The news: A team of costumed crime fighters is on the prowl San Diego — just probably not the kind you're familiar with.
Have you heard of Midnight Highwayman? What about Vigilante Spider? These are just two members of the Xtreme Justice League, a San Diego vigilante group founded in 2006 by a hero named "Mr. Xtreme."
The Xtreme Justice League isn't just a group of cosplayers. They actually attempt to fight crime, even the violent kind. When a Reuters photojournalist followed the group for a night, he witnessed them tend to a severely inebriated individual and even break up a fight.
However, the Xtreme Justice League claims they're different from the crime fighters like Batman portrayed in comic books and on the silver screen.
"We are not vigilantes," the Xtreme Justice League website says. "A vigilante is an individual that punishes criminals and violates their civil rights. We do not punish criminals. We work with the police if a crime is committed. We only use force as a last resort. We only use force in self-defense of ourselves or an innocent person."
Isn't this dangerous? Yes, it is. But the Xtreme Justice League trains their members in "citizen's arrest, martial arts, basic first aid, conflict resolution and scenario training for patrol situations," according to the website.
Couldn't they just do this without the ridiculous costumes? Perhaps, but the group believes their outfits serve an important purpose.
"It breaks the momentum of the conflict, and that's more important than almost anything because now they're focused on me," Midnight Highwayman told NBC San Diego. "They're not focused on fighting each other, and it lets us de-escalate the situation."
The Xtreme Justice League isn't the only group like this. In 2010, a "superhero" called Phoenix Jones (who was actually MMA fighter Ben Fodor) started a Seattle-based crime-fighting group called the Rain City Superhero Movement.
Jones and his allies patrolled the streets while carrying non-lethal weapons like Tasers and batons. In 2012 they stopped a quartet of phony police officers from robbing a blind man.
Is this really the best way to fight crime though? Jones disbanded the Rain City Superhero Movement earlier this year because his fellow heroes either become lax in their training or succumbed to lawlessness by carrying illegal firearms.
Midnight Highwayman admitted community awareness is a better solution to crime than meandering bands of cut-rate superheroes.
"Take a phone with you. Take a flashlight," he told NBC San Diego. "Keep an eye out down your street, and if two or three people did that on every block, this problem would stop because if people see that people are watching, they're not going to do these things."
Perhaps that's a better alternative to donning a Halloween costume and putting yourself directly in harm's way.