From Academic Kids

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Cross Generation Entertainment, or CrossGen, was an ambitious American comic book publisher founded in 1998 by Mark Alessi. Before CrossGen folded in 2004 it managed to become one of the strongest independent (that is, not DC Comics or Marvel Comics) contenders in the comics industry.


Mark Alessi's plan

In 1998 the comic book industry was at one of its lowest points. The "generation gap", the trend where the age of existing fans increased while the number of new fans decreased, became painfully evident. The more recent comic book publishers were going bankrupt, and sales figures were plummeting.

Mark Alessi and his compatriots felt that comic book industry had major problems that needed to be corrected. Most comic books were written by adult white males for adult white males. This resulted in comics that tended to reduce women to sex objects and minorities to cardboard stereotypes. Superhero comics dominated the shelves. Most comic books were set in tightly integrated shared realities with several decades worth of backstory. Often a reader had to pick up several comic book series in order to understand the full story.

In desperate efforts to attract attention comic book publishers staged company-spanning annual crossover events (which, for the most part, amounted to little more than pointless slugfests) and bizarre publicity stunts. According to Mark Alessi, all those things made it hard for a new reader to understand what was going on in the stories.

The masterminds behind CrossGen decided to avoid this. Their titles stayed away from superheroics, playing with the wide array of genres. There was a space opera (Sigil),a magical fantasy(Mystic), a folklore-esque fantasy (Meridian), a Homerian myth (The First), a Tolkeinesque fantasy (Sojourn) a samurai drama (The Path), a horror tale (Route 666), a Victorian detective series (Ruse), a wuxia comedy (Way of the Rat) and a barbarian epic (Brath). Comics like Scion, Negation, and Crux mixed different aspects of different genres while producing something completely unique. All titles featured strong female characters (many of whom were main protagonists) and non-stereotypical minority characters. Although most CrossGen titles shared common elements, such as a sigil, a presence of a Mentor and a member of the god-like First, the titles rarely interacted with each other. And, aside from Negation War, there were no company crossover events.

CrossGen makes a splash

With focused leadership, high-quality art and writing, and sizable starting capital, CrossGen got off to a very strong start. In a matter of months CrossGen became a major publisher, joining the ranks of DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and Marvel Comics. The initial success invigorated the company. It began publishing more and more titles. It reached out to book stores, libraries and schools. CrossGen was the first company to publish its products online. In 2002, Mark Alessi proudly proclaimed that soon, CrossGen will be the number one comic book publisher.

CrossGen was famous for its unusual working conditions. As opposed to the usual comics practise of hiring all artists and writers on a freelance basis, CrossGen had their employees work in their headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Initially this attracted many famous comic artists, but CrossGen's financial problems would cause most of them to leave the company.

CrossGen sinks

In 2003 the company found itself amidst a scandal over freelancer payments. In the process many problems that were previously swept under the rug were revealed. The company desperately tried to get its affairs in order but, as the insider news reached the notoriously fickle comic fans, sales started to plummet. The writers and the artists tried to remain on board despite the circulating rumors but as things went from bad to worse they began abandoning the company one by one.

In 2004 CrossGen was forced to file for bankruptcy. Currently it is facing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy trial and has ceased publishing, leaving popular series such as Sojourn, Negation War, and a few others cancelled in mid-story.

Most of the titles in the CrossGen Universe, or Sigilverse, involved characters who had mysteriously gained a sigil marking somewhere on their body, granting them unusual powers. This Sigilverse linked all of the initial CrossGen books as well as some of the later ones, arguably making it harder for casual readers to sample a series because they felt they missed something if they did not read the whole line of books. Later series from CrossGen downplayed the Sigil aspect or got rid of it altogether, but by then it was already too late.

In July Disney Publishing was interested in using CrossGen content for books and movies but upon discovering the bankruptcy they began looking into acquiring all of the assets. On November 15, 2004 Disney revealed it had purchased the CrossGen assets for $1 million with immediate plans to capitalize on the Abadazad property by publishing four prose hardcover novels with the original writers in 2006. Currently Disney is reviewing everything they have purchased as they had not fully researched every title before the acquisition but have indicated that series could be resumed or restarted, depending on the title, with collected editions of already published work the most likely beginning. Movie and television deals that the properties had before with other studios remain intact.

Web Presence

One of Crosgen's innovative ideas concerned selling subscriptions to its Comics delivered via the Internet rather than on paper. People could purchase a subscription at reasonable cost to view all of Crossgen's titles. Crossgen's technology was used to scan the comic book art, the result was aesthetically pleasing, reproducing the fine color of the original, but the lettering was not quite legible; this was solved by adding client side browser code so that hovering over the word or thought bubble caused it to enlarge to a readable size.


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