Desiree Rodriguez’s official title at Lion Forge Comics is CPU Coordinator. That means she’s in charge of coordinating Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime Universe line, working under Gail Simone, who was hired this year as the chief architect of the Catalyst Prime Universe.
But what it boils down to is that Rodriguez, as an editor, is Lion Forge’s superhero wrangler, responsible for the day-to-day stories and art for the superhero Catalyst Prime Universe.
Rodriguez’s job is not just coordinating continuity across all eight titles in the Catalyst Prime line but also making certain the line lives up to Lion Forge’s motto: Comics For Everyone.
I first encountered her on Facebook, when I read her post on the history of Nightwing, and another on being LatinX in comics. The Nightwing article was on point for a long-time Dick Grayson fan, while the LatinX article brought out problem often overlooked by comic companies that are, for the most part, run by straight white men.
Those were two of many articles she wrote for Women Write About Comics and Nerds of Color and they were partly responsible for bringing her to the attention of then Lion Forge Senior Editor Joe Illidge, who hired her as an assistant editor.
“He came to me when I was working at a local comic shop and writing about comics and offered me a job. He said my perspective and point of view was needed at Lion Forge and that’s how I got started.” She began at Lion Forge as an assistant editor before moving up to her current position.
Rodriguez raved about Illidge in the interview and said that he was a mentor to her. “Joe has so much energy and he has so many ideas.” [Illidge is now Executive Editor for Valiant Comics, a job he took in April of this year.]
In that, Rodriguez’s comic origin echoes Simone’s own beginnings in comics. Like Rodriguez, Simone was a columnist, the author of the “You’ll All Be Sorry” column on Comic Book Resources, writings that brought her to the attention of an editor at Bongo Comics.
That these two women will have a huge impact on the next generation of superheroes goes a long way to living up to the motto of “comics for everyone.”
For Rodriguez, comics for everyone means wanting, as an editor, to hear any ideas for characters or plot, no matter how different it is from the way things have always been done in comics, especially at the big two, DC and Marvel.
“If they want a character to be gay and have a romance, I want to hear it. If they want a character to be black or LatinX or other than white, I want to hear it. I want to hear all the ideas.”
As an editor, Rodriguez says her role is to guide and encourage the creators.
“My job as an editor is to help the creators tell the best story they can tell, whatever the story may be.”
Rodriguez, who is bisexual, said it’s more than just the race or gender identity or sexual preference of the characters that is staying true to “comics for everyone.”
It also can be about looking at the specifics of the story. For instance, the portrayal of women in comics, which tends to be one note in the art, especially at the big two.
“Women, in mainstream comics, are almost always attractive. They’re not allowed to be anything else. Sometimes I will push back on pages that come in that are basically the way things have always been done in the art. For instance, it’s okay to depict an unattractive woman in a comic. It’s okay to have a panel of their face when they’re angry and when they’re not attractive.”
it’s about a three-dimensional portrayal of all kinds of people and not just relying on the default. However, Rodriguez said that does not mean the stories are political. They’re superhero action stories, with villains, and with characters fighting to do the right thing. But sometimes there are political elements, such as when the leads of Noble shut down a white supremacist rally.
The company’s motto can be seen in practice in the creators and characters in current Catalyst Prime Universe of superhero comics, which include Noble, Astonisher, Accell, Summit, Kino, Incidentals, Superb and Quincredible.
Perhaps the best example of going outside the box and representing those who might not see themselves in comics otherwise is Superb, where the hero is a teen with Down’s Syndrome.
The title, written by Dr. Sheena Howard and David Walker and with art by Ray-Anthony Height (Artist) and LeBeau Underwood, has received accolades for the authenticity of the young hero, Jonah, who received powers as a result of the event that kick-started the Catalyst Prime Universe. Jonah’s first thought was to use his powers to help others, inspired by the fictional superheroes he loves. Jonah has Down’s Syndrome but he’s also a hero and it’s tremendous to see how well he fits into his world.
“I love Jonah and that he’s allowed to be a hero in this universe,” Rodriguez said.
The other titles are similarly diverse, in character, and in their outlook on life.
Superb is part of the young adult line of the CPU, the other being the upcoming Quincredible, which will launch next month. The series is being written by Rodney Barnes, with art by Selina Espiritu, and it features a teen superhero and his mentor.
Rodriguez said under Simone that all the Catalyst Prime titles will see some changes coming next year.
“It’s not a reboot but it’s fair to call it version 2.0.”
She said Simone’s ideas are amazing and fun and just brimming with creativity. “I love working with her.”
Simone’s already teased about a big event coming next year for the universe and a character she will be writing but, so far, no specific titles or stories have been announced.
Plans are also in place to have a Catalyst Prime Universe title available for Roar, the Lion Forge’s children’s imprint, so that superhero stories are available from Lion Forge for all age groups.
Rodriguez’s enthusiasm for what she’s doing is infectious and the story about allowing art to show a woman in an unattractive but human moment is emblematic of the impact she has on the Catalyst Prime Universe. Lion Forge’s commitment to inclusivity is also part of why this superhero universe feels different from any other.
If you’re looking for any of the Lion Forge Catalyst Prime titles, all of them have been collected in trade paperbacks, including Superb, and Quincredible will begin next month.