It's been a good decade for superheroes, from The Dark Knight, which just turned 10 years old, to last month's Ant Man and the Wasp. But while Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Company are raking in the box-office billions, a school in Las Vegas is in the business of grooming a generation of real-life superheroes. And they actually wear masks, punch, and kick.
"We believe that every human being has an innate specialty....something that makes them extraordinary," says Dr. TJ Cuenca, a martial artist and the founder and director of the Superhero Foundry, a modified warehouse west of the Strip that teaches students of all ages to channel their inner crime fighter.
Classes range from armed and unarmed combat to projectile throwing and what Cuenca calls "functional parkour" -- referring to the freerunning skills seen in Daniel Craig's James Bond movies. "We teach them how to get stronger, how to get faster, how to become a lot more aware of their surroundings," he says.
When new students join the Superhero Foundry, they are given seven tests, measuring attributes like speed, pain tolerance, and even hearing ability. "We have a kid here who can hear at the level of a bat," says Cuenca. "We have a guy who can raise the temperature of water by dipping his finger into it."
"It's odd," he confirms.
It sounds fishy, but the idea is to help people discover their unique abilities and characteristics, then develop them into a functional set of tools in a controlled environment. The best part? Students are encouraged along the way to develop their own superhero identities, names, and costumes.