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8 Miraculous Super-Hero Resurrections

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In recent months, some popular comic-book super-heroes "“ including Batman, the Martian Manhunter and the Wasp "“ have died in the line of duty. Yeah, right. Death means nothing for super-heroes, who have a habit of returning to life in various inventive ways. Here are some of the most memorable examples.

1. Lightning Lad

One of the original members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightning Lad (now called Live Wire) was also one of the first super-hero resurrections. When he died in action in 1963, it was a shock to young readers, who weren't used to seeing a good guy die in the comics. Two months later, however, his comrades found a way to revive him. Through the use of lightning rods, one of them could take their life-force into his body. Being selfless and heroic, six of them volunteered (including the legendary Superboy and the not-so-legendary Chameleon Boy). The cliffhanger: which one would be struck by lightning first, reviving Lightning Lad and sacrificing themselves, thereby becoming (as the title of the story suggested) "The Bravest Legionnaire"? In the end, it was Proty, a blob-like alien who had been Chameleon Boy's pet. Lightning Lad was alive, and none of the real Legionnaires had to die.

2. Professor X

profx.jpgIn the third X-Men film, Professor Xavier, the leader and mentor of the X-Men, was killed by Phoenix, only to return in the end. (You missed that bit? One reason to sit through the closing credits.) In the comics, Professor X was killed in 1967 in a blatant attempt to increase sales (in true TV drama style) by killing off a major character. Two years later, when Marvel Comics' editors realized that the team still needed his leadership, they decided to bring him back. Readers discovered that it wasn't Professor X who had died, but the Changeling, a villain who could change his form to look like anyone else. Suffering from a terminal illness, he decided to mend his ways and made a secret deal to replace Professor X while the professor was on a secret mission. Through his sacrifice, the Changeling was redeemed for his crimes.

3. Elektra

elektra.jpgYou might wonder how, after dying in the awful movie Daredevil (probably of embarrassment), martial arts master Elektra (played by Jennifer Garner) returned for her own, even worse, spin-off movie. In the comics, that was all explained. Elektra, created by writer-artist Frank Miller, was killed by the assassin Bullseye in 1982. She was so popular, however, that another writer resurrected her in an occult ceremony by a mystical ninja cult. Though fans had predicted that she'd return to life, not everyone was happy with it "“ especially not Miller, who had always wanted to maintain the power of her death.

4. Superman

death-of-superman.jpgSuperman is the most famous comic-book superhero, and some would say he's the greatest. Whatever the case, his death was certainly the most profitable. The Death of Superman, a 1993 story in which he died in his girlfriend Lois Lane's arms (after saving the world, naturally), made front-page newspaper headlines and sold 100 times more Superman comics than usual. Nobody really expected DC Comics to kill him (not permanently, at least), but the question was: how will he return? DC kept readers waiting for several months, in which other heroes tried to step into his shoes. Eventually, one of these heroes, the Krypton Man (a less ethical version of Superman), used Kryptonian technology to return the original guy to life. He also sacrificed himself in the process, so if Superman dies again, he'll have to find some other way to come back.

5. Hellcat

Hellcat.jpgPatsy Walker has one of the most interesting histories of any comic-book character. She started in 1945 as the wholesome, popular heroine of a humorous comic for girls. In the 1970s, she became a super-hero called Hellcat, fighting alongside the Avengers. She later married a superhero called Son of Satan, which was probably not a smart idea. As her enemies became more demonic, she was driven insane, eventually killing herself in 1994. Another bad move. In 2000, we discovered that she was trapped in Hell, in the "arena of tainted souls." A super-hero team called the Thunderbolts, using magical powers, entered Hell to save another dead superhero, Mockingbird (the wife of their leader, Hawkeye). In a story like the Thracian myth of Orpheus in the Underworld, they were tricked into saving Hellcat instead. (For the record, Mockingbird was also resurrected in a recent comic.)

