[Crisis on Infinite Earths #8]Readers of DC Comics' "Crisis on Infinite Earths" collection -- like those at CBR's very own Flash message board -- who read writer Marv Wolfman's preface to the landmark collection may well have perked up their ears when Wolfman revealed that he inserted into the story a means for Barry "Flash" Allen to return from his seemingly definitive death in the pages of the book.

Allen has been dead a decade and a half at this point, and DC seems committed to leaving him that way, but Wolfman's get-out-of-the-afterlife free card is still valid (and has been used to a limited extent).

"The idea was to find a way to make Barry Allen a more vivid character, which was DC's problem with him," Wolfman told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "I liked the character and didn't want to kill him so I came up with the idea that as Barry was falling through the time stream he gets plucked out of time for an instant. Barry now knows that at any instant he can be drawn back into the time stream and to his death. So, for the first time, Barry knows that every moment of his life may be his last and that he needs to accomplish as much good as he can in what limited time he had before the time stream closed in on him. This, I thought, would give Barry -- a fairly quiet, slow character -- the edge I thought DC's brass was looking for. Literally, from this point on, Flash would be running for his life. I told it to the editors of 'Flash' so they could bring him back, but they elected not to. Their choice."

In the meantime, Wolfman is writing another hero, one decidedly more modern (and, as she's modeled on wrestler Rena Mero, more likely to stomp on your face if you think she's not compelling enough), the 10th Muse from the Image title of the same name.

"'10th Muse' has been a lot of fun to write. I love the characters and set-up and fitting in the intrigue over her past as she goes through life. It has a strong concept which I'm telling in a light, breezy way. I've been having a ball working with Tidalwave Studios and I think it shows."


Note: Adult language in the following story.

Fans of Marvel Comics' classic horror comics remember John Totleben. And this year, a new generation of Marvel fans will learn that whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Ultimate Man-Thing.

Totleben is handling the art on an upcoming issue of Marvel's "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up" book written by Brian Bendis and featuring the continuity-streamlined Ultimate Spider-Man teaming up with other characters from Marvel's Ultimateverse.

The reports of Totleben returning to the character -- or his 21st century counterpart at least -- had them buzzing at Comicon.com's News, Announcements and Gossip message board, prompting the man himself to jump into the fray.

"OK. Thought I'd better hop in here and give it to you people straight from the horse's mouth," Totleben posted Wednesday night. "The 'rumor' is true about the Spider-Man/Man-Thing team-up -- Brian Bendis gave me a buzz a few months back to see if I'd be interested in doing something on the Spidey team-up book and it sounded like a pretty cool thing so I agreed to do it. He didn't actually suggest teaming up Spidey with Man-Thing, though -- he left the choice of a team-up character pretty open (with the exception of characters already spoken for by others) and I sat on it for a week or two to see which character might be kind of fun to work with. When Brian first asked me who I might pick I just said something to the effect that he WAS dealing with someone who very damn well might insist on using The Living Mummy or Werewolf By Night. I mean, it's a pretty safe bet I'm not going to want to do Wolverine or the Fantastic Four (who were already dibbed upon by Matt Wagner and Dave Gibbons, respectively). Anyway, believe it or not, it was Alan Moore who first suggested that I take a swing at Man-Thing. I'd originally considered it an obvious choice (that is, the one most people would want, or expect, me to do) and therefore one to be avoided, but after thinking about it a bit the idea didn't seem so bad. So Man-Thing it is. I did mention to Brian that the addition of the old Spidey villain, The Lizard, would make it an even more tantalizing proposition for me, so we'll see what happens. This particular project is a no deadline deal so it isn't scheduled for any specific issue yet."

