“With new and different perspectives, we challenge the present and ignite a global conversation through art and storytelling.”
That is the motto of Lion Forge, an independent publisher hailing from the American midwest that has grown by leaps and bounds with new series, major hirings, and big expansion plans with multiple imprints since its founding. In seven years, Lion Forge has grown from a digital-only company working as an imprint of IDW Publishing into a thriving standalone print/digital publisher with an average monthly output of 10 serialized comic books and five graphic novels across several age-based and thematic imprints. One of the publisher's key lines has been the superhero line Catalyst Prime.
“Catalyst Prime came about as part of our motto ‘Comics for Everyone’. We want to have books that cover all genres and have inclusive representation across that line,” Lion Forge co-founder/CEO David Steward II told Newsarama. “Even though the market seems saturated with Marvel and DC we still felt there was room to create something different and authentic.”
Together, Marvel and DC publish over 150 comic books a month – much of them superhero titles. But Steward and Lion Forge CCO/co-founder Carl Reed see an opportunity and a demand for a different kind of superhero.
“For as long as I can remember, superheroes have been told from the perspective of the Marvel or DC universe perspective,” said Reed. “Image started with a bang. This was a new, fresh take on superheroes and heroes in general. We seek to do the same thing – tell larger than life stories in a new and different way.”
“I think readers want more unique stories from diverse point of views,” Steward added. “I think the genre is just a vehicle for telling some of those stories. The genre itself is great because in a lot of ways it is our own ‘modern day mythology', as they say.”
In addition to Catalyst Prime, Lion Forge publishes licensed books such as Voltron: Legendary Defender and the upcoming Dinosaucers (with Batman producer Michael Uslan), and has several age-based imprints such as Roar (all-ages), Caracal (8 to 12), and Cubhouse (8 and under), and as well as European-themed works under the acquired imprint Magnetic Press and a game imprint (Quillion).
Lion Forge was established in 2011 as a comic publisher and creative studio to foster stories that reflect the diversity in the world today. Originally consisting of co-founders David Steward II and Carl Reed, Lion Forge has grown to employ 55 people and operate out of a renovated Office Depot store in the Franz Park area of St. Louis, Missouri.
“Our offices in St. Louis are pretty cool; we’re located in what used to be an Office Depot that’s been converted into creative space,” said Steward. “Our offices have a very open feel to them and our team feels like one big family.”
“It is deceptive from the outside - our headquarters is in a strip mall,” Reed added, “but once inside, it’s another world, perfectly suited for creativity. From the open bullpen to our manifesto plastered across the wall under our huge logo, it truly feels like home.”
In the past 12 months, Lion Forge nearly doubled its staff with both in-house and remote employees around North America.
“We have serious plans for the company and our impact on the industry,” said Reed. “We must grow as those plans further develop.”
“We’re in a state of constant improvement and growth at Lion Forge. Our goal right now is to become the third largest publisher of comics and graphic novel content,” added Steward.
Steward comes to the comic industry after running a successful photography company followed by three years working in private equity. He comes from a talented family – his sister, Kimberly Steward, is a film producer behind such works as Manchester by the Sea. Their father, David Steward, is the founder/chairman of World Wide Technologies and has been called “one of the richest black businessmen in the country” by Bloomberg. As Chief Executive Officer of Lion Forge, Steward II is involved in all aspects of Lion Forge both working with staff and its customer and client base.
“As for my job it entails a little bit of everything from business operations, comic creative development, and looking at new business development opportunities.”
As Lion Forge’s Chief Creative Officer, Reed keeps an eye on artistic quality and oversees the company’s B2B creative services studio that works on comic books, storybooks, animation, and more.
“I try to keep a firm grasp on the quality of our content,” said Reed. “I also oversee the creative services side of the company where we take advantage of the storytelling and content production capabilities that we have developed with our publishing side.”
“At the heart of our organization we’re a storytelling company,” Steward continued. “In our creative services studio we just take those same capabilities and apply them to an organizations business needs. We’ve developed comics, animation, and games for everyone from non-profits to corporations.”
Bringing it all together under one proverbial roof, Steward and Reed have ambitious goals for Lion Forge.
“Ultimately, we want to be the largest comics publisher and be a change-leader for the betterment and advancement of the industry,” said Steward. “As Ghandi said ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’ and that’s what we’re here to do.”