Tag Archives: joe illidge

Valiant Adds Joe Illidge as Executive Editor

Valiant Entertainment has announced, that, as of April 5th, it has added celebrated comics professional Joe Illidge as Executive Editor. Illidge will work closely with Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons as they spearhead the publishing plan of Valiant moving forward.

Illidge’s first job in the comic book industry was at Milestone Media, Inc., the groundbreaking comic book publisher and creators of “Static Shock,” the character featured in the award-winning WB animated series. As an editor on the Batman line of comic books for DC Entertainment, his tenure included the year-long event “Batman: No Man’s Land” and Batman line-wide relaunch. Illidge’s experience as a Batman editor led him to become the DC Entertainment liaison with WB’s animation team on the critically acclaimed Batman Beyond animated series. Recently, Illidge was a Senior Editor for Lion Forge Comics where he spearheaded “Catalyst Prime,” the publisher’s superhero comic book line.

Illidge was listed as one of the “Best Editors of 2017” by Comicosity. In addition to his coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and Publishers Weekly, Illidge has been an invited speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the C3 Comic Creator Conference, Skidmore College, San Diego Comic-Con, his alma mater The School of Visual Arts in New York City, Purdue University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The San Francisco Public Library. Illidge was featured in the 2017 History Channel documentary series, “Superheroes Decoded,” discussing popular comics icons from Batman to Luke Cage.

Review: Black Comix Returns

The world of comic books has always spoke to part of everyone who has picked up a comic or has been drawn to its characters through television or the movies. As children of color looks to the world and to media, for reflections of themselves, for my generation and ones before, this was a hopeless venture. This has changed for children born in the new millennia as the times have become increasingly progressive yet somewhat backwards at times.  As shows like Black Lightning, and The Runaways, gave viewers, a more realistic view of the world, this need to find images that looks like their audience has never gone way.

When I read the first Black Comix, back in 2010, I was excited to find all those new artists and follow their careers. Since I have been writing at Graphicpolicy.com, I have and many of fellow contributors devoted many of my reviews to finding artists who would otherwise not be seen by the mainstream media and that book embodied one of our goals, to highlight indie creators and publishers. In the sequel, Black Comix Returns, which was released this year, and Kickstarted last year, the reader gets a more comprehensive overview of the artists that have sprung since .One of the first creators, that caught my eye, Paris Alleyne, whose aesthetic has a serious Anime influence, and writes a book called Haven, one he works on with Kevin Parnell.

Enrique Carrion’s essay, Comics as Hip Hop, draws an interesting parallel between the evolution of hip hop music and how black comic book artists/writers, are injecting their aesthetics into mainstream comics. Shawnee & Shawnelle Gibbs‘ book, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, mixes steampunk with alternate history and actual historical figures like Nikola Tesla into something pretty cool. In “The Room”, Joseph Illidge talks about breaking into what some consider success, and how important it is to have a minority voice in these places. The books also highlight one of my favorite creators of all time, one whose comic book series, Blackjack, rarely gets the love it deserves, but swash buckles with the best of them.

Overall, an excellent resource to find the independent black voices that comprise what is not only considered “black comics” but what is art of the ever-changing comics landscape. This helps the reader in where you have seen each artist before and where you can find them now. This books also gives fans a list of comic book conventions where you can find most of these creators gathered together in one place. Altogether, as both a fan and a comic beat writer, this book more than suffices my need to find new creators and creators that speaks to my experience.

Edited by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Joe Illidge Talks Lion Forge Comics’ Astonisher

The most dangerous corners of the universe live inside the nightmares of super-powered people.

Magnus Atitarn, heir to the Atitarn Satellite Corp., tried to save the world with his experimental one-man spaceship — and ended up a broken man. Now a celebrity joke suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Magnus has the power to travel inside the mind of super-powered people, where he discovers nightmares which threaten the entire human race.

Astonisher is the latest series to debut as part of Lion Forge Comics’ Catalyst Prime universe. Written by Alex De Campi with art by Pop Mhan the series is an intriguing entry to the comic line.

We got a chance to talk to Senior Editor Joe Illidge about the series.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Astonisher come from? It’s interesting in how it fits in with the other series that have come out so far.

