Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CrossGen Comics

 In 2000, a new comic book publisher came onto the scene.  They were called CrossGen.  They started with four regular titles and one periodic title.  They added one more title in 2000.  Then in 2001 they expanded with three new regular titles.  In 2002 they added another four titles.  In 2003 they added another 4 titles and one more was added in 2004.  That did not include the various spin-off miniseries or licensed titles.  Many believe that the company expanded to fast without having the proper readership to keep up with the publishing costs. 

They were not the first to do non-spandex comics with a shared continuity.  They however tried to cohesively tie various opposing genres into a unified continuity.   The attempt of fusing so many disparate concepts may have been a factor in their demise. They also tried to have better business practices with the regards to employees. 

Other novel publishing ideas included collecting all the titles in anthology compendiums.  This is something found in European and Japanese comic book and manga publishing.  This idea was extremely resisted by the retail establishment.  After an incident when two major book store chains discontinued carrying their titles and did a huge nationwide return, things looked very grim for the publisher. After ceasing publishing in 2004, Disney bought all the intellectual property of CrossGen.  In 2011 after the purchase of Marvel by Disney, there was an attempted revival.  It was not highly publicized or marketed.  They did some major changes to the concepts of two of the three properties they attempted to reboot. They seemed to avoid some of the most popular titles in the reboot.

CrossGen had many strong female characters both as lead characters and supporting characters.  At the time this was also unusual.  CrossGen played with a few genres outside the traditional western comic books format as well. I am going to explain the shared universe, and then I will write-up all the major titles.  CrossGen also published creator owned and licensed books as well.  Those titles I will not be covering.  Many survived finding new publishers or self published.  Warning the write-ups include some serious spoilers.  The company went out of business 10 years ago, so there has been more than enough time. 

Sigilverse Shared Universe of CrossGen

Many of the Characters in the CrossGen Universe had a mark on them called a Sigil, hence why many refer to the shared universe as the Sigilverse. The story of the Sigil Bearers was central to many of the books.  Many characters had mentors who knew more than they were letting on.  There was also the First, a group of God-Like beings who were involved in the larger narrative.  The Sigil Bearers were created to combat an upcoming threat, the Negation.  There was a major event that was going on when the company folded, the Negation War.  The mini-series that told the main part of that event did not finish.  Many titles were in the middle of their story lines, when the company shut down operations.


Sigil was a Military Science Fiction Space Opera.  It was set where a group of human worlds, the Planetary Union were at war with the Reptilian, Saurians.   Our hero was Samandahl "Sam" Rey, a Planetary Union Veteran turned mercenary.  Sam ended up a Sigil-bearer.  The series continued his and his crew’s adventures in the middle of the War.   It was a very gritty Space Opera.  Marvel attempted to reboot this in 2011 with Sam now a teenage girl from South Carolina who keeps shifting through time and space.


Mystic was set on a world where Sorcery was an organized and real.  There were seven Sorcery Guilds and they control the world of Ciress, the setting.  Ciress was a high technology planet, but also a Magical one as well.  Giselle a spoiled socialite was given the Sigil on the day her sister was to become a Master of one of the Guilds.  When Giselle gained her Sigil she absorbed the spirits of the long dead Masters of all seven Sorcery Guilds.  By doing this she had seemingly usurped the power of the current Guild Masters.  Giselle’s journey was about mastering her new abilities, ones she did not want.  Mystic was part of the attempted revival.  It was more about a magic in a Steampunk style world where only Nobles knew magic.  The two sisters are breaking the rules being poor and teaching themselves magic. 


Meridian was set in a world of floating islands and flying ships.   In this world each island was ruled by a Minister. The Minister of the island Meridian died leaving his fifteen year old daughter Sephie as Minister.  She and her Uncle, Ilahn, had the Sigils.  They were opposites whereas her powers were for healing, his were for destruction. They struggled against each other, Ilahn for power and Sephie to protect those she loved. 


Scion was set on a Techno-Feudal world.  The world was like the era of chivalry but had high Technological trappings including the genetically engineered lower races.   Two Dynasties on the planet warred, the Heron and Raven Dynasties. The story followed Ethan of The Heron Kingdom as he gained a Sigil.  He fought to avoid a war between his family and the Raven Kingdom.  The story follows the young Prince on his journey of discovery.  Scion was one of the few that ended a storyline before ending.  It was open to future stories.

CrossGen Chronicles

CrossGen Chronicles was an anthology book.  Each issue was a story from another world within the Sigilverse.  Usually the stories filled in the blanks for back-story for each title.

The First

The First followed the exploits of the First.  They were a collection of very powerful, nearly immortal beings, each of whom represented a different emotion.   The stories told were epic and very Homeric. They with the Sigil bearers were meant to battle with beings from another universe in the Negation War.  Like stated earlier that particular event was not completed, because of the company’s bankruptcy.


Crux was about a group of Atlanteans waking up in the present in the Sigilverse, 900th Century.  Earth has become an abandoned Amusement Park.  It is told that most of the Atlanteans transitioned to another plane of existence while some remained in suspended animation.  The Atlanteans Transition led to the Cataclysm and sinking of Atlantis.  There was a mystery to what happened to the residents of Earth and why they disappeared.


Sojourn was a quest styled High Fantasy tale.  In this story the Sigil Bearer was the main villain.  The heroine Arwyn, an archer, was on a quest for the five shards of a mystical arrow to defeat the evil Mordath, a wicked wizardly dictator.  It had many of the trappings of typical Fantasy, including Wizards, Dragon, Trolls and more.


