Return of the Heroes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Captain America is getting ready to throw his mighty shield once again.

    As dramatic returns go, this one isn't much of a surprise: Captain America is springing back to life, two years after Marvel bumped him off and just in time to start building buzz for his 2011 big-screen treatment.

    Meanwhile, the folks at DC who invented this stunt when they killed and resurrected Superman in the early 1990s, are going old school: USA Today is going to print comic strips featuring DC superheroes on 12 consecutive Wednesdays. The throwback series comes as newspaper and comic book publishers are searching for black ink in a digital world.

    With the impending return of Captain America, who came of age as "super soldier" Steve Rogers during World War II, another type of hero with roots in that era is on the happy comeback trail: movie and TV singing cowboy Roy Rogers.

    That’s a seemingly more complicated case as Roy Rogers was an actual person who has been dead since 1998. But since when has a little thing like human mortality stopped Hollywood?

    In a quickly changing world, it seems the makers of pop culture – and even newspapers – are turning to old heroes to save the day.

    Maybe reaching back to the Greatest Generation days is a product of a public seeking reassurance and escapism amid economic hardship and war – even if what we’re experiencing pales compared to the Great Depression and World War II, the periods that spawned some of our most enduring comic book and movie heroes.

    Or maybe entertainment industry executives simply are relying on the familiar and the allure of hero-driven action films to make a quick buck.

    In the case of Roy Rogers, whose name is most likely to raise images of rest-stop roast beef sandwiches for the under-50 set, it’s far from certain exactly how his “return” will play out.

    Variety reports that a trilogy of “family fantasy adventure” movies built off the iconic Western personas of Rogers, wife Dale Evans and his trusty horse Trigger is planned, along with TV cartoons and video games.

    So will the return to the thrilling days of yesteryear draw crowds? Wait a minute – “the thrilling days of yesteryear” was from "The Lone Ranger."

    He’s coming back, too – in a Disney movie with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

    Time – and box office tallies – will tell whether these old heroes can be re-invented for a new generation or whether the entertainment industry is just beating a dead horse (No offense, Silver and Trigger).

    Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.