Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Many of you guys reading this have probably never heard of CrossGen Comics, which in my opinion is an absolute shame. In their short existence they put out some of the best books I've ever read. With a wide range of genres (fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, folklore, Victorian detectives) they filled a niche in the market that needed to be filled. They had top tier talent, stories both entralling and well written and art that was both breathtaking and groundbreaking.
With so many smaller publishers making a name for themselves and holding their own with the "big" publishers today, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk about CrossGen and how they took the comic book world by storm and how quickly it can all go away.
A LITTLE HISTORY
CrossGen was formed in 1998 by Mark Alessi a business entrepreneur. It wasn't until January 2000 though, when CrossGen Comics finally debuted with CrossGenesis, a sneak-peek at the CrossGen universe. It provided an outline of the universe, worlds, and characters of CrossGen's flagship titles that was released six months later. It was a book that enticed all the new readers that would eventually buy into this amazing new world of characters.
Gina M. Villa, head of creative departments, and Mark Alessi wrote a history of the "Sigilverse" before any comics were written. Mark immediately brought in 3 of the biggest writers in comics to head the creative department which consisted of Barbara Kesel, Mark Waid and Ron Marz. He also Unlike other comics companies such as DC Comics and Marvel Comics, which rely mainly on freelance writers and artists, most of CrossGen's talent were salaried employees of the company and worked out of its headquarters in Tampa. Not to mention the artist brought on such as Bart Sears, Jim Cheung. Brandon Peterson, Ben & Ray Lai, and a young Joshua Middleton.
Like I said before, the books covered a variety of genres with characters inhabiting a single shared universe. The first wave of CrossGen titles included: SIGIL, a military science fiction space opera; MYSTIC, a magical fantasy; MERIDIAN, flavored by traditional folklore; SCION, an adventure series inspired by tales of King Arthur; and CROSSGEN CHRONICLES, a series detailing the "untold" history of the CrossGen universe.
The protagonists of the first wave of CrossGen comics were linked together by the Sigil each character had received from some mysterious figure. It was a branding on their body, a marking that granted them unusual powers. The Sigil, and the story of the Sigil-Bearers, was a prominent aspect of the narrative. The shared universe of these Sigil-bearers was one of the most appealing aspects of CrossGen, you could read a whole universe of characters and it was only 4 books.
Eventually they expanded with more titles, the Homeric myth THE FIRST was released in November 200 and, steadily over the next three years, CrossGen released many more titles. The following were released in 2001: Crux (based on the Atlantean myth); Sojourn (an epic fantasy, which had a Lord of the Rings vibe); Ruse (a Victorian detective story); and Negation. They went on to release other great books such as WAY OF THE RAT (wuxia comdey); THE PATH (samurai drama) The Pathand BRATH (a barbarian tale).
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
In 2003, CrossGen found itself in a scandal over freelancer payments, all of their financial issue were being exposed. When comics fans found out, sales were affected and creative staff, such as Gina Villa, Brandon Peterson, and Ron Marz, began leaving the company. A company once thought to have a bright future, was crumbling. Their initiatives into digital publishing and getting their books into the hands of new readers through their "CrossGen Education" initiative wasn't saving them. Even the planned TV/Film projects were being delayed, which only expedited their downfall.
CrossGen halted operations and filed for bankruptcy in June 2004, leading to the abrupt cancelation of their entire line. Many of my favorite series such as NEGATION and SOJOURN were cancelled mid arc. It was devastating as a fan to see such a great company just end. I thought I would never see the return of all of these amazing characters. But it seemed that their still might be a glimmer of hope.
MARVEL TO THE RESCUE?
In July 2004 Disney announced it had acquired the company for $1 million. I was ecstatic. I figured, like many fans, that they would finish off the books and continue some of the series. How naive I was though. Marvel Comics tried to relaunch several CrossGens title in 2011, but the revival was short-lived. They changed so much of what made the "Sigilverse" special. Not to mention they barely put any effort in trying to make it successful. It was a heartbreaking blow to myself and other CrossGen fans.
Who knows what the future holds. Will we ever see the return of this great catalog of charcters. Will Marvel relinquish the rights and let somebody else shepherd the return of the "Sigilverse"? Probably not, but you never know.
The is a tremendous amount of untapped potential for those books and it seems like now would be an opportune time for a revival. Look at how Valiant was abe to come back and really be a force in the industry, so why can't the same be done for CrossGen. While the likelihood is slim, I will never forget or give up on these charcters. Who knows ,maybe one day I can figure out a way to bring them back myself... If not at least I, and other fans, can always go back and read those stories and think fondly of the time CrossGen took the comic book world by storm.