Comic company's heroes made for post-terrorism era

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sephie, a young heroine who must save her planet from economic and environmental devastation. Ethan, a traveling prince who seeks peace and justice. Simon Archard, the world's greatest detective in Victorian England, whose foil is a baroness who controls a criminal empire.

The trio are among the heroes CrossGeneration Comics has taken to Hollywood.

The upstart Florida comic company has signed a deal to develop movies, TV shows and books featuring a cast of characters who live in worlds and places that can't possibly be confused with modern-day America.

They are ordinary people given extraordinary powers to fight the forces of evil -- heroes who can relate age-old comic book ideals without offending a badly shaken nation.

"Everything we do talks about coming of age and might for right, and, quite frankly, that bullies never prosper," said Mark Alessi, founder of CrossGeneration. "The messages we have are viable for today's times, but without the risk of an emotional backlash."

CrossGeneration's deal with Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman films, is a major breakthrough for the 2-year-old company that already has lured the comic industry's top writers and artists.

Both sides declined to reveal the financial terms of the deal. But the company said it turned to Uslan not only for his ability to open doors in the film industry, but for his love of comics. Uslan, a serious comic book collector with more than 30,000 titles, has also taught a course on comics at Indiana University.

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, audiences are hungry for fantasy and escapism, said Uslan. He noted the two most anticipated movies of the year are "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings."

Historically, comic books have surged in popularity around time of war, he said, including World War II and even during Desert Storm.

"It's all about heroes and villains and lofty goals and mighty quests and overcoming major obstacles to thrive," Uslan said. "It will never go out of fashion."

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