Message board posters had also been discussing reports that Totleben had some sort of illness that prevented him working on a monthly book. The artist also expounded on what, exactly, is going on with his health:

"In June of 1986, I was diagnosed with Atypical Retinitis Pigmentosa, a (non-inherited) progressive degenerative retinal condition causing severe nightblindness and loss of peripheral vision. However, I recently found out that what I'm actually dealing with here is something called Usher's Syndrome Type II. US II manifests itself with hearing loss ranging from moderate to severe in childhood (with the loss usually occurring in the higher frequency range) with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) kicking in anytime from the teens on up. Ushers Syndrome, which I previously thought was only of one type, is actually three types. Type I is the worst -- profound deafness from birth with RP kicking in by ages 8 - 10 with severe hearing and visual impairment by young adulthood. Type III, if I understand correctly, is like Type II only the hearing loss gradually progresses along with the RP. My younger brother was diagnosed with RP/US II a week ago, which makes my previous diagnosis of Atypical RP a misdiagnosis because this US II is a hereditary form known as 'sex-linked,' which is passed down from females who carry the defective X chromosome. A carrier mother has a 50 percent chance of having sons afflicted with Usher's and a 50 percent chance of having carrier daughter's. So it seems that me and my brother wound up on the wrong side of 50 percent! In my brother's case, his hearing is worse than mine but his RP condition is only now, at age 40 (three years younger than me), in the early onset stages. He's where I was at about maybe 15 years ago, so he'll probably manage all right if the progression is slow.

"In my case, the RP is now getting into the advanced stages. My visual acuity isn't too bad -- about 20/40 right eye, 20/60 left eye (uncorrectable vision -- which means glasses won't help) -- but there is some blurriness due to a condition called Macular Edema, which is swelling in the center of the retina caused by leaking fluids, and the formation of cataracts in recent years. These are side effects of the RP.

"While I can still see well enough to keep drawing, all this has had the effect of slowing me down somewhat. Occasionally I need to use a bit of magnification for super-fine details, but mostly I'm still working normally. Due to the screwed-up peripheral vision, I have to pay closer attention to proportions and things like that. My visual field is severely restricted (to about 5 degrees last time I had it checked -- 20 degrees is the point where you're considered 'legally blind') and it makes things a little difficult from a compositional standpoint. This is mainly due to the fact that I cannot see the edges of the paper (when looking at the middle of it), or even of larger panels, which makes it a chore to establish a point of reference in terms of framing and compositional placement. Whereas I used to do a lot of direct drawing -- straight to the paper, no layouts -- any more I have to rely more on doing sketches and transferring them to the page in a more deliberate manner. Often, I use a copier to enlarge or reduce sketches to fit. All of which takes time, time, time.

"There are good days and bad days with this condition as well. Sometimes my vision is a little blurrier than it normally is, sometimes the ol' eyeballs just plain fucking hurt (imagine a sinus headache right inside your eyeballs) and it gets a bit too uncomfortable to sit down and look at anything, much less draw something. Fortunately, I can still manage to keep it together enough to keep cracking at the board most of the time. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to do so for some time to come. That's the plan, anyway.

"So there it is. I hope I was clear enough to give everyone a more solid idea of what's going on with all that."

More information on Retinitis Pigmentosa is available at the RP International Web site.

Totleben fans can also find him at a Buffalo, New York convention in the coming months.

"It's on May 5th and 6th at the Pepsi Center. I don't know the exact address of the place, but once I find it out I'll post it. As far as I know [Steve Bissette], [Rick Veitch], [Tom Yeates] and [Tim Truman] (as well as myself) have all confirmed. I've been told that Steranko will be invited (don't know if he's confirmed yet) and June Brigman and Roy Richardson will also be showing up. There will be other guests, too, I'm sure (native Buffaloid Graham Nolan usually pops into these shows) and it does look like this could be he best con that Buffalo has seen in some time."



By his own admission, writer Chuck Dixon hasn't updated the news section of his personal Web site, Dixonverse.com, recently. Nagged into doing so last week, he laid out his plans for the year, including hints at DC Comics' big event next fall.

