A sacked Essex office worker is taking his employers to an Industrial Tribunal, claiming that he was unfairly dismissed because of his superheroic crime-fighting activities. “They were refusing to give me time off to save old ladies from muggers and children from runaway cars,” claims Richard Keel, a former mild mannered admin assistant at a Basildon finance company. “You know crime doesn’t conveniently confine itself to outside of office hours! I can be called upon at any time to go out and save the town!” However, his former bosses are unimpressed by Keel’s claims that he is also superhero Pin Stripe Man who, clad in his distinctive blue suit, has been instrumental in cutting Basildon’s crime rates by over a third during the last year. “The number and length of Mr Keel’s unauthorised absences had reached an unacceptable level,” explains office manager Ken Lossie. “He’d say he was going to the toilet and we wouldn’t see him again for several hours! When he did return, he’d usually be battered and bruised, as if he’d been in a fight – probably at the pub, if you ask me! It would certainly explain his wild stories!”

Keel, who had formerly disguised his identity whilst crime-fighting by covering his upper face with an oversized bowler hat with eye-holes cut in it, is outraged by such suggestions. “As a superhero I have to treat my body as a temple so as to remain at peak crime-fighting fitness. Consequently, no alcohol ever passes my lips,” declares Keel, who suspects a conspiracy on the part of his employers. “It is my suspicion that they are actually run by some evil criminal mastermind intent upon ensnaring the population of Basildon in a web of debt, thereby making them his slaves!” Indeed, Keel claims that on several occasions he has been forced to save unfortunate debtors from debt-collectors sent round by his erstwhile employer. “Luckily I was easily able to see these thugs off with my umbrella – which when open acts as an impenetrable defensive shield, and when rolled up is a deadly weapon,” he muses. “Clearly, the finance company has engineered my sacking to force me into revealing my secret identity, in the hope that it will neutralise my effectiveness as a crime fighter!” Although he has vowed to continue his fight against crime in Basildon, Keel admits that it isn’t easy being a superhero on the dole: “The costumes and equipment don’t come cheaply, and it’s difficult to arrive in time to stop a crime if you’re forced to use the bus to save money! Not only that, but now that my secret identity is out, every local villain is sticking dog crap and such like through my letter box!”

Keel isn’t the only British superhero suffering problems as a result of their powers. Sue Ronson, who briefly operated as the superheroine Eternal Flame in the mid 1990s, agreed to speak to The Sleaze about her experiences. “Since an early age I’ve had the gift of pyrokinesis – fires have always spontaneously ignited around me, usually at times of extreme emotional distress,” she told us. “After a series of childhood incidents, including my father’s shed burning down when I threw a temper tantrum after my mother refused to allow me to get my ears pierced at age nine, and the family cat being seriously scorched when I had my first period two and half years later (it suffered forty percent burns and some of its fur never grew back), I gradually learned to exert a degree of conscious control over my strange ability. I learned to remotely light candles and my family never needed to use fire lighters!”

Nevertheless, in spite of her ability to control her power, Ronson’s career as Eternal Flame was to prove short-lived after her habit of remotely setting fire to bank robbers and their getaway vehicles was branded a health and safety hazard by the Fire Brigade, after several bystanders were seriously injured by exploding cars and one blazing robber set fire to a school as he tried to escape. Ronson also found that there remained certain times when her powers still ran amok – namely when in the throes of sexual passion. A series of promising relationships have broken up as a result of bed sheets catching fire and partners having their pubic hair – or worse – singed. “One boyfriend broke up with me after his parents thirty-two inch widescreen TV exploded in a ball of flame as we made love on the living room carpet in their house. The insurance firm are still refusing to payout,” she laments. “I finally thought my problems were over when I met and fell for a young man with similar abilities to my own. However, I now fear for my own safety! Whilst we have not yet had penetrative sex, I recently wanked him off – to my horror, instead of ejaculating normally, a six foot long flame shot out of his penis, scorching my bedroom curtains! I am now terrified that if he comes inside of me during normal intercourse I will be baked from the inside out!”

“Sadly, Pin Stripe Man and Eternal Flame are probably the most successful of our creations. Most of the others have proven either certifiable or unemployable, unable to hold down even the most menial of jobs,” says former government scientist Dr Malcolm Halva, who headed Britain’s secret project to produce superheroes through irradiating babies during the 1970s. “The idea was that in the long-run it would prove a cheap way to defend the UK – a team of a dozen or so beings with super-powers was considered to be far more cost-effective than maintaining a standing army, air force, navy and nuclear deterrent! Especially if they were paid on standard civil service rates! As an added bonus, the Home Office was convinced that they could also be used domestically to cut crime rates, doing away with the need for police!” However, as the experimental subjects grew up, it became obvious that the project was going to fall well short of expectations. “Several appeared to have no discernible super powers whatsoever – whilst most of the others had powers which seemed to be of very limited use,” explains Halva. “One woman, for instance, could only activate her powers when brought to orgasm by a man. Consequently, she was only available for action about once every two years. Mind you, when it did happen, her climactic cry could shatter glass and deafen dogs.”

Another subject developed glowing radioactive testicles which, when exposed, could render villains unconscious at a range of up to five hundred yards. Unfortunately, his powers turned out to be accompanied by severe psychiatric problems. “We should have been suspicious when he chose a long brown raincoat as his costume,” admits Halva. “He was eventually arrested for exposing himself to women in London parks. After rendering them unconscious with his genitalia, he sexually assaulted them, singeing off their pubic hair and giving them severe burns in the process.” This individual is now confined to a secure psychiatric institution, where his deadly testicles are securely contained within lead underpants. “Ironically, the only one who seems to have done any sustained superhero work, Pin Stripe Man, is one of those with no apparent powers other than an over developed sense of self-confidence,” ponders the now retired scientist. “Perhaps there’s some kind of simplistic comic book-style moral there.”