Comics, Diversity, Geek Culture, Gender, LGBTQ, Primer, Race

The Mane Event: Lion Forge Pubwatch

For marginalized people, my queer enby self included, it is a constant struggle to see oneself in the massive sea of heteronormative bleached media. Today, when the world seems to actively rally against us, Lion Forge is here to shine a mirror on those who need it most and walk the walk of diversity. Both on and behind the page, Lion Forge lives and breathes its motto of “Comics for everyone.” Fortunately, not only do LF’s books show the rainbow array of humanity, but the books are also generally really good! Out this past week were three comics that epitomize LF’s dedication to diversity and quality.

From their Roar imprint, focused on young adult and teen books, comes Water Memory by Raynes Mathieu and Valerie Vernay. It follows a young girl named Marion as she discovers a strange local legend and dives in too deep. Marion finds herself mired in a tragic spell of blood, loss, and isolation. I loved Water Memory. It reminded me of Secret of Roan Inish and Song of the Sea. A rare deliberate ending not focused on giving everyone happily ever after. Creepy, in a very good way.

Also out last week was the first issue of Catalyst Prime Incidentals from creative team Joe Casey, Ramon Govea, and Larry Stroman. The relatively recent Catalyst Prime line is Lion Forge’s foray into a shared superhero universe. For the most part, I–very bored with superheroes–actually really enjoyed what I’ve read in this new playground. Incidentals, however, was a hard pass for me, a dark superhero team that seemed distant and too gritty dark to grab my attention. Accell, another member of the Catalyst Prime universe, their Flash-analogue, also went over my head. But Noble from Brandon Thomas and Roger Robinson (collection out 10/18) surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Focused on people and not powers, Thomas and Robinson painted a compelling story that demanded I turn the page. The ending twist, while not unpredictable, was believable and deeply felt. Superb, another entry in the CPU, also piqued my interest by focusing on very powerful, and not all positive, feelings and needs of its characters. Along the lines of Ms Marvel or Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur, Superb focuses on and is approachable for young adults whose struggles were very real and felt. All throughout each book, diversity was constant, but not the focus. Characters come from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and orientations, with the art and natural conversation revealing personal bits about each character, but never being too on the nose. There was even a call-out to enbies (YAY!).

The final book out this past week from Lion Forge was Little Pierrot by Alberto Varanda, from the Cubhouse imprint for readers up to ages 12. This book was weird. Really weird. Calvin and Hobbes-esque, but set in a Family Circle frame. Disjointed and jarring, Little Pierrot was still enticing and alluring. Taken alone, each scene inspires thought; together a story squirms to coalesce, but ultimately distracts with its absence. Little Pierrot benefits from multiple readings, especially with a young one to ask the obvious obfuscated questions that arise from Pierrot and Mr Snail’s (obligatory animal buddy) adventures.

Other recent or upcoming books from Lion Forge continue the excellent pattern. Cloudia & Rex (issues 1 and 2 out now from team Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Daniel Irizarri), a vibrant tale of gods, myths, grief, and sisters, is amazing. The colors alone are worth the read. Taproot (out 9/13) is my bread and butter. It is a beautifully queer enchanting nec-romance (😉) from Keezy Young, creator of the fabulous webcomics Yellow Hearts. Wrapped Up (out 10/18 by Dave Scheidt and Scoot McMahon) also enchanted me. It was a rompy mashup of Teen Dog and The Munsters.

And their diversity is not only on the page. The people behind the books–creators and members of the publishing team both–come from a wide variety of backgrounds and lived experiences. This can most recently be seen in their promotion of Andrea Colvin to Vice President-Executive Editor. With a background in kids’ books, Andrea is steeped in diversity and accessibility and will be a great asset to continue and better that practice at Lion Forge.

Behind and on the page, Lion Forge’s mission statement is visible and positively executed. These are queer stories. These are stories about people of color. These are stories by queer people. These are stories by people of color. Every comic is inclusive. Lion Forge is doing it right. The more I read, the more I am impressed. They have become a publisher I cannot wait to see more from. What will they come out with next?