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.