Comics Spotlight on CrossGen Titles

Geek Culture

CrossGen Entertainment was an ambitious experiment in creating a new type of comic book company. In existence from 1998-2004, CrossGen featured stories that included everything from galactic adventures, magical court intrigue, a young girl trying to regain her family’s legacy, a steampunk detective and, near the end, a female pirate.

CrossGen's Once Familiar Sigil

Though it ultimately failed financially, creatively there were some wonderful titles written and drawn by big-name talent. (Not all of whom got paid what they were owed when the company collapsed, sadly.)

Eventually, Disney acquired the CrossGen intellectual properties and then Disney acquired Marvel, and now Marvel is rolling out two of the most popular CG titles, Ruse and Sigil, next month.

I’m very excited about Ruse especially as it was one of my favorite titles from any comics company ever.

I’ve reviewed it before in this column but essentially it’s an alternate world Sherlock Holmes story with this world’s Holmes, Simon Archard,working with a female assistant/partner who has some magic of her own. At least, she did in the original series.

It’s a good sign for the revival that the original writer, Mark Waid, will again be on the title. I only hope that the art is as spectacular as Butch Guice’s work on the original.

Sigil was one of CrossGen’s four original titles and it’s a sprawling galatic saga set on a number of worlds. Barbara Kesel, Waid and Chuck Dixon all wrote for the title but the relaunch is being handled by Mike Carey.

Sigil, CrossGen, first issueSigil, CrossGen, first issue

Cover to the original first issue of Sigil

Hopefully, if these relaunches are successful, we will see more of the CrossGen titles from Marvel.

However, if you missed them the first time around, there are plenty of trade paperbacks of the CrossGen titles available.

One of the more popular titles, Abadazad, has already been converted into another format. From writer J.M. DeMattis and artist Mike Ploog, this was the story of a teenage girl who found herself in the middle of a supposedly fictional kingdom as she was searching for her younger brother, who has been missing for years.

Azcabadad is now a series of books for readers ages four to seven. The first, The Road to Inconceivable, has diary entries, full-page illustrations and sequential art. A check of Amazon revealed the three books available from a number of sellers. It’s well worth checking out for younger children, as the creators let their imaginations run wild.

My other favorite CrossGen titles include Meridian, the creation of the severely under-rated Barbara Kesel, which was set on a world of floating islands and the only transportation between them was by airship. The lead character is a young woman, Sephie, who becomes leader of the Meridian island after her father is killed. She’s soon involved in a war with her powerful uncle who wants to impose tyranny on the island and the rest of the world.

This is an especially good story to introduce girls to comics. Sephie is a great protagonist, powerful enough to be formidable and young enough to be unsure of herself and make mistakes. I know several women who got into reading comics as teens through their love of Sephie. Flying Solo, the first trade, is available at Amazon, as well as some of the later trades, and all for a very good price.

Other titles worth reading are Sojourn, a medieval fantasy series with lovely art by Greg Land before his work took a turn for the static; Negation, featuring the tale of a bunch of humans and aliens who break out from a galactic prison; and El Cazador, a story from the age of pirates that featured a female captain. The art on this one, particularly the sailing ships, is stunning but the story, alas, was never finished. But it’s worth buying the trade for artist Steve Epting’s work. Lush is the best way to describe it.

Horror fans should check out Route 666, set in a world like our 1950s and featuring a college student who can see and talk to ghosts. The trade is called Highway of Horror.

All the trade collections that I checked on at Amazon were reasonably priced, even cheap. I have no doubt there are also individual issues and trades also available on eBay and other sites for similarly reasonable prices.

The only catch to buying some of these books is that many of the stories haven’t yet ended. Some did get an story conclusion, such as Ruse, others did not, like El Cazador. But I highly recommend checking out some of the original trades for because the quality was very good, at least at first before the financial difficulties overtook the company.

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