Watchmen Foundation

Qui custodiet ipso custodes?

Excerpt of interview recorded for Canadian National Public Radio, 22/11/10

Carmen Hopewell: …Of course, when Juvenal wrote those words, he probably meant it in the same sense that it is commonly used: who polices the police? Who ensures our protectors are not, themselves, corrupt? The same sense as it was used in that God da-

[Off-mic sounds]

CH; …Ahh, I mean, that despicable comic book. But…

Michael de VasierĂ©: Surely you're not saying that all superheroes should be trusted at face value, unquestioningly? Wasn't Toronto's own Jaunt found to be embezzling public funds? Not to mention Professor Gateway… who was, after all, a member of the Primacy.

CH: No, that's not what I was saying at all. A healthy scepticism is… healthy. [Laughter] What I meant by referencing it was that it can be read in another way: who watches over the watchmen? Who looks after those that protect us? It's a complicated world, even for those of us that don't spend our nights in masks, putting our minds and bodies on the line for the good of others. There are a lot of things that can go wrong for a superhero, and a lot of special circumstances they may need help with.

MV: Special circumstances?

CH: Well, for example, thanks to the Freeman-Baker and Rickman-Preston procedures - that's what's commonly called patterned hypermitotic neoplasmia, or regeneration therapy, and nerve realignment, there are a half-dozen hospitals around the world capable of growing universal-donor grade whole organs and limbs and inducing the nerves and muscles to resume normal function. And that's fantastic - for most people. But what if that limb used to be able to… say… project thermal energy, move with superhuman
speed or strength, or if you had claws? While having two arms is of course better than having one missing, for a lot of superhumans the loss of half their abilities can be devastating, personally, psychologically, or for their activities.

MV: And your organisation, the Watchmen Foundation -

CH: Yes, the Foundation has links to the very best meta-physiotherapists in the world - people that can teach a beneficiary of regeneration therapy to regain at least some of the use of their talents in a damaged limb. We can connect patients to doctors, even help defray the costs of treatment. Not exactly something your general practitioner can help with [Laughter] In addition to dealing with unique medical problems, we also provide psychological support to those that need it. Our addiction help groups are second to none; I'm told that a dependency on heroin is nothing compared to metasteroids and military-grade enhancement serums. Then there's our post-battle counselling services. For all that we know about post traumatic stress disorder, there have been so few studies on how superheroes cope with the… horrors they have to see in the line of duty. It's traumatic enough for anyone caught in a natural disaster - how much worse is it when that disaster is a Fury: alive, sentient… and full of very personal hate?

MV: One could argue that superhumans are, by nature, better equipped to deal with unnatural events such as that.

CH: Sadly, that's not true. Superhumans are still humans - ah, except for those that are aliens, or mechanical in nature. But even then, our lack of knowledge regarding xeno- and synthopsychology is a cause for concern. For the most part, though, a given superhuman will have similar fears, hopes and day-to-day problems as you or I. We try and help with these more mundane matters, too. For example, so many heroes spend so much time catching criminals and protecting people that their careers suffer - all that costume changing can make you late for work, I'm told. [Laughter] Even those that can hold down jobs may find that there's no time for pensions or saving schemes. The ageing demographics patterns all across the world make this a widespread problem, but in many ways it's more pronounced amongst the population of retirement-age heroes.

MV: Why is that?

CH; Honestly? [Pause] Sometimes I think there's a feeling of 'we're never going to live that long' in the superhero community. These days, more and more metahumans are finding their powers emerging during their teenage years. When you're fifteen and can fly, sixty-five seems a long way off. The adolescent sense of… invulnerability, the persistent dangers of the superheroic life; it's perhaps understandable that issue like superannuation get forgotten. But the problem remains, as our post-war generation of heroes starts to hang up their masks due to advancing age, that a large number of people that have given so much for such a long time will be left in a very precarious economic circumstances. Governments have made sure that military veterans have the medical and financial support they need…

MV: Are you calling for…

CH: No, I'm not calling for government pensions for superheroes as if they were official public servants, but that is a significant part of the reason the Watchmen Foundation was set up. We oversee a network of rest homes and aged care centres; currently there are seven in Canada and the US, one in London, one in Kinshasa…

MV: Duncrimefightin'? [Laughter]

CH; … And we're working on setting up more in African, Europe, India, China, South America. I should point out that we have a sister organisation that works to provide similar support for emergency personal, police and peacekeeping or medical forces that work in international trouble spots.

MV: But you also provide services for younger superheroes, don't you? I'm speaking of the so called 'family' and 'date' insurance.

CH: [Laughter] I wouldn't call 'date insurance' part of our core mission but it… well, it shows that we can help all heroes, regardless of their lifestyles. If it brings us to the attention of younger people, lets them know we're there to help, then all the better.