Joe Illidge: The CEO, David Steward II, came up with a basic premise for the title and certain ideas he wanted to explore in the Catalyst Prime universe. When I thought about it, it seemed like the kind of book that traditionally in superhero comics you would expect a man to write with a white American male lead character. I thought “ok, I’m tired of seeing a male perspective on men, I want to see a woman’s perspective.” When I thought about who was one of the most unique and talented female writers out there, Alex De Campi was on the short list. I went to her and told her to take this nugget and expand upon that.

She’s the one that took it to the next level in terms of making it what she called the more “Steve Ditko/Grant Morrison” corner of the Catalyst Prime universe.

GP: The vibe I got from the comic is that it shares a lot with some of the other rich male characters out there. It’s the brash, full of ego, into technology. Is that the right take on it?

JI: Absolutely. When Dave Steward II conceived it, he really thought about the convergence between Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson in the Catalyst Prime world and where those paths meet in terms of bravura, youth, Silicon Valley, wealth culture. That’s the nucleus of where Astonisher came from.

What Alex did was expand it in terms of the family dynamic that would surround a person like that and how people treat each other in social circles. The main character Magnus became a character that we could use to examine wealth culture through his entire family.

GP: After reading the first issue, this feels like the first comic you’ve put out where I’m struggling to find a character I really like. They’re assholes each in their own special way. It’s interesting that there’s not the sympathetic character at all. Still, I found myself wanting to go along with the ride to see where it goes.

JI: It’s interesting when you say that. I was a big fan of the show Six Feet Under, created by Alan Ball. I remember that’s what someone said to me about Six Feet Under. The core of Astonisher is Magnus, who has a good core to him, but that good core has been warped by his social status, fame, vanity, but even the kind of ego it took for him to take his ship and go out into space and think he would as one man save the world. But suffering and coming back from that with PTSD, losing his level of celebrity, and how that keys into his sense of self, I found all the characters interesting. While they may not be immediately likeable, they are all characters that are human and believable. I think that is at the core of the Catalyst Prime universe, stories about characters.

You can see in various ways how this family represents the influential architecture of the Catalyst Prime Universe. When you think about it Magnus is the center of that, that opens up a lot of dramatic possibilities. We’re so used to getting superhero stories where we first meet them and they’re people that we like. They’re people to whom we’d already apply the term “heroic.” What we’re doing here is a story of a character’s journey towards heroism. That’s why we’re starting where Magnus is now because we’re going to take you on that journey. What we pride ourselves on in the Catalyst Prime Universe is that the readers will be able to go on the narrative journey with the characters at the same time.

GP: What’s interesting and stood out is that even though he’s unlikeable, it’s not a negative thing. It’s rather interesting because he’s not coming from an altruistic starter. Let’s be realistic: Tony Stark wouldn’t be altruistic. He’d be driven by ego and profit and because he thinks he knows best from a privileged place. That’s where this seems to be coming from, in a good way.

When Magnus created an app, it wasn’t what it did, it was how much he made. Now he has these powers, it’s about how he can make money off of them. This isn’t something you usually see in a superhero comic.

JI: Absolutely, the thing of it is, when you look at someone like Magnus, he comes from a position of entitlement right off the bat. His perspective on life, his perspective on doing good is going to be warped and in an interesting way parallels some of the things we see in real life. Part of what it does, it speaks to the true variety of the Catalyst Prime line, when we talk about inclusivity, when we talk about diversity, we’re showing people from different backgrounds and walks of life. The character of Magnus and his family in Astonisher speaks to a specific corner and perspective of the Catalyst Prime Universe. The name Astonisher is going to be apropos. We’re going to surprise you in different ways with this character as the story goes forward.

GP: Something that sticks out to me, through the various series that have come out, you have the Foresight Corporation, which is playing a huge role. Here you have Magnus and another corporation. My gut says that we’re going to see two corporations clash at some point.

JI: Basically, the same way you can look at our world and see titans like Google, Microsoft, Apple, you can look at the Catalyst Prime Universe and over time we’ll reveal the superstructure. The social, the financial. So, the company Magnus is the heir to which was founded by his mother and known as the Attarian Satellite Corporation, otherwise known as ATISAT. ATISAT is a major player in what’s going on in the world. The relationship between ATISAT and the Foresight Corporation is something that will slowly be revealed and in terms of a conflict of companies…when we get there it’ll be natural and make sense. It won’t be forced. It’ll be closer to a true world dynamic. What companies of wealth consider combat is different than what we consider combat. What they consider as competition, at that level, it’s a different point of view. That’s you at the top of the mountain look down, whereas most people are not coming from a position from wealth so they’re only looking up and their perspective is skewed as a result. It’ll be interesting over time the perspective that these families have of each other.

GP: Magnus’ powers are very different than others. They’re psionic or telepathic. When it comes to powers people can get, is there a guide as to what we’ll see in the Catalyst Prime world?

JI: We try to keep it science based and we want all the characters to have limitations. With this one, even though we’re entering a psychic landscape, that landscape and the discoveries of Magnus’ power, which connect to pieces of meteor in his body and one close to his brain, how that works with the Astonisher technology is quite science based. In terms of the logic of the powers, we wanted to take a different approach which is usually superpowers as an extension of personality. You’ve seen that successfully done in the past, but there’s something that’s more interesting if it’s random.

GP: With the meteor still embedded in Magnus’ head, I immediately think of people with bullets still in them and how that changes their life and PTSD. Is that going to be explored?

JI: It’s definitely going to be explored. Magnus is suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury. What we’re going to see is how people treat him differently. There’s your own trauma and then there’s the trauma that’s inflicted on you by other people’s perceptions of you. That’s something that Alex De Campi keys into with this character.

GP: I can see that in the first issue, definitely. How did Pop Mhan come on to the series?

JI: I’ve been a fan of Pop’s for years I loved his recent work for DC Comics on Masters of the Universe and when I thought about this comic and how it takes certain expectations and subverts them I thought Pop would be a perfect artist that would be able to give us the twisting actions and adventures as we go into the psyches of those infected by meteor exposure. And to give us personal drama which is just as dramatic and just as revealing of character, if not more so, as the battles. I really wanted to find someone that could get the balance. Someone that really could do the human expressiveness in body language, facial expressions, and Pop is one of the best out there. I was thrilled when he decided to come on board for the title. Jessica Kholinne as colorist is really doing an amazing job. She’s a true godsend to the book and her palette and approach to color and lighting is showing a level of thought and understanding that’s at the top of coloring in this business.

GP: With the series, it’s interesting that everything from Catalyst Prime fits in a silo. You have the team book, the teenager, the speedster, the loner character, and this with the arrogant tech and family dynamic. Astonisher could just be the “tech book” but that family dynamic makes it something else. When coming up with the various stories, how much of that is on your minds?

JI: Part of that comes from the different writers. Astonisher would have been a different kind of book with a different writer handling it. Because it’s Alex, her thinking is so brilliant and varied, she brought her sensibilities and self to the title and made it distinctive. Part of it, I think readers want to deal with familiar archetypes but want to deal with them in different ways. In one way Astonisher is where Batman, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange meet. In another way but he’s not like any of those characters. I feel like the readers are sophisticated and they should get stories that challenge them. Astonisher is the type of comic that can challenge expectations.

GP: Thanks for chatting!

Listen to Catalyst Prime & Comics Diversity with Guests Christopher Priest, Joe Illidge, & Desiree Rodriguez on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

“Diversity” has turned into a marketing buzzword in comics and few deliver that behind and on the page. Lion Forge Comics‘ new Catalyst Prime universe of comics is actually delivering that in every sense with new characters we’ve never seen and a group of creators who bring varied perspectives to the page. Talking about this exciting new universe are guests Christopher Priest, Joe Illidge, and Desiree Rodriguez.

Christopher Priest is the legendary comic writer who has written for Marvel, DC, Valiant, and more. He was part of the group of creators who launched Milestone Media. Along with Illidge, Priest oversees the Catalyst Prime line of comics.

Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, The School of Visual Arts, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City. Illidge is the Senior Editorial Manager for Lion Forge Comics.

Desiree Rodriguez is a pop culture critic who has written for Women Write About Comics, The Nerds of Color, is the co-host for the DC TV Classics podcast, and editorial assistant for Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime initiative.

Catalyst Prime & Comics Diversity with Guests Christopher Priest & Joe Illidge Live Tuesday

“Diversity” has turned into a marketing buzzword in comics and few deliver that behind and on the page. Lion Forge Comics‘ new Catalyst Prime universe of comics is actually delivering that in every sense with new characters we’ve never seen and a group of creators who bring varied perspectives to the page. Talking about this exciting new universe on Graphic Policy Radio are guests Christopher Priest and Joe Illidge.

The show airs LIVE this Tuesday at 7pm ET.

Christopher Priest is the legendary comic writer who has written for Marvel, DC, Valiant, and more. He was part of the group of creators who launched Milestone Media. Along with Illidge, Priest oversees the Catalyst Prime line of comics.

Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, The School of Visual Arts, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City. Illidge is the Senior Editorial Manager for Lion Forge Comics.

Tweet us your question @graphicpolicy.

Listen to the show LIVE this Tuesday.

Review: Catalyst Prime – FCBD and Nobel #1

CATALYST PRIME – FCBD 2017

Writers – Christopher J. Priest and Joseph P. Illidge

Artists – Marco Turini and Will Rosado

This is what FCBD is suppose to be about. An introduction into a world of comics for beginners who only know what their geek other has dragged them to on opening night, up to the longtime reader who knows the difference between adamantium and vibranium. And not just a stand alone, one shot gimmick but something that will bring that reader back to a comic store to buy the next issue. The book itself is also the launch of a new line of comics which have promised to not only entertain, but address problems the industry faces on the page and in the back offices.

The Catalyst Prime writing team of Priest and Illidge, hit all the right notes; great starting point for new readers, technobabble without deep diving into a Ph.D. program to follow, quick glimpses into the future of the upcoming books as well as planting the big conspiracy seed for the overall story arc. And a comic wouldn’t be a comic without the art, which Turini and Rosado provide with a style that blends into a realistic sci-fi noir, from the school bus to the space station, it all works visually.

If you know your comic place runs out of the free stuff quick on FCBD and you need to be online at 7:00am, then hit those sheets early on Friday or hope they put this in the collected trade. Recommendation cop this.


NOBLE – #1

Writer- Brandon Thomas

Artist- Roger Robinson

Issue 1 of Noble jumps right in with a very brief and redacted file giving us the highlights, the who and what’s. We don’t get the “spider bite“ but Thomas picks up one year from where the FCBD Catalyst Prime left off, and gives us close to 24 pages of action showcasing Nobel’s powers.

People will finally see what Robinson can do with his art. A long time ago I was a clerk at DC Comics and got to see his original art, somewhere in the printing process the ink and colors got super muddy and took away from the work that he put in. This time around whatever was messing his art up is out the way and his work shines.

These two books make for an amazing jump point for readers new and old.


George Carmona 3rd is an Artist/Writer, former Milestone Media Intern, former DC Comics paper pusher, current book lover, and lifelong comic geek. You can find his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on twitter at GCarmona3.

Black Enterprise’s Black Comics Roundtable

On October 16, Black Enterprise invited a group of comic book creators including Micheline Hess, Regine Sawyer, N. Steven Harris, Naseed Gifted, Tim Fielder, Dilettante J. Bass, George Carmona, Joseph P. Illidge, and Roye Okupe, to the BR headquarters in Manhattan to have a round table discussion about Black comic and Black comic book creators.The Blerd Gurl has posted up the live Periscope recording on her YouTube channel. You should check out the almost 30 minute video which is a fantastic group of individuals to hear talk comics.

NYCC 2016: Talking Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime with Joe Illidge

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Ever since Lion Forge announced a new line-up of hires, it’s been a company to watch. You don’t bring on that sort of talent without having a bigger plan and something up your sleeve.

I’ve watched intently parsing every word said by staff and every hint dropped to try and figure out what exactly what was being worked on.

At New York Comic Con, we found out what that was.

At their panel Sunday, Lion Forge announced “Catalyst Prime,” a new superhero universe with a killer amount of talent writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering, and diversity on the page and behind the scenes. But, impressively it’s also established and new talent alike working together to create this new world. That’s something that’s important for the company, to bring together old and new voices.

Along with the creative talent it was announced that Desiree Rodriguez is joining the company as an editorial assistant for the new line. Rodriguez is a freelancer for Nerds of Color who wrote this fantastic piece about being Latinx in comics.

Before the panel, I got to speak with Senior Editorial Manager Joe Illidge and got the details as to what we can expect.

Graphic Policy: It’s been months of teasing and hints and I know I’m excited to hear the details. What’s the scoop as to what Lion Forge has announced at New York Comic Con 2016?

Joe Illidge: We’re announcing the creation of a new superhero universe which will be under the title of “Catalyst Prime.” There will be seven monthly books and the line will launch in May of 2017.

GP: Who’s the talent that’ll be involved that you can announce?

JI: For the kick off book it’s going to be mainly written by Christopher Priest, co-written by myself with the art by Marco Turini, letterer Deron Bennett, and colorist Jessica Kholine. For the first ongoing series with a Black male lead, the writer is Brandon Thomas, artist Ken Lashley, letters by Saida Temofonte, and colorist Juan Fernandez. The second main book about an interracial duo, it’s co-written by David Walker and Dr. Sheena Howard, illustrated by Chuck Collins, and colored by Veronica Gandini. The third book is written by Joe Casey, illustrated by Damion Scott, lettered by Janice Chiang, and will be colored by John Rauch. The fourth book will be a team book written by Joe Casey with story consultation by Ramon Govea who created the concept, illustrated by Larry Stroman and Rob Stull, and colored by Snakebite Cortez. For the fifth title with a British male lead which is a science fiction thriller, it’ll be written by Joe Casey, illustrated by Jefte Palo who is well known for illustrating the Black Panther Secret Invasion storyline in which the Wakandans held back the Skrull invasion, it’ll be colored by Chris Sotomayor, and lettered by a legendary letterer. The letterer of the Hugo award winning Sandman Overture graphic novel, Todd Klein. The sixth title with a White male lead will be written by Alex De Campi, illustrated by Pop Mhan, and lettered by Deron Bennett. Deron Bennett is doing a bunch of DC “Rebirth” books. One prominent one is Batgirl. The seventh title with a lesbian lead character will be written by Amy Chu, illustrated by Jan Duursema, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and lettered by Deron Bennett.

GP: That’s impressive you can remember and name all of them. So what can you tell us specifically about the series?

JI: Well basically the whole universe is started from an asteroid heading to Earth and a private corporation called the Foresight Corporation, which produced our teaser memo, they send four astronauts on a suicide mission to stop the asteroid. What happens leads to the emergence of super humans on our world. After that, most of the books will take place one year after that.

GP: As far as the comics, how are they kicking off, a mini-series and then everything launches from there?

JI: It’s going to start with a one-shot co-written by Christopher Priest and myself, coming out the first week of May 2017. And then we’ll be rolling out the books from there, from May through December.

GP: That’s an amazing group of talent working on the comic that’s very diverse, what about the characters?

JI: The characters are diverse. Of the four astronauts, you have two women, one of whom is lesbian, one of whom is Black. The two men, one is Black and one is British. The other three are American. Then there’s also a Chinese woman who is part of mission control who is supervising the mission in space, but was not one of the four astronauts.

GP: That certainly is diverse. When putting the series together, was this a priority and thought through?

JI: It was thought through in the sense that the owner David Steward II, the President Geoff Gerber, and I are really committed to creating a universe that invites everyone. Diversity is a buzzword that has become obsolete because it’s been used for a lot of PR. Diversity should be intrinsic if you have an expanded mindset and worldview so when you’re going to creators they’re not all heterosexual, they’re not all Caucasian males. They might not all be from the United States. They’re from different industries. They have different political backgrounds. Diversity is automatic. But we want to create something new and exciting that doesn’t have a burden of decades of continuity. We want everyone to feel invited to this world and this world will evolve into a world that will more accurately reflect the demographics of the one that we live more than a lot of other fictional superhero comic universes.

GP: When it comes to the writers… there’s a habit lately that writers are pigeonholed into what they write based on the color of their skin or their gender, in November out of 13 female writers for the big two only one was writing a comic with a male lead as an example, are you breaking that mold?

JI: I am breaking that mold. The book that is going to have the latino teenager lead is going to be written by Joe Casey whom is neither Latino nor a teenager. But, Joe Casey has clearly been an advocate for variety in superhero comic books, in creator owned comic books. And frankly he’s the co-creator of America Chavez. To me, that right there, America Chavez is one of the most beloved Latinx characters of our time. So I’m comfortable with him writing a Latinx character considering he created one of the most popular ones right now.

GP: He’s shown he can do it.

JI: Exactly.

GP: One of the things that caught my eye in your teases was a woman writing a male character, so it’s either Dr. Sheena Howard, Amy Chu, or Alex De Campi.

JI: What it is, the book that will be co-written by David Walker and Dr. Sheena Howard is an interracial team book written by a man and a woman featuring a man and a woman. That really came down to whom I feel David and Sheena are as people. Due to their academic backgrounds. Due to their vast social and cultural knowledge. Due to the fact they are both social crusaders, they are expertly qualified to tell this story.

Amy Chu is going to be writing a story about a Caucasian lesbian. Alex De Campi will be writing a story with a white American male lead. So you don’t have to keep these straight lines. Some of them won’t be straight for the sake of being straight. I really tried to see who were the best creators to tell these stories book by book.

GP: With the baggage that comes with continuity and years of stories, are you thinking through that as you put together this universe and series? A perfect example is Valiant that has continuity but you can read just one series, step into a new story arc, there’s clear starting points, or you can enjoy it all.

JI: Absolutely. No two books will be alike aesthetically. We want readers to be able to read a book and not feel like they are trapped or tricked into reading other books. If you read other books and you keep moving forward, you start seeing connected threads, and you get the benefit of the worldview of this entire thing. If you choose just one book, or two books, or four books, you can have individual experiences and as we look forward to the first crossover event, which will probably take place in 2018, that will be a story in of itself. If you choose to keep reading your book, you can do that. It’s very important for us that the reader not feel interrupted in the book, or books, that they like. It’s also important that when we collect these books we really want to engage the book market. We want to create volumes where a new reader can pick up any volume and get into that world. Whether it’s across titles or whether they pick up volume two of any series and we hope that they don’t feel like that have to pick up volume one but instead that they’ll want to pick up and read volume one.

It really comes down to characters. Characters are the underpinning of all stories. We want to create characters that the readers will care about. We want you to come along on the journey with these characters. So, by defining the characters, making them compelling, and making them relatable, is the ultimate way that we can invite readers, old and new, into the universe.

GP: Is the universe set in our world or slightly off? Do we get fake countries or ones that actually exist?

JI: It’s going to be our world geographically, all the identifications will match up to Earth. I look at this as the love child of Darwyn Cooke’s DC New Frontier and Vertigo Year One and the brilliance of Karen Berger in using Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Shade, the Changing Man, Black Orchid, and Kid Eternity as the foundation for a truly imaginative and impressive body of books. These will be super hero genre books, but they’ll also engage in other genres like science fiction, techno thriller, young adult, action adventure, teen adventure, social drama, so that is how I see it. For that to be the case, it had to take place in a world like ours.

GP: Since it is taking place in a world familiar to ours, there’s the debate as to whether comics should just be entertainment or if it should touch upon social justice issues being waged. Will the comics touch upon real world issues? From the characters and what you’ve described it sounds like social issues will be a natural thing for the series, but is it a goal and point?

JI: You know, we don’t see it as a hard agenda. It’s not something we’re going to beat the audience over the head with as far as the stories. When you’re talking about social justice, art has always been a vehicle for social justice.

GP: Comics always have.

JI: Exactly. We’re at a time where we are vulnerable in so many other areas. Our bodies are vulnerable. We’re being told what bathrooms we can use. We have political icons engaging in reprehensible behavior, xenophobia, and sexism. Art may be one of the last frontiers that is bullet proof. If you’re going to do a universe, and you’re going to engage the super hero and what the super hero can do, how can you not engage in social justice?

GP: How long has this been in the works?

JI: It’s funny, there has been different stages. I started working at Lion Forge in June and I really expanded it. The origins of the “Catalyst Prime” super hero universe starts with the owner of Lion Forge, David Steward II. As someone highly influence by Milestone, we are obviously simpatico on that front, myself being a Milestone alumni, Geoff Gerber the President of Lion Forge being an advocate for social justice, the three of us together really wanted this to be something special that would invite everybody. It started with the owner, but when I came in I took the nucleaus and put together a team of writers. We did a writers retreat where we all sat down in a room and spent a day and basically nurtured this universe to life and that kind of creativity, that imaginative osmosis, the results of that are really going to be seen in the books. You’re going to see us subvert some familiar archetypes. You’re going to see some characters of ethnic backgrounds that you never thought you’d equate with roles of power. We’re really looking to give you the kind of familiar things you want with super hero comic books, but we want to return fun and imagination to super hero comic books.

It feels like right now we’ve hit a critical mass in terms of cynicism, in terms of doubt, in terms of dissapointment, for the faith and investment of time we have given. I want this super hero unvierse be a return to fun and imagination and the consumer being rewarded for their time and love of this genre and this medium.

GP: With starting a comic line now, it feels like it’d be different because it’s no longer just print you’re dealing with. There’s digital, there’s mobile, there’s web, the avenues and distribution is so different. Is that in your thoughts in putting it together, looking at the big picture and how different people will interact differently with the material?

JI: Absolutely. It’s very important for us that anyone who wants to get our books will be able to get our books. Whether it is comic book stories in the direct market. Whether it’s book stores and collections in the trade market. Whether it’s digital. We have been looking at a lot of metrics and data in regards to digital comics. Some of those discoveries will impact how we put together and provide these books. And it’s very important to us that if you’re unfortunately living in a place that’s a comic store desert, you can still get the book. It’s important to us that if you feel there’s a local environment that’s not welcoming to you as a consumer that you can still get our book. It’s important to us that we engage in a discussion with retailers and consumers about pre-ordering so that we expand the vocabulary and help consumers get our books.

GP: Any final thoughts?

JI: It’s exciting for us to start this new thing. I think culturally that we are at a high point of the popularity and the agency of the super hero as a genre and so there’s no better time to start a new universe than right now. I firmly believe, and the creators that I’ve assembled, we all firmly believe that ultimately people want good stories. It’s not about what genre it is. It’s about good stories and good characters.

Lion Forge Hints at Shaking Comics Up with Diverse Talent

In the lead up to San Diego Comic-Con Lion Forge announced a killer line-up of new staff joining the company including Rich Johnson, Syndee Barwick, Mark Smylie, Joe Illidge, and Devin Funches.

All of those hired are talented and have impacted comics and entertainment paving paths, and leaving marks in their own ways.

The most interesting hire to me was that of Illidge who is vocal about the need for more diverse talent in comics and better handling of diversity in general in the entertainment. Illidge has been a guest contributor on this site and a guest on our radio show. He’s one of the folks that when they talk, I listen. And thus, I’ve been watching his various social networks for hints as to what Lion Forge might be up to. And it looks like they’re about to really shake things up in comics.

Illidge first set off my Spider-Senses with this Tweet:

While some might shrug their shoulders that they have a new series. He then Tweeted:

There’s been quite a few Black Panther artists and I’m salivating at a lot of them working with Illidge. If that weren’t exciting enough, he then Tweets:

What I’m taking that as is it’s not just a WOMAN, but it’s a BLACK WOMAN writing a comic series from the publisher! And I’m hearing confirmation that’s the case, but not hearing who. Illidge and Lion Forge look to be stepping up and filling a gap too few publishers are willing to.

If they make the announcements as far as diverse creative teams at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s likely this publisher will steal the show and buzz coming out of the show when it comes to comics. That’ll be a hell of a coup.

Solarman Signing at Jim Hanley’s Universe (NYC)

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Last week a momentous event occurred in the history of comic books.  Perhaps it was overlooked by most, but for me it was an occasion to celebrate. In all of the 35 plus years I’ve been reading comic books, not once have I ever read a superhero story set in my old home town of East New York in Brooklyn, New York–and if anyone knows of any others please let me know.

Then, yesterday, to keep the party going, Joseph Phillip Illidge and N. Steven Harris were on site, at Jim Hanley’s Universe (32nd Street, New York City location), to sign and promote their premiere issue of Solarman from Scout Comics.

I asked Illidge why East New York for our new hero’s home. His reply: (1) It has never been done before and should have; and (2) It’s the last holdout neighborhood in Brooklyn that has not been gentrified (I can testify to that if necessary, but with time that can change fast).

This latest iteration of Solarman is a far cry from the original (the character was created by David Oliphant and Deborah A. Kalman, and published by Marvel Comics as a two-issue series written in 1989 by Stan Lee with art by Mike Zeck). The Ben Tucker of today is a much more relatable character (a street-mart Black superhero hacker versus the historically dweebish artist), who can navigate the tough streets of East New York with aplomb, even if he has to take a beating every now and then. Plus, for the first time ever, the alien incursion begins in E.N.Y.

Get yourself a copy, you won’t regret it. The writing is solid, and the graphics are superb; and if your local comic book shop is out, then order it directly from Scout Comics.

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