Comic Wire

Fri, July 9th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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'KURT BUSIEK'S ASTRO CITY' DELAYED BY ILLNESS

Wondering where the next issue of "Astro City" is? You're not alone.

It's been some time since a new issue of the award-winning series from Image Comics' Homage imprint has reached the stands, although writer Kurt Busiek's three series for Marvel Comics have continued at their regular pace.

There's a simple explanation, according to Busiek:

"I've had chronic sinus infection for years, and this past year has been a very difficult bout with it," he told the Comic Wire Wednesday. "The various antibiotics I was given didn't knock out the infection, and unfortunately, the infection being close to my brain, it left me hazy and unclear much of the time, and I had difficulty concentrating. So it was hard to write in the first place, and even harder to write at the kind of level 'Astro City' requires. So my Marvel work slowed down, losing time on the schedule, and the 'Astro City' work ground to a halt. I did have sinus surgery that was supposed to alleviate the problem, but things got worse afterward, and my writing slowed down further and further, until it was taking me a week to do the kind of work that had taken a day in the past."

As to why his Marvel titles - including "The Avengers," "Iron Man" and "Thunderbolts" -- didn't slow or stop, like "Astro City" did: "We were just further ahead on them than on 'Astro City.'"

But Marvel fans would have realized something was up soon.

"I had to turn back some work -- the 'Avengers' annual was co-scripted by Len Kaminski, ["Iron Man" mini-series] 'Iron Man: The Iron Age' #2 was co-scripted by Richard Howell, and the ['Untold Tales of Spider-Man'] special was scripted fully by Roger Stern. That took some of the schedule pressure off me, but we'd reached the point where fill-in plots would start having to be done on the regular books."

"Luckily, another CAT scan found the problem -- my sphenoid sinuses had swollen shut, so the infected fluid in them couldn't drain, no matter what kind of anti-biotics were tried. So my doctor drained my sphenoids with a syringe, and flushed them clean. Ever since then, I've been feeling better, slowly getting back to normal, and my writing has been speeding up. I have the plots for 'Iron Man' and 'Thunderbolts' back on time, and I'm catching up on 'Avengers.' I hope to be back scripting 'Astro City' soon, once I've had the rest and recuperation I need to think that clearly again. I may need further sinus surgery to prevent a recurrence, but at least the problem's been located and dealt with."

Busiek is the second of Image's more high-profile creators to have his prominent pet project be thrown off-schedule for health reasons. This spring, J. Scott Campbell's second issue of "Danger Girl," published by Image's Cliffhanger imprint, was delayed when Campbell suffered a collapsed lung.

WEST END GAMES AILING, NOT DEAD DC UNIVERSE GAME STILL ON TRACK

In another example of how Internet-borne rumors can grossly misstate a situation (and how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing), West End Games has announced they aren't closing shop, just heading for bankruptcy court.

West End Games, who solicited the new upcoming DC Universe Roleplaying game this week in the "Previews" catalog, started the panic early this week when they announced they were selling current stock at wholesale prices to gamers online. This, combined with reports that they were no longer making payroll, combined in many people's minds to spell out just one thing: As reported at several sites, West End Games had gone belly-up.

Not true, says company president Scott Palter.

In comments reported at the Wedge online game magazine (http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/2287/feature-010.html),

Palter says the problems began last week, when the company's bank suddenly dropped

them "with no warning."

The company has one million dollars in assets, according

to Palter, but not all of them are liquid. With the licenses for Star Wars,

Hercules and Xena and DC Comics roleplaying games intact, the company's future

looks healthy, but finding new financing likely means heading to bankruptcy

court.

"Whether it's my fault or not, it's my responsibility. They depended

on me," Palter told Wedge. Palter is "95% certain that … financial structure

will be intact by the end of the week."

The DC Universe roleplaying game is expected to arrive in stores in September.

THE NEXT 'DANGER GIRL' MISSION: THE SILVER SCREEN?

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that New Line Cinema has just purchased the option to produce a film based on the "Danger Girl" comic from the Cliffhanger imprint of Image Comics.

The deal, reported in the July 7 edition of the paper, says the deal is for $275,000 against a possible $500,000 if the studio goes ahead with the production. Producer Gary Fleder's Mojo Films and Zide-Perry Films are reportedly attached to the project, although no other details are available.

The comic, which only debuted this spring, is a light-hearted espionage adventure tale, featuring an agency of beautiful secret agents. The book is full of nods to the movies, including the leader of Operation Danger Girl, who is a dead ringer for Sean Connery circa "Medicine Man."

'STAR-SPANGLED KID' CONFIRMED

There's

a saying down South about shutting the barn door after the horse has already

escaped the barn. Clearly, DC Comics has heard it. Today they've confirmed that,

yes, a new "Star-Spangled Kid" series is in the works, as had been rumored on

the Internet, and even announced by the creators of the new series. Artist Lee

Moder and writer Geoff Jones have been quoted at various Web sites, including

at DCU: The Next Generation (http://members.aol.com/Teensdc/)

that they've got the job of bringing the Golden Age hero's legacy into the 1990s.

They elaborate that "The Star-Spangled Kid" will actually be called "Stars and

S.T.R.I.P.E." and feature the adventures of a modern inheritor of the original

Star-Spangled Kid's belt, which she just happens to "borrow" from her step-father,

who is himself someone long-time fans will remember.

As to who or what S.T.R.I.P.E.

is, Jones and Moder are keeping mum, although rumor has it that she's a robot

sidekick. And that would certainly fit in with their other announced plans for

the series:

"It's going to be a really fun book," Jones is quoted as saying.

The assignment, if it pans out, will be his first professional comics work.

"Think 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' with aliens, robots, and mad scientists. The

book focuses on a rocky daughter/step-father relationship -- and what happens

when that daughter discovers her new step-father used to be a superhero. Lee

and I are really trying to mix the quirkiness of high school, the best sci-fi

films of the 50s, and teen heroes."

Moder is best-known for his work on DC's "Legion of Super-Heroes."

Although DC representatives are staying mum for the moment, Moder and Jones

say the ongoing series will hit stores in early 1999.

X-MEN,

McCLOUD GO ONLINE

Marvel Comics' best-selling X-Men are the stars of thousands of Web sites. But they've been missing one thing until now: An official one.

The new X-Men site - at http://www.x-men.com,

naturally enough - was released last week, just in time for the mutants' 35th

anniversary celebration. The site features polls (vote now for the first ever

Charlie Awards), character profiles and upcoming news.

Also making the leap into the Net and eponymous URLs is Scott McCloud, of "Zot!" and "Understanding Comics" fame. McCloud's site is still under heavy construction, but can be found at http://scottmccloud.com. The site already serves as an online example of his ideas about the structure and aesthetic language of comics, as put forth in "Understanding Comics."

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