as complicated characters and mature themes have come to dominate the market, scores of titles aimed at kids have vanished. superhero comics are now an adult genre.

many superheroes from dc comics and marvel comics have made lucrative transitions to the big screen, racking up profits that far outweigh their comic-book sales. here are a few of the biggies, rounded to the nearest million.

spider-man (2002)
$403 million
(beat lord of the rings: the two towers [$339 million] and harry potter and the chamber of secrets [$261 million])

batman (1989)
$251 million
x2: x-men united (2003)
$214 million
batman forever (1995)
$184 million
the hulk (2003)
$132 million

expect the parade of profits to roll on this year when spider-man 2 hits - and we do mean hits - the multiplex june 30.

a novel twist on superheros

you know that comic books are no ­longer kid-stuff pulp when a pulitzer prize-winning novelist like michael chabon (the wonder boys, the amazing adventures of kavalier & clay) and a bestselling author like brad meltzer (the tenth justice, the zero game) lend their talents to the genre.

comic books fueled chabon's imagination in the amazing adventures of kavalier & clay, which netted him the pulitzer for fiction in 2001. it tells the tale of two depression-era jewish boys who create a comic superhero known as the escapist. in march, chabon delighted fans by bringing his hero back in a real comic book called the amazing adventures of the escapist, a new quarterly from dark horse comics.

in the escapist's debut, chabon adds an amusing twist by pretending that kavalier and clay were actual people whose superhero never found the mass audience he deserved. various artists depict the "master of elusion" as he looked from the golden age of the '40s to the present, and the novelist even invents a labyrinthine history for the character.