(July 1) -- Superheroes aren't supposed to feel helpless, but, for the last month, Superman and the Incredible Hulk have been incredibly frustrated by the actions of the Los Angeles Police.
On May 28, the police started cracking down on the many costumed characters who gather on Hollywood Boulevard and pose for pictures in exchange for tips. More than 13 pop culture icons were arrested including Spider-Man and Catwoman.
Police claim the crackdown is because many of the caped crusaders weren't defending truth, justice and the American way, they were rudely demanding tips, even to the point of chasing them down the street and, otherwise, blocking pedestrian traffic near a heavily touristed area.
In this case, the Hulk is actually street performer Joe McQueen, who has dressed up as the Hulk almost daily for the past 10 years. McQueen, a self-proclaimed "skinny black man," hails from Pinehurst, N.C., and hopes to make it as a serious actor in movies or TV, but admits he strongly identifies with the classic character.
"When I was growing up, I was fascinated by the Hulk," he told AOLNews. When I saw Bill Bixby as David Banner on the TV show, we connected, and watching David Banner change into the Hulk inspired me."
McQueen loves being the Hulk and his costume has brought him some fame of his own, most notably a featured role in "Confessions of a Superhero," a 2007 documentary about four of the people who work the Hollywood streets as superheroes.
But he says with great power comes great responsibility, which is why he follows the street corner superhero code very seriously.
"I don't chase down tourists for tips," he said. "That sort of strong-arming is something we fight against."
When he says "we," he refers to a close-knit group of heroes that includes a Batman, a Wonder Woman, and Christopher "Superman" Dennis, the man credited with being the first actor to dress up like a superhero back in June 1991.
According to McQueen, "the Boulevard was always a test," but, recently, it's become harder to be a hero because there is a lot of competition from other folks.
"You're dealing with emotions, but also a lot of drug addicts and people with mental problems," McQueen said. "Recently, you started seeing a doubling of characters. You'd have five or six Spider-Mans or two Batmans. Basically, it disrespects the characters when someone is dressed up in a dirty Mickey Mouse costume or an ugly Bugs Bunny character."
McQueen -- who says he makes $75 on a good day -- has predicted that the LA Police would crack down on the bad apples dressing up as icons, but doesn't like being lumped in with people who aren't following the code of the street superhero.
According to the Edmonton Journal, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce requested increased police intervention, in part because of problems and complaints from tourists, businesses, and residents.
Some of the alleged incidents include Chewbacca headbutting a tour guide for complaining about his rude behavior, Spider-Man punching Charlie Chaplin in the face and a man dressed as KISS bassist Gene Simmons getting a little nasty with his long tongue.
Capt. Peter Whittingham of the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood station said that while arrests and citations were made for aggressive panhandling and interrupting the flow on the sidewalk, he added, "The police department would have no objections if these individuals had gone out there with respect and conducted themselves in such a manner as to properly represent the Hollywood community."
Although some of those arrested were wanted on warrants, and one was a registered sex offender, McQueen says the police approach of controlling the problem was arbitrary and unfairly lumped some hardworking honest superheroes in with people who didn't take the job seriously.
"I tried to work this past Saturday," McQueen said. "A friend said he had it worked out, but within 40 minutes, an officer came and tried to arrest me and Edward Scissorhands. I told him, 'There's no law against people making money in a costume.' He said, 'You're loitering.'
"The judge is tired of seeing costumed characters in court. It's like California is down so they want everyone else to be down. My rights are being violated as a person and an artist. People are getting shot and raped, but they're not going after them!"
McQueen has tried to get a street performer's license in nearby Santa Monica, but says the characters there have their own community and are going to start doing a lottery pick system.
"They should do that in Hollywood," he added.
"I really would like to have classes on how to react to aggressive tourists," he said. "Sometimes people say something and I've seen some characters just snap. When that happens, I tell the characters to just say, 'Have a nice day!'"
Dennis is also trying to lobby a lawyer to defend heroes like him pro bono. He is also rallying support from celebrities.
"So far, Jimmy Kimmel is a big supporter -- I've been on his show 96 times -- as well as Andy Dick and Mark McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the orginal 'Superman' movie," Dennis said proudly.
Right now, he says there is a slight loophole, one he is trying to leap through in a single bound.
"Unless you are handing out flyers for a store, [the police] will arrest you," Dennis said, adding that connections built over 19 years of being super have helped him land those coveted jobs.
But Dennis sees the super-shakedown as bad for more than just his livelihood.
"This has pulled the heart out of Hollywood," he said. "The tourists are disappointed. They say, 'I wanted to get pictures of the kids with the characters,' and businesses are down.
"A lot of times, people look at the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and don't look up to see the shops. Well, we made them look up and, in the process, we could get them to see a great souvenir shop or a restaurant."