Real-life gadgets for real-life superheroes


November 8, 2010

Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton

Rochester, Minnesota's Geist, with his stun baton

Image Gallery (24 images)

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

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

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

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

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

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 for their help with this article.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

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.

Mark in MI

Everyone wants to be KickAss

Tom Sobieski

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.

Joshua Kramer

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.

Nick Rowney


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.

Rlsh Geist

This is seriously cool. Keep up the good work, guys.

Kawika Heftel

They look more of a villain to me (:

Del Greg

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:

But also this:

And if you want to learn more about us, there\'s also: 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.)

Rlsh Geist

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"


Whatever happened to the good ol\' days? You know, heroes like the Punisher, Jim West, the Lone Ranger, or even the average American ninja? Maybe even the occasional villain-turned-hero; like Hannibal Lector in \"Hannibal Rising\", \"Red Dragon\", and \"Silence Of the Lambs\"? I think I\'d even go with the Joker\'s method of tricking out simple novelty items into potentially deadly weapons, and setting elaborate traps... Of course, I\'m not planning to become a superhero: I get money without being able to work, I have nothing but time on my hands, and few people even know who I am (IRL). Besides, my dad was a Vietnam vet, I was kicked out of the Army for being too dangerous to continue BCT, and I firmly believe in the Bible\'s sense of vengeance... oh, did I mention I also happen to be blessed with the divine gift men call \"madness\"? Nope, no way I\'d be a vigilante superhero...

David Miller


Well, for one thing, most of us are doing our best not to actually hurt people OR break the laws in our states.

That also means that we\'re not vigilantes, but more like legal protectors. A lot of us think of ourselves as citizen patrollers, another set of eyes and ears for the police. And calling the police would be our first response to a problem. But until they get there, we\'re there to protect you with legal means and every citizen\'s right to defend ourselves or innocents from harm.

We don\'t take the law into our own hands, but only exercise the same legal rights that you or anyone in the U.S. has. The word vigilante doesn\'t apply here, My Friend. We\'re here to help and protect, not to harm.

Sound okay?

Rlsh Geist

And ForFreedom?

I think you get it, Man. Thank YOU...

Rlsh Geist

Hey Artisteroi when you get that suit built if you need any testers let me know haha


I\"m right there with Joshua. Sorry, running around in tights with a flash light and spray paint is only going to get you killed and your family left without a father/mother. You do something like this, pack on REAL body armor, REAL weapons, and you sure as hell don\'t go walking around without your mask \"helping children\" and letting people know who you are. Especially since then they can go and kill/rape/burn your family alive in your own house.

At the very least, pack a spud gun like Master Legend. He\'s the only half-way reasonable one of the people listed here.

Oh, and shooting/killing an assailant is completely legal in every state. Just FYI.

Racqia Dvorak

Hmm... It almost sounds as if you need a super villain, just for balance.

Very well, happy to oblige.


lets just hope these powers don\'t fall into the wrong hands... maybe i should submit my Ninja crime fighting weapons, i\'v got a few inventions up my sleeve that i think yall would like.

Gabriel Grove

ah! the good old cup, can\'t leave home without that.

Hoodoo Yootink

@ Racqia: No shooting an assailant is absolutely NOT legal in every state. Try even owning a handgun in NY or Massachusetts. I happen to live in NH, where you can shoot someone for having a bad haicut, but not every state has these relaxed self defense, or lethal force laws.

I for one happen to think of myself as a Punisher type. I am definitely not a hero, but you try victimizing me and you will be tangling with an armed (Glock 26), 6\'5\" weight-lifter with extensive martial arts training, kevlar hard-knuckle gloves, a spring-assisted knife, a SOG Seal Pup and a very big chip on his shoulder.

The only difference between me and everyone else is that I don\'t wear a mask and I could give a shit about stopping crime. Also, if anyone tried \"burning down my house\" they would be met with another Glock, a Mossberg 500 12 gauge, and last but certainly not least, an AR-15. Now those are.some fucking super-powers.

Gabriel Price

As I read this and started reading comments I could only shake my head in disbelief. What these guys do is not normal by any means which is what makes them a HERO. I patrol my streets but am no hero but if I can help make my streets safer for normal citizens or if I can help save one person or change one persons life for the better then it is all worth it. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke) If you think Evil does not exist then you should take a long hard look at your own streets. Crime is out of control, and the Police do all they can but with out the help of citizens they are out numbered. It's not hard to see that if something is not done to reverse the rolls that this country is taking then by the time people wake up to whats really going on with the crime it will be to late. "Its better to die helping another then to live blindly and in fear of what MIGHT happen" Wake up people it's time to take our streets back from the scum that prey on the innocent and the weak. If we rise up and take a stand we can stop them. THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE WHO PATROL TO HELP KEEP PEOPLE SAFE!!!! As a society we have gotten complacent in allowing others to do the things that no one else wants to do! You can act like the "BADASS" and that might work for you, You can be the Scared one that hides from the truth and think nothing is wrong or You can be a HERO! Time to choose America, I know where I will stand. What will it take for you to decide where you will stand before it's to late? Life is too short to worry about what MIGHT happen! Not a Hero just someone who is ready to protect the innocent from the Crime that has consumed our nation!

