Thursday, August 31, 2000
They sell records faster than a speeding bullet! They're able to leap over other boy bands in a single bound!
So why shouldn't the superstar Backstreet Boys become superheroes, too?
The official B-Boys Web site (www.backstreetboys.com) recently began featuring the fab five as "The Cyber Crusaders," the first-ever online animated series created for a pop group. Twenty-two biweekly "webisodes" make up the series, which was created by comic book legend Stan Lee.
You'll be hearing a lot about The Crusaders. To hype the series, fast-food giant Burger King has bankrolled a $15 million promotional tie-in campaign, allowing fans to snap up one of 40 million free Backstreet Boy action figures with every meal.
"This is the largest off-line promotion ever for an online event," says Peter Paul, co-founder of Stan Lee Media.
The Web story line closely follows comic book conventions. During a Backstreet Boys concert, a spaceship crash-lands next to the stadium where they're performing.
A beautiful alien emerges, and engages the group in a mission to protect the Earth from invading creatures. Each Boy gets an enchanted amulet granting him special powers.
A.J. McLean is the ultimate marksman. Brian Littrell can jump higher than all the L.A. Lakers put together. Howie Dorough reads minds and projects illusions. Kevin Richardson can lift objects heavier than elephants, and Nick Carter has enough martial-arts skills to make Bruce Lee look like Urkel.
The Web series' dialogue won't appear in comic book "balloons" ï¿½ you'll hear the Boys' own voices through your computer's speakers.
As big as the Backstreet spectacle will be, it isn't the first time pop stars have reimagined themselves as cartoons. The Beatles had their "Yellow Submarine" movie in 1968.
The Jackson Five were Saturday morning 'toons in the early '70s.
Later in that decade, Kiss created a Marvel comic book, which ï¿½ or so the hype went ï¿½ featured drops of their own blood in the red ink.
The Kiss project was also conceived by Lee, best known for creating characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men. But the Backstreet Boys project got its start when Carter approached Lee to create a comic book for the act to hawk at concerts. That idea eventually grew into the Web series.
Rolling Stone music editor Joe Levy says such lighthearted depictions of the group won't reduce their credibility.
"Their fans will forgive them anything," he says. But Levy adds that, eventually, "There is a sincere danger of overmerchandising."
Right now, however, the Internet series should only enhance what has long been the Backstreet Boys' greatest super power: making teen-age girls scream.