Friday, December 17, 2010

CamC: Cross-Gen Revived

This just in from Scoop:
Marvel Launches Crossgen Imprint in March
Marvel Comics will launch a new imprint, Crossgen, in March 2011, with two four-issue mini-series, Ruse and Sigil.

Mike Carey (Age of X) and Leonard Kirk (New Mutants) will be the creative team on Sigil #1, and Mark Waid (Stan Lee’s The Traveler) and Mirco Pierfederici (Tron: Original Movie Adaptation) will kick off Ruse #1.
You can read the rest of the Marvel Launches New Cross-Gen Imprint article at the Scoop site.

ABC News covered this matter, So has ComicsNexus, and others will no doubt get vocal as the March debute draws near. This is a fairly big deal as it involves a defunct publisher's relic-IP being zombified resurrected (and Marvel-ized! for your protection & comfort) by Marvel through the back-door of its corporate parent-company Disney. One look at this story and it is apparent to anyone with more than two functional brain cells currently in simultaneous operation that this is a very low-risk test-case scenario for Disney-Marvel. What other old, defunct, gobbled-up properties are there to be re-discovered and trotted out from deep wtihin the recesses of Disney's manifold corporate corpus?

It feels as though Disney/Marvel has been on the verge of becoming the IP-equivalent of Shub Niggurath spewing forth Revised, Revamped, Rebooted, Reconfigured, Ret-Conned and Regurgitated versions of various defunct and assimilated properties for a while now. They have been dipping into the older Atlas stuff that they inherited to develop the intriguingly off-beat quasi-Noir Agents of Atlas, they've reprised and extensively ret-Conned the Invaders (mostly to good effect, though Blazing Skull is NOT Ghost Rider...he's a Tulpa, DUH!) and there are other examples of this sort of thing, too many to fully catalog. DC is doing the same things with Red Circle (which they've assimilated after dropping the Impact line), etc. Maybe it's a competition? Could it be some sort of strange comic book arms-race of obscure and defunct titles/characters being resucitated and sent out to compete in the marketplace-arena of modern comics fandom. It's also a very old, time-honored and integral practice within comics publishing. As one publisher absorbed the defunct, stunned or stone-dead husk of another publisher, they have rebooted and incorporated any of those older characters into the 'current' line-up as they saw fit. Consider Fawcett's characters like Captain Marvel, or Charlton's Blue Beetle or Captain Atom in the DC universe. Look at how DC has brought back a DC-ified relaunch of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. It's an absolutely fascinating ongoing process of tulpa-like evolution and memetic-exchange and re-discovery. Heck, the Blue Beetle had already been handed-off between at least three different publishers before he landed at DC, so at least he's used to this sort of thing.

Shared universes aren't all that new of an idea, and the comics industry has been exploring some rather interesting approaches to reconciling the collision and assimilation/integration of parallel universes and inherited characters for decades now.

What I find most compelling and intriguing about this ongoing cycle of integration and amalgamation is the way it is all managed and directed and driven by market forces, not the creative process. This is a blatant intrusion of economics into the mythosphere and we've pretty much all just taken it for granted. Ho hum. So some obscure nitwit in tights used to be featured in stories put out by this company or that now-defunct publisher and now they're the property of some other company. Yawn. Who cares? Maybe someone ought to care. Like Rupert Murdoch did for news, a few megacorps are swallowing-up the remnants of the past and while they are at it, they are making substantial land-grabs of otherwise Public Domain characters. Older, neglected and lost characters are getting revised by the corporate titans so that they can establish and defend a trademark on characters that they have no more claim to than you or I...but once they have Their Trademarked Version of these characters, it effectively puts a major chill on anyone else's use or devleopment of them. It blocks other expressions, other versions, and makes the process of using these legacy properties/characters more of a mine-field than is ethical, reasonable or right. These are often the same people who preach the gospel of the so-called Free Market and Nonintervention by 'Big Government', despite their lobbying for extensions, protections and special treatment any time it looks like the Copyright Law might finally apply to them. But we can let the rhetoric/non-politics hang. There's work to be done, opportunities to go develop and Amazingly Cool Things to Do.

Companies that have built their fortunes upon the Public Domain ought to respect the source from which their wealth has come and respect the Public Domain. But Disney absolutely does not respect the Public Domain, despite having pilfered it ruthlessly and often from the very beginnings of Walt's non-union shop. It is just plain wrong to base your work on the Public Domain and then prevent anyone else from doing the same in return to your works. I'll refrain from invoking Steamboat Willy. This is a topic that used to get me steamed. Now it's something that I find engages my problem-solving tendencies along fun and potentially productive avenues. Why get het-up when you can do something about it? Look at what Dynamite is doing with Public Domain characters in their incredible Project Superpowers projects like at this Squidoo page, Wikia, or Wikipedia. Things are far from grim. If anything, there's more opportunity to delve into the Public Domain in a really big way now, more than ever before. Besides, time is on the side of the Public Domain. Even Disney will one day find it no longer cost-effective to legally game the system. But that's a tangent, and we can come back to it another day.

Getting back on track with the whole CrossGen/Marvel thing, this reminds me of how DC has been integrating a lot of their inherited properties of late, like the Phantom Lady and Uncle Sam. Over at Wikipedia, you can find a list of Quality, Fawcett & Charlton Characters Who Have Not Appeared in DC Comics Yet. Consider it a checklist that DC editorial will no doubt be examining for ideas soon enough.

It isn't just DC and Marvel that ahve been mining the Obscure and the Forgotten-- Moonstone, Boom! , AC and Dynamite have been bringing back older, often forgotten characters. Some of these are more successful than others, such as the enjoyableThe Last Phantom series from Dynamite. Despite the 'Last' in the title, maybe there's a chance we'll finally see a black Phantom before the next millennium? Who knows. There's a black Heimdall in Thor, so maybe some measure of progress is taking place after all...after a fashion...so to speak...

DC has also incorporated Eisner's The Spirt, Doc Savage, and The Shadow into their universe. Which is not new, either, as both Marvel and DC (as well as Gold Key, Street & Smith, Skylark, Millennium & Dark Horse) have done their own comic book re-interpretations of both Doc Savage and The Shadow over the years. It can get confusing, but there is a wonderful flowchart that maps out how things migrate from Copyrighted to Public Domain that might help out a little. If you care. Which I do.

So. CrossGen is coming back. More or less. This is akin in many respects to the Return of Atlas. Maybe it's a trend? Nah. It's busienss as usual in the Comics Industry, and that makes it all the more interesting and just plain weird all at once. Do petty godlings sit around boardroom tables discussing the relaunch of previously Ragnaroked universes? They do in the Comics Biz. Regularly and often.

What Once Was...

And What Will Be...


Some CrossGen Links

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