Last week, I explained how I believe that most of the mainstream comics publishers are missing the boat when it comes to utilizing the Internet. As much as I admire the online efforts put forth by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image, I just don't think that they're really gotten behind the idea that they need to transform themselves into online companies. Each of them is making efforts to market their publications online, but it is clear that they see the Internet as just another marketing tool, rather than a new platform around which to rebuild their companies.
In marked contrast to the "Big Four," CrossGen comics is starting to show what can be done with the Internet to grow the sales of comics. I've been browsing through CrossGen's site today, and the more I've seen, the more I've liked. CrossGen CEO and Publisher Mark Alessi has made the CrossGen website the central core to his company, and it is clear that his efforts are starting to bear fruit. If you spend just 15 minutes browsing CrossGen.com, I think you will be amazed at all the neat areas that you can stumble into. This is a website which is fun, and promotes the sale of comics, too!
Before I send you off to www.CrossGen.com, however, I have to warn you that the CrossGen site requires a fairly new browser. I've been operating with Netscape 4.73 for the past few years, and never bothered to upgrade. Until now. Every time I tried to get into the "Comics on the Web" section of the CrossGen site this afternoon, the program froze up my computer. Even after working with the CrossGen techs, I still wasn't able to browse the system without crashes. Suffice it to say, I'll be upgrading to Netscape 7.0 tomorrow.
Browser issues aside, what I was able to see in the "Comics on the Web" section was wonderful! You can read sample issues of CrossGen comics for free! More importantly, they are fun and easy to read. The graphics are tight and clean, and the word balloons expand when you run your cursor over them. That is a fantastic feature for someone, like myself, who reads with trifocals. The pages also turn in a flash, which is another very positive feature. This is the best method for reading comics online that I have ever seen.
Another positive feature of "Comics on the Web" is the cost. Maggie Thompson, our esteemed editor, told me via e-mail the other day that she signed up for the "lifetime" deal of being able to read all CrossGen comics ever posted for only $75! I'm not sure if that deal is still available, but if it is, I plan to sign up, too. If you don't want to make such a long commitment, I understand that you can read all the monthly issues (a month after they're first placed on the new comics racks) for only $1 per month. I simply don't know how this deal could be any better...
Aside from having all their back issues online for you to read, CrossGen also has chat rooms, original artwork for sale, prints of some of their nicest artwork, creator interviews, and much, much more. This is a site that I like very much. Is it any wonder that CrossGen is gaining ground very rapidly on the "Big Four?" In an age when other publishers are marking their progress by the minimization of their rate of unit sales decline, CrossGen is growing! Well, golly, do you think it just might be because they're taking advantage of the potential of the Internet just a little bit more than the big boys? I certainly believe that to be the case.
As an aside, when I had my browser problems today I sent a message directly to Mark Alessi. Within ten minutes, I had a phone call from the CrossGen techs, seeking to figure out why my system wouldn't properly interface with theirs. They walked me through the entire process, and took notes the whole way. While I'm certain that I got some measure of better treatment than a typical fan, I also got the impression that there was a real spirit of dedication on the part of everyone at CrossGen to do things the right way. The techs explained that they had already made their system work well with over 30 other browsers, and that they thought that they could get my issues resolved with in a short period of time.
Imagine that, a comic book company that actually cares whether or not they're doing a good job!?! I can't remember when I last ran into such a refreshing attitude at a major publisher. Wait a minute, yes I do. It was when I first met Jim Shooter, Archie Goodwin, and the rest of the staff at the Marvel offices in 1980. That was the beginning of the rebirth for Marvel, when there were no limits on what could be done, because every idea was worth checking out. I'm not saying that CrossGen is automatically going to be the next Marvel, but I certainly sense that something great is about to happen to that company.
Next week, I'll tell you about the incredibly cool new program coming from CrossGen that could bring more new readers to comics than any innovation since the invention of the Direct Market.
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221