Amateur Superhero 'The Viper' Protects Tennessee Town

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Tennessee's unemployed--10.3 percent of the workforce--are coming up with new and clever ways to fill their days. One man in the small town of Columbia who is almost certainly jobless has even become a superhero. Dubbing himself The Viper and donning a green suit and mask, he has so far only succeeded in annoying the local police, who say he violates an ordinance against wearing masks in public places.

The Viper has plenty of crime to fight. Columbia's violent crime rate in 2008 was 1,235 incidents per 100,000 residents, less than nearby Nashville and Memphis but still high for a town of Columbia's size. So even Columbia's skeptical residents are willing to embrace the hope of a new, Viper-led era of peace. Columbia bike shop owner A.C. Howell told the local NBC affiliate, "I don't know. He needs something to do. Probably needs a job." But Howell added, "I hope he's looking out for my benefit. I hope he's guarding my store."

Who is the caped crusader? Skyler Swisher of the Columbia Daily Herald secured a phone interview with the Viper, who one assumes was calling from his Viper Cave 100 feet beneath the Earth. Or maybe from his dorm room.

By day, he’s a mild-mannered college student studying chemistry. But at night, he becomes the Viper, a superhero looking to stamp out crime in Columbia.

Christian Tyler Hardee, 20, caught the attention of Columbia police officers when they spotted him wearing a mask and green-and-black tights about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday near the Bicycle Shop on the Square.

... Hardee, a self-professed comic book nerd, said he knows he’s just a regular college student without super-human powers, and his behavior might be viewed as strange by some. But for Hardee, dressing as a superhero is a way to inspire the community to stand against wrongdoing and perform acts of charity.

“I am just a guy trying to do what is right, in tights,” he said.
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