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Brandon Easton Joins Lion Forge’s Incidentals

Incidentals, created by writer/producer Ramón Govea and co-developed by Lion Forge co-founders David Steward II and Carl Reed, has been a cornerstone title in comics’ most diverse and inclusive universe since 2017.

Now, as the series moves into its third volume, Brandon Easton will co-write the title’s most ambitious storyline, in a first-person look at the culture of celebrity and superheroes. Two Hollywood veterans will tackle issues that have long terrorized Tinseltown behind the scenes, pitting heroes against their greatest fears in an arresting fictional account of the uglier side of filmdom.

The Incidentals are making their mark in Hollywood! Marko is managing the group as the initial offering from Luminous Talent Agency—Bo Vincent Chen’s latest entrepreneurial effort to recruit superhero talent. But rather than enjoy their new celebrity status, the Incidentals still struggle with their lack of communication, which threatens to unravel the team. Meanwhile, a mysterious new power player enters the fold with an eye to recruit our heroes . . . but can the Incidentals really trust him, or is something more sinister in motion? While the City of Angels may be caked in a layer of glitz and glam, the team finds themselves faced with what lurks just beneath the town’s shiny exterior.

The ninth issue of Incidentals debuted in stores last week and will return in an all-new series and volume on July 25, alongside the second collection of the previous series. Incidentals #10 pairs the new writing team with artist Jose Jaro and features covers by Ryan Brown.

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 Teases Something from Brandon Thomas, David Walker, Sheena C. Howard, Ramón Govea, and Man of Action’s Joe Casey

Lion Forge Comics has been up to something for the last couple of months and believe me we’re intrigued to find out. Senior Editorial Manager Joe Illidge has been hinting at a diverse line-up of talent joining the publisher for something.

This morning Illidge posted the below “welcoming” Brandon Thomas, David Walker, Sheena C. Howard, Ramón Govea, and Man of Action’s Joe Casey to “the mission.” Also listed in the memo below are Chuck Collins, Juan Fernandez, John Rauch, Chris Sotomayor, AndWorld Design, Saida Temofonte, Janice Chiang, and Todd Klein.

Looks like we’ll find out more this Sunday at New York Comic Con in room 1A10 at 1:30pm.

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We Talk Alt Control Delete with Ramon Govea

Ramon Govea is new to the field of comics, but his first comic series Alt Control Delete turned some heads with its interesting concept and engaging visuals. We had a chance to talk with him about his new series and some of the inspirations that he drew upon.

Graphic PolicyWhat is your inspiration for the series?  It seems like there is some Matrix in here, as well as some Hunger Games, and maybe a bit of Avatar.

acdRamon Govea: I’ve always been a science fiction fanatic. I grew up watching pretty diverse material ranging from Star Trek and The Twilight Zone to the 80’s and 90’s blockbusters like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Robocop, so you could say that the seeds were planted much earlier.  When I saw The Matrix, I was blown away by the integration of dystopian themes with some of the Ancient Greek philosophies that changed my worldview in High School.

I actually had the idea for this before I was aware of the Hunger Games franchise, but they definitely share some elements of the genre.  The idea behind Alt Control Delete stemmed from the notion that since its inception, digital gaming has increasingly dominated so many aspects of global culture.  I wanted to explore a world that had progressed beyond some of the common tropes of dystopian sci-fi. When I was brainstorming the world, I knew what I did not want it to be: no desert wastelands, no robots, no water crisis, and no aliens. That’s not to say all of that is off the table down the road, but I wanted to create a world that was relevant to what is happening on our planet right now – technology and social interaction seem to go hand in hand these days, and I wanted to take it a notch higher, to see what 11 looks like, so to speak, and this seemed logical.

acd003GP: Part of the subtext of the series is that it is about an alternate way to do warfare. Do you think it is something that we will move beyond, or something that will always be with us as part of the human condition?

