- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

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

The Rider online

Marvel Entertainment’s comic-book legend Johnny Blaze, a vengeful motorcycle maniac with a flaming skull, arrived in theaters Friday with Sony Picture’s “Ghost Rider.”

Visitors can learn the story of Blaze, portrayed by Nicholas Cage, and his new job as the devil’s bounty hunter through the movie’s fiery online presence (www. sonypictures.com/movies/ghostrider/).

Before jumping into the main multimedia site, I suggest taking a look at the preview page and clicking on GhostRiderWasHere.com (www.sonypictures.com/movies/ ghostrider/map/) to load a page that begins with a trio of questions.

Where do you live? What do you desire (a multiple choice of love, wealth, fame, happiness or health) and what is your first name? Once the questions are answered, and quicker than one can say Mephistopheles, visitors are shown the pact they have just signed with the devil, a serious-looking piece of parchment labeled Pactum Pactorium.

Next, while being rained upon by fireballs, they are led to the world Map of Lost Souls. The map pinpoints other devil’s minions’ locations that, when clicked on, reveal their desire as well as either a clip or an interview with some of the stars from the film.

I would have liked to have been able to print out a full-scale version of my devil deal, but otherwise, it’s a pretty slick idea.

Another slick simulation accessed from the preview page is Become Ghost Rider (www.sonypictures.com/ movies/ghostrider/becomeghostrider/index.htm). The visitor connects his Web camera to the computer, moves his head back and forth in the frame, and his noggin magically bursts into flames.

Now, let’s move over to the main site, lined with black leather on the top and bottom of the screen and loaded with fire, chains and attitude.

Unfortunately, the designers forgot the content, and just two sections are worth a look.

First, short introductions to the characters are found here through video, text and photos that include entries for Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, the Caretaker, Roxanne, Blackheart and the Hidden.

Next, a pair of Games will interest players a bit. They can choose Hellfire, in which they control the Rider atop his motorcycle to perform stunts in a side-scrolling presentation, or they can try some target practice on the undead through the great-looking Demon Duel. In the back-alley action, the shooter controls the Rider’s razor-sharp chains as a strand is flung at hordes of enemies to obliterate them and gain points. If one of the demons gets too close, the player gets a bit of a scare.

Surprisingly, not much behind-the-scenes information is found at the main site. Visitors interested in how designers got Mr. Cage to burst into flames, what went into the decision to cast Peter Fonda as the devil and how a comic-book character was transformed into a movie star will need to go to the film’s official blog (www.ghostrider movieblog.com/). The cyber-spot is loaded with video moments about the making of “Ghost Rider,” with entries that go back to July.

More surprising, no online comic-book presentation is found on the site, either in the form of some sequential-art pages or in colorful information on the origins of the character in Marvel’s pulp pages.

Readers will have to go to the original source and check out the digital comics offerings at the Marvel Entertainment site (www.marvel.com/digitalcomics/).

There they will find the first issue of the Ghost Rider miniseries from last year, written by Garth Ennis and frighteningly drawn by Clayton Crain.

Also available are about 150 complete online issues so visitors can read such classic as Secret Wars No. 8 (the first appearance of Spider-Man in his black symbiotic costume), Strange Tales No. 110 (the first appearance of Dr. Strange from 1963) and a personal favorite, Marvel Zombies No. 1. (Kiddies need not apply.)

Visitors will need to register to enjoy all of each issue’s pages, which appear in a stand-alone viewer that lets them zoom into panels and maneuver quickly around the books.

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, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to [email protected]). Mr. Szadkowski 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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