Spy Gear

Real-life gadgets for real-life superheroes

Real-life gadgets for real-lif...
Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton
Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton
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Monterey, California's Mega-Rad, and his kangaroo-leg-like powerbocks
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Monterey, California's Mega-Rad, and his kangaroo-leg-like powerbocks
Some of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
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Some of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
Some of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
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Some of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
One of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
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One of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
One of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
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One of Artisteroi's sketches for the Iron Rad suit
Artisteroi's Iron Claw, for use in the Iron Rad suit
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Artisteroi's Iron Claw, for use in the Iron Rad suit
A fog gun created by Artisteroi
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A fog gun created by Artisteroi
Some of the gear carried by Geist
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Some of the gear carried by Geist
Some of the gear carried by Geist, including bolas made from metal weights and fishing line
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Some of the gear carried by Geist, including bolas made from metal weights and fishing line
Orlando, Florida's Master Legend, with his Master Blaster cannon
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Orlando, Florida's Master Legend, with his Master Blaster cannon
The Eye's Strobo-Gat, a re-purposed 1920's style costume Tommy gun with a strobe flash built into it
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The Eye's Strobo-Gat, a re-purposed 1920's style costume Tommy gun with a strobe flash built into it
The Eye's Laser Wand
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The Eye's Laser Wand
The Eye's Eyeluminator, a five-LED wrist brace
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The Eye's Eyeluminator, a five-LED wrist brace
The Eye's Fedora Light
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The Eye's Fedora Light
The Eye's Dragon's Eye Ring
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The Eye's Dragon's Eye Ring
The Eye's Nightmare Cane
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The Eye's Nightmare Cane
The magnetic attachment on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
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The magnetic attachment on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
The LED light on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
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The LED light on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
The claw attachment on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
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The claw attachment on The Eye's Nightmare Cane
One of a pair of Blue Custom Bracers, made by RLSH outfitter Gadgetastic
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One of a pair of Blue Custom Bracers, made by RLSH outfitter Gadgetastic
The Eye, and some of his custom gadgets
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The Eye, and some of his custom gadgets
A foldable staff created by Artisteroi
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A foldable staff created by Artisteroi
Some of Artisteroi's creations
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Some of Artisteroi's creations
Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton
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Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton

Yes, there are real-life superheroes. And no, we’re not just referring to firefighters, paramedics, and other heroic people who we’re used to seeing coming to the rescue of others. We’re talking about costume-wearing, identity-concealing, cool-name-having people who fight crime, pollution, or other evils in their own communities, on their own time, and at their own risk. Many of them actually patrol the city streets, ready to intervene if they see trouble brewing – and being ready includes having the right tools. Given that none of these people have Bruce Wayne’s budget, however, their gadgets tend to be less like Batmobile clones, and more like... well, read on and see for yourself.

Off-the-rack items

Some of the gear carried by Geist
Some of the gear carried by Geist

First of all, there are some household products that are popular in the RLSH (Real Life Superhero) community, including flashlights, first aid kits, mobile phones, cameras, and zip ties, to use as handcuffs. When it comes to preparing for physical confrontations, some not-so-household ready-made devices come into play, such as Kevlar vests, body armor, pepper spray, and telescoping batons. Moving up the ladder to the realm of “Is that even legal?”, a few RLSHs carry tasers, wrist rocket sling shots, and blast knuckles, which are shaped like brass knuckles and deliver an electric shock. Interestingly, we could only find one superhero who said they carry a firearm.

The Eye’s Custom Gear

The Eye, and some of his custom gadgets
The Eye, and some of his custom gadgets

Just as Spiderman is known for his web shooters and Wonder Woman for her golden lariat, so many RLSHs are known – at least within their community – for their custom-made gadgets. One in particular is The Eye, a kind of Dick Tracy-esque superhero who watches over the streets of Mountain View, California.

“Being a professional electronics tech from way back in my history, and being born and raised in Silicon Valley, I take great pleasure in the creation process, the sub-system testing, the final result, and a device's final effective usage in the field,” he told Gizmag. His mostly light-based doo-dads have a decidedly steampunk appeal, and include things such as...

