Once upon a time (well, it was 1961) DC Comics established "parallel Earths" as a reality in its universe.

"Earth-Two" was introduced in "Flash" 123, a world where everything was the same as "Earth-One" except that the legendary 1940s Justice Society of America patrolled the cities and skies, instead of the familiar Justice League heroes. The idea was so successful that it became an annual event, and Earth-Two was followed quickly by Earth-Three, Earth-A, Earth-X, Earth-S, etc.But DC tired of the concept, as it was difficult explaining multiple Supermen, Batmen, Flashes and Green Lanterns every time one of the other Earths was involved in a story line. They canned the whole magilla in a 1985 miniseries called "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and started over with a single Earth.

Captain Comics shed a tear at the time - for although it was confusing, it sure was fun.

But hold! Last year DC offered seven one-shots of very familiar names on a very similar world with some mighty strange differences. The "Tangent" line included a heroic, female Joker; a teenage female Flash; a super powerful Atom; a covert organization called Nightwing; etc. Familiar names but unfamiliar characters.

This month they're at it again. The last week of July DC will suspend publication of its regular line in favor of nine "Tangent" titles. So instead of the usual Superman and Batman stories, you'll thrill to: "Tales of the Green Lantern" 1, about a mystical female with an emerald lamp; "Wonder Woman" 1, who is a strange visitor from planet Gotham; "The Trials of the Flash" 1, about a battle with a strange creature called Plastic Man; "Powergirl" 1, wherein the Chinese unleash a deadly female super villain; "Nightwing: Night Force" 1, featuring a battle between a rogue team of U.S. agents and Russian superheroes; "The Superman" 1, starring a man pushed up the evolutionary scale to become a Man of Tomorrow; "The Batman" 1, headlined by a true Dark Knight with mystical armor from the days of Camelot; "Joker's Wild" 1, with a team-up between the Clown Princess and the Atom; and "JLA" 1, offering a team of government agents whose duty it is to "protect" us from super heroes.

Hmm. A different Flash, Batman and Superman; a different Earth, but one not so different from our own.

Hey! Who said parallel Earths are dead?

Elsewhere in July

- Marvel follows on the success of its terrific revamp of the Star-Spangled Avenger with a second title: "Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty" 1. It features tales of Cap in the past, present and future. Highly recommended.

- Marvel's first foray into original Japanese-style comics focuses, naturally, on their only Japanese super hero. "Sunfire & Big Hero 6" 1 (of 3) features the nuclear-powered mutant and five new Japanese characters, all drawn in the popular "manga" style from the Land of the Rising Sun.