Destroying Comics: The Return of CrossGen

My whole "Destroying Comics" series fell apart after a few entries, basically because life got in the way.  But I realized that I write about comic books so often that perhaps approaching these topics as if they are finite is a bad move.  So this is the first, non-sequential episode of "Destroying Comics."

After all my railing against corporate comic books, it would seem strange for me to say anything positive about CrossGen, a company that was, perhaps, the epitome of corporately owned comic books.  It was also seem strange for me to say anything positive about the return of some of their properties, this time from Marvel, one of the Big Two I so frequently attack.

And yet...

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn't really have a comic book store that I could call my own.  I also didn't go out of my way to find a store, as I felt pretty removed from that world.  So I signed up with an online service, which meant that not only were my comics shipped to my door, but that I ended up paying less for them.  It was nice to get a big box of new books once a month.

I was looking for bang for my buck back then, and CrossGen was offering exactly that with their compendium series.  Up until that point, I had never read a single issue of a comic book that CrossGen had put out.  It's not that I didn't appreciate a new publisher making their mark on the industry or the fact that they were doing something other than superheroes, I just wasn't a fan of the core concept of that universe, and none of the creative teams particularly moved me (not back then, at least).  But something like 200 pages of full color comics on glossy paper for what, after my pre-order discount, was like $6?  How could I pass that up?

Perhaps not surprisingly, CrossGen slowly began falling apart just after I started reading their compendium series; I was actually a pretty faithful reader of those two books.  And why not?  Like I said, it was a great value for a guy on a limited budget.  Not only that, but they were stories that I couldn't get from the Big Two.  It reminded me that I was a nerd for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, not just for superheroes.

When CrossGen eventually went under, I wasn't surprised.  I had read enough about the CrossGen system to know that it was destined to fail, regardless of the egos as play.  Yes, comic books are a business, but comic books are a business, but they're also an art form, and you can only monetize art so far.  Both Marvel and DC have been smart enough to realize this; CrossGen was not.

The lasting legacy of CrossGen was ultimately its attempt at diversifying the types of comic books we see on the shelves each week.  CrossGen actually said, hey, people who read comic books also like science fiction and fantasy and pirates and spies and kung-fu, so maybe we should try to give that to them.  And who knows, maybe that would have worked had these comics been produced in a different way.

And that's exactly what is happening now, at least on a small scale.  Marvel now owns the CrossGen concepts and they have decided to start publishing some of those titles, initially as four issue limited series' (a smart move, I will admit).  So far, they're publishing Sigil and Ruse, but rumor has it that more are to come.

I love that Marvel are doing this for the very obvious reason why I would love it: diversity.  And, as a man who tries to put his money where his mouth is, I'm buying both of them.

Subjectively speaking, Ruse is the better book, as it's basically the original concept minus all the shared universe business that weighed it down originally.  Sigil is a fairly complete revamp, and a strange one at that.  The creative team is great, but the story so far hits on all the stereotypical YA beats, complete with what feels like a mandated teenage girl as the lead.  I've got no problems with a title featuring a teenage girl in the starring role, but Route 666 wouldn't have to be changed at all to fit that mold, so why not just go with that?  Meridian wouldn't have to be changed at all, either.  Why not use a series that already exists?

I have no idea if the CrossGen titles coming out from Marvel are going to bring in any new readers.  I have no idea if they'll even do well with people who already shop in comic book stores.  I hope they do.  But at the very least it's something different than everything else we see on the Marvel shelf, and at this point that's all I can ask for.