6. Bucky

bucky.jpgWhen World War II hero Captain America returned in 1964 (having been frozen in ice for 20 years), it was thought that his young sidekick, Bucky Barnes, had died in action. This gave the good Captain several years of angst, in which he blamed himself for Bucky's death. In 2005, however, it was revealed that Bucky was found during the war by the Russian Army, who had "reprogrammed" him as a Soviet assassin during the Cold War. (He still hadn't aged much, because he'd been kept in "stasis" between assassination gigs.) Last year, when Captain America was shot by government agent Sharon Carter (who was under the control of the dastardly Red Skull), Bucky took over as the new Captain America. As Bucky, Sharon and the Red Skull have all "died" in the past, only to return to life, we can probably assume that the original Captain America will also be back.

7. Dupli-Kate

dupli-kate.jpg
Some heroes' powers make them easy to resurrect. Introduced in Image Comics' Invincible, the Chinese-American adolescent heroine Dupli-Kate had the power to make several copies of herself. She soon struck up a romance with the title hero, the teenage Invincible, until she was killed fighting the Lizard League in 2007. She returned a few months later, however, revealing that only some of her duplicates had died, while the original was hiding somewhere"¦ which doesn't seem terribly heroic, but at least it makes some kind of sense. If you were being chased by a gang called the Lizard League, you'd probably hide somewhere too.

8. Aunt May!

aunt-may.jpgNon-superhuman characters don't get resurrected quite as often, but Spider-Man's loving Aunt May is an exception. When she died peacefully in 1995, fans didn't rush out to protest. She had been an old woman for the past 33 years of comics, and as Spider-Man had been married for some years, she no longer needed to look after him. Her final scenes with Spidey and his wife were actually very poignant. But while fans didn't complain en masse about her death, they weren't happy with other changes that were happening to Spider-Man at the same time. Faced with plummeting sales, Marvel Comics set about fixing things, which included changing just about everything else they had recently done. Hence, it was revealed that Aunt May had been kidnapped and replaced by an actress, who was given plastic surgery to impersonate her, as part of a scheme by the villainous Green Goblin (who, as you might guess, was thought dead). As the actress had fooled Spider-Man and his wife, even on her deathbed, that was one heck of a performance!

A few special mentions:

Freedom Fighters
Some deaths are simply needless. Three members of this team, after fighting evil since World War II, were killed in 2006. They weren't exactly resurrected, but were replaced by a new group of Freedom Fighters with the same names, similar costumes, similar powers and no great difference in personality. Cool death scene, though.

hawkeye.jpgHawkeye
Killed in battle, he was resurrected when his ex-girlfriend, the Scarlet Witch, used her magical powers to create an alternative world in which (among other things) he still existed. Even though that world was later destroyed, Hawkeye somehow managed to survive.


Iron Fist
He was thought to have died in 1986, but he had actually been ambushed by plant-based aliens, who replaced him with another plant-based alien which had taken his form. Got that?


Jocasta
As a robot, this super-heroine has been destroyed no less than four times, but is still fighting fit. They have plenty of electronic geniuses with soldering irons over at Marvel Comics!

Metamorpho
This DC Comics hero, able to change his body into practically any material, was sliced in half with a sword. Fortunately, he was able to join himself together again "“ one of his powers that had never previously been revealed (but was very convenient).

Phoenix
The super-hero and powerful cosmic being killed herself (to save the universe from her destructive power) in 1980. But like the original Phoenix, she rose from the ashes (for reasons too complicated to explain). She's now dead again, but X-Men readers don't believe it for a minute.

Supergirl
She died saving the universe, with great hoopla, back in 1985. Soon after, however, the entire history of the universe was changed. Years later, it was revealed that she was still alive after all.

Thing
When the most popular member of the Fantastic Four was killed in a battle with the nefarious Doctor Doom, his teammates followed his spirit to the gates of Heaven itself, where he was restored to life by a powerful cosmic being called the Creator.

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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