RG: I think war is ultimately a misplaced expression of anger and frustration. We have had values like patriotism and religious zeal instilled in us at a young age and here in the US they often motivate our collective desires for freedom of expression. On the flip side, the desire for revenge can be a potent and devastating fuel behind these same ideas. On the microcosmic scale I see competitive sports as a healthier expression of this camaraderie and unified goal, where the stakes are usually far less severe. I think at some point our species will realize that we’ve been going about things all wrong. Something is not working when millions of people are unnecessarily dying every year because of war. I think the survival of our species is dependent on a shift in perspective.

GP: The story is broken into two segments, the somewhat drab dystopian-like real world and the fantastical video game world. Were there any specific games that you drew from to help design the video game world?

RG: I’ve played a lot of video games in my lifetime, so there are a ton of games that I have drawn inspiration from for the series. In the first issue we introduced a classic team deathmatch that takes a surprising twist, but there’s a lot of Halo influence there with some fantasy elements thrown in. In future issues we’ll see puzzle games, racing games and some more war games.

acd002GP: This is set in the far enough future, but the main characters are still using gaming slang. Do you think it is with us to stay?

RG: It’s funny, because just the other day I was remembering how often I got scolded as a kid for using the phrase “my bad” and the other day I think I heard someone say it in a TED talk. Without giving too much of the story away, I will say that the evolution of language has fascinated me for a long time. I was reading at an early age, so for “fun” my parents would have me read from the dictionary for guests for amusement. Eventually, I enjoyed Spelling Bees in grade school. So, somewhere along the way etymology became a cool thing in my book, and I think since gamer culture is such a massive influence on young kids right now, gamer slang is bound to live on.

acd001GP: The main character is Tess, a female player that is pretty good at what she does. Do you see a connection about the future of games and comics and women taking a bigger role in both?

RG: Absolutely. It’s inevitable. I think there’s a huge evolution of consciousness happening right now and women around the world are regaining their power in this patriarchal global culture.  It goes beyond just comics and games, but pretty soon we’ll see more and more women at the forefront of these industries too.  I hope that by focusing on a female protagonist and collaborating with a woman on this book, my production editor was Heather Antos, who has since been hired at Marvel, I can contribute to this evolution.

GP: Part of Tess’ in game design has her donning a costume that incorporates fishnets, a fairly common feature in women’s clothing in comics. Why do you think they remain so popular?

acd004RG: Funny you mention that, there’s a particular look that I wanted Tess to have in this game world, because this story will actually explore the exploitation of the female body in comics and games. It speaks to a larger issue. As much as I absolutely adore this genre, I am sick of seeing homogenized dystopian futures where women are one dimensional and there is a multi-cultural drought. The fishnets were a design that was pitched by the artist, Eddie Nuñez, and because I have this larger theme I want to explore, I thought it was perfect.

GP: Dystopian futures seem to be a common theme for comics in recent years. What do you make of the renewed focus on broken futures?

RG: It just speaks to a generation of people who recognize that many of our systems are just that.  We live in a world where you have obesity on one end of the spectrum and people dying of starvation on the other. There are severe gaps in resource and wealth distribution and a huge opportunity for improvement in education around the world. Oppression, in varied forms, is still a huge problem in many countries, so films like Elysium, District 9, Divergent, and The Hunger Games are so relevant. People want real freedom.

GP: Can you give us an idea about where the series is headed?

RG: At the core, this is a story about a woman who is tired of her confined lot in life.  We’ll follow her and explore a few different parts of the city. It’s a mix of noir inspired thrills, action, and mystery set in a place that’s just familiar enough to get your bearings. Tess is getting ready to go through a gauntlet that will challenge her perspectives. It will be a fun and hopefully unpredictable ride, but I really hope to bury some deeper philosophical ideas into the story and lay the groundwork for the next chapter of the saga when we finally learn the true meaning of the title of the book. This arc is hopefully just the beginning.