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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.

Crisis: Why Did The Flash Have to Die to Save Infinite Earths?

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