This week I have some good news to report from the perspective of future growth in the comics
industry. First of all, I just received a call from Mark Alessi, the President of CrossGen Comics.
He was calling to tell me that my TFTDB column of a few weeks ago, about the fantastic new CrossGen
Comics Teaching Guides, generated an incredible wave of interest in their new program for utilizing
graphic novels for teaching young people how to read in public schools. According to Mark, they
received requests for information not only from hundreds of teachers, but also from Cable News
Network (CNN), and from two very important consumer magazines: TEEN WEEK and BETTER HOMES AND
GARDENS. It seems that the idea of creating a comprehensive program designed to integrate comics
into the classroom struck a chord with a great number of influential people.
As a response to this overwhelming request for information, Mark Alessi has taken the unprecedented
step of putting the entire MERIDIAN and RUSE TEACHER'S GUIDES on the CrossGen website for free
examination. You can read them either by utilizing the red link on the CrossGen home page at
or go directly into the Teaching Guides via
In addition, there is now a special Message Board Forum designed to allow teachers to engage in
dialog about the guides, and a special e-mail address
(email@example.com) for all those who
wish to provide feedback directly to the creators of the guides.
I hope that all of you understand the risks that Mark Alessi has exposed himself to by putting
the entire contents of his two publications online. While these are works in progress, CrossGen
could still be easily ripped off by those who would take free advantage of all the thousands of
hours of hard work that the CrossGen staff put into creating these great books. Mark told me that
he considers that an acceptable risk, however, if allowing everyone to evaluate the teaching guides
for free will add to the growing nationwide excitement generated by this wonderful new teaching
program. I think you have to really admire that kind of risk taking and progressive thought. That's
exactly what the comics industry has been sorely lacking during the past ten years.
Along those same lines, I am delighted to pass along my congratulations to Steve Geppi and Gemstone
Publishing for their brilliant coup in negotiating a new master contract to bring Disney comics back
into publication in America. Whenever I'm exhibiting in Europe, and the subject of the lack of Disney
comics in the USA enters a conversation, I hear complete bewilderment that America cannot support a
vigorous line of Disney comics. They are among the best selling comics in every country in Europe, as
well as many other countries around the world, so no one in Europe can understand why they don't sell
The reasons why Disney comics have not succeeded here in the past are very complex. Bruce Hamilton
revived them successfully, twice, first after the hiatus brought on by the failure of Gold Key and
Whitman, then again after Disney's short-lived fiasco in self publishing. In both instances, Bruce
ended up in major conflict with Disney over contractual issues. Those disagreements became so bitter
that Bruce finally returned the license to Disney. It was his understanding at that time (1996?)
that Steve Geppi was on the brink of a new deal with Disney, so he felt confident that Gemstone
would be able to hire most of the staff he had assembled at Another Rainbow. Well, it took six years
of difficult negotiations, but the Disney/Gemstone deal was finally signed in December. Effective in
June, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES and UNCLE SCROOGE will return as 64-page prestige format books,
at a $6.95 cover price. If those books sell well, current plans are to revive DONALD DUCK and MICKEY
MOUSE (as MICKEY MOUSE & FRIENDS) as 32-page standard comics, at a $2.95 cover price.
As for the Another Rainbow staff, I am delighted to report that three key staff members were able to
answer Steve Geppi's call to duty. John Clark is already in place as editor-in-chief, Gary Leach will
be the new art director, and Susan Daigle-Leach has been hired as the production manager. With those
three key staffers in place, I feel very confident that the new Disney comics line will be just as
competently produced as any issues ever were in the past. Initial issues will focus on reprinting
material originally produced by Egmont in Europe, but John Clark indicated that negotiations are
underway to possibly produce entirely new material in the not-so-distant future.
To get the new Disney Comics line off to a great start, Steve Geppi has made a very bold decision.
Despite the fact that he will have no books available for sale yet on May 2nd, Steve has decided to
take the risk to produce a spectacular comic Disney for Free Comic Book Day. In the June issue of
DIAMOND PREVIEWS magazine there will be a solicitation for a special edition of MAHARAJAH DONALD,
a Carl Barks masterpiece first published in 1946, as MARCH OF COMICS #4. I cannot think of a better
comic book to pass out to young people on Free Comic Book Day. In fact, I will commit right now to
purchase a minimum of 5,000 copies, all of which I will guarantee to give away for free. I figure
it's the least that I can do to try and help Steve Geppi revive this all-important part of the
American comics publishing universe.
In closing, I want to salute both Mark Alessi and Steve Geppi for having the vision, and the guts,
to take on the risks entailed with the creation of these bold new programs. As long as I see leaders
in the comics industry coming forth with dynamic new initiatives to introduce young people into the
joys of comics and graphic entertainment, I'll retain at least some sense of optimism for the future
of our world. Thanks guys!
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221