Desiree Rodriguez and the Catalyst Prime Universe Bible

A group of new superheroes pose on the cover of the first issue of Catalyst Prime

The countdown to Catalyst Prime: Seven Days continues. Despite initial delays, the series will usher in a new superhero universe for Lion Forge in October. Orchestrated by Gail Simone, Catalyst Prime involves heroes like Noble, Summit, and Quincredible, as well as several other people empowered by the catastrophe that occurred in the Free Comic Book Day Catalyst Prime: The Event comic. In this new series, the world is once again shaken by an earth-shattering event where an alien being promises humanity only seven days to get its house in order before its destruction.

Diligently working behind the scenes is Catalyst Prime Coordinator and Lion Forge Editor (and former WWAC contributor), Desiree Rodriguez, who is putting her skills as a writer and a fan to work to help shape a universe that is diverse and well-organized. To ensure both visual and textual continuity across the board, Rodriguez has created numerous resources to keep creative teams on track when it comes to getting this universe just right.

Why is creating the Catalyst Prime Universe ‘bible’ and offering these resources important to you?

I’m the type of person who likes to research things, having as many facts as possible before I get a project started. When I started as an assistant one of the things my Senior Editor at the time had discussed with me was creating a ‘Catalyst Prime Bible’ where we documented some basic information about the line. There was already a pitch document to work off of, so I built upon that foundation until eventually creating various bibles that we use now in a new format and more specific goals.

It was important to be able to provide new writers and artists—and later editors as well when our editorial crew expanded – with an easy packet of information. It’s time-consuming to read three volumes—about nineteen single issues and 140 something pages. With a bible and other resources for specific groups— retailers, artists, etc—it would hopefully be easier to consume information in less time.

What was your inspiration for creating these resources?

Wikis were a huge inspiration. I grew up in fandom spaces, and wikis are a huge part of those spaces. With that fandom experience, creating things like fashion or mood boards was also an inspiration so that each character could stand out a bit more in how they dressed or looked.

Will such efforts expand beyond CPU for you?

Oh absolutely, currently for my own personal stories I have folders for character inspiration or scenery inspiration for artists. Sometimes I’ll save pictures that catch my eye just for future reference. For me, I enjoy having those visual references to share or refer back to for inspiration.

Lorena Payan's face and colour swatches
Lorena Payan

For my specific work purposes, it’s a bit like creating a pitch document. I’ll create a base folder, then subfolders that I’ll grow and organize to share with others as more reference materials are developed. Depending on the project depends on how in-depth the materials may go.

Who is the CPU Bible for? Do you have plans to release a more formal, fan-friendly version for consumers?

Currently, all resources are in-house and to be provided to contracted writers, artists, and other editors. I’ve been able to share things like the character color swatches online before, but not much else. I’d love to be able to create a fan-friendly version of the Bible for consumers if there was an interest in that.

What would this series have meant to you if it had been present when you were growing up, reading comics?

There’s a scene in Noble #11, written by Brandon Thomas, where two characters of color interrupt a white supremacist rally. It’s probably one of my favorite moments of the Catalyst Prime because it’s done so simply but is still really powerful. That’s something I wish I could have read as a kid, heroes of color tearing down structures of hate and oppression. It’s happened before in superhero comics of course, I mean the X-Men are a long allegory for systematic oppression. But there was something really special about seeing a black man and a Muslim woman being the heroes in that situation since people of color are oftentimes more harshly judged on how we react to oppressive structures.

Sometimes you don’t want to be polite, sometimes you want to be righteous. So that scene, those topics and images, provided a nice little bit of escapism that would have been really great to read as a kid.

What does the series mean to you now?

Opportunity at its core. Opportunity to tell all sorts of superhero stories, new stories, subversive stories, even just some old-fashioned fun stories.

Right now Alex Paknadel is writing Kino which centers around a British airman who was locked in a virtual prison to test his enhanced abilities and suffers PTSD from his experiences. What I find really fascinating is how Alex has infused British politics into Kino’s story.

I also love what Rodney Barnes is doing on Quincredible with artist Selina Espiritu. The story itself is pretty small, it’s just a young teenager, Quinton West, who wants to protect his city of New Orleans and he has to learn how he can do that. He has no super strength or flight or plasma blasts, his enhancement is that he can’t be physically hurt. Which is already a powerful concept for a young black character to have, but as a teenager Quinton wants to do more. Be an active powerful force of change and he has to learn—like many real teens and young people—how exactly he can do that. Selina is able to layout a page so beautifully in such a dynamic way, and Kelly Fitzpatrick is a champion on colors.

Quinton and his colour swatches
Quinton, aka Quincredible

I love being able to see and be a part of stories like that; that present new ideas into what a superhero can be outside of the typical paradigms. I hope one day we’re able to do a same-sex romance style superhero comic. I think that would be awesome.

What have you learned in your editorial experiences since starting with Lion Forge? What have you learned more specifically from working on Catalyst Prime?

I’ve learned a lot, some good, some not-so-good which is what comes from any job. I’ve worked in a lot of different fields—retail, childcare, education, journalism, now publishing—in the last ten years and that’s the one thing I’ve learned from every job I’ve had. You always want to walk away having learned something.

Editorially I’ve learned a lot about how comics get published, the ins and outs of it all which is a lot more complicated than folks might think. If anything that knowledge just makes me respect self-published creators and creators who run Kickstarters all the more. It’s hard work to get books published with a company team behind you, so creators who are out there doing the work themselves deserve a lot of respect.

I’ve also learned a lot about scheduling, I have a calendar filled out for the rest of the year into next year with deadlines and due dates. Flexibility is another thing you have to learn, keeping your schedule flexible but still on track is difficult when you’re dealing with a team of sometimes up to six people and juggling multiple issues of a single series. I have to oversee an entire line of books coordinating with sales, marketing, editorial, and upper management. If I’m not organized, and I don’t know when materials are due I’d never get anything done. If I didn’t take thorough notes I wouldn’t have documentation to reference back to. If I didn’t know how to use photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office and other programs I wouldn’t be able to get my day-to-day tasks done.

In working on the Catalyst Prime, the thing I’ve learned is how important compromise is because this property is an IP of the company. It belongs to the company and as such it’s subject to oversight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing just something you have to keep in mind.

Also that you really have to keep track of what’s happening in each book. It’s a connected universe so things have to make a certain level of sense. One character can’t be a bad guy in Incidentals and then suddenly a good guy in Noble. It’s why written resources on characters and events are just as important as visual aids on what the characters look like for artists.

Catalyst Prime: Seven Days begins on October 2, 2019. Pre-orders are available now.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.