In December, direct market comic shop customers will begin to see a new look popping up with certain issues of every CrossGen Universe title. These new logos and trade dresses are the banner for CrossGen's new Key Issue Program, aimed at helping new readers jump on-board CrossGen's existing monthly titles.
Each Key Issue will contain a complete story that fits into the currentlonger-term storyline, but with certain key elements and characters featured in such a way that new readers can come on-board easily without having to have read any previous issue of that title. The current plan is to have one Key Issue every month, and one Key Issue per year for each title. The scheduling may work out differently in the long run, as the Key Issues will also feature that title's regular art teams and not relief artists, so there may be slight variations as time goes by. The logos of the books will change for that issue only, and the style of that logo will be consistent for every title published in the Key Issue Program. In addition, the issues will have a Key Issue banner running across the top of the book, and a miniature sigil-key near the artists' signatures. The first three CrossGen Key Issueswill be:
THE FIRST #25 (November 6)
Writer: Barbara Kesel
Penciler: Andy Smith
Inker: Bobby C
Colorist: Sumi Pak
This issue features the debut of some new and old faces in new roles in the art team for this title. Andy Smith, formerly Bart Sears' inker during his run as penciler on The First, debuts as regular penciler on The First with this issue. Inker Rob Hunter, who is being identified as Bobby C in the issue credits, stays in the role he has had on this title since issue #15. He changed his credit because, "Bobby C is what everyone calls me." The "C" is his middle initial, but Hunter declined to say what it stood for. The new colorist for The First, Sumi Pak, is a relative newcomer to the industry. She recently worked as a staff colorist at Wildstorm, where she worked on titles such as Birds of Prey, Codename: Knockout and several of DC's Batman titles. Pak's background prior to comics included four years at the Disney-supported Cal-Arts animation school, and prior to that, she attended the Rhode Island School of Design. Her first work for CrossGen was as arelief colorist for Meridian #27.
MYSTIC #31 (December 4)
Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciler: Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Colorist: Wil Quintana
CRUX #22 (January 15)
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inker: Rick Magyar
Colorist: Frank D'Armata
"This whole idea started at an after-hours bull session with a couplecreators and executives here talking about the fact that there is still a public perception about the CrossGen Universe that the train has left the station, and there is no way to get on it now," said Tony Panaccio, Vice President of Product Development for CrossGen. "It's a complete fallacy, because we try very hard to make each title stand alone and each issue new reader friendly. For the uninitiated, we need to reiterate that every CrossGen title can stand on its own as a story without readers needing to follow every other CrossGen title and we don't do company-wide crossover events. So, the Key Issue Program is simply an extension of that overall philosophy."
The challenge in executing this type of program fell to the creators, who saw the need to create stories that regular fans would enjoy, but that new fans could easily grasp without having background knowledge of all the characters before picking up that issue.
"What we didn't want to do in the Key Issues was write stories that rehashed everything, and provided no value for our existing fan-base," said Barbara Kesel, CrossGen's Head Writer. "We needed to provide complete stories that moved the overall stories along, while at the same time, introducing the basic concepts and characters of the ongoing epic of each title. With each new issue, we're finding that we're more and more up to that challenge, and we couldn't be more pleased with the stories our teams have cooked up."
For retailers, the Key Issue Program offers a low-cost point of entry for existing customers looking for something different, and something new every single month that can be used as a point of entry for the CrossGen line.
"As CrossGen continues to grow and expand, we continue to learn new things about the ways aggressive retailers are marketing our titles," Panaccio said. "When we start a new title with a #1, it's easy for retailers to point those issues out as a great jumping-on point, but the ongoing titles get left out of that equation. So, we wanted to provide retailers a tool that enabled them to sell our existing titles to new readers in a way that was simple, easy and truthful."