- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2006

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

Superpowered site

Five ordinary strangers from around the globe demonstrate extraordinary powers in NBC’s new prime-time show “Heroes.” Its official Web site (www.nbc.com/Heroes/) delivers an extraordinary experience for visitors through a presentation that mixes the show’s comic book roots with multimedia interactivity.

An opening screen overwhelms with blocks of options surrounding the primary characters, all set within an active backdrop of New York City. Clicking on each of the nine principals gives visitors a look into their lives as they appear in a scene that features hot spots, a sound clip, an image gallery and text biography embedded within the character’s life, such as Niki Sanders in her apartment.

Visitors who missed the show also will enjoy a replay of the entire episode for the week or a two-minute recap, found under the Video section. They also will find plenty of behind-the-scenes clips and a live blog as well as interviews with some of the show’s actors and creators.

Since the show is a modern take on superhero mythology and one of the forces behind “Heroes” — writer Jeph Loeb — is a legend in the comic book industry, it seems natural that the Web site might want to take advantage of the sequential art possibilities. It does, as a humble section titled Graphic Novel leads visitors to an interactive comic that ties into the latest episode. A pop-up viewer offers a crisp, clear look at the works of literary art with an option to zoom in on the colorful illustrations.

The first, titled Monsters, drawn by popular artist Michael Turner and written by Aron Coleite, presents a seven-page vignette that expands upon the life of the character Mohinder Suresh.

Another level of “Heroes” worship can be found at the official fan site, 9th Wonders (www.9thwonders.com), hosted by KryptonSite.com Web master Craig Byrne. The site offers a backdoor way to interact with the show’s creators, actors and other fans. A striking design that looks like pages from a beaten-up old comic book greets visitors as they can read blog entries, add to 15 discussion boards and view cool art by Tim Sale and Dave Stewart.

Days of horror

As Halloween nears, visitors still have time to appreciate the fourth annual Gothtober Countdown Calendar (www.gothtober.com).

This clever — and uncensored — virtual calendar created by Julianna Parr and a community of artists gives a fright a day as visitors click on time-released, numbered icons to get a trick or treat.

The multimedia, Flash-fueled pop-up boxes offer a mix of sounds, songs, recipes, photos, crafts, paintings and other forms of digital expression, all themed to the celebration of Halloween.

This year’s mascot, a zombie St. Paulie girl serving beers full of eyeballs, sets the tone for pieces by such creators as Fallen Fruit from Los Angeles, Soup Kitch from Boston and Helen Hill from New Orleans.

The calendar offers some twisted fare, such as a pictorial slideshow of a Zombie Picnic and a ghostly bike ride through Echo Park in Los Angeles, while the site holds a complete bio of all the artists and a blog to keep fans updated on the latest Gothtober happenings.

Additionally, an archives section, designed as a wall of portraits, also is available. It offers countdown calendars from previous years as well as some special surprises for those who dare click on some of the paintings. My favorites, both from Miss Parr, are an animated music video of “The Munsters” theme and a radio dial that can be tuned into some ghoulish bands playing snippets from familiar tunes.

Weird, scary, and occasionally gross and abstract, Gothtober is a diverse Web offering created by some folks with an odd sense of humor who obviously love the spookiest time of year.

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]washington times.com). 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/family times/romperroom.htm.

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