Welcome back to The Maillot Show. We’re going to finish tonight with a discussion about someone who is forever present but for the past six months has been absent from our city: Visionary.
The vigilante crime fighter first appeared three years ago, and what made him different from other wannabe heroes was his supernatural capabilities. Most impressive of which was his potential to set things alight by touching them. Don’t believe me? Watch the videos online. He also had a manifesto titled The Vision, which detailed how the city could be bettered and was often found attached to offenders he’d apprehended.
Six months ago, Visionary disappeared following a fight with Contrast, another super-powered individual. Today’s closing interview — or discussion — won’t be a celebration of the hero but a debate about his impact and where we all are without him. The three people in the studio with me have gotten closer to Visionary than anyone else, and I’m delighted to have them here. They are: journalist Nadia Khalil, photographer Charlie Reed, and one of Visionary’s own success stories, Ishmael Afari.
Welcome to The Maillot Show everyone.
Charlie: Good to meet you, Steve. I’ve always wanted to be on the show.
Maillot: Well, dreams do come true. Thanks, Charlie. Now, Nadia, you write for The Holmechester Herald.
Nadia: I do.
Maillot: When Visionary first appeared, your articles about him were overwhelmingly positive — and popular. Thousands bought the paper just for your writing, but over the years your opinion became more hostile.
Nadia: Less blurred.
Maillot: Okay. Your most recent article reads like you want him back. Can you explain to everyone listening why you’ve changed your opinion?
Nadia: That’s the thing, Maillot, I haven’t. Let me explain; when Visionary first appeared, I thought he was exciting — we all did. He added to our common identity, and the world was now watching us. I started to blog about him — this was a separate blog outside the paper — and, eventually, I began to write a weekly piece in the paper documenting his activities, but I still hadn’t seen him in person at this point.
Maillot: So you’d only seen photos?
Nadia: And videos. It was when I first saw him in the flesh, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, that I really understood how incredible he was. Seeing someone move like that shattered my reality. It was riveting, but, following the list of violent actions he was accused of committing in the apprehension of criminals, I saw the negative influence he could have. My writing became more impartial as a result as I realised I had been biased. I started to write more as an observer than a fan, but I wouldn’t say I became hostile.
Nadia: And I was right; almost just like that, every child, and even some adults, wanted to be like Visionary. People forget that violent crime increased by four percent shortly after his appearance, and much of this was due to people trying to fulfil his manifesto. Copycat vigilantes became a thing, and I started to see graffiti paying homage to him when really he never did much for us. Yes, it was a sight to see his superhuman acrobatics, but, if we’re all honest, really honest, that’s all Visionary was; entertainment.
Nadia: To answer your question: my most recent article is just me stating facts; since his disappearance there’s been a significant increase in particular and unpleasant crimes. That’s it. I haven’t changed my opinion.
Maillot: Thank you, Nadia. Charlie, tell me about your experience with Visionary and how you became an award-winning photographer.
Charlie: It was mostly luck. Photography was just a hobby for me. I was stuck in a shitty—
Maillot: Keep it clean, please.
Charlie: Sorry, stuck in a regular nine to five. No one had seen a clear image of him before, and I thought if I could capture a decent shot I could definitely sell it. I used to take the same route home from work every day. Then I started seeing this dude in like a dark, armoured outfit jumping gaps in-between buildings. The first two times I didn’t manage to get a photo, but the third time I got a good shot. A lot of people had shaky videos and blurred images of him, but they were just happy to have something for the gram. I really wanted — needed — my pictures to look epic, but it’s all just chance that I’ve taken clearer and better photos than anyone else.
Maillot: And what stunning pictures you’ve taken, Charlie.
Maillot: Ishmael, unlike Nadia and Charlie, your experience with Visionary comes from having spoken to and, remarkably, fought alongside him.
Ishmael: You make it sound like we’re Batman and Robin, but yeah, in a sense.
Maillot: Tell me about your fascinating introduction to Visionary.
