So, Seattle has a new supervillain. There's a decent chance you've already heard about it, because, as we know, anything related to grownups donning costumes and acting out childhood fantasies is big time news. Seattle's new supervillain goes by the name of Rex Velvet, and he's chosen the much-loved man-in-rubber, Phoenix Jones, as the primary target of his fictionally villainous efforts.
Still, there's a chance this Rex Velvet fella is up to it. First off, he obviously understands the importance of production value - a characteristic he shares with his masked nemesis. Secondly, he has an up-curling mustache. If history has taught us anything it's to always take a man with an up-curling mustache seriously.
Calling himself "the people's villain," Rex Velvet wants to put an end to Seattle's real-life superhero movement and has been making Internet waves the last couple days because of a video he recently released (posted above). Gawker's i09 picked up on the story yesterday. The Stranger's SLOG referred to Velvet as, "a desperate city's only hope." And even KIRO 97.3 FM's Ross and Burbank Show got in on the action, asking Phoenix Jones about his newest rival earlier today.
Jones' response on the Ross and Burbank show was quoted by yet another piece about Velvet, this one by MyNorthwest.com:
"I looked him up. He's actually just a wedding photographer who made a funny video," said Jones. "If he was a true supervillain I would be more interested because at least I would have something to do. Right now it's like war of social media and I have better things to do with my time."
All of this if fun to joke about, but few understand the dynamic at play between real-life superheroes and real-life supervillains.
And, in fairness, that dynamic is pretty funny too.
Matt Harrison, director of the forthcoming documentary Citizen Heroes, which bills itself as "a look into the soul of Seattle's real life superhero movement," knows a thing or two about how it all works in this intricate world of make-believe. Having accompanied Jones on numerous patrols over the course of roughly seven months while shooting the film, not to mention tagging along with numerous other local real-life superheroes for his cinematic purposes, Harrison says real-life superheroes often feed off real-life supervillains, and vice versa, and in many cases are an accepted part of the fictional landscape.
"For the most part, the majority of these guys are what you would call Internet trolls," says Harrison. "[They're] kind of an accepted part of the movement. It's kind of understood that they don't actually go out and do deeds of evil, they don't actively do anything. They just post things."
"These guys, they're kind of respected by the superheroes," continues Harrison. "They call out the heroes when they act less than heroic. They kind of keep them honest, in a way."
Indeed, contrary to reports, Rex Velvet is not the first supervillain to emerge from Seattle. Agent Beryllium, and her crew ROACH, for instance, have taken up the Seattle supervillain calling in the past. Harrison also references characters like Lord Malignance and Malvado Los Muertos as prime examples of supervillains at work.
As for Rex Velvet, while Harrison admits a lack of familiarity with Seattle's latest supervillain, he is intrigued by him.
"I think it's interesting, and it's timed just right," says Harrison of the emergence of Rex Velvet on the same day Phoenix Jones faced allegations of pepper-spraying people in Seattle's May Day crowd.
"They're not real, but they're kind of accepted and tolerated by most of the heroes."
Real or not, it seems likely we'll be hearing more from Rex Velvet in the future.