It’s always great to find a comic book publisher offering fresh stories, across a host of different genres. Lion Forge Comics offers a collection of such tales, coming courtesy of a group of talented creators.
A St. Louis based comic book publisher Lion Forge Comics is a “transmedia studio with a focus on digital publishing. With both original and licensed titles, Lion Forge brings together the brightest talent to acquire and develop content and character franchises within the comic book, television, film and interactive gaming industries” as explained by the company.
In 2013 the company struck a deal with NBC Universal to produce comics based on such licensed properties as Saved By The Bell, Knight Rider, and Punky Brewster. In addition to this, their library of titles includes a wide array of books such as the Glyph Comics Award/Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics nominated Andre The Giant: Closer to Heaven, actor Flex Alexander’s espionage thriller Joshua Run, and the fantasy adventure series Crystal Cadets. In 2014 the company struck a deal with IDW Publishing to bring their digital titles to print, in collected editions, further expanding the reach of their properties to new fans.
Lion Forge Comics president, Dave Steward II recently took some time to talk with BlackSci-Fi.com about his companies’ success, diversity in the marketplace, and other topics.
BlackSci-Fi.com: Can you talk a little about what Lion Forge Comics is and how it came to be?
Dave Steward II: Lion Forge is a trans-media studio with a focus on comics publishing across all age groups. We have both licensed favorites and brand new ideas, and have the brightest and most diverse talent in the industry. The company was started back in 2011 when we saw a need for digital comics.
We now are not only producing digital comics but print as well, and have added Lion Forge Labs to our repertoire. Lion Forge Labs helps other companies and nonprofits promote their business or mission through comics. What better way than to receive a company hand book via a comic, or raise funds for a great cause by via comics?
BSF: Have you always been a comic book fan yourself, or are you something of a late bloomer?
DS: Yes, I have always been fascinated by the comics world and all the various media based on comics. While growing up, I didn’t have a comic store nearby, so I was mainly exposed to content through TV and movies. As an adult I was able to immerse myself in the books themselves, seeking out stores and getting digital comics on tablets.
BSF: You’re one of the few prominent/successful African American owned comic book publishers in the industry, who has garnered the acclaim and focus that you have from putting out quality content, while also making great partnerships with businesses like NBC and IDW Comics. How does it feel to be in such a position as an African American run business, or heck, just as a small business with just a few years in the publishing game?
DS: It definitely is a labor of love and I feel blessed to be working with such a great team who wants to carry out our mission.
BSF: One thing that is really exceptional about your company is the fact that you don’t just cater to the “superhero”crowd. You have cop dramas, high school comedies, young adult oriented fiction, horror, sci-fi, etc. As a publisher what benefits come with having a diverse line of content? Why go this route, when it seems, at least on the outside looking in, that superheroes dominate everything?
DS: Part of our mission is to make comics for everyone, and we really try hard to dispel the rumor that comics are just for those who like the traditional “superhero vs villain” story lines. By having a variety of content, we feel we can really hold true to our mission.
BSF: How has reception been to having such a diverse line of content?
DS: It’s been wonderful! One of the main reasons I felt it necessary to start Lion Forge was to help bring diversity into publishing which is something that I felt the industry has lacked in the past. We believe that the only way to make comics for everyone is to foster the talent with those from many different backgrounds, because at the end of the day, that is the only way to truly be diverse. If we all had a similar story to tell, we wouldn’t be able to highlight our mission.
BSF: Just as an observer, do you feel that the current push by bigger comic book publishers to “diversify” their ranks in front of and behind the pages of comics is genuine in its goals? Why or why not?
DS: Well, I can only speak for us here at Lion Forge. For our company, we strive to reach readers from all walks of life and with a variety of content.
BSF: It also seems that indie comics have made bigger strides on the topic of diversity and comics. Do you feel that this is the case, and if so does it seem that larger companies are struggling to catch up in this regard?
DS: From our view point, yes, because many of us budding comic companies are looking for talent outside of the “typical” talent pool to find great artist and writers. Using the connections that one might have is important, but we at Lion Forge also want to make sure that we’re searching for those who are the best fit for the creative process as well.
BSF: Why do you feel that the topic of diversity in comics should be at the forefront when discussing comics? As you have done, why attempt to diversity behind the scenes, in terms of those individuals actually producing the comics themselves?
DS: Well, we feel that the best way to create comics and content for everyone is to have diversity in the workplace. For us, diversity is in our forefront because we want to be inclusive and give an authentic voice to our content.
BSF: When your readers pick up any of your books are there any specific themes, or ideas that you hope that they take from the experience? Or simply, do you want them to just have a good time reading comics?
DS: I think it’s a little bit of both. We hope our readers enjoy the stories that we have put a great deal of time and energy into, but we also hope that they are able to relate to characters and content as well.
DS: We have some great projects on the horizon! We will be branching out into the animation world with a project called Deep Sea 7. It’s an anime-style project we produced in conjunction with Harmony Gold. It’s a fun adventure series that’s like Robotech underwater. We would certainly be open to the idea of creating our animated feature or television series with any of our books!
BSF: How does it feel to have experienced the growth and success that your company has, from a personal perspective?
BSF: Do you have any advice for any of readers who might be comic book creators or business owners in the making?
DS: If I could give one piece of advice to someone coming into the business it would be to figure out what your passion is in comics, hone your craft, and then surround yourself with a great team to help you produce content. The sky’s the limit!
Robert Jeffrey II is an award winning journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as UVC Magazine, JaDore Magazine, BlackSci-Fi.com, and The Atlanta Voice Newspaper. He is a regular contributor for the Tessera Guild, and his comic book work includes client work for the Centers for Disease Control, and Nitto Tires. His comic book writing includes work on such award winning/ nominated series as his creator owned series Route 3, Radio Free Amerika, Terminus Team-Up, and Soul of Suw. He’s yet to fulfill his dream of pop-locking to save a community center.