Skyler Nichols, also known as SkyMan, is Federal Way’s very own Real Life Superhero.
Nichols, who recently made an appearance during Federal Way’s Recycle Palooza, hopes to help his hometown in whatever way he can through his alter ego of SkyMan, the Tri-Colored Crusader.
Nichols decided to try and help in Federal Way, after being an active member of the Seattle group of Real Life Superheroes (RLSH), whose most famous member is Phoenix Jones.
“I’ve been operating in the greater Seattle/King County area for 18 months now, and I live here in Federal Way, and I’m really trying to become more local,” he said. “I see Federal Way hurting, and I’d like to help out.”
Nichols, 28, says he sees the effects of the economic downturn on Federal Way, and the effect on some of Federal Way’s residents, such as the transient population. He used The Commons Mall as a glaring example of the slow decay that has overtaken Federal Way and many cities in the Puget Sound area.
“I grew up in this mall. It used to be filled. Now it’s just got anchor stores that keep it going, like Target and Sears,” Nichols said. “It’s sad, this place. You walk through it, there’s so many empty storefronts. Suburbia in general. Auburn, Kent, Burien. We’re all hurting.”
With Phoenix Jones more well known as being a “crime fighter,” Nichols is more interested in helping those who are vulnerable, like the homeless. His own experiences of not having a roof over his head have led him to try and help the most disadvantaged in the area.
“I want to help people…I consider myself a humanitarian first as a real life superhero. One of the reasons I decided to start with charity work and homeless outreach is it was simple, and it was what I could do,” he said. “I was homeless for a time in 2003. I was so drug addled and not wanting to hurt my father anymore, I went and slept under the viaduct for four months. And it’s just…I see these people hurting.”
Nichols is more focused on helping those who can’t help themselves. He said he has patrolled the streets and has even broken up a few muggings in his patrols.
“I have done my fair share of patrolling, so I know what street crime is about. In fact, I’ve stopped a few muggings, just by my presence, and my colorful, exuberant costume,” he said of his encounter with would-be muggers. “They’re like ‘Whoa, who’s this guy in armor and colors?’”
The more traditional idea of a superhero asserted itself in Nichols when he discussed the recent police blotter item in The Mirror regarding a man who was caught masturbating at the public library.
“I read that story, I go to the library at least once a week. If I had seen that dude doing that, he would have gotten a tri-colored talking to,” he said.
One of the largest ways that Nichols had contributed to the greater Seattle and Puget Sound communities was by doing homeless outreach. He would prepare care packages for homeless people. With the economic downturn, and he and his father’s increasing reliance on social programs just to survive, Nichols said his work in helping the homeless has petered out recently. He hopes the community can help with donations or other information, so he can become a larger part of the social fabric of Federal Way.
“I would like donations…I’m a charity-based superhero, but I live on welfare. My cash grant, from DSHS, the funding is just not there. So I haven’t been able to participate or give back in a homeless outreach in several months,” he said. “I don’t have a PayPal account, I don’t really have something to take donations with, but if somebody would come along and give me some guidance on how to take proper donations, that’d be great.”
Barring donations, Nichols is also looking to connect with the community through social media, and to find out about groups and charities in Federal Way where he could help.
“I hope you friend me people, I hope you have suggestions for me for what I can do to help the community of Federal Way, exciting options and organizations and everything. I really want to become a more of a local guy, a local hero,” he said.
Nichols understands that many people are probably dubious of “costumed activists,” as he likes to term it. He said there is an excellent documentary playing in Seattle that explains the ideas and motivations behind real life superheroes. The movie is called “Superheroes,” and will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 at Seattle’s Grand Illusion Theater (1403 NE 50th St., Seattle, WA 98105). The film will show at 7 and 9 p.m. Visit www.grandillusioncinema.org for more information.
Regardless of any of the external attachments of being a real life superhero, Nichols said he’s just motivated to be the best person he can, in whatever way he can.
“All SkyMan really is, is a philosophy of trying to do good, trying to live up to heroic ideals and principles,” he said. “I don’t really like to claim I’m a hero, I like to say I’m aspiring to that…Living my daily activities as a real life superhero has just cemented my firm belief that that’s what I want to do in life. Which is ultimately help people and inspire others to get away from apathy and more into altruism.”