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Crossing Boundaries, Part 3

CrossGen Comics inaugurates two new programs aimed at expanding the comic book audience...but will they succeed?

    May 18, 2002


FORGE, one of the first entries in CrossGen's COMPENDIA series
© CrossGen Comics
Last time, CrossGen VP Tony Panaccio detailed the challenges that faced CrossGen in setting up the COMPENDIA project and its two titles, FORGE and EDGE. In the final installment, he explains the principle underlying the omnibus trade paperback plan and the problems facing the comic book industry as a whole.

Panaccio believes that if CrossGen manages to achieve the balance they're seeking in the COMPENDIA titles, readers will get to appreciate the scope of the CrossGen universe on another level.

EDGE, one of the first titles in CrossGen's COMPENDIA series

"That's one of the other reasons why this works," says Panaccio. "Once people read it COMPENDIA style, they get the same impact that our initial readers got two years ago reading only four titles a month, because they get to see something unfold across four different titles that tie together, like one of those [Magic Eye] pictures you stare at for twenty minutes. The titles stand on their own but are pieces to a puzzle. When you put it together, you get more value [and] a greater epic that you can follow month to month."

CrossGen doesn't believe the existence of the web and reprint programs will harm the sales of their single issues. According to Panaccio, it's all about choice.

"Comics on the Web" offers a subscription-based library of CrossGen comics

"People, especially retailers and fans, have been beaten bludgeoned and battered, and tend to think in a very linear fashion, because they don't know when the next blow is coming," says Panaccio. "[They have a] reluctance to break free from those 'if then' statements. [In a whiny tone] 'If comics are on the web, they won't want to buy print comics,' or 'If COMPENDIA collections are available, they won't want to buy single issues.' That's like saying if Pepsi is available in the 96 ounce tub with a mouth wide enough to stick your head in the bottle, why would they want to buy twelve packs?"

"That's not logic that works in the consumer marketplace. There isn't one flavor of consumer. Right now we have a conventional wisdom in comics that there are two flavors - single issues and trades, and that real dirty secret no one wants to cop to is that 80% of the trades are sold to people who already own the single issues. Consumers want choices. I want to know that I can get a twelve-ounce can of Coke when it suits me, or three giant jugs at a cheaper price when I'm having a party. I want that choice."

Panaccio notes that the comic books available today represent a plethora of choices in just about every genre. The trick is to get them to readers.

"The whole thing revolves around trying to establish a consumer sales change that makes sense, says Panaccio. "If you talk to anybody about the state of the comics industry today, they'll probably agree across the board that comics are more creatively dynamic that they've ever been. Pick a genre, an audience, an idea, and there's probably a comic that maps that taste. There's incredible diversity - every possible range of content is represented in sequential art form."

Hey look! A gorilla! SCION #15

"The crime of comics being at that level these days is the fact that our distribution chain is broken. We have these incredible mass market consumer entertainment comics that aren't reaching the mass market in any way, shape, or form on a regular basis. We're at the mercy of a chain that doesn't favor the inclusion of new readers, so what we want to try to do is cast a net out there to the mainstream consumer population, because we don't think there's a reason at all why millions of people aren't reading comics other than the fact they can't find them, and don't have access to them, and aren't necessarily inclined to seek them out."

CrossGen intends to continue to respect and serve the comic book faithful while reaching out to newcomers with the new programs, and Panaccio encourages the other publishers to rip off the CrossGen way of doing things. Did we hear that right?

"If we make money at it, they'll copy it, and if we lose our shirts on it, they won't," says Panaccio. "I would encourage them to copy it. We absolutely believe this is the direction to go for. [What the other publishers are] doing with their libraries right now are looking for points of entry. It doesn't take a significant amount of time to take the content we've already produced and repurpose it in a fashion that preserves the creative integrity and exposes it to new readers who have never read a comic in their lives."

Cover art for Mystic #13

"Our goal is to respect the loyalists and keep the quality up on a product we've raised the bar on, and maintain that as our core competency," adds Panaccio. "When we wanted to do a web version, we didn't try to learn how to do it, we hired Gabo. When we wanted to do movies and TV shows, I didn't want to know that stuff. If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I am the most dangerous man you will ever meet."

With Comics on the Web, the compilation titles, and the Most Dangerous Man alive helping CrossGen to seek out the best talents for the right jobs, it looks like this comic book publisher is determined to Forge a new universe of comic book readers, and they just might have the Edge they need to do it.

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