Defying Gravity: 'Birdman' and 'French Spiderman'

VIDEO: Jeb Corliss childhood desire to fly was inspiration behind his flight suit.
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Alain Robert and Jeb Corliss are two men who've never met, yet they share many of the same experiences. They're both risk takers driven by their fears.

One scales steel and glass towers, while the other soars through the air.

Corliss, 34, uses a flying squirrel-style wing-suit to travel at speeds of up to 300 mph and steer through the air during freefall.

VIDEO: Jeb Corliss explains how flying squirrel-style wing-suit allows him to soar.
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"If you want to do something spectacular, something special, you have to be willing to take really unique risks," said Corliss.

Corliss described his childhood as unhappy and isolated. By his teens, he said, he was suicidal.

"I didn't really care, nothing mattered to me," Corliss said. "And all I know is that feeling made me want to do things that were really, really dangerous."

Base jumping -- freefalling from high structures -- became his passion, and he jumped from iconic landmarks across the globe.

"In my search for death I really did find my life," Corliss said.

Birdman and Spiderman Defy Gravity
'Birdman' and 'Spiderman' Defy Gravity

Flying Man's Next Exploit: Matterhorn

Forever pushing the limits, Corliss moved on to wing-suit flying, which allowed him to fulfill his childhood dream.

"I was about 5 years old and I was watching these birds, and I remember seeing them open their wings and start to fly," said Corliss. "And I remember going, you know what, when I get older I'm going to do that."

In 2007, Corliss flew past the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil. He describes that flight as amazing but felt he wasn't close enough to anything -- so he set his sights on the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

VIDEO: Building climber Alain Robert hangs from ceiling at home to stay in super shape.
Real-Life Spiderman Alain Robert Works Out

Now he trains constantly to avoid missteps, like the one he had in Italy while training to fly off the Matterhorn.

His parachute got caught on some branches during his descent, and he broke his hand in two places. He was still determined to get to the Matterhorn in the Alps.

Last year, with his left hand broken, and armed with his trademark cameras that document all his flights, Corliss jumped out of a helicopter at 16,000 feet. He flew at speeds of almost 200 mph, in the coldest temperatures he's ever flown.

How does the suit enable him to fly like a bird? It has vents that fill with air as he falls, inflating his "wings" and allowing him to slide against the air.

At one point on the way down the mountain, Corliss felt he was too close to the mountain, he said, but courage led the way down.

"It's all bonus time as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I've already lived my life 10 times over. If I died tomorrow doing what I love, I don't want anyone to cry for me. Everyone should throw a celebration, because I died doing what I loved."

'French Spiderman' Aims High

Alain Robert is also in the business of challenging himself to challenge his fears. At 47, Robert is known as the French Spiderman.

He lives in a small town in southern France but has traveled all around the world, scaling the tallest buildings he can reach.

For Robert, being daring is funny because as a kid, he said, he didn't have a lot of self-confidence.

Robert found his calling at age 11. Rock climbing with the Boy Scouts was the spark, but forgetting his keys at home brought it to another level.

"I left them in my house and my parents were both working, so I decided that I was going to climb my parents' building, and I did it successfully," said Robert.

To date, Robert has climbed more than 70 skyscrapers around the world, including Shanghai's tallest building, the Jin Mao Tower, in 2007. That ascent was caught on tape.

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