'Superhobo' flies to the rescue for Berlin's down-and-outs

Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:21am EST
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By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - He has rippling muscles, a cloak and the standard-issue briefs, but "Superhobo" is not your average comic-book hero: his torn bodysuit, shaggy beard and the bottle of beer in his fist all tell of a hard life on the streets.

"His muscles are firm but he has no fixed abode" proclaims the slogan of "Superhobo" comic ("Superpenner" in the original German), which hit the streets of Berlin on Monday in an attempt to boost sales of a newspaper sold by down-and-outs.

The humor is dark: the craggy-faced superhero sleeps on a bench in his woollen cap, dreaming of beer, and the people he rescues gag at his foul breath.

But the homeless, the unemployed and the poor immigrants who picked up an armful of the "Strassenfeger" newspapers to sell around Berlin, with the comic as a free supplement, did not seem to find the idea offensive.

"It's just a bit of fun," said Daniela, a 40-year-old who has been touting the "Strassenfeger" (Street Sweeper) at a central Berlin train station for the past two years.

Her customers are commuters, people waiting for a taxi and forecourt smokers. For each copy she sells at 1.50 euros ($2), she gets to keep 90 cents ($1.20).

Muffled against the cold with a fleece over an overcoat, the unemployed kitchen worker - who would not give her surname for fear of putting her welfare payments at risk - said the comic seemed to be good for business, grabbing people's attention.

Lots of people shook their heads when Daniela approached but Frank Henseler, a 56-year-old in a tie and scarf visiting Berlin on business, leafed through the Superpenner, his cigarette smoke billowing in the cold air, and bought a copy.   Continued...

Unemployed street newspaper vendor Karsten offers the Strassenfeger (Street Sweeper) street newspaper and its Superhobo comic supplement in front of the main train station in Berlin January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter