Lion Forge, for all their best intentions, has had a hard time finding its voice in the comic book industry. When I first encountered the publisher at smaller conventions about five years ago, their books were promising but nothing different from what BOOM! was doing at the time. I believe I still have one of those silver plastic tokens you’d trade for a spin on a slot machine at their booth. Fast forward and not only has the landscape changed but so has the philosophy. With the recent debut of their super hero universe Catalyst Prime, it’s starting to become clear; this publisher is out to prove comics can entertain readers by showing them what the real world looks like through the lens of unheard voices.
This isn’t the same Lion Forge I remember and change can sometimes be the best thing. During their Friday SDCC panel Lion Forge CEO Dave Steward was joined on the Friday panel by writers David F. Walker, Brandon Thomas, and senior editor Joseph Illidge, with Andrea Colvin, and Mike Kennedy. Speaking to one of the most varied audiences I’d seen at any panel this weekend, Colvin talked about the publisher’s younger aimed line, Cub House. One of the most interesting titles mentioned was The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais. The book is a reverse take on Little Red Riding Hood where the wolf is in danger from humans. It’s gorgeous with subtle undertones not dumbed down for kids.
Their Roar line was best represented by Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow, a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery. Green’s story is a mesmerizing look at parts people don’t consider when they think about those struggling with any illness.
Some of the other interesting news to come out of their Friday panel was Black Comix Returns, the hardcover collection of comic art by African-American creators framed by articles delving into their cultural significance. The original 2010 collection was done in limited run and still highly sought after. This follow up funded by Kickstarter is set to go out to its backers soon and hit stores soon after that.
Nothing represents the pivot point of Lion Forge more than its recent launch of the Catalyst Prime universe. The endeavor is simple. Create a superhero universe on the shoulders of what Dwayne McDuffie did with Milestone, a world in pages that mirrors the one we live in.
With the recent launch of Noble writer, Brandon Thomas pitched the series as “feeling like Jason Bourne with superpowers.” A story about an astronaut who not only gets super powers but must also deal with being an amnesiac due to the same incident. It follows the idea of what makes superhero comics their best; if an individual isn’t human on some level they have no real struggle to deal with.
Debuting last week was David F. Walker’s co-written title with Dr. Sheena .C Howard, Superb. Walker is set on a story about how an average person in comic books would look at a world full of superheroes if he woke up one day with powers of his own. In the book, the character of Jonah doesn’t have an origin or an exploding planet when he gets powers. He opts to live the life of his idol Cosmosis. In a way, it’s a book any cosplayer can relate to but on a deeper level it’s a look at identity.
Lion Forge’s biggest announcement of the panel was the upcoming guest star artist covers to the Catalyst Prime universe:
- Nilah Magruder (Winner of the 1st Dwayne McDuffie award)- Superb
- Khary Randolph (Amazing Spider-Man)- Noble
- Chris Cross (Milestone Alumni)- Accell
- Sanford Greene (Runaways)- Incidentals
- Cully Hamner (New 52)- Astonisher
- Dean Haspiel (American Splendor)- Kino
- Valentine De Landro (Bitch Planet)- Summit
With the biggest publishers in the industry either abandoning diversity or blaming it for comics that don’t sell and Invincible from Image coming to an end, there’s a growing vacuum for comics that experiment or blend the genre in a real world way. Lion Forge could end up becoming the creative force to service that part of the market and by the looks of it, they’re off to a good start.