By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Because of the tumult, the Wall Creeper and several of his colleagues decided to form the Knightmen. "We're the honest crime fighters," says the Wall Creeper. "We were sick of all the online minutiae between crime fighters and superheroes."
Maybe they'll even end up working hand in hand with local cops — though so far, the Denver police haven't heard of folks like the Wall Creeper. "I've asked around with some of the officers on the street, and they haven't seen them," says police spokeswoman Detective Sharon Avendaño. "And it's not going to be listed on any reports that, 'Hey, we saw the Batman.'" The department doesn't necessarily have a problem with people like this, she adds, as long as they don't take the law into their own hands: "We can't stop them from dressing like that or walking the streets. But if they do something that crosses the line or is a crime, then it becomes a concern for us."
While most of the Knightmen's roster wishes to remain anonymous, one notable Heroes Network ex-pat is the legendary Master Legend, recently profiled in Rolling Stone. "The Heroes Network got a little too soft," he says. "All that tough-guy stuff, that's what we are. We're not here to play around."
The Wall Creeper still maintains contact with the Heroes Network, and Zimmer promises there's room for everyone — charitable superheroes and tough-guy crime fighters alike — under his administration. But for that to happen, there's the matter of cooling down a few superhero-sized tempers. As Knightmen member Ecliptico says about Heroes Network newcomer Blue Lightning, "I'm a smoker. You take my cigarette away, and we're gonna have problems."
Striding up Colfax Avenue on their joint Denver patrol, it doesn't take long for the Wall Creeper and Zen Blade to run smack into an evildoer.
Just a few blocks east of the Capitol building, a shady-looking figure steps out of a darkened alley and approaches the unmasked, plainclothes crime fighters. "You guys looking to buy?" he asks under his breath. The encounter is so unbelievable to the Wall Creeper that he can't help but keep walking, clearing half a block before his mind fully comprehends what just happened. He spent the past three years looking for drug dealers — and one just came right up to him. "What did that guy say?" he asks. "Normally I would call the police on that guy!"
"Eh," says Zen Blade with a shrug as they keep walking. The two get along — they chuckle knowingly at a store-window movie poster advertising Watchmen and joke that if Tothian were here, he'd try to hitch a ride on a wailing fire truck speeding by — but it's clear that Wall Creeper's companion is a different breed of crime fighter. While Zen Blade has patrolled the mean streets of Aurora, this Heroes Network loyalist also volunteers in his civilian clothes at the Dumb Friends League. And his demeanor is markedly different from his colleague's: By putting on a costume and assuming a new name, he says, he found inner peace. "Now that kid with all the rage is gone," he says with a tranquil smile.
A few minutes later, Zen Blade suggests they turn around. He doesn't want to worry his wife and kid. Back at the Capitol, Zen Blade takes in the view from the top of the steps. "This is too big a city," he says, shaking his head. "Too big for me." This was his first time patrolling in a while; because of the cold, he'd called it quits in December. Maybe he'll pick it back up in the spring. He'll have to wait and see.
"I learned a lot about the city tonight," says the Wall Creeper once the two part ways. "I am going to need more training before I take it on." Aside from his work with the Knightmen, however, lately this crime fighter, too, has been lying low. Last summer he told his mother about his nocturnal activities, and, to put it mildly, she wasn't pleased. The experience shattered something inside him. Recently he's been giving the incessant patrolling a rest, and when he does make the rounds in his metro-area neighborhood, aside from the mask in his pocket, the battle suit stays at home.
Maybe that's why he sleeps better now and the panic attacks have died off. He now knows it wasn't very healthy always seeing the world in terms of a super-sized clash of good and evil, with bad guys around every corner and masked men the only hope. It's best to leave that dystopian stuff to Watchmen's Rorschach, he explains, having realized that "he saw society in such grim terms that he became something grimmer to cope with it — and that's what I did, too."
He's not about to give up fighting for the downtrodden and afflicted, though — far from it. He's majoring in criminal justice in hopes of one day becoming a private investigator (police work being too constraining for a lone wolf like him). "If I took as much pride and effort [that I put into the Wall Creeper] and put it into becoming a detective, I would be helping a lot more," he writes in his journal. "I will still be a watchman, a crime fighter. Why not be legal?"