Last time we wrote about self-proclaimed superhero Phoenix Jones, it was when he was wrongfully accused of pocketing money intended for a domestic-violence nonprofit. Now another fundraiser—a campaign to raise $10,000 to make over his costume—has critics questioning his motives.
For the past month or so, Jones has been soliciting donations online to finance the construction of what he's calling his "super suit." His old black-and-gold getup was confiscated (and later returned to him) by Seattle police after an infamous pepper-spray incident last year, and is apparently a little worse for wear. He wants his new outfit to include all sorts of cutting-edge technology and materials, and as a result it comes with a $10,000 price tag.
Jones, aka mixed martial arts fighter Ben Fodor, writes on his website that he wants to upgrade the "bulletproofing, functionality, and redesign of my current superhero suit." He has convinced a company called Nightmare Armor Studios to donate their time and labor (worth $100,000 by Jones' estimate) assembling the ensemble, but he still needs cash for the raw materials.
His wish list includes a "ballistics shield used by SWAT teams, police officers, and superheroes to shield themselves from bullets, breach houses, and protect citizens caught in crossfire," which will reportedly be installed within the costume. According to Jones, the cost of this contraption "is in the $80,000 range," but the manufacturer has agreed to give him a drastic discount. He also wants a bulletproof face shield and a high-definition live-streaming camera to broadcast his crime-fighting exploits on the Web in real time. The gadgetry and armor are necessary, Jones claims, because he has had "over 30 bullets shot at him or in his general direction" and "been threatened with murder and stabbed."
Jones is asking for donations via his Facebook page, and also embedded a PayPal donation button on the website for the Purple Reign Campaign, the nonprofit initiative by his superheroine girlfriend to benefit victims of domestic violence. As of Friday, he had already banked more than $1,600.
The hefty price tag, request for handouts, and Jones' use of the nonprofit's website seems outrageous to some of Jones' superhero peers. A San Diego man who calls himself Urban Avenger penned a blog post last week entitled "Phoenix Jones Sells Snake Oil, Calls It a Supersuit." It lambastes Jones, calling him "an egocentric glory hound, who really only wants to propel himself further into the limelight."
Reached by phone last week on his way to Comic-Con in San Diego, Urban Avenger explains that his own costume cost less than $400 to assemble. Avenger says Jones ought to spend his own money on the "super suit" and give the donations to a worthy charity. "What pisses me off about this guy," Urban Avenger says, "is that he's entirely focused more on the appearance and the prestige of being whatever it is he wants to call himself."
Avenger's takedown of Jones was seconded by others, including filmmaker Matt Harrison. Once a staunch Jones supporter who spent more than a year accompanying Jones on his nightly Belltown patrols for a documentary slated for release later this year, Harrison now says Jones is "manipulative, deceitful, controlling, and ignorant."
But responding to his critics during a phone interview last week with Seattle Weekly, Jones says the body-armor upgrade is what's most important to him. "I've been getting guns pointed at me way more than I feel comfortable with," he says. As for the costume controversy, Jones believes it's the result of jealousy and personal differences. "It's literally people don't like me, and they're not going to like me, and I just don't care anymore," Jones says indignantly. "They don't agree with my crime-fighting methods, and they could go fuck themselves about that."
Jones maintains that his suit-fundraising has been completely transparent, and that people know exactly what their money is going toward when they donate. "Even if I'm unethical," he says, "I couldn't be unethical publicly because it would ruin being a superhero . . . I don't know how many times people will accuse me of doing things before they realize that's not in Jones' character."