RIP Mark Alessi, CrossGen Founder
Ron Marz has reported on Twitter that CrossGen founder Mark Alessi passed away yesterday.
It seems the news is starting to circulate, so I feel some mention is appropriate. Mark Alessi, who founded and ran CrossGen Comics, apparently passed away this morning. I know no details. 1/
— Ron Marz (@ronmarz) March 30, 2019
CrossGen published comics from 2000-2004, when they went bankrupt. Marz wrote their titles Scion (fantasy adventure about a guy with a sword), Mystic (scantily clad sorceress), Sojourn (fantasy adventure about a gal with a bow), and The Path (samurai). Their other main writers were Tony Bedard, Chuck Dixon, Mark Waid, and Barbara Kesel, while artists included Joshua Middleton, Steve McNiven, Jim Cheung, Bart Sears, Brandon Peterson, Greg Land, and the Lai Brothers. The publisher also owned the Florida MegaCon from 1999-2003.
CrossGen was different because, reportedly spurred by mistaken understanding of the glory days of the Marvel Bullpen, Alessi, a tech millionaire, brought those who worked for him in-house for a salary and benefits. Creators moved to Tampa, Florida, to work at CrossGen instead of freelancing from wherever.
The first titles — Sigil, Scion, Mystic, Meridian, and CrossGen Chronicles — launched a connected universe where each character had a sigil, a mystical brand that granted powers. Later series varied more in genre, including mystery and horror.
CrossGen was a leader in selling comics online with their Comics on the Web subscription product. As a company, they were hoping for media investment, which never substantially materialized, and word began circulating in 2003 that freelancers (as they had moved away from the employee model, they began operating more like other corporate American comic publishers) weren’t getting paid. The company filed for bankruptcy in June 2004, and Disney bought their assets in December of that year. Marvel, by then a Disney company, put out a few miniseries based on CrossGen properties in 2011 but none were particularly successful. A lot of the reporting on their rise and fall is no longer available online, based on my search of my archives and what I had linked to, but there is a short retrospective here.
My main CrossGen memory comes from the last time I went to the San Diego Comic-Con (I think it was 2002 or 2003). I had been reviewing CrossGen’s titles unfavorably because I thought they were pretty generic. Alessi wasn’t a fan, understandably. Then Randy Lander and Don MacPherson took me to the CrossGen party. Apparently, between doing a few tequila shots and looking good in the dress I was wearing, Alessi’s opinion of me became more favorable. Never underestimate the personal connection, kids.