A Real Life Watchman, An Interview with The Eye
By Robert "Horror Bob" Masters
For Horror Bob's Blog
For my interview this month I have the honor of having one of a distinguished group of people known as The Real Life Super Heroes. Though I will not give his true name for anonymity, my guest is known in the ranks of real crime fighters as The Eye.
Welcome. It is such an honor.
The Eye: Greetings, everyone! I’m pleased to be here.
Horror Bob: Tell my readers about your movement, what is RLSH all about?
The Eye: It takes many forms, really, from charity outreach, to raising social awareness, battling apathy, to actual, down and dirty crime fighting. One thing it is not, and should not be considered, is an opportunity for vigilante justice. That’s right out.
Horror Bob: How long has your movement been around?
The Eye: That’s hard to pinpoint. Although I began what I do in the early 1980’s, I know that it’s been going on in one form or another for several decades. There was a fellow that was around in the South Bay Area (what most would simply call “Silicon Valley” these days) who dressed in the style of “The Lone Ranger”, complete with mask, and called himself “The Road Ranger”, helping stranded motorists in his little white pickup truck along Highway 101, carrying things like common-size radiator hoses and clamps, extra petrol, tire repair equipment, etc. He was one of my earliest inspirations, back in the 1960’s.
Horror Bob: Do I call you a real life super hero or masked crime fighter or simply RLSHer?
The Eye: Although I have gotten lumped into the RLSH category (and over the years, I don’t really care if I’m referred to that way, as I used to), I’m more of an actual “crime fighter”, per se, both through my own individual efforts and vigilance, as well as being a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain. My entire region knows me, and is familiar with me as “The Eye”.
Horror Bob: What is the difference between a RLSH member and a vigilante?
The Eye: A vigilante simply goes out and punishes whom they perceive to be deserving recipients of their so-called “street justice”, but in fact by doing so, they just brand themselves as another form of criminal. A RLSH, on the other hand, at least to my way of thinking, is more of a social activist, trying to raise public awareness of important social issues, provide charity outreach, helping others wherever they can, in addition to performing crime fighting actions, such as Mister Xtreme of San Diego, posting flyers of wanted persons of interest, resulting (hopefully) in an arrest based upon the help of a more aware and informed public. And of course, to intervene (only if welcomed to do so) in helping individuals with immediate circumstances of need, such as in an assault, or car accident. In these instances, lending only what help is legal, appropriate, and clearly desired by the recipients.
Horror Bob: What does it take to be an RLSHer?
The Eye: That depends of what kind of RLSHer you want to become, or have your “origin” be (comic book reference, there). If you are like me, and want to be an actual de facto “crime fighter”, you may wish to become proficient in the martial arts, and certified in a course of instruction as a Private Investigator, and work with such tools as Crimestoppers or your local police department’s tip line. Becoming a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, as I did, is another way of legitimizing your crime fighting and crime prevention efforts. If however, you do not have such leanings, and say, for example, you are a musician or artist, you could funnel your talents into that direction. Such an individual could create an art charity auction, to raise funds for a homeless shelter, as an example. Your don’t need super powers to be a RLSHer…just skills, useful attributes, and a giving heart.
Horror Bob: How did you get involved in the movement?
The Eye: I was involved way before there was a movement. Back in the 1980’s, I did crime fighting and investigation on my own, doing undercover work for Crimestoppers-attached police detectives, providing valuable information related to such things as drug dealing, counterfeited watch sales, and more, under various code names. My very first code name was “Kaneda”, from the anime and manga “Akira”. Over the years, the movement arose around such people as myself, slowly putting out feelers to see who else was doing this thing we do. My first such contact back then was Captain Jackson, of Michigan, and his lady The Queen of Hearts. I was invited to join his Crime Fighter Corps., and have been an honorary member ever since.
Horror Bob: I’ve seen in your posts on Facebook that you mention another RLSHer named Miss Mystery. Is she your sidekick, like Robin to Batman?
The Eye: That would be Lady Mystery, my wife, partner in crime fighting (and everything else). I gave her the name “Lady Mystery” after she did some undercover work of her own, working for an agency that wanted to investigate the quality of care at local rest homes for the elderly. She created a pretext of looking for the right place for her “mother”, using the experience of her actual ailing grandmother at the time to lend authenticity to her role. Since no-one at any of these facilities had a clue as to her real identity, and her reports were submitted and acted upon successfully, I thought the name “Lady Mystery” quite appropriate, and it stuck.
Horror Bob: How is being a real super hero different from what we see in the comics?
The Eye: The translation to reality. A lot of RLSHers don’t have the ability or know-how to accomplish this, and get into trouble, as some have lately. In my case, one of my prime inspirations was the 1960’s television series “The Greet Hornet” with Van Williams and Bruce Lee. In the series, the Green Hornet and his sidekick Kato portrayed alleged bad guys in the eyes of the police in general, so as to better to infiltrate and defeat the criminal underworld, posing as crime bosses themselves. The only person who knew The Green Hornet and Kato’s true identities was the District Attorney, Frank Scanlon, who was the crime-fighting duo’s official but secret ally. When the Green Hornet and Kato got the goods on the bad guys, they would contact DA Scanlon, who would then swoop in to clean up and arrest all of them, with the Hornet always getting away in the (planned) nick of time.