  • The Wrist Blaster: a wrist-mounted and -activated camera strobe, which temporarily blinds assailants when fired at night (a similar device, The Eyeluminator, incorporates a five-LED flashlight)
  • Finger Devices: these include a finger-mounted butane torch, laser pointers, and the Dragon’s Eye Ring, which contains a high-intensity white LED
  • Sonic Screamer Tube: this one uses the electronics from a personal body alarm, transferred into a sound-concentrating steel tube
  • Laser Wand: a toy Harry Potter wand, retrofitted with a 95mW green laser module – useful for pointing things out to the police, or letting troublemakers know they’re being watched
  • The Nightmare Cane: inspired by a cane used by TV vampire Barnabas Collins, it sports an LED light, rare earth neodymium magnets for picking up metallic objects, a retractable claw hand for grabbing other items, and a video camera mount for peeking over obstacles

Master Legend and the Master Blaster

Orlando, Florida's Master Legend, with his Master Blaster cannon
Orlando, Florida's Master Legend, with his Master Blaster cannon

Over in the Southeastern U.S., Master Legend patrols the streets of Orlando, Florida. One of his trademark gadgets is a handheld cannon known as the Master Blaster. “The Master Blaster will shoot so high in the sky you won't see it come down,” he told us. “It can also blow a hole through a door. I can put anything in it that fits.”

He also uses custom body armor plates made from steel plating, and a closed-ended steel cylinder that slips over his hand and forearm, which he calls the Iron Fist. According to Master Legend, the device is capable of hurting somebody, or smashing a door down – not that he necessarily wants to hurt anybody. “Scaring someone is better than beating them up” he said.

Artisteroi – Just tell him what you need

Some of Artisteroi's creations
Some of Artisteroi's creations

Unlike The Eye and Master Blaster, the gadgets that Artisteroi makes aren’t for his own use. He has a degree in mechanical engineering, develops engineering software for a living, and has become one of a select group of people whom other superheroes turn to when it comes to getting devices made.

He is currently chief engineer on the Iron Rad suit project, in which several RLSH “gadgeteers” are collaborating on developing a sort of real life Iron Man suit. Mega-Rad, one of their fellow superheroes, is funding the project. According to him, some of the key features of the suit will include ballistic protection, light weight, strength amplification, sensory enhancement and non-lethal weaponry.

“Iron Rad is a bid to function in reality as a full time superhero, actually rescuing people, disrupting violent crimes, and doing some form of outreach toward the next generation of people (who could become bad guys) to try and help motivate them to become constructive and awesome members of society instead” he told us.

Right now, the suit is still largely on the drawing board. “All the parts of the Iron Rad suit are essentially existing tech that we intend to repurpose and shoehorn together into one system,” Artisteroi said. “We are just finishing up the ideation phase and beginning design and prototyping.”

Some of Artisteroi’s recent projects have included a fog gun, and a fighting staff that folds down into a compact carrying case. He is currently working on the Mega Claw, a spring-loaded mechanical hand for use in Iron Rad, that will be controlled by Mega-Rad’s own hand via cables attached to a control glove.

Putting it all to use

Monterey, California's Mega-Rad, and his kangaroo-leg-like powerbocks
Monterey, California's Mega-Rad, and his kangaroo-leg-like powerbocks

It’s obviously a lot of fun acquiring and/or fabricating these gadgets, but... do they actually end up seeing any use?

According to The Eye, absolutely. “My cane, the Fedora Light, the Eyeluminator, and the Dragon's Eye Ring are common-wear items, that I wear/use some combination of on every night patrol,” he said. “The Laser Wand I once used to spook some public park vandals away, by scanning it near their location.”

“As for the more offensive but legal items that I often carry, that I did not create, such as stun guns and pepper spray and such, I certainly hope I never have to use them, but am glad they are there if needed... I am always more pleased when my photonic, self-created devices are able to diffuse a situation before it escalates.”

Geist, a RLSH based out of Rochester, Minnesota, told us “I use a cell phone, flashlight and a can of gray spray paint all the time. The spray paint is to paint a neutral color over gang graffiti, thus reclaiming the neighborhood for the people and not the gangs. It's supposed to be a lethal insult to the gang (meaning they have the ‘right’ to kill you for doing it.).”

