Mariotte,Lopresti begin "The Countdown" in April

Say you're the top dog at DC/Wildstorm, and the writer of the acclaimed "Desperadoes" horror-western book, but the artist you created the series with is off doing another acclaimed book and isn't available.

What do you do with your time?

'Atomic Toybox'

"Funny you should ask," Jeff Mariotte told the Comic Wire on Wednesday. "Beginning in April 2000 will be 'Countdown,' a 12-issue maxiseries written by me, with art by Aaron Lopresti and Randy Emberlin. It's kind of a super hero science fiction doomsday epic saga thing."

More specifically, and differentiating it from all the other super hero science fiction doomsday epic sagas, "Countdown" goes something like this:

"Something enters the Earth's atmosphere, tracked by NASA. It breaks apart, and the assumption is that it's a meteor, vaporized by its entry into our atmosphere. It is not perceived to be a threat, and the NASA scientists turn their attention to other matters.

"In fact, though, it's an alien pod. When it breaks up, four segments of it scatter across the Western edge of the United States. Four average Americans, not a born hero among them, encounter the sections. And these four people find themselves changed, transformed into people far more than average. They will become known as Gale, Tap, Force, and The Black.

"The four find themselves drawn together in a remote corner of Nevada, where they become aware of a terrible threat to the planet's continued existence. A threat that no one on Earth can defend against -- until now. Is this why they were changed? Is it their destiny to battle among the stars? Or will their paths lead them someplace darker? Are they humanity's saviors, or the instrument of its destruction?

"The Earth lies in the balance.

"Four average Americans hold its future in their hands.

"The clock is ticking.

"The countdown has begun ..."

Hence the name.

"The 12-issue 'Countdown' maxi-series my most ambitious comic book project yet," Mariotte said, "And Aaron's art has been amazing so far -- a new high by a guy who is really one of the most solid artists in the field."

That's not all Mariotte is up to this year, though.

"Pocket Books will release a novel by me (also in April -- big month!), actually a novelization of three Buffy The Vampire Slayer episodes. It's called 'The Xander Years, vol. 2.'"

The novelization spans the first three seasons, retelling one episode from each: "The Pack," "Go Fish" and "The Zeppo."

"And I'm about to turn in the manuscript for 'Gen13: Time and Chance,' to be published in the summer by Ace. That one is co-written with a novelist named Scott Ciencin. I'm working on some other book projects for later in the year as well. So I'm keeping pretty busy, even if you don't count the day job."

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