Elmo, Batman, and Hello Kitty joining forces? Sounds like the plot of the next Avengers movie, but it's actually an effort by Times Square's costumed characters to improve their working conditions. The people inside the costumes tell the New York Daily News that things have gotten harder since the NYPD increased scrutiny of the characters. Police have been distributing information telling tourists that tipping for photos isn't required, the Daily News notes; cops are calling their effort "Operation Character Flaw," the Wall Street Journal reports.
"We realized we needed to unite when we started seeing the bad publicity,” says Jorge Luis, 37, aka Batman. "People don't see us with respect." Adds Yamil Morales, 37, a Penguin look-alike: "People look at the fliers and they treat us like criminals." Some 50 characters are working with immigrants' rights group La Fuente to improve their standing. "They have been here earning tips for several years now. But this is the first time they will need to speak up as a group," says a rep for the organization. (Read more Times Square stories.)