MV: Could you explain how that works?

CH: It's… relationship bump-smoothing. Murphy's law says that whenever you make a date with your significant other, or someone you want to become a significant other, that's when your archnemesis will resurface, or someone will commit a very public crime that requires your attention…

MV: "Archnemesis"?

CH: It sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? But, it's more common than you might think. A lot of relationships amongst superhumans seem like their straight out of Gothic romance, or soap opera… or pro wrestling. [Laughter] It's hard to keep a date when those kind of things, or even regular neighbourhood patrols keep intruding on your time. What the Foundation can do is help mend the misunderstandings and hurt feels this causes - a bunch of flowers and a well-worded card can do wonders to someone that thinks they've been stood up on a dinner date. All our notes are composed by a team of romance novelists and relationship columnists and written using handwriting-duplication software, and I can tell you from personal experience they're very good.

MV: Really? Could you go into…

CH: No, I don't think so. We also use voice synthesisers and actors for apologetic phone calls explaining where the customer is, and have a team of professional shoppers to cover last-minute birthday and anniversary presents. We've had testimonials about how much of a 'love-life' saver this service can be, it's really quite grat…

MV: Doesn't it seem that this 'relationship bump-smoothing' could equally be used to cover up someone's, say, adultery? It seems to set a bad precedent, basing a relationship on lies. Then again, one could say that all masked and pseudonymed heroes are already living a life of lies.

CH: That's an unnecessarily harsh view of the matter, Michael. Most often, people don masks to protect themselves and their loved ones from identification. The so-called 'Code' isn't a guarantee of immunity to private attacks… I wouldn't want Cyclonis or the Murder Bishop from knowing my name and address, would you?

MV: Which is another service the Foundation provides, isn't it? Clearing up evidence of a client's identity from security of bystander footage, collecting any leads that may have been dropped at the scene…

CH: Identity protection, yes.

MV: Isn't it legally dubious to help people maintain an alternate identity?

CH: Legally? Not usually… we're not providing fake passports or birth certificates. Yes, some people use their public personae as a marketing gimmick or to try and hide former crimes, but there are many more who just want to be able to stand up against villains without their families being in danger. We do check on who's using our services, in case they're planning on doing something problematic with them. Most countries grant certain privileges to heroes in their costumed identities - the right to give evidence, sometimes the right to use a pseudonym for public purposes.

MV: Let's get back to the issue of 'family' insurance…

[Off-mic sounds]

CH: I wasn't told we'd be covering…

MV: This service has a very controversial origin, doesn't it Ms. Hopewell? Would you like to… no? Alright. In 2002, the hero Lookingglass…

CH: His name is… was Greg McCrae. No point concealing that now; he and his family are in witness protection.

MV: McCrae's wife and child were targeted by one of his enemies, Darkmatterman of the Challenge. They were taken hostage, and he threatened to kill them unless McCrae delivered the contents of a Treasury Office vault to them. McCrae knew that, thanks to the technology-warping aura of one of Darkmatterman's associates the regular security forces would be unable to help. The Primacy, were, as usual, elsewhere…

CH: Fighting an invasion of subterranean giant magma worms in Tibet, I believe. No-one's blaming them for not being able to help with every single problem on Earth at once.

MV: …Quite. But McCrae had long-standing links to the Watchmen Foundation, didn't he? And you, against the wishes of the police, put together… well, a group of 'veteran volunteer vigilantes'. Several highly experienced, err, not to say senior former heroes to help rescue them. Of course, it was successful… apart from the death of the WWII veteran and Congressional Medal of Honour winner Hammerfist.

CH: Tragic.

MV: Tragic, indeed.

CH: But McCrae's family were saved, and the Challenger was defeated. We now have liaisons with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, the RCMP, the SAS, so there is a constant readiness and flow of information between them and the Foundation to respond to exactly these kind of cowardly attacks on a person's private life. We're willing to help any superhero that feels their family or loved ones are being victimised by their enemies, and our team of hostage negotiators amongst the best in the world.

MV: Let's turn to the issue of funding and accountability. Where does the Foundation get its backing from?

CH: Let me first say that we're a completely non-partisan and independent NGO. Out funding comes from many sources: I'd have to say the three largest donors are the Tellran Trust Group, the Khan Charitable Foundation, and the Primacy itself. We also receive significant backing from a number of wealthy individuals…

MV: Such as Lucien Deloraine, the man believed to be associated with the Parisian guardian la Gargoile? Or other billionaire playboys and -girls like Wayne Bruesson, or Antonia Kaye-Starr? Couldn't one say that these people are just looking out for their own superheroic interests?

CH: [Pause] I can't comment on the motivations or alleged motivations of our benefactors.

MV: Carmen Hopewell, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Next time on…

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