Comic Wire

Wed, September 8th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

MANIA DOWN FOR THE COUNT?

It's

not quite the DC/Wildstorm buyout, but the financial well-being of the Internet's

biggest comics retailer isn't looking good.


The Internet is buzzing with rumors that online comic book powerhouse Mania.com

is folding. The site, which features some of the most popular genre-related

content on the Internet, is an arm of American Entertainment, the Manassas,

Va.-based corporation that also owns and operates the Another Universe chain

of comic book and role playing game stores.

Mania.com was reportedly on-track to earn $4 million this year, including

through their widely criticized practice of selling unique variant and special

issues. The success was accomplished with minimal advertising. Instead, the

site has attracted some of the most popular genre journalism online, including

Michael Doran's Newsarama comic book news report, Comics2Film, and columns by

comic book writers on the writing craft.

According to published reports, including one at Rich's Ramblings (http://www.twistandshoutcomics.com/features/rrevs.html),

American Entertainment didn't receive their copies of last week's comic books,

a report confirmed by sources employed by American Entertainment who wished

to remain anonymous.

While other reports - including on Usenet and Web message boards and the Detroit

News Comic Continuum (http://detnews.com/comicbooks)

- have claimed that contributing writers have been told not to provide any more

content for the site, Rob Worley, who repackages content from his Comics2Film

Web site (http://www.comics2film.com)

for Mania told the Comic Wire he's heard nothing of the sort:

"So far I have not been told to stop writing for Mania. I saw a story on the

Continuum proclaiming Mania dead, but have not heard from Mania yet." Worley

also received his freelancer paycheck early, with no explanation included.

Last week also saw the departure of Mania Editor-in-Chief Valarie Thorpe.

"[I'm] moving into more of a web developer position with a company called

Columbia Energy," Thorpe told the Comic Wire. "I'll still be freelancing for

a couple of magazines so I'll still be out there."

Thorpe declined to comment on the health of Mania and her successor, Steve

Johnson, did not reply to attempts to contact him for this article.

Although most of Mania's sales are in the most popular comics and memorabilia

line, in recent months it had begun to arrange licensing deals with lower-profile

comic books, including the independent comic "Pakkin's Land," which it reprints

online.

Mania's Daily Buzz news briefs were updated Monday, but some anonymous reports

allege Mania will be closing up shop at the end of the week. Newsarama was previously

hosted at other sites, and a slighter version of the report is run as part of

the Comic Book Electronic Magazine each week at Digital Webbing (http://www.digitalwebbing.com/cbem),

but its future is less clear, as Newsarama writer Michael Doran did not respond

to inquiries about the future of his weekly report.

TY TEMPLETON: JLA HEIR APPARENT?

Ty Templeton

is no stranger to the DCU, having picked up an Eisner award last month for his

writing the Batman animated series comic, along with a long line of previous

DC books.


But the buzz surrounding him has become deafening in certain quarters, as his

work on the "Martian Manhunter" and "JLA" annuals has DC insiders saying Templeton

is a strong candidate to take over from Grant Morrison early in the 21st century.

Templeton's heard the talk, but is unfazed:

"There's some small talk about that," he told the Comic Wire this weekend,

"But it's just talk at the moment. Dan [Raspler], the editor, wants me to do

more JLA stuff … it's a question of time. I'm working on a Vertigo thing, and

my regular Batman gig at the moment."

That isn't to say he doesn't have anything on the way that would appeal to

JLA fans:

"The Plastic Man special is sort of JLA related … (but not so much, although

the JLA appears in the book, and on the cover.)

"But who knows, I might get talked into it yet. Mark Waid and Mark Millar

are also on me to do it, but nothing is set in stone."

Morrison took over a title that, far from being one of DC's premiere titles,

had been canceled yet again, along with numerous failed spin-offs, and made

it DC's top-selling title, attracting fans to the book who had never given DC's

most important superhero team the time of day previously. Whoever does get handed

the writing assignment after he leaves has to be aware that there will likely

be a skeptical audience waiting for them.

"I'm not worried about any backlash or anything," Templeton said. "The last

time I took over the JLA, as a penciller, lo those many years ago, it was following

the very popular Kevin Maguire … and rather than facing a backlash, the sales,

amazingly, went up slightly for my run on the book. Go figure."

But Templeton may not be ready to take over what many would see as a plum

assignment at DC Comics.

"For me, it's really a question of time and inclination. The thing I'm doing

for Vertigo is a comedy book (Vertigo is trying to branch out and try some stuff

that's a little lighter ) and my heart really lies in the comedy vein," he said.

"My favorite gig I've ever had in comics was working for the National Lampoon

years ago. To do the JLA, I'd probably have to cut back on something, and I

wouldn't want to drop Batman unless I had to for some reason. It's a question

of seeing how well the Vertigo project goes, and what my schedule is like. I

don't fear backlashes … almost every book I go onto I'm following someone big

time. I followed Paul Dini and Kelly Puckett as the writer on 'Batman Adventures,'

and that didn't phase me … and I already was writing the JLA annual, following

Grant, in a way, there. I'm confident [enough] in my own abilities not to worry

that there'll be much of a backlash on what I do."

DC 1999: TOYS PREVIEWED ONLINE

Green

Lantern fans who are a bit jealous of those 12 inch tall animated Superman dolls

advertised in this month's "Previews," take heart: Kyle Rayner has gotten the

same treatment, and will be in Kay-Bee Toy Stores as an exclusive figure in

a few weeks.


Kyle, of course, comes armed with his green lantern and a ring beam to attach

to his hand. Raving Toy Maniac (http://www.toymania.com/news/),

which first reported the figure, also reports a Flash figure will be speeding

into stores next year. They also have pictures of the 1999 collections of Batman

action figures, including a Ninja Force Azrael, Micro Battle "Head" Quarters

(shaped like the head and torsos of Batman and the Joker) and bean bag characters,

including a Batgirl one just like the one Oracle keeps beside her computer (http://www.toymania.com/hasbropretoy99/tnba.shtml).

CAPTAIN CRAFTY'S NEWEST CRISIS

"Did you

ever have one of those days?" Hi-Jinx Comix creator Brian Miller wrote last

week. "Publisher changes a deadline, UPS goes on strike, something just always

seems to go wrong, right?

"Well, today I woke up and

checked my e-mail only to discover that Diamond Comic Distributors is soliciting

my comic a month early. That's right, ['Captain] Crafty' #2 1/2 is in the September

issue of Previews with only 10 days left to order. There goes my brilliant ad

campaign in CSN & CBG!"

Fans can also check out the

comic online at http://www.crafty.com.

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