would you offer to Phoenix if you could?
DANGERMAN: To the young man in Seattle I would offer him two things: First, get rid of those cameras and the folks behind them. And, number two, do it from your heart, not from your head. He has made a lot of bad moves which have been recorded for history. I wish him the best of luck.
PM: My own work on PopMythology.com is about how anyone can be a “superhero” using their own natural talents and skills. No costume, secret identity or crime-fighting necessary. If a kid who looks up to you said, “Danger Man, when I grow up I want to be a superhero just like you,” what would you say to him?
DANGERMAN: I would say to any kid who comes to me and says they want to be a superhero like me: Read all you can, work hard, stay in school, dream big, real big, and never, never give up. If you do this and have a burning passion in your heart to make the world a better place then you can be a superhero in your hood.