Despite an unprecedented wave of sales growth and media hype washing over the comics and graphic novel market, CrossGen Comics, a three-year-old maverick comics publisher, has hit turbulent financial waters.
In July and August, several CrossGen freelancers went public with complaints that the company had not paid them for their work. In an August interview with ICV2.com, a pop culture trade news Web site, CrossGen president, CEO and founder Mark Alessi said that several members of the company's senior management had been going without salaries, and in early September CrossGen CFO Mike Beattie left the company abruptly, as some of its artists were rumored to be looking for work elsewhere.
CrossGen's initial financing came from a small group of investors that included Alessi, an outspoken tech multimillionaire who built the company around an old-fashioned studio system (many CrossGen artists and writers work in-house at the company's headquarters) in Florida. The company had tentatively scheduled a second round of financing, but the new group pulled out early this summer and since then CrossGen has been struggling for cash. "We're in the process of finalizing a second round of financing," said Chris Oarr, CrossGen's director of marketing and sales. "My understanding is that you will be writing a very different story in about five days."
The company published 23 trade books in 2002 and had 36 scheduled for this year. However, ambitious plans for its trade paperback publishing program haven't all worked out. The Forge and Edge paperback anthology series were canceled early this year after only a few volumes apiece. And for the last couple of months not only have CrossGen's regular monthly comics titles missed publishing deadlines, its trade paperback program has gone missing altogether. Collections of the award-winning Ruse series and the newer Way of the Rat series that were supposed to have been published in July and August have yet to appear, and new publishing dates have not been announced.
"We certainly have had to tighten our belt in terms of the release schedule on our trade book side," Oarr said. "Despite all that, we shipped 35,000 copies of Meridian Vol. 1 to Scholastic Book Fairs and Scholastic Book Clubs in early July and also debuted the new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series of books." And he reiterated that the trade paperback program, including the much-anticipated collection of Lady Death should be up and running again once the company's second round of financing is in order.
"As it stands, we should be addressing the backlog of trade books within the next three weeks, and we should clear that backlog well before the end of the year," said Oarr. "We'll probably be ready to announce a book schedule the second or third week of October."