Created by Garth Ennis, "Crossed" debuted in 2008, and the disturbing, zombie-esque post-apocalyptic comic is still going strong today, spawning multiple spin-offs and projects -- including one by Alan Moore that takes place 100 years after the initial "Crossed" outbreak -- but as it turns out, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Avatar Press Editor-in-Chief William Christensen welcomed series creator Garth Ennis and writers Si Spurrier, Justin Jordan and Kieron Gillen came to Kieron Gillen to discuss the future of the franchise and possible new projects the publisher has on tap for the "Crossed" universe.
After introductions, the panel kicked things off with the recent announcement of Alan Moore's "Crossed +100," due out in December.
"Every time I get a script, I have to tear right into it," said Christensen.
"I think this Moore chap shows a lot of promise," said Ennis. "It's absolutely tremendous to have the most talented guy the industry has ever seen ... writing 'Crossed.' It actually began with Alan reading 'Crossed.' He told me it was too much for him. I think one of his grandchildren had just been born. ... He read on and he liked it and he started to ask us questions about it. I think we slowly realized, 'Holy shit! He wants to write it.' Everything has been a tremendous experience."
Si Spurrier's "Crossed: Wish You Were Here" web comic has just wrapped up, as well, and all four trade paperbacks of the series are now available. "Rather than being about a small group of survivors staying on the move, it was about a group of people trying to build a community. They were fucking doomed from the beginning," said Spurrier, who had a character in the beginning of the series that was basically him. "I couldn't really get to grips with that world ... unless I approached it from an honest perspective." Spurrier said as a result, the story was deeply personal, considering the amount of carnage that happens in the series. "You show once or twice how bad the world can get, you back up and make people realize it's all about the tension."
As "Crossed" has expanded, the line added Justin Jordan for a six-issue arc and what Christensen described as a "tasty" "Crossed" special.
"It turned out really cool," he said. "I got this idea of what would happen with the Crossed outbreak when it got to a prison. ... You can't get out and you can't do a thing about it. I was really happy with how that script got out. It turned out to be the perfect story for 34 pages."
Christensen announced that with "Crossed" #75, Kieron Gillen would come aboard the series. "We're thrilled to have him aboard," he said. "Normally, every 25 issues it's Garth's arc, but Garth is doing a twice as long arc starting with #100."
The 100th issue will start the arc "Once A Warrior King," a sequel to "The Fatal Englishman." The arc will be 11 issues, drawn by Christian Zanier ("The Thin Red Line") and starts in May 2016. "He does take his time, but it's worth it," said Ennis. "It's going to be a good one. ... It actually contains a sequence that, when people come up to me at conventions and ask, 'Are you ever afraid you've gone too far?' ... this was the first time I'd really thought I'd gone too far. I really felt most unpleasant. ... I felt rather odd about it -- you'll know it because it's an origin story." Not long after that, he realized he had nothing to worry about after reading a scene in Alan Moore's "Providence." "I felt absolutely fine after that."
According to Ennis, every other writer on "Crossed" has gone further than he would during the course of the series.
The next announcement was "Crossed: DOA," a "big project that starts with a 48-page web comic that we use as the backbone of funding for a new season of webisodes," said Christensen. The webisodes will be written and directed by Ennis.
"I've written a web comic that will go online October 30, and that focuses on a band of survivors. What we're going to do with these webisodes, we're going to do one story with each of that band of each of the survivors at or at the moment of the outbreak. ... The webisodes themselves will be short, snappy, five to six-minute films. The scripts are all written and we are ready to go with the next stage."
The web comic is broken down and spread out to run over 12 weeks, similar to "Wish You Were Here." Avatar will also be doing fundraising for the webisodes, and will be doing it all through their own site. It won't just be asking for donations, there will be items offered like limited edition prints, trades, t-shirts -- "It's a way that we feel is a little more honest and natural to handle something like this. We're asking you to buy something to support us," said Christensen. All the different levels will hopefully be shipped by December. "The nature of this is that it takes a long time, and to get these all filmed and done -- even more so on a small budget and when we're doing it ourselves."
