Monday, December 03, 2007

Learning from History

Marvel's new online initiative in many ways draws from lessons learned from the ill-fated comics start-up, CrossGen. In 2005, Comic Book Artist was planning to do a story on CrossGen, just shortly before they went belly up. I was actually a subscriber to their online service, even though I wasn't impressed with the content itself. I went out on a limb and practiced a little tough love in my column, and then scrapped it when CrossGen founder Mark Alessi folded up his tent. You can read the column here. I was proud of it and thought it had some important points to make about creating compelling characters, as well as making comics happen online on a major scale.

I'm not sure the kind of creativity that comics require is compatible with the corporate atmosphere Alessi had created. Creatives need chaos and disorder to let real ideas bubble to the surface. It's one thing to foster discipline in accounts payable, but that isn't really applicable to madcap ingenuity. I think the atmosphere Stan Lee fostered with Marvel in the 60's is the ideal type of medium for letting ideas flow. Deadlines are the only structure that artists generally require. In the end, the left-brain thinking Alessi took to the bank in Silicon Valley made for some extremely forgettable comics.


Meridian. Mystic. Sigil. the First. Sojourn. Scion. Negation. Crux.

After reading through all of these titles on the Web, I have to make a confession. I can’t tell any of them apart. At least, not in anything other than a superficial way. Each title stakes a claim on a different genre like “Sword and Sorcery,” “Medieval Fantasy Adventure,” ”Widescreen Science Fiction,” etc etc. The (vaguely fantasy-oriented) science fiction titles are somewhat distinguishable from the (vaguely sci-fi oriented) fantasy titles. But read that list of titles again. In gathering research for this article, I kept clicking on Scion when I was looking for Sojourn and even then I wasn’t sure if it was actually Sigil I was trying to select. The books all are drawn in what is more or less a CrossGen house style: idealized, beautiful people making their way through a backdrop of detailed castles, futuristic cities and spaceships and the type of stylized landscapes that look like nothing you’ve ever seen outside of a comic book.

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