CROSSGEN Founder Mark Alessi Dies at 65

Crossgen Comics
Credit: The Walt Disney Company
Credit: Brandon Peterson (Walt Disney Company)

Crossgen founder Mark Alessi died on March 30, 2019 at the age of 65, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Alessi, who be a millionaire entrepreneur in the early 1990s with his tech start-up Technical Resource Connection (TRC), is known to comic book fans as the founder of CrossGen Comics. 

CrossGen was founded in 1998 in Tampa, Florida with an unconventional approach to the industry — the bulk of the company’s writers and artists (many hired away from DC and Marvel) were full-time employees who worked out of an office, complete with health care and steady salaries, instead of freelancers working from home. CrossGen quickly attracted more high-profile talent, including Barbara Kesel as Director of Creative Development (“head writer”) and Ron Marz and Mark Waid as “senior writers."

Alessi and CrossGen also broke major talent, giving artists like Steve McNiven and Joshua Middleton their first high profile assignments in the industry. 

Their first comic, a preview book called CrossGenesis, came out in January 2000. Six months later, publication started in earnest with sci-fi series Sigil, fantasy tales Mystic and Meridian, sword and sorcery book Scion and CrossGen Chronicles, meant to tell the story of the larger CrossGen Universe - a line that went beyond standard Direct Market superhero comics. Early CrossGen titles were all unified in the “Sigilverse,” with specific characters in each series designated supernaturally powered “Sigil-Bearers.”

With a very public goal of competing directly with DC and Marvel, Alessi launched a “Comics on the Web” initiative, an early foray into digital publishing that put CrossGen's entire library online, accessible through a subscription service. And in another move that put CrossGen comics in the hands of new readers, CrossGen Education brought their comics into the classroom to help teach reading comprehension.

CrossGen wasn't built to last, however. In 2003, reports indicated that the company was in dire financial straits, with several freelancers and exclusive creators working as staff speaking out and, in some cases, quiting the company. In a 2016 interview on the Dollar Bin podcast, Alessi said that his start-up capital - stock in Perot Systems, which he obtained when he sold TRC to them - had dropped significantly on the stock market, affecting cash flow. On Alessi's LinkedIn page, the Crossgen founder attributed it to delays in planned adaptations of CrossGen projects by DreamWorks.

CrossGen halted operations and filed for bankruptcy in June 2004, leading to the abrupt cancelation of their entire line. In November the Walt Disney Company announced it had acquired the company for $1 million.

Marvel Comics tried to relaunch several CrossGens title in 2011, but the revival was short-lived.

Following CrossGen's bankruptcy, Alessi returned to the tech industry were he reportedly worked until his death. 

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