One of the more…interesting experiments in comics publishing that came out of the late 90s was CrossGen Publishing. An ambitious company, CrossGen attempted to break into the market with a model of books that shared a combined universe, but where each individual title had a unique feel, and none of them were traditional superhero books. The company hired various writers and artists, relocated them to Florida, and set them to work.
As it turned out, the company had the idea that while it wasn’t necessary to read all the titles, reading multiple titles could lead to a more rewarding experience for the fan who could see connections between books, not necessarily more than an Easter egg, but something that would pay off down the road when a bigger picture for the fictional universe was revealed.
Then the company went bankrupt and stopped work in the middle of its own version of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a mini-series called The Negation War. And that’s why we don’t really know what happened with Obergon Kaine.
Obergon Kaine first appeared in a series called Negation. The basic idea was that while most of the CrossGen books took place in the “positive” matter universe, the Negation was its “negative” version. For the most part, each CrossGen book took place on a different planet, usually (though not always) with a protagonist (or even sometimes an antagonist) granted some sort of power in the form of a mysterious “sigil”, a red-and-blue yin-yang type symbol that doubled as the company logo. What the sigil could do depended on the bearer and the tone of the series. Some did a little. Some did a lot. Most of the protagonists were guided by a person (or in one case a talking monkey) with orange eyes that acted as a sidekick. Different planets had different levels of technology and such, so there were magic planets, medieval planets, technologically advanced planets, planets based on old horror or kung fu movies, and so forth. Earth itself was nearly abandoned aside from a bunch of psychic Atlanteans asleep in stasis tubes. One planet was home to god-like beings called The First, who were the original beings set up to defend the universe by whoever was handing out sigils later when it looked like the First kinda sucked at their job.
So, what was Obergon Kaine’s deal?
Well, he didn’t have a sigil or superpowers of any kind. He was a prisoner.
See, the Negation was ruled by a really powerful godlike being named Charon. Or, as it was later revealed, his full name was Bob Charon, and he used to be a human being from the planet Earth who ascended somehow to major power in the next universe over.
Charon, being an ambitious douchebag, took it upon himself to conquer first his adopted universe, and then his native one. He empowered various aliens living there, grew portions of himself called Lawbringers that were like something out of a Stephen King novel with a leather fetish, and generally ruled with an iron fist. To prepare for his eventual invasion of the universe he grew up in, he took to kidnapping various people from there and putting them into concentration camps to see what sort of abilities and such they had.
That’s where Obergon Kaine was.
Obergon was a military man back home. All he had going for him was he was a stubborn mule of a man who wouldn’t say quit. After finding out what sort of people he was locked up with, Obergon organized a massive escape and took off with the survivors into Negation space, all while being pursued by Charon’s agents…and sometimes by Charon himself. As time passed, Obergon’s group shrank through attrition and treachery. One member of his escapee bunch, a member of the First called Evinlea, actually became Charon’s consort, and while a potent being in her own right, was no match for Charon in terms of pure power.
So, what happened? Time passed and CrossGen opted to do its Negation War, bringing all their characters together to stop Charon’s invasion of the positive universe. The first issue showed Charon meeting CrossGen’s first superhero, a Superman-like being with a sigil on some planet that Charon pretty much wiped out rather easily. Two or three issues into the six issue mini-series, the company collapsed and the mini-series ended on a cliffhanger of Charon’s Lawbringers attacking the First’s homeworld. Obergon, being the only guy with any real experience staying alive against Charon, was trying to get the sigil-barers to organize with little luck, especially as one of their own, the protagonist of the Star Wars-ish series Sigil, a space warrior type named Samandahl Rey, had been groomed to be the leader of the sigil-barers since the company started publishing.
Why would I base a whole column on Obergon Kaine then?
Well, for one, Negation was actually a pretty darn good book. Writer Tony Bedard had a knack for that series, combining various oddballs and outcasts into a single book and keeping the adventure running smoothly, with plenty of unexpected twists, plus while retaining a sense of humor when needed. I never had much interest in Sigil, so I wouldn’t bother writing about Sam Rey.
But the whole thing ended prematurely. No one really knows why, except there was apparently a lot of financial mismanagement going on, such that the company couldn’t recoup loses when major book chains sent back very large quantities of their unpurchased trades. Freelancers weren’t getting paid and quit. The best anyone can tell of what would have happened in Negation War was what Bedard has said in interviews since, which amounted to the fact that Rey wasn’t going to be the hero. In fact, he was going to be killed off, but Kaine, having experience fighting the Negation, would be the ultimate hero of the series.
I really wish I could find an interview I read with Bedard once where he basically said Kaine would have led Charon and the guy who was giving out sigils (who wasn’t interested in much more than stopping Charon no matter how many people got killed in the process) out to a place where their awesome cosmic powers wouldn’t have worked anymore and beaten both of them stupid with a toilet lid from that superhero world Charon had destroyed in the first issue.
That would have been awesome for the reader and embarrassing for godlike beings everywhere.
But we’ll never know. Disney bought the rights to CrossGen shortly after it went under, and Marvel attempted a sort-of revival of a few books from the line, but without the old series’ overarching mythology, but that’s been about it. Sometimes a good mystery can make for fun speculation. And sometimes a company doing too much too fast and losing all its money means the fans get screwed out of the ending.