That’s the fantasy. Nice, if it worked, but being considered a wanted criminal by all but one key police official simply would not work in the real world. The translation into reality, and what I took away from that show, was that parts of it could work very well indeed. If one was considered a legitimate anti-crime personality by way of eventually becoming a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain with the nickname of “The Eye”, owing to my actual certification of training and experience as a pro bono Private Investigator, one could then have an open conduit of information exchange (as much as the law allows, anyway) between oneself and the police, that serves both very well. In essence, such a crime fighter may still “observe and report” just as any regular citizen could and should, but I have found that when a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain makes such a report, it is acted upon with greater enthusiasm and swiftness, because in such a role you are basically considered an adjunct to the actual police force, as an extra set of reliable eyes and ears for them, for crime detection. That’s how you do it right, and translate it into reality. Vigilantism, and walking around, say, with a painted riot shield, with the result getting your head crimped by police batons, thinking you’re some kind of “Captain America” (as has actually happened during the recent Occupy Oakland movement protests to one hapless alleged RLSHer), is not the right way to do it. Period.
Horror Bob: Given the nature of your work the idea of being killed on the job must be a constant thought in your head. Why would you risk your life for strangers?
The Eye: Because a society must protect its own, and demonstrate a willingness to do so, if that society is to survive as a whole. Ask any group of people responding to a car crash, coming together to rescue the occupants of a burning car. The instinct to do the right thing is right there, all the time, just under the surface. They don’t ask themselves why, they just do it, because it’s the right thing to do. If the day ever came where everyone did that, then there would be no need for RLSHers. And that would be a Very Good Day indeed.
Horror Bob: How do the law enforcement agencies feel about your movement?
The Eye: Very nervously. And rightly so, owing to recent events with RLSHers in the news, such as with so-called RLSHers “Ray” (the Occupy Oakland incident), and “Phoenix Jones” (pepper-spraying innocent folks up in Seattle). Recently, I was contacted by my “Commissioner Gordon”, Mountain View Police spokesperson Liz Wylie, saying that a local news crew contacted her, to see if they could do an interview with me regarding the above RLSH incidents. To her relief, I told her to tell them no, because our city does not need that kind of ridiculous publicity. She told them that I work with them in the capacity of a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, and that I was one of the best ones she had, doing what I do. Most of the time, we have a nice, quiet city, because working in partnership with the local police, I keep it that way. Or at least the part I patrol, anyway.
Horror Bob: What do you say to people who say that people in your movement are delusional and need to grow up?
The Eye: Pretty much what you just said. I tell them that movies like “Kick Ass” may be entertaining, but are no metric to measure how you should go about actualizing being a RLSH. And whenever incidents occur where a RLSH gets a serious case of stupid, I let the public very clearly know what these RLSHers did wrong, and hopefully they learn something from it. If not, then the lessons they need will unfold, in the fullness of time, perhaps at the business end of a police baton, if need be, wielded by an officer fully-grounded in the reality of crime-fighting.
Horror Bob: Recently, a dear friend of mine saved a woman who was being attacked by a man with a razor knife. How would you as an RLSHer handle this situation?
The Eye: I know the person in question, as he is a friend of mine as well. He handled the situation excellently, under the circumstances, and with all available tools at his disposal. Since there is no way for anyone with sanity to block a knife by hand, he used a large plastic garbage bin, picking it up and using it as a defensive measure, thereby protecting himself and the victim from further serious injury. Any RLSHer would have done much the same, after first ensuring (like he did), that the victim indeed desired his help.
Horror Bob: What kind of defensive measures would you use in this situation?
The Eye: As described above, what he did was excellent. If such a tool of opportunity was not available, alternate methods might have been sounding a loud personal alarm, to cause the attacker to flee (being afraid of detection), in addition to brandishing a stun device or deploying pepper spray (after a warning, and assurance that your protective efforts are wanted, I can’t stress this one enough). Also, a bright strobe device, such as I carry, especially at night (of course), would also be excellent for putting your attacker at a tactical disadvantage, all done non-lethally, of course.
Horror Bob: What are some of the devices RLSHers commonly use for defense and crime fighting?
The Eye: From the legal to the very illegal, unfortunately. Depending on the area of legality, you may find RLSHers carrying such things as stun guns, pepper or bear spray, batons, even blades, in some cases. My devices are all non-lethal, and some, in particular the sonic and light-emitting devices I use, are designed to disorient and create a psychological and tactical advantage for the user, an aspect of personal protection not utilized enough in the RLSH community. If you can accomplish your goal of defending yourself and any possible victims using non-lethal devices and the psychological factor, you are then able to achieve a higher form of crime fighting and prevention. As it has been said, from Chapter Three of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
Horror Bob: I saw on YouTube that there is also a movement called The Real Life Super Villains. Do you know anything about this movement? If so, are they a problem for RLSHers?