Ishmael: I was coming back from my girlfriend’s house, and I saw a couple guys who’d clearly been drinking. One of them began to shout something at me, and I ignored it. I kept on walking then I heard the shouting get closer. I turned around and saw them running towards me, and I just swung.
Maillot: So, is that when . . . ?
Ishmael: Yeah. There were six of them. I got taken down pretty quick, but I knew something was odd because all of a sudden they stopped hitting me. I got up and saw someone. In the dark they looked like a shadow. It was Visionary. He was staring forward, and the dudes were still there, so I got up and jumped at them. I didn’t look to see if Visionary had my back or anything, but I could hear the sound of him at work and see bodies being thrown past me. It was frightening, to be honest. Within seconds they were either on the ground or running.
Maillot: Incredible. If it wasn’t for Visionary then who knows what could’ve happened.
Charlie: Yeah, man, that’s something.
Maillot: Nadia, tell me about your current thoughts on Visionary. What do you think about people like Ishmael who have criticised your fluctuating view of the vigilante on social media and in other interviews? In fact, it was you who brought his story to the paper, right?
Nadia: Yes, it was me, but I’ll answer the first part of your question first. I think Visionary’s done — did — a great job for our city. But the longer he was active the more people began to revere him and the less they saw the negative implications.
Maillot: But these are harsh times, are they not? People are poorer yet they’re working more than ever. Corruption at the highest level is being exposed constantly while violence is running the streets. Can you blame them for wanting a bit of supernatural hope?
Nadia: That’s not what I’m saying, Maillot. I’m saying there was another side to Visionary that people weren’t acknowledging; the misbehaviour he inspired and the people who thought that because of him they could put on a ski mask and solve their problems with a crowbar. You’d have to be a fool if you couldn’t admit that things had begun to get a bit lawless.
Nadia: Contrast is the best example of this. Before Visionary showed up this guy was non-existent — super-powered people weren’t around in general. His appearance had to be because of Visionary. And look what happened: the two of them destroyed a good chunk of our city centre, and Contrast hasn’t been seen since, but the fear of him is still here.
Maillot: I’m glad you brought that up, Nadia. We haven’t mentioned Contrast in depth, but I’m sure we’ve all seen the footage of him giving Visionary a brutal, career-ending beating. Charlie, you were there and even managed to take several incredible shots of the fight. I’ve heard you even climbed a small shop to take the magnificent photo that graced the cover of several papers nationwide. Can you quickly explain to everyone what it was like?
Charlie: It was unbelievable. Being there and seeing the way they moved . . . That’s what really stuck out; their movements. You could feel the energy. You could feel the power they had in order to move and fight like that. Each time they connected you could feel the air disperse. It was . . . It was the most incredible thing I’ll ever see.
Nadia: Christ, you make it sound like a love story.
Charlie: Excuse me?
Maillot: There’s not long left of the show, but thank you, Nadia, for bringing up Contrast. He may be a topic for another time. Back to my previous question; how do you feel about Ishmael, and others, attacking you after you were the one who brought him fame?
Ishmael: Hold on—
Nadia: It doesn’t bother me, but I can’t understand why Ishmael and others like him have such an unwavering defence for him. Maybe — like Charlie expressed with his vivid account — you have to be there to experience that “energy”, but I want to make it clear that I’ve never been against Visionary, and to anyone who disagrees, read my articles carefully.
Ishmael: You called him a toxic, super-exaggeration of hyper masculinity, but you’re not against him?
Ishmael: Your words. Not mine.
Nadia: And I stand by them. But even though, he had his negative effects, and no matter how the people in this room try to paint me—
Charlie: Paint you? You’re the only one making yourself unfavourable.
Nadia: . . . Overall, Visionary was a positive addition to our lives. I’ve admitted — no said — in my most recent article that certain crimes, street crimes in particular, have risen since his disappearance.
Maillot: Ishmael, you look like you’re itching—
Ishmael: People like Nadia ran a campaign to make Visionary sound like a danger, but now he’s gone they’re talking like they were unbiased. The contradiction’s astonishing. Earlier in this interview, Nadia, you said he was nothing but entertainment, but now you’ve said he did a great job for our city. Just admit that you’ve changed your views.
