Superheroes are ubiquitous these days.

When was the last time anyone went to a theater without a Spider-Man or Ant-Man or Batman or Superman sighting?

Caped crusaders and avenging angels alike pursue justice clad in costumes, and larger-than-life personalities leap from comic book pages to the small and large screen and capture the imagination of the world.

Part of the draw is the knowledge that superheroes amplify our best traits. They embody those parts of us rooted in a very human desire to be good to others, to stand between our fellow men and the forces of evil and darkness.

You know where this is going — front-line workers place themselves between us and such forces every day.

Recognizing the supreme effort of the thousands of nurses donning scrubs every day to war against the coronavirus and other maladies, Marvel Comics is publicly recognizing these heroes as well. In partnership with Allegheny Health Network, Marvel has created and illustrated the story of “The Vitals: True Nurse Stories,” crediting the profession with a creative pop-culture salute unveiled Dec. 3.

The comic is based on real-life stories of AHN nurses and will be distributed throughout AHN hospitals and available for digital download.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Allegheny County officials are expressing concern for front-line workers in light of the spike in COVID-19, which has been breaking records for cases and hospitalizations as of late. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine warned Dec. 3 that up to a third of hospitals in the southwestern part of the state could experience staffing shortages.

Hospital staff and nurses have indeed exhibited heroic qualities: quiet courage in the face of overwhelming statistics and bodies; working on despite fear of contracting the illness or spreading it further while providing direct care to those who need it most; combating the sheer exhaustion of not knowing when it will end.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 170,000 health care workers have contracted the virus to date. Hundreds have given their lives.

Public recognition of this sacrifice, this struggle, is timely and well deserved.

Comic books, once the provision of a subset of U.S. culture, are now among the most-popular and highest-grossing franchises in history, a potent form of entertainment that has reached across every demographic and background to inspire and entertain.

AHN should be lauded for this creative partnership, and Marvel, which has a long tradition of championing social causes through its characters and stories, should be proud of its efforts.

They are honoring the real heroes of this year. And so should we.