Caped crusaders

American males, particularly those in Washington, D.C., often are accused of taking a simplistic worldview, one of "good guys vs. bad guys" or "us vs. them."

Where does this naïve attitude come from? Comic books.

We grew up heavily influenced by comic books, in which it's not just heroes vs. villains, but superheroes vs. archvillains, and it's always easy to tell the difference. Good guys wear form-fitting tights and have secret identities. Bad guys want to rule the world and they sneer a lot.

As kids, we comic book readers knew we could become superheroes ourselves by knotting one end of a bath towel around our necks. Once we had this "cape," we could do anything, including "fly" around the house until our mothers screeched that we were driving them crazy with "that whooshing noise."

Guys yearn for those simpler times, which is why full-grown men spend actual money to sit in movie theaters for turkeys like "Daredevil" and "The Hulk." And why we still need to make archvillains out of our enemies.

Why not embrace this simplistic thinking? It might give an easier "read" on people. In your workplace or neighborhood, you can find folks who need only a caped uniform to show off their super abilities. And, you'll find plenty of sneerers who belong in the other category.

I, for instance, work alone at home and spend much of each day playing cards with my computer. This would make my secret identity Solitary Man. (Quick, think of something else before that Neil Diamond song sticks in your head all day. Whoops, too late! Sorry.)

As a lone writer, my special ability is making things up out of thin air. Only my positive outlook and the occasional paycheck separate me from my evil counterpart, Liar Man.

Superheroes often have multiple abilities -- they can fly AND they're more powerful than a locomotive AND they can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Villains tend to be one-dimensional, which is understandable considering they're probably getting killed off in the next issue anyway.

So, a hero named Paper Boy can ride a bicycle like the wind AND throw newspapers into shrubs AND demand a tip at Christmas, whereas someone named Blabbermouth is almost certain to be a bad guy.

Soccer Mom combines fertility with driving skills AND incredible scheduling powers. Yard Man can generate incredible amounts of noise while making your own property look crappy in comparison. That guy who can't stop talking about his job? Company Man. Your nosy neighbor? Snooperman, of course.

I'm sure you can think up plenty of these yourself. Come on, it's fun! It is so, dammit.

Here are a few workplace superheroes to get you started:

--Yesman. With the big "Y" on his chest and his agreeable nature, this superhero can shoot right up the corporate ladder.

--Sales Woman. Able to smile and look you right in the eye while simultaneously calculating profit margin and gullibility.

--Stuporman. Has the amazing ability to sit at the same desk, doing the same tasks, year after year.

--Wondering Woman. The boss who never demands anything. Instead, she says, "I wonder if you could . . . "

--Webmaster. Every computer nerd's favorite. Faithful sidekick is Reboot Boy.

--Hindsight Man. With his ability to see only backward, this superhero is never wrong.

--Gossipmonger. Knows everything about everybody, but is often wrong. His kid sister is Whispering Girl.

--Bigbossman. Can loudly intimidate and "downsize" while drinking his lunch.

And don't forget the one-dimensional villains: Backstabber, Goldbricker, Bootlicker, Ms. Cliché, Odiferous Man, Whippersnapper. The list goes on and on.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my bath towel.


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