Nadia: I don’t have anything to admit. If you’d been listening to me you’d know that. He was entertaining, and he brought our city attention, but did he fix anything? No. You can’t single-handedly change the world without tackling issues of poverty, ruined households and broken communities.
Ishmael: What? Did you even read his manifesto? He wanted to tackle those issues but knew it would have to be a collective effort.
Nadia: I have—
Ishmael: And he’s a vigilante, not one of these corrupt politicians. If you want someone to fix those things why don’t you look in the mirror first? At least he did something.
Nadia: Oh please. You talk like he was so righteous, but what about the reports that said many of the drugs and firearms he had confiscated from gang members were appearing in other people’s hands later? He also had a reputation for beating people senseless when it was entirely unnecessary.
Ishmael: Him reselling confiscated goods was never proven. He was a good man who did the best for his city. That’s all there is to it.
Nadia: I get it; he saved your life—
Ishmael: Not just mine, hundreds, if not thousands.
Maillot: Okay, now Charlie—
Nadia: I’m not disputing that. I’m saying he wasn’t squeaky clean. There are two sides to everyone, whether you want to believe it or not.
Maillot: There’s not much time—
Ishmael: Honestly, Nadia, I think you became one of Visionary’s opponents after everyone started to write about him. For a while, you were like his one and only spokesperson, and it annoyed you when he went from a mystery that only a few believed into a worldwide, loved phenomenon. You couldn’t take it, and he’s gone, so you’ve got nothing else to write about. You let your life revolve around one man, and you’re the only one to blame for that. Your bizarre obsession with Visionary is the only issue here.
Charlie: Can I—
Nadia: My obsession? You’re the one who needs to get their head out of his—
Nadia: You’re a fool, Ishmael. People were kidnapped and beaten because of his manifesto and called Obstacles to the Vision. Have you forgotten that? People were hurt trying to imitate him. Remember Bradley Cohen? The fifteen-year-old bystander who ended up getting a broken jaw and suffering burns because he happened to be in the wrong crowd at the wrong time while Visionary was battering street thugs with his freakish powers. For god’s sake get off his ball sack.
Maillot: . . . We’ve run out of time.
Ishmael: No we haven’t, Steve. Let me say my piece.
Ishmael: Let me finish. Visionary wasn’t perfect. I’ve never said he was, but people like you who supported him, then attacked him, then supported him again after he’d disappeared, and only after you’d watched him get beaten online, are a problem. Your dishonesty reflects the issues in our city and country. You allow personal feelings to get in the way of what is, and should be, benefiting all of us. And now that Visionary’s gone what are we? Another place on the map struggling to solve our problems because we’re too busy squabbling. When it comes to Visionary, all we should be doing is acknowledging the courage it takes for an individual to take matters into their own hands while our communities have been falling apart. You’ve been busy trying to make change with a pen from the comfort of an office. That’s fine, but Visionary chose to touch the streets and risk his own life instead, and we should commend that.
Charlie: . . . Well said.
Maillot: Okay, we’ve reached the end of the show.
Charlie: Sorry, Maillot, but can I just quickly say, Visionary’s helped people in other ways beyond preventing street violence. I mean, I’m at where I am now because of him, and he’s inspired a lot of people; Nadia made a name for herself because of Visionary, and Ishmael may not be here if it wasn’t for him, and—
Maillot: Thank you, Charlie.
Nadia: . . .
Ishmael: . . . I’ve said all I want to say.
Maillot: Charlie, Nadia, Ishmael, thank you all for coming.
No matter what each of us say about Visionary, the one thing we can agree on is that he was a unique individual who polarised opinions. It’s undeniable that he showed everyone that if we believe things can be better then we should try to make them so. You can’t dislike a hero, an inspiration, for doing that. Will Visionary return? Who knows, but The Maillot Show will. Tune in next time for more great music and live and honest interviews.
Featured photo by Maciej Korsan and Josh Taylor