Jul 31, 2010

Marvel to Bring Back CrossGen, and Why It's Awesome

It's been almost a week since SDCC ended, and I keep trying to sift through the news reports to see if there was anything I missed. I expected to be really busy this week giving my opinion on a bunch of newsbits, but I've come to the conclusion that barely anything worthwhile happened during SDCC in terms of comics news. There was a lot of movie talk and video game talk, but barely anything on the comics front. Dan Slott was announced as the new regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man, which I'm happy about, since I think Dan really gets Spider-Man, but he's also been writing a huge bulk of the Spider-Man stories for the last two years. Everything else - new releases, etc. - seems to be stuff that didn't really have to be unveiled at SDCC. On the whole, I feel like the Jack Kirby/Alex Ross/Kurt Busiek project announcement before SDCC was more exciting than most SDCC comics news. Combined.

(Still, I'd rather have no news than bad news.)

Having gotten that out of the way, there was one piece of news that did take me by surprise and make me smile, and that was the news that Marvel was going to revive CrossGen, which makes so much sense that I wonder why no one thought to do it before. CrossGen ran from 1998 to 2004, and

I wasn't seriously collecting comics when CrossGen came out in 1998 -- I was pretty relegated to Alan Moore's ABC stuff and the Kurt Busiek/George Perez Avengers run due to budget constraints, so I wasn't there to experience CrossGen in its glory days. But what I read about it back when it was coming out at the time and what I read by CrossGen later on, after it had already gone bankrupt, made me really think it was one of comics' greatest failures. If not for some bad business practices, it could have - and should have - done so much.

The thing that jumps out most about CrossGen is the diversity of genre. In order to avoid the confusion a shared universe brings, CrossGen properties were all set on different worlds; it didn't matter if the inhabitants of these worlds were all human in appearance or if it seemed like they all take place in different time periods. Ostensibly, it all took place on different worlds at the same time, with the only unifying element in the books being the sigil above, which one character in each book would have it and would then possess a power based on it.

The intricacies and dynamics of the CrossGen universe are too complex for me to completely outline here, so I'll just point you to the Wikipedia article, but because of the isolated nature of each book, you can enjoy the universe without actually enjoying it as a universe, per se. There are crossovers between the books, some subtle and some not so, but done in such a way that it doesn't matter if you follow the other books or not.

That having been said, let's look at some of the worlds. Most (and by most, I mean all but one) of the CrossGen issues I bought were drawn by George Perez,  which was what drew me to the property in the first place. I hear that Checker Books has come out with collections of CrossGen stuff, but I haven't been able to find them here.

The world of Avalon is the setting of Scion, the star of which is Ethan, the heir (hence the title) to the Heron Dynasty. The series is like a modern-day Camelot (hence the name of the world), full of swords and kingdoms and ships and battles. A very wonderful boys' comic in a time when the medium sorely needs the genre diversification.

Meridian takes place in the world of Demetria, in which there is a system of floating islands, since a bunch of land was elevated into the sky. The series follows Sephie, who has become minister of Meridian, and her attempts to learn how to use her powers with her new role. Once again, this is a comic that is appealing ostensibly for girls, but really anyone, and I think the fact that it's about magic in a fantasy setting is great for genre diversification.

Sigil is a science fiction space opera with spaceships, aliens, and big guns, and it takes place on the world of Delassia.

Mystic, taking place on the world of Ciress, is also about magic, and there could be something said about the fact that this also stars two girls, Genevieve and Giselle, and how the comics thus far with girls in them focus on magic, but in a market flooded with a bunch of male superheroes, surely two female-centric magic books doesn't count as flooding the market. In Mystic, sorcery is organized into many guilds. I recommend this issue of CrossGen Chronicles. It's really moving.

And then there's the planet Arcadia, where Detective Simon Archard and his apprentice, Emma Bishop, go through their adventures in Ruse. Folks, if you want to look at how diverse CrossGen's lineup was, just look at the list we've got so far: medieval fantasy, magical fantasy, science fiction space opera, another kind of magical fantasy, and now, a supernatural Sherlock Holmes. I've only read one issue of Ruse, but under Mark Waid and Butch Guice's pens, it was excellent and cried out for more.

And finally, there's Sojourn, for a time CrossGen's highest-grossing comic. On the planet Quin, the protagonist Arwen is sent to kill the sigil-bearer Mordath. It's about as straightforward a fantasy romp as you can get, with swords and fantastic McGuffins, except the main character is female. Perhaps that accounts for the wide readership?

So there you have a small sampling of what CrossGen had to offer, and what Marvel stands to bring back with CrossGen. Looking at the titles I described above, it's pretty even in terms of gender representation, and though there is a disproportion as it relates to the diversity of CrossGen's genres, one can't deny that it's still really diverse, and would again be welcome - very welcome - additions to the marketplace. Ships, swords, Victorian detectives, and bows and arrows? It would be such a great way to get girls (did this actually increase female readership at the time) and non-superhero fans into comics, and I really hope Marvel doesn't drop the ball on this one!

To close, here's a George Perez-drawn page for the unpublished Lady Death/Sojourn crossover, with inks by yours truly!


Christian Zamora said...

This is a nice entry on the CrossGen books. Oh, and great inking of that page. Did you do this inking for fun or did you actually do work for CrossGen? I really can't remember.

By the way, you might be interested in joining the "Crossgen Fans Unite!" group over at Facebook. Some old fans and I are created it to keep up to date with the CG news. Btw, I just linked your blog post over there. Oh, here's the link in case you're interested: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=138654149499744


Duy Tano said...

Thanks for the plug, sir! But I'm not an artist; I just inked that page for fun.

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