The GeeksverseCrossgen: What Could Have Been and Might Yet Be

Crossgen: What Could Have Been and Might Yet Be
Published on Monday, October 25, 2010 by

In 1998 a new comics publisher burst onto the scene. Prior to this we had the big 3; Marvel, DC and Image with Dark Horse coming up. We had a lot of failed publishers and imprints; Valiant, Ultraverse and many others. Any time a true shared universe was attempted, Ultraverse and Shooter/Laphams Warriors of Plasm universe (Defiant I think it was), it failed quickly and miserably.

And yet here came this upstart company from an complete unknowk, Mark Alessi, that was going to do a shared universe. And somehow he got some name creators to work on it with him: Mark Waid, Ron Marz, Barbara Kesel, Brandon Peterson and Bart Sears. And before a single book was published, these people created the universe. Unlike alot of shared universes, these books spanned every single genre you could think of and everything in between. Yet they were all in the same universe and all shared common elements.

It was a big undertaking and it appeared they were successful. The first four were big. Under the direction of the creative directors, the lines expanded and more and more talent was brought in, all signing contracts to work with Crossgen and at Crossgens facilities. This was huge.

They stole Chuck Dixon from DC. At this time he was big at DC. Doing Robin, Nightwing and numerous other books. This was a huge coup at the time.

And the artists? It was a who’s who. Steve McNiven, Bart Sears, Andy Smith, Brandon Peterson, Paul Pellitier, Greg Land, Jimmy Cheung, Scot Eaton, Aaron Lopresti, Steve Epting, Jeff Johnson, Andra Di Vito, Mike Perkins, Karl Modine (fresh off his big sting at Dark Horse that made him a name), Butch Guice and more. Somehow, being in the same bullpen, under the tutelage of Sears and Peterson, the work of these people got so much better. I had remembered Paul Pellitier’s work at DC and it had been unimpressive, but when he came to Crossgen, it was great stuff. I believe his time at Crossgen helped him get to the level he is today, and the work he’s doing and getting.

Crossgen’s downfall was a fairly well publisized bankruptcy. It’s really never been revealed exactly what happened, but payments were late and it became common knowledge that Alessi was an ass to work for. I think they fell victim to the same that alot of the failed publishers do, too much and too fast. Alessi started expanding. A line of books called Code 6, that were not part of the shared universe, doing properties such as R.A. Salvatore’s Demonwars, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and even getting the Masters of the Universe liscense.

Too much, too far and it all came down.

What sucks was that the books were good. There was something for everyone. Like Pirates? Then Dixon and Eptings El Cazador was for you. Liked Sherlockian mysteries? Then Mark Waid and Butch Guice’s Ruse was your cup o’ tea. Liked Samurai tales? Had a book for you. Wanted to read about the lost Atlantis tribes? You were covered. Sci-Fi more your thing? How about Sigil or Negation? Fantasy? Had Sojourn with Greg Land art (back before he became a tracer) and then Scion with art by Jimmy Cheung. A Kung-Fu tale, Way of the Rat, with Jeff Johnson on art.

And they all were connected and it all worked. It was incredible.

And just like that it was gone.

Poof.

Disney bought up the Crossgen properties for a million dollars.

Flash forward to a couple days ago, and it appears that Marvel (now owned by Disney) is going to be doing something with the Crossgen properties.

You’d think that with as much as I liked the Crossgen stuff, that I’d be happy that it was coming back.

I am, but then I don’t have faith that Marvel can pull it off. I see second tier writers and artists getting the properties and the care not being given to maintain the shared universe.

Could they do it? Yes they could. I think they would need to make it completely seperate. Assign an editor to run the entire line and make sure it’s someone that can keep a tight rein on people. Hire an art director and have them find up and coming artists.

Take the time to do it right. The strength of Crossgen was in the varied properties, something for everyone, and that they were still all connected. Sure the Marvel and DC universes are shared and connected, but not to the extent that Crossgen was. Each family exists in their own corner and rarely does one title affect another. Not so with Crossgen, one title did affect another. One character disappeared from one book, he appeared in another. It was a true shared universe.

And unlike the other attempts, this was not the cause of the downfall of the publisher.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Marvel does with the properties, but I’m leery as well.

Only time will tell.

Here’s hoping they can bring out the potential that existed in the line.

Here’s hoping that I’m not saying what Obregon Kaine from Negation was fond of saying: BOHICA (Bend over, here it comes again).

For more information on Crossgen, visit the wiki page.

Go to the Pryde’s forums and discuss this column.

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