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Twelve dead and scores injured. While some Batman fans went overboard making death threats against critics who bad-mouthed the latest cinematic installation, one man decided to stage his very own action sequence, with him starring as the arch-villain: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/07/20/police-14-dead-in-colorado-theater-shooting/

Or maybe that’s too kind – a pop culture veneer pasted onto something ancient, brutal and still not fully understood: the mental snapping point at which an unstable person decides to start murdering his fellow beings. Not a comic book, just death.

Of course, for every person who loses it and guns down a crowd, there are many others – with varying degrees of mental stability, no doubt – who are drawn to the concept of ‘real life’ superheroes. Vigilantes are nothing new. When I was younger, there were the Guardian Angels. Bernard Goetz made headlines – good and bad – when he shot would-be robbers on the NYC subway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_Goetz#Detractors). You can go back decades, even centuries, from there.

The costumes are new, though. And maybe it is movies that are the driving force behind a new subculture of people who dress in mascot suits and fight crime. Blame ‘Unbreakable’, blame ‘The Watchmen’, blame ‘Kick-Ass’ – or praise all three – but superheroes, or at least wannabes, are walking urban streets, looking for a chance to smack-down evildoers.

This registry (http://www.worldsuperheroregistry.com/world_superhero_registry_gallery.htm) of self-declared ‘real-life super heroes’ is a strange mix of disturbing and fascinating, and I must confess, it’s more the latter than the former for me. Yes, I recognize the overwhelming nerd factor, I cringe at many of the photos, I worry that the serious ones may pull an Anakin and go Darth on us. Hell, I wonder how many of them have bad B.O. (…so many, so very many…).

But, but – at it’s most basic, there’s something very compelling about the concept: You put on your war-wear, step out the door, and do battle with bad.

I dunno. There’s a courage there and an optimism. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the act of donning a superhero costume and patrolling the streets does not, by itself, make you a super loser. 

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