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KEITH GIFFEN RETURNS TO DC

Once a dominant voice in the DC Universe, Keith Giffen has been pretty much absent from the company's pages for some years now. That's about to end.

Expect a new series from the former "Justice League International" creator and artist Mike McKone. According to DC editor Kevin Dooley, Giffen and McKone's new series will be called "Vext," and will be hitting comic stores in 1999. Despite Internet rumors that the collaboration would star Guy Gardner and the Warriors bar, Dooley says the series actually stars a brand new character.

Although Giffen hasn't been seen much in the pages of DC Comics recently, his influence on them is pervasive, stemming from his creation of "Justice League International," "L.E.G.I.O.N.," Lobo, the grim-and-gritty era of "Legion of Super-Heroes" and fan favorite Ambush Bug.

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His most recent DC Comics work was a JLI story in the "Justice League" 80 Page Giant earlier this summer.

'MAGE' GOES ON HIATUS

Matt Wagner giveth, Matt Wagner taketh away.

The good news, as first reported here June 18th, is Wagner's "Mage: The Hero Discovered," is coming back to comic stores after a decade's absence, in a reprint series.

The bad news, which Wagner broke on AOL this week, is that his current series, "Mage: The Hero Defined," will be on a break during that time, so that Wagner can catch up.

"Funny how this stuff always takes longer than you think," Wagner said.

The reprints of "The Hero Discovered" will be issued every other week, collecting two of the original issues, for four months. There will also be a trade paperback collecting all the reprints later on. Wagner estimated the collection would run about $30.

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WAID: NO MOVIES

Wishful thinking + the Internet = Out-of-control rumors.

Despite reports all over the Internet (including skeptical-but-still-publishing-the-rumors Dark Horizons, Corona and Mania) that a "Kingdom Come" or "Captain America" movie or television miniseries are in the works, and that he has been asked to write them, sources close to writer Mark Waid send word with the definitive answer: Absolutely 100 percent false.

Waid has reportedly been inundated with e-mails asking about the rumors, and wonders where they originate.

THE HISTORY OF COMICS … IN PROSE FORM

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The growing bookshelf of "serious" comic book scholarship is about to get substantially wider.

Dark Horse Comics has announced the publication of the 500 page "Comics: Between the Panels" coffee table book. The full-color book will focus on the history of comic books and is slated to his shelves in September.

The hardcover, which will be available at book stores as well as comic stores, will be an alphabetic encyclopedia, with entries on 100 years of comic book history. Written and researched by Dark Horse Comics president Mike Richardson and journalist Steve Duin, the book will reportedly cover everything from characters classic and current to the lesser lights in the industry, with behind-the-scenes stories and a detailed history of the comics industry.

The book will have a cover price of $49.95.

NO ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: CLASSIC AVENGERS TO INVADE TOY STORES

Help has arrived for superhero toy fans already jaded by their latest acquisitions.

The Raving Toy Maniac Web site has exclusive pictures of the designs for the almost-original Avengers action figures boxed set from Toy Biz.

Following on the heels of this year's classic X-Man action figure boxed set, next year's Avengers' set will feature Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, Ant Man and Giant Man (the latter didn't appear in "Avengers" #1, but he just fit the boxed set so well the creators couldn't resist). All the characters are reportedly being designed in a style reminiscent of "Avengers" #1 artist Jack Kirby, down to one of the artists unsuccessfully trying to sneak in a three-toed Hulk design, emulating Kirby's high-speed anatomical inaccuracies on the characters.

The exclusive production art images are available at http://www.toymania.com/news.

DIAMOND ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE JLA FIGURES

Justice League fans have plenty of reasons to be flipping through their copies of "Previews" this week.

Diamond Comic Distributors is the exclusive distributor of a new Justice League of America action figure variant set.

Six of the defunct Total Justice action figures will be redone reminiscent of the recent "Rock of Ages" six-part story. The two sets of five figures will each feature Justice Leaguers (Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and the Huntress) along with the "holographic" evil versions of the Justice League Revenge Squad (clear plastic versions of Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, with skull logos on their chests). Each set will be a mix of good and evil characters and feature background cards of previous JLA covers.

(Check out pictures of the Flashes and the good Batman at http://www.diamondcomics.com/previews/products/merchandise/jla_figures.html)

THE ORIGINAL SMALL SOLDIERS RETURN

Call it the ascendance of the Generation X television producers: The Micronauts are coming back, both to toy stores, comics and even their own television series.

Abrams-Gentile Entertainment is producing a weekly television show, featuring computer generated imaging, for 1999. The show will premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel and then move into syndication or possibly on the Fox network.

New action figures will hit stores around the same time. What does this mean for the on-again, off-again new Micronauts Marvel Comic series by Shon Bury? No word from the House of Ideas as of yet.

And in other small screen news: "Gen13" fans can finally get a glimpse at the long-awaited animated movie featuring the genetically enhanced Wildstorm stars. The film will be shown at the Wizard World convention later this month in Chicago and at the San Diego Comic Con International in August. Fans not attending the conventions might be out of luck: The home video release of the film will likely be mid-1999.

Finally, fans of the "Nightman" defunct comic book and alive-and-kicking television series will have some new faces to become acquainted with when the syndicated series begins anew in the fall: Derwin Jordan is taking over the role of Raleigh, and Jane Heitmeyer joins the cast as Lt. Briony Branca. Earl Holliman, Johnny's father Frank, will not return for the show's second season.

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