Superheroes are supposed to keep us mere mortals safe from crooks and scoundrels—dark forces, big and small, real and imagined. That’s how the movie ends. In real life, where superheroes have to put on their nylon tights one leg at a time just like the rest of us—the line between good and evil gets a bit hazy. And in real-life Gotham City police are on the offensive trying to protect people from the superhero characters that line Times Square.
“New York police have begun handing out fliers to tourists in Times Square telling them that tipping the costumed superheroes and children’s characters who pose for photographs is optional, and to call the 911 emergency number if they have complaints,” Reuters reports. The effort by the NYPD comes after costumed characters have come under scrutiny for bad behavior of all sorts. Here’s one recent episode via the New York Times:
Spider-Man punched a police officer in the face in Times Square… in the latest episode of children-friendly characters displaying R-rated behavior in front of stunned tourists in the heart of Manhattan. Mickey and Minnie Mouse stood dumbfounded, smiles plastered on their faces, and Elmo placed a red mitt to his cheek as the officer and Spider-Man grappled on the sidewalk before falling to the ground. The punch broke the officer’s glasses, the police said, and the struggle sent his police hat flying. A second officer assisted in finally getting the ersatz superhero into handcuffs… [The] arrest came at the intersection of two trends in Manhattan street life: the proliferation of television and film characters’ jockeying for attention from tourists in Times Square — along with the tips they pay for photos — and the intensifying focus of the Police Department on quality-of-life offenses.
The fliers were first handed out over the weekend an Iron Man, joined an Elmo and Spider-Man character in running afoul of the law. Here’s more from Reuters on the NYPD’s effort to keep our favorite cartoon characters from behaving badly—usually accosting tourists for tips.
“Tipping is optional,” the fliers say in capital letters, printed in five languages in partnership with the Times Square Alliance, which promotes area businesses. “If you have any complaints, talk to a police officer or call 911…” Dozens of people dressed as characters roam the crowded sidewalks and plaza around Times Square on any given day, stretching their arms out toward passing children, many in somewhat ratty costumes. They typically carry laminated cards or pouches labeled with the word “TIPS,” which they wave at tourists after a photograph has been taken.
“In interviews on Monday, men dressed as Elmo and Batman rejected the idea that they are no more than panhandlers in fancy dress,” Reuters reports. “Jose Escalona-Martinez said the U.S. Constitution gives him the right to wear whatever he likes in Times Square - a Batman costume, in his case - and questioned police priorities.”