"The Big Secret Thing that Scott Beatty and I have been cooking up is a six-part stunt (with its own Secret Files!) that will play out all through October and impact the entire DCU that month and continue to impact my three monthlies well into next year. This has been in the works for more than a year at this point. And we're starting to see art and character designs and all that exciting stuff.

"We had a meeting with [editors] Matt Idelson and Michael Wright up at DC late last month and it was a neat experience. Matt and Michael laid out the whole stunt on a chart and many of the other DC editors came in to discuss the part their books would play in the stunt. This stunt has been a complicated one to do because it involves tons of characters and all of them have to be checked out and cleared and straightened up continuity-wise. I can't tell you how many re-writes we've had to do replacing one character with another to keep everything in line.

"We're getting to write stuff we've only dreamed about before. And, in addition to all that, Scott B. and I will be co-writing an issue of DC's top-selling book that month.

"You'll have to wait until we're closer to October (like, when Previews lets the cat out of the bag about the whole stunt) and I can let you know more.

"I've just completed the script for another Simpsons story. This will be the lead story in 'Simpsons' #62. It's an idea I've had for a while and I even got to put Itchy and Scratchy in it. In Spanish! WildStorm has offered me a six issue limited series. I can't tell you much about it because I don't know the particulars. But it's a return to the style of story I did for WildStorm in the first two Team Seven minis.

"I'm writing this summer's 'Nightwing' annual which is part of a BIG STORY cross-over that runs through all the annuals.

"I just completed a three issue arc on 'Batgirl' that will run from #18-20. It intros a new villain and has tons of guest stars. [Dixonverse Webmaster] Scott McCullar is excited about one of them. I wonder which one?

'So, do you like the Blue Beetle? I sure hope so. He's in an extended arc in [DC Comics' 'Birds of Prey'] coming up soon and will have his own, sort of, solo story in that book toward the end of the year. Also, in November it's unofficial Blue Beetle Month in all three of my books as he guests in each one in a, kind of, connected story. He's also a part of the Big Secret Thing in October.

"Ted Kord doesn't show up in [Marvel Comics'] 'Marvel Knights but Luke Cage does with issue 11. For me, Luke is the final element that makes the team click. He's a fun character to write. The challenge is his dialogue or 'voice.' I want to keep some of his old way of speaking but bring it a bit more into line with reality. Fear not. Luke won't begin speaking hip-hop slang. I have too much affection for the character to take him in that direction. Besides, by my way of thinking, Luke's a more mature character than that. He's got his own way of doing things and resists changing. That includes the way he talks.

"The story begins with Luke helping Daredevil, Black Widow and the rest against a half-dozen of their old enemies. That story segues directly into one where Shang's father shows his hand.

"With issue #14 we'll be losing a team member. (No, no one dies.) I promised no status quo on this book and you'll see that I mean it with this arc."

Series artist "Eduardo [Barreto] and I also have a special issue planned that will be told as a western. It'll feature a surprise villain and I'm dying to get to it!

"Stuart Moore has taken over editing ['Marvel Knights'] and has been terrific to work with. He has a 'ain't broke, don't fix it' approach and is allowing me the same free rein that Joe and Nanci let me get away with. But the corrections or suggestions he has are always the right prescription. The book is in good hands editorially and the sales are solid.

"Not much to report beyond that. And in these turbulent times that's a good thing."


Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire, now with more delicious functionality:

  • Top Cow releases Tomb Raider product to coincide with movie release
  • Cyberosia Publishing announces 'Frightening' new release
  • DC Announces overship incentive details on "The Crusades: Urban Decree"
  • There's something not quite right … OUT THERE
  • Harvey Awards Ballots due February 16th


If you're an early morning reader of the Comic Wire you might have missed two updates to Monday's Comic Wire: Mark Millar on why he's moving to America (and what he'll be doing) and a four page preview of "Castle Waiting" #4.

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