The Eye: Not in any way an actual threat. They are primarily jokesters and pranksters, who at times yield interesting and biting commentary on the more egotistical of us in the RLSH world, and offer a good counter-balance to what we do, which is actually helpful, and tends to keep us honest. In many ways, they are the satirists of the RLSH world, and say the things that often need to be said and heard, whether we like to or not.
Horror Bob: The last few years there have been movies out about real superheroes, like Kick Ass, Super, and Someone’s Hero. In these films the super heroes use extreme violent methods, including the use of fire arms. Is there any truth to this in the real movement?
The Eye: As mentioned earlier in this interview, such as the events in Oakland, CA, and Seattle, WA, when such over-the-top things occur, they are usually dealt with by the authorities with swift justice, and a well-deserved kick in the pants, as they should be.
Horror Bob: How do RLSHers feel about the way they are portrayed in these films?
The Eye: Those of us who are doing it right are not pleased about it, because anyone new to the community thinks that we are doing it just like in the films, or only just recently started doing it because of the films (when many of us have been doing this since before the filmmakers graduated elementary school), and unfortunately, there are those wannabe’s that see a film like “Kick Ass”, and think “OMG that’s so cool”, and go out and try to make *that* a reality, which is a deadly mistake, and go and put together a throw-together “super suit”, grab a couple of nunchucks and swords, and think they’re going to change the world. Idiots.
Horror Bob: There are people who dress up as real super heroes. These people do photo shoots and put out comics calling themselves RLSHers. I’m am personally offended by the fact that people like this take the honorable position of real life super hero and use it to feed their egos, promote themselves, and profit off of what you do as a service to your community. How do you feel about this and them?
The Eye: There are lots of folks who put on costumes, either as their own, self-created RLSH persona, or even cosplayers who dress up as known comic book superheroes, for charity events. Even if a cosplayer might not want to become an actual RLSH, and merely want to put forth the heroic image to inspire others, that’s fine. In my book, they’re still doing something “heroic” in helping others. But therein lies the rub: *Are* they actually doing such heroic, symbolic deeds, or only using super-heroic imagery and a costume to promote their own agenda, without actually contributing in any way to the kinds of varied efforts that actual RLSHers do? If they are claiming to be a RLSH, and don’t have anything tangible to show for it except obvious show-boating, then they need to go play somewhere else. Preferably in traffic.
Horror Bob: HBO produced a documentary on your movement titled Super Hero. What are your feelings on this production?
The Eye: Actually, I am in that particular documentary. Only to a small extent in the main feature, but both myself and Lady Mystery have a three minute special feature on the film, where we get to talk about what we do, demo a few gadgets, and so forth. I think it goes a long way to show what a widely diverse group of people are doing this sort of thing. If you get a chance to view it, you may laugh, you may think parts are cool, but the main thing I got out of watching it, even though I was in it, was that there was a common thread running through it all that although our methods may not be the same, we all have the desire to help and protect others, and I thought that overall that was pretty cool.
Horror Bob: What do you see for the future of your movement?
The Eye: Now that it’s been established, has it own nomenclature, and has been around for a while, and has become a full-blown sub-culture (thanks to excellent films like “Mystery Men”, which was a much better primer than “Kick Ass” by far, and is hella funny, too), I think it will be interesting to see how it evolves, over time. My hope is that through sharing and teaching the right way to work with law enforcement whilst doing this, will go a long way to ironing out the kinks that current events have surfaced, and that people desiring to do what we now do in the future will come to it with a sense of legacy, and want to become a positive part of that.
Horror Bob: How can people find out more about RLSH?
The Eye: To start out with, simply do a search on “RLSH, Superheroes” (just “RLSH” will get you results with all kinds of acronyms that use those same letters, so adding “Superheroes” to it will get you where you need to go). Doing so will also likely get you results leading to the documentary “Superheroes”, which is entertaining, and an excellent primer for anyone curious about the movement. I highly recommend it.
Horror Bob: Is there anything more you would like to tell the public?
The Eye: Just remember that you don’t need a cape, goggles, a mask, or superpowers to do what RLSHers do. Each person has their own attributes and skills, inborn and learned talents, that they can use creatively to help their fellow citizens. If you take some time and look inward, your inner RLSH will be encouraged to surface, and help make the world a better place. As a I say in the closure of my handbook “So you want to be a crime-fighter?”, you don’t need a costume or gadgets to do what we do…It’s just more fun that way.
I would like to thank The Eye for myself and my readers for giving us these insights into his world. I know for myself I feel a bit safer knowing that there are people like The Eye in the world.
This is Horror Bob saying, Keep on Creepin’