Ruse was a wonderful Victorian style Master Sleuth tale, akin to Sherlock Homes.  It starred Simon Archard as the prestigious consulting detective and Emma Bishop is aide and partner.  It is hinted one is a Sigil Bearer and the other a guide.  That is never completely examined during the run.  The revival turned the city of Partington into a Victorian settlement from being the capital city on another world.  It had the fewest changes, but enough that it rubbed long time fans wrong.  Mostly the mentions of the Sigils and the city being on another world were removed. 


This title followed the exploits of beings that had been abducted from the Sigilverse to the Negation universe.  It also answered the question what happen to the population of Earth.  They attempted a transition similar to that the Atlanteans accomplished.  Instead of ascension they were transported to another universe entirely.  The story deals with the fallout of these events.

The Path

The Path was set on the world of Han Jin which was also the same world for Way of The Rat and Brath.  The path’s two major political cultures were bases on China and Japan during the Samurai era.  The first Sigil bearer, Todosi, was killed by a member of the First, his brother, Obo-San, replaces him.  It deals with the invasion by Nayado, the stand in for Japan, of the Shinacean Empire, the stand in for China.  It story deals with the fall out of that event.

The Way of the Rat

The Way of the Rat was set in the Shinacean Empire.  It followed Boon Sai Hong, a thief known as the Jade Rat, and his exploits.  It was an example of a Wuxia, Chinese Martial arts tale.  Boon with his talking monkey companion, Po Po, found themselves over their heads when he tries to steal an item that gets stolen by another thief.  Boon’s exploits push him into the world or mystical powers and magical artifacts.  He also ran afoul of the corrupt government. 

Route 666

Route 666 was a Horror comic set on a world in the middle of a ‘50’s era cold war.   Cassie Starkweather started to see dark spirits.  Cassie ended up in a Mental Hospital.  The staff tried to convince her that what she was seeing was not real, however it was real.  The Hospital was in on the conspiracy and Cassie found herself fighting an entity called the Adversary. Cassie escaped and teamed up with a young man who later dies.  His father, a local sheriff, ended up believing Cassie, and they end up on a road trip to fight the conspiracy as the National Bureau of Investigation was on their tail.  Cassie had been framed for murder.  It was a wonderful blend of Cold War Horror and Road film.  Cassie was also a Sigil Bearer.


Brath followed Brath MacGaren, a Sigil Bearer and Urelander clansman. He was fighting the Legions of the Empire, a Roman Empire stand in.  The plot and story followed the typical Celts versus Roman Empire plots found in many Historical novels dealing with the early first centuries A.D. Brath’s mentor comes to him in the guise of the Stag God. 


Chimera was a miniseries, which was teased to be revisited at a later date.  It was about Sara, the sole survivor of a planetary genocide that left the Chimera Imperial forces wiped out as well.  Sara was a Sigil Bearer and a child when the incident occurred.  She found herself on a distant frozen world as a miner.  She was trying to keep a low profile, but events kept that from happening.    


Solus was about Solusandra, an ascended Atlantean.  She was the creator of the First, and helped create the Sigil Bearers, which she did with Dank.  The other ascended Atlanteans, except for Danik, did not approve of her actions. The ascended Atlanteans attacked Solusandra, this resulted in their deaths.  The only two ascended Atlanteans remaining are Solusandra and Danik.  Solusandra was an amnesiac, since the attack and the story followed her attempting to relearn who she was.

El Cazador

Whereas most of the titles in the main Sigilverse were set in the far future, El Cazador was the first set in the past.  El Cazador was a tale from the Golden Age of Piracy during the 17th Century.  It told the story of a Spanish noblewoman who becomes a pirate captain herself after being captured by pirates.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The second Sigilverse title to be set in Earth’s past, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was set in the 1960’s.  It followed an MI-6 agent named Charles Basildon.  Charles Basildon was revealed to be the name given to the top British agent.  We were introduced to Stephanie Shelly, who was partnered up with Basildon.  It was hinted Shelly may be the next Basildon some day. The title came from the Italian nickname for James Bond, Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.


Abadazad was not a Sigilverse title, but it was not a creator owned title either.  It was a series about a magical world that was written about by an author during the late 1800’s to the early 1920’s.  A group of children discover the stories had some grains of truth in them.  It melds Oz, Wonderland and other children’s fantasy from the same era.  It was revived by Hyperion Books, a division of Disney in 2006 in a hybrid format.  That format according to Wikipedia was a children's book series that combines diary entries, full-page illustrations, and sequential art.

The attempted revivals by Marvel, I feel did not do well, because they did not market them correctly.  Many CrossGen fans did not know they were out.  Another problem was they messed with the formula tried to fit the books in their idea of how they should work.  They also did not choose the most popular, save Ruse, of the titles.  I personally thought they should have launched Meridian, Route 666 and Ruse.  Route 666 was planned, but the poor sales of the first three led to that project being cancelled.  CrossGen was great and had well written strong female characters.  Maybe someday someone who grew up with these titles will have a shot at them with Marvel at a later date.

After seeing Big Hero 6, I think Meridian would be a perfect property for Disney Animation to adapt.  Sephie would fit in with many modern princesses, Merida, Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa.  It has the right amount of wonder and action.  Abadazad would be another good idea as well.  Especially with both properties not being used by Marvel, they could have a great chance as animated film.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.