Thanks to a good friend of mine, fellow Huffington Post Blogger Darius Schwarz, I was recently introduced to my all-time favorite Real Life Superhero (RLSH), Seattle's own El Caballero of the Rain City Superhero Movement.
The consummate gentleman (he's a real knight!) sat down to talk about his origins as a crime-fighter, what makes a superhero, and how you can join the cause at the home.
VB: I know you've gotten this question a lot, but for readers who are meeting you for the first time, what inspired you to become a Real Life Superhero, or RLSH?
EC: In 2011 I began patrolling with Phoenix Jones, No Name, Pitch Black and Ghost. I was living in my art studio above El Corazon nite club and had been seeing more homeless, including youth which troubled me greatly, more reports of strong arm robberies and theft as well as a general sense of despair and powerlessness.
I wanted to utilize my skills and experience directly in my community. I didn't want to sit back and think that someone else was going to make sure my neighbors, family and myself are safe. So I put on a luchador mask and decided to be proactive. My vows of knighthood also propelled me forward to protect the innocent.
That's what I was going to ask you about next: you are actually a real knight! You were knighted with the Knights of Malta in 2000 and the Knights Templar in 2001, what were those experiences like?
Very true! I was, and am, honored to have been knighted by such illustrious Orders of Christian Knighthood. The ceremonies of the Order of Malta, or Knight of St. John, and the Order of the Temple, or Knight Templar, were wonderful experiences inculcating the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Most RLSH's have had some kind of formal or informal physical training that allows them to do this -- what do you do to stay in crime-fighting shape?
I have a nice regiment. Walking, jogging, weightlifting, yoga, eating right, fencing and tennis (anytime I can find a partner), shooting range (handguns and rifles), Krav Maga, various kung fu and urban ninja/parkour are generally daily routines. I work with folks who have developmental disabilities and mental illnesses for my 'day' job so I feel that this aids in my responses on the street to folks who may have these, alcohol or other substance abuse problems.
[It allows me to] Diffuse dangerous situations with a clear and compassionate mind, as well as non-threatening gestures and swift action to insure the safety of all involved. I am proud that my utility belt contains only non-lethal weapons.
How do you respond to critics who label you and your associates "vigilantes" who should be leaving what you do up to the police?
Vigilante is incorrect, not only as a description of our team, but in general when applied to myself. My team and I do not take the law into our own hands, dishing out our own version of punishment, no. We follow the laws, rules and regulations of Washington State and the United States of America. We always designate someone on our team to be '911' and call when an incident occurs (we have a medical officer now too), we practice standard de-escalation techniques and partner with law enforcement, who know who we are and have our civilian identities on file. We film our patrols with Go Pro, Contour and live U-Stream so there is no question what happened, and [we] submit video footage as evidence.
What would you say to your adult fans who may want to become part of the RLSH community?
That is an important question. What skills and training do you have to bring? Everyone can and should do a Neighborhood Watch/safety patrol walking around, not as a busy body, but to say hello to the neighbors, get to know your community. Participate!
As for RCSM, we do an extensive background check. We have EMT training, tactical experience and wear bulletproof gear! Be an expert witness. Call 911. What is your location? What is going on? Who is involved, what do they look like and what time is it? What we do is dangerous, I wouldn't recommend it.
You've been interviewed several times, what is something you wish a journalist would ask you? What have I not brought up that you'd like to make clear?
This isn't a game. We are trained and what we are doing is not for everyone. Comics, movies and television shows glamorize the masked hero. Yet the reality is long nights, stressful situations and violence can be exhausting. One moment you are taking a group picture with college-age fans, the next a gangster is running up with his hand in his pocket saying he's going to shoot you in the face.
We wear the 'superhero' outfits and masks to protect our identities, and have nothing to hide, yet when you bust a criminal who operates in your neighborhood, where you walk, play and shop with your family, it's best to have them safe as well. We are not delusional (no one on our team believes they have 'super' powers), we have day jobs, operating currently on a shoestring budget (we do not work for any government, state or Federal agency) but love our communities, diversity and country.
You can read more of my interview with Rain City Superhero El Caballero at the Donnybrook Writing Academy. Photo Credit: Ryan McNamee, courtesy of El Caballero.