“I've not used my offensive or defensive weaponry and prefer I never do. I've talked down a lot of tense situations using diplomacy and reason. I'd really prefer that everyone just goes home and sobers up, rather than anyone going to jail.”

Artisteroi believes that the consumer products such as flashlights and body armor find use quite often, but the more exotic stuff – not so much. “That is a good thing, really,” he added. “The real world is a lot more stable than the chaos of the comics. If we had to use these expensive tools all the time, being a superhero would cost a fortune.”

Special thanks to the administrators and forum members of Real Life Superheroes.org for their help with this article.

27 comments
Mark in MI
I started to wonder what kind of body armor they might wear other than the Master Legend steel plates, thinking: hmm, would be useful for some of these guys to have some simple armor to wear under outer clothing, then I saw the cup in the first picture. There ya go.
Tom Phoghat Sobieski
Everyone wants to be KickAss
Joshua Kramer
As I read this article, I was like... *really*? What do these, uh, \"heroes\" hope to do or defend against? Do they *really* think that slingshot is useful for *anything* in an urban setting? What\'s going to happen when one of them encounters someone who is really serious, and the \"hero\" finds himself on the wrong end of a .45? You\'ll need some serious shielding and defensive moves for that. A taser or even a light weapon won\'t work here. And then if you use your 95mw laser to blind the perpetrator he will come back and sue you for all you\'re worth. Or what happens when there\'s an undercover cop making an arrest and one of these yahoos mistakes what he\'s seeing and tries to \"intervene\"? Seriously people... Stuff like this is just ridiculous and is going to end up getting somebody killed.
Nick Rowney
Yo Joshua, you need to lighten up dude. And as for getting someone killed have you ever looked at hand gun deaths in the US, people are getting killed every day. Now is indeed the time for Super Heroes.
Rlsh Geist
Joshua, We certainly DO realize that someday one or more of us will be killed while using absolutely legal offensive and defensive armaments. And, unlike our police, we\'re not paid to do this. I might venture to suggest that that\'s possibly what makes \"Heroes\" a deserving part of the media-prescribed title, \"Real-Life Superhero.\" We know what might and eventually will happen. And Mark, just to be clear My Friend, Mark Millar\'s very fun and over-the-top comic and movie, \"Kick-Ass\" copied US. Not the other way around. We\'ve been doing this for quite some time. I suspect that he even used well-publicized fact (the briefcase in the graphic novel) that I was well-known for selling my comics to fund my Real-Life Superhero exploits. Nice article, Ben! Thank you for your kind attention. All My Best, Geist
Rlsh Geist
Oh, and Nick... Thank you, Man. I appreciate your support.
Kawika Heftel
This is seriously cool. Keep up the good work, guys.
Del Greg
They look more of a villain to me (:
Rlsh Geist
Heya Del Greg, I understand what you\'re saying. On the one hand, we want to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, ala The Shadow, The Green Hornet, or whoever inspires us, yet when cameras aren\'t present, I patrol with my mask down around my neck and walk into Ronald McDonald House or various other charities with a smile and an armful of toys or other needed items. We have the whole dual-purpose thing going on. There\'s this: http://i266.photobucket.com/albums/ii262/Geist_rlsh/DSC01569_2.jpg But also this: http://i266.photobucket.com/albums/ii262/Geist_rlsh/l_4ab45c8ef35d5a81a5483180e1e428de.jpg http://i266.photobucket.com/albums/ii262/Geist_rlsh/l_ceb6cac3b2cedb67710c0047a1f5f8c1.jpg ______________________ And if you want to learn more about us, there\'s also: www.reallifesuperheroes.com and The book \"I, Superhero\" recently available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, etc. (No, I don\'t get a cut, but I did become friends with the author during the course of the interviews / exploits and hope to see him do well.) I fully appreciate the questions, comments and even the criticisms of the RLSH movement. It\'s a weird and large concept to \"get\" and we know that. And, there are a lot of pre-conceived fallacies about it, too. It takes a lot to wrap your brain around it. I can\'t say that I did in a week or two. All My Best, Geist (Geeze, I hope you don\'t think I\'m spamming your site, but I do want to respond to questions and issues if I\'m able.)
4Freedom
Thanks to all the RLSHs. You are the inspiration that this world needs to become a better place. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"