Are they faster than a speeding bullet?


More powerful than a locomotive?


Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?

Not a chance.

They can't fly, deflect bullets or melt steel with a glance. But the caped crusaders who swept into Astoria Thursday are adept at using their powers for good rather than evil.

Known only by their superhero alter egos, seven self-proclaimed hippies pedaled through Astoria in capes, masks and face glitter on the first leg of a cross-country bicycle trip.

Their mission? To spread the message of love, charity and, yes, heroics from Seattle to Worcester, Mass.

"Heroism is kind of a lost art," said one of the bikers, "Hugman," who wore a homemade red cotton cape over his bicycle shorts and white T-shirt. "People are too busy paying money to buy things ... and living their lives to do good. So our job is to do good."

The superheroes have performed good deeds in communities between Seattle and Astoria, including moving rocks for a community garden, painting fences, playing games with children, fixing flat tires, and "giving a lot of hugs," according to Hugman, who said his goal is to hug everyone he encounters.

One man, "The Blazing Echidna," picked up litter along the Astoria Riverwalk and spoke to people who passed, said Aimee LaCasse, a secretary for the Astoria School District who encountered The Echidna on her daily lunchtime walk.

"I was very impressed," said LaCasse. "I walk along the river every day and I've never seen anything like that before. We helped him pick up a little bit of litter. It was really very uplifting."

Hugman and cohort "Dr. Strangelove," in a hooded blue velvet cape and painted helmet, planned to volunteer at the Astoria Senior Center and make a guest appearance on the KMUN radio program "Bedtime Stories" Thursday evening.

They intended to bike south toward Eugene today, then head toward the East Coast. The trip should take about four months, Dr. Strangelove said.

About 30 people were expected to join the group at some point during the trip, Hugman said.

The idea was hatched by The Blazing Echidna, who had secretly hankered after superhero status for years, Hugman said.

"He convinced a couple of friends to join the ride across the country about five years ago. After a couple of false starts and a long wait, we finally got going."

Some of the riders have chosen a specific charity or cause to champion on the trip, like the American Cancer Society or safe use of pesticides. Hugman said he's "just riding for love."

The group isn't actively seeking publicity, he said. "We're so busy trying to do good, there's not a lot of time for interviews." But anyone who wants to join their quest is welcome to hitch a ride.

"We have extra capes," he said.

The bikers ride about 45 miles a day and spend the rest of the time seeking out good deeds. Since leaving Seattle a few days ago, they've found lodging in churches and received plenty of support from passersby.

"We've gotten smiles all along the way," said Dr. Strangelove. "And so far today I've gotten a 'Nice tights, Superman' and a 'Way to go, superhero.' As soon as we tell people what we're doing, they're generally supportive."

The masked men urged people everywhere to perform good deeds.

"Everyone is a superhero," Hugman said. "You don't need a cape or a bike to do it. You can do it in your own back yard."