The filming will be a multi-month filming effort. "We want to take what we think is a little more logical approach," said Christensen. "As we're raising funds, we can use it to move the production forward." The initial goal is $100,000, and Avatar is hoping it can surpass that goal. "Where we want to go is 3 or 4 seasons of webisodes, which then goes into a feature film." -- a feature film that Ennis already has the script written for. They hope to begin shooting in Spring 2015. Rewards will be announced at a later date.
Gillen's book will look back into the past of the "Crossed" world, back before Ennis' outbreak. "That's his unique setting that he's playing with," Christensen said, saying that it's "well-researched" and "fun."
"It's a very good concept, it'll be worth the wait," said Spurrier.
Also worth the wait was Gillen himself, who showed up midway through the panel to discuss his "Crossed" arc.
"How many people know about human population figures?" said Gillen. "Human population, the low point, was about 70,000 years ago." Gillen related the fact that there was a super volcano that almost wiped out the humanity out. "Maybe it was something else -- maybe a Crossed outbreak?" Gillen's arc focuses on a man in Washington hunting down a conspiracy theorist that has that same theory. The story will jump between the distant past and right after the Crossed outbreak, with Gillen pitting the Crossed against some wild animals in the past.
Ennis said what readers were seeing now is "the tip of the iceberg," and in the next few years, they'd see some "amazing things coming out of Avatar."
More details on Moore's "Crossed +100" came up, and Christensen said that "Alan is taking all the threads that everyone has ever put into 'Crossed' and taking them to their ... conclusion."
"One interesting way of looking at this is if you think logically about the Crossed as a breed, as a race, there's no way based on what we know about them that they'd survive for 100 years. How are they still around?" said Spurrier.
During the course of the audience Q&A, Ennis addressed his time on "Punisher," saying that the only thing Marvel wouldn't let him do was kill a priest. However, he tends to focus on forging ahead and not on his past efforts. "Where I got censored more liberally than I've ever been was when 'Preacher' was a comic and not a series of graphic novels." The writer had to pull back on "all sorts of stuff" when he was running the "Preacher" letters column.
There were also questions about the web series, and whether or not it would end up conforming to the standards of whatever platform they decide to launch. "It won't be rated at all because that would mean we're part of the system and fuck the system, man!" said Christensen, noting that while it would likely meet the standards of wherever the publisher decides to post it -- YouTube, for example -- there will likely be many other scenes that will be filmed that could show up on a DVD release. "The final result will be what Garth wants, which is the most important thing," he said.
The panelists also discussed humor in dark situations, with Ennis stating that if you take humor out of a situation, you take the reality out of it, too. "As to where you draw the line and how you feel your way -- purely by instinct. Like any other aspect of what you do as a writer, you just know," said Ennis.
"Humor goes a long way -- it humanizes the situation," said Jordan. "It gives you these brief respites that puts the horror in highlights."
"If you're writing transgressive horror and you make your audience laugh at something they shouldn't laugh at," it means something, according to Spurrier. "It's nice to be able to screw about with people's emotions like that. That's why we're writers."
The question came up again about Alan Moore, and Ennis said the "Watchmen" writer seems to like the majority of his work. "I'm enormously grateful to Alan not only for what he did for the medium, but on a personal level, too, for setting me on my life's course. If not for him, I would have lost interest in comics," said Ennis. "I could see here was a guy that was doing something interesting with a previously neglected medium."
Before closing, Ennis was also able to address the status of "The Boys" film. "There is continued interest from Hollywood," said Ennis, saying he was told that Adam McKay was still interested. "There is talk of a TV show and not a movie. We're not even started on any of this. These are ideas that people are kicking about. It's real when you're watching it and I'm cashing the check."
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the future of "Crossed."