I've always loved superheroes.
Like any red-blooded American male, I spent my childhood (and truth be told, a good portion of adulthood, too) reading comic books and watching television show and movies about the costumed crusaders. Batman, Superman and my favorite Spider-man kept me comforted for a good many years.
People like superheroes for the same reason they like James Bond or Indiana Jones -- because we need heroes to save the day -- and save us from reality in the process.
That goes double in the news business. As much as I love it, newspapering has its drawbacks, and one of those is the constant exposure to tragedy. You can only put so much robbery, rape, murder, fire and car crashes in the paper before you find yourself wishing the world had some real-life superheroes to right a few wrongs.
Well, it turns out there are. A new documentary called "Superheroes" chronicles the lives of several people across the country who go out into their communities and battle crime for real. And no, they're not cops or firefighters. They're actual, real-life superheroes complete with costumes, masks and capes, and what they lack in any actual superpowers, they make up for with courage.
At first glance it's easy to laugh at these people. After all, a grown man dressed in spandex and a cape missing the landing on a somersault is a pretty laughable sight. But once you learn their stories, the laughing stops and the admiration starts.
These folks have thwarted assaults, treated people's injuries and run off drug dealers with nothing more than a video camera. Some patrol with the support of the cops, and others spend part of their nights being hassled by them. But they all are intrepid in their dedication to fighting crime.
Many of them do it with nothing more than a cell phone and the spandex on their backs. Some carry Tasers. Others are trained in martial arts. But they are all very human. Super strength and the ability to fly are not on these folks' resumes.
But what is? Compassion. A sense of justice. Love of their fellow man. The last one is especially apparent when you see the real good these folks do.
Yes, they've stopped the occasional crime, but what makes these folks super is their dedication to their community. They teach self-defense classes. They hand out fliers and put up wanted posters. They walk the streets of their towns handing out water on hot days. And they help the homeless.
Many of these superheroes are strong supporters of their homeless communities. They donate stuff, of course, but they also make time for the people. They take a few moments to talk to them and shake their hands -- to let them know that someone cares.
So when you see a guy take a carload of toiletries, clothes and food that he bought with his own money and hand it out to the homeless while making them feel better it doesn't seem to matter so much that he's wearing a mask or a cape or weird helmet. He might be dressed like a cartoon, but he doesn't look ridiculous.
He looks heroic. And we could use more of that.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.