- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 24, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Cyber Superman

The Man of Steel makes his comeback to the silver screen Wednesday with “Superman Returns,” but his official Web presence, created by Warner Bros. Pictures (https://supermanreturns. warnerbros.com), may disappoint some of the iconic superhero’s core fans.

Specifically, the lack of homage to his comic-book roots is one of the gripes this fan has, especially when compared to his pal Batman’s movie site (www2. warnerbros. com/batmanbegins/index. html), which will astound sequential-art worshippers with a virtual book reader that gives access to four key stories from Batman’s colorful career.

Casual visitors, however, still will enjoy the simplicity and community atmosphere found on the “Superman Returns” site. It opens with a multimedia entrance of the caped hero, who hovers above Earth and reveals a concise set of sections — About the Film, Video, Photos and Downloads.

Video offers a standard fare of trailers, TV spots and interviews, with some content available in high definition and others for the IPod and Sony’s hand-held entertainment center, the PSP.

The beefy Downloads section is the most appealing, with its selection of wallpaper, posters, stickers, iron-ons and even stationery from the Daily Planet.

Additionally, a link titled Webmaster Program gives cyber-designers access to plenty of art elements to create their own “Superman Returns” site complete with photos, video clips, a news feed, background tiles and countdown clock tied to the premiere of the movie.

Another link leads to the “Superman Returns” page on MySpace (www.myspace.com/supermanreturns), which is peppered with images of average folks wearing Superman shirts and comments from fans.

Luckily, the lack of content and personality on the main site will be forgotten when visitors click over to director Bryan Singer’s fun, smartly designed video blog (www2.warnerbros.com/supermanreturns/videoblog).

A navigation menu with a version of Superman by Joe Shuster (the character’s co-creator) plastered on a comic book lights up the screen to reveal 27 chapters of Mr. Singer’s raw documentary on his Sydney, Australia-based production of the motion picture.

Better yet, each entry is shown in a comic-book page, complete with panels and dialogue bubbles that all open to highlight some of the film’s shooting.

Seamless video pops from the panels to offer moments such as actor Jack Larson’s appearance on the movie set playing a bartender (he played the original Jimmy Olson from the 1950s television show) and director Singer’s 20-hour ordeal to get to and through the San Diego Comic Con.

Despite the lack of Superman magic on the movie site, what really astounds me is that the sequential-art home of Superman does little more to tout his cinematic return or comic history: Visitors to the DC Comics Web site (www.dccomics.com) will need to go on a treasure hunt to find some of Superman’s adventures or his origins.

The character’s bio is offered at the Secret Origins section of the site (culled as a PDF from DL Publishing’s DC Comics Encyclopedia), and visitors can read seven pages from Superman/Batman No. 28 after they explore the Downloads section. Not much else, however, will keep the Superman fan glued to the screen.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games.

Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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