Not a super hero

I regularly break the law as a protector (I hate the term Real Life Super Hero). I have spent about 2 million on my equipment, training and vehicle. I have broken bones (mine and there's), been shot, knocked out a police officer and stopped many muggings, rapes, assaults and even a couple of murders and a bank robbery. I have no problem with breaking the law to help people. I only took out the cop because he thought i had caused a problem, and wearing a crimson and black fully body suit definitely doesn't improve my image. But it sends the message I want to send and that is to fear me. I never tell the police what i'm doing and i don't have a street presence. i work from my car (a sweet Nissan R35 with a slight increase in horse power and armour) and the roof tops. From there I have a good view, can hit things from a long range and can drop down onto people. And I can tell you it scares the shit out of everyone. I have cameras set up, a brilliant pulley system (so i can drop down on people without killing them or me) and stashes of equipment on rooftops around my neighbor hood.

I can tell you I operate better then a single police officer or even most groups of so called RLSH. All because I am more determined and don't work with anyone. I wish more would follow suit.

Paul Shelton

I have many things to say: FIrst, to the last comment by Paul Shelton (If that's your real name, it's not very smart of you no offense). If this guy is not full of BS then he is a REAL Super hero. He actually gets stuff DONE. Everyone has always laughed at me for saying that I have always wanted to one day be the FIRST real super hero but it looks like mr. paul shelton here beat me to it. The reason I am not a real super hero yet, is because at the moment, I am not a wealthy person...yet. Which you would have to be to ever REALLY be a Super Hero.

All these other guys in the article are no more than "community helpers" which is good and you are all good people, but you give the term SUPER hero a bad name. Cause your not SUPER. Some may call you a hero, but putting on a dorky costume does not make you a super hero. A real super hero FIGHTS crime, like the gentleman above stated. He does real investigative, spying, FIGHTING, and other potentially illegal "cop-like" work without needing a warrant to do so. And I agree with him that yes, a REAL super hero not only fights, but DOES in fact break the law sometimes to get the REAL bad guys out of the streets. And I'm not saying killing people, but beating them up, stun gunning, gassing, or whatever, and then tie them up until the cops get there with evidence taped or recorded for the officers to make the arrests. That's what a REAL super hero should do. Things like that. And if you are not protected fully in kevlar or else highly trained in combat, or have high tech gagets, or preferably all of these things and more, then EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU "so called" super heros would get killed if ever presented to real danger to knives and bullets.

Bottom line. I want to be a real super hero some day for real, but to get there, I need to have money. In the real world "with great money, comes great responsiblity" when it comes to real world super heroes. The rest of don't need to wear a mask to help people in your community. Your only dressing up to look cool, even though you all look like dorks. lol. You put to shame the real ideal of being a SUPER hero. If you cannot handle taking on 20 guys with automatic weapons, then you shouldn't call yourself a super hero. You are a very good person in a dorky outfit doing absolutely nothing to really FIGHT crime.

Rules of a Super Hero in the real world:

Have a great heart to do well and put others before yourself. (which you all do, and I solute you for that. You all have potential.)

Have the money to supply yourself with high tech gagetry and non-lethal but painful weapons either built in to the suit, or attached to the suit. (some of you may have but probably don't use)

Suit needs to have the strongest bullet/knife proof wear available.

Suit needs to look cool if you are to truley scare the bad guys and not make them laugh at you. None of your suits look cool. You all look like dorks no offense.

Need to have survailance and audio/video recording devices to collect evidence on people.

And really guys, to be considered "Super", you really need to have either a super power (not possible in this day in age), or have gadgets that allow you to do amazing things that other people can't do like for instance, scaling walls very rapidly, artificial robotic muscles to give you more strength, invisibility clothe for cloaking yourself (not available to the public unfortunatly), flying or gliding, etc.

I don't mean to make fun cause you guys are really doing good for people and have great hearts. Take it as constuctive critisism, before you get yourselves killed. To be a super hero is to be aggressive. What super hero have you ever heard of that ISN"T aggressive to get things done. answer: none. They are all aggressive. and to be a real CRIME FIGHTER, you need to have the funds to make yourself almost invincible, manuverable, have the gadgets, and have the heart and courage to really fight to get the bad guys off the streets. That's a real life super hero.

Future Super Hero

I'm sorry, Mr. Future Super Hero, but you have a problem. See, in this comic world where these 'real' super heroes exist, there is also REAL PSYCHOTIC in a very theatrical way super VILLAINS. You sound like you want to be Batman. In reality: Batman doesn't work. You have to kill some people, you have to dig deep if you want to be a cop. Someone working outside the law is going to have to kill more people, do worse things if they plan on being as offensive as you claim. I plan to be a cop. I plan to be the closest thing you ever will see to a RLSH by your definition. Because the type of money you're talking about, you're either born into or you're born with the ability to obtain. As in, you're a genius or something.

As for the REAL real life superheroes; I salute you. You are doing an amazing job. And going to hanging out with the kids, doing public service: that is the best thing you do. You save peoples lives and give people hope. One day -and that day is coming soon- we will need people like you to rise up. One day, you might even be called to do more. I know that as you have done this so far, you will do as you are called. And so will I.

Courtney Beebe

at least their trying to help. it's better to do something small then nothing at all

Necarsa Rose

we can only do the best we can at the worst of time we are the only ones who try and by we i mean every one the has ever helped another


You should have abnormal speed or fighting abilities, and wear a bulletproof vest. Knive resistance gloves and clothes. And use the gadgets to improve your power and defense. I hope all the reael life superheroes undersand that you musst have the power in order to change anything.. What do you do if 5 people going against you, then you need not a real life superhero, but a real life training and nasty martial art skills. Then if you can do that easy maybe you can look for trouble :)

Mentallis Hall
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