This year’s Free Comic Book Day will see the release of Catalyst Prime: The Event, a one-shot issue that will launch new publisher Lion Forge’s “Catalyst Prime” superhero universe. As Lion Forge editor Joseph Illidge explained in an essay for EW, Catalyst Prime is Lion Forge’s attempt to carry on the legacy of Dwayne McDuffie and Milestone Media, a ’90s imprint that produced a roster of diverse superheroes by diverse creators. The first Catalyst Prime title, Noble, will focus on an African-American superhero named David Powell and his attempts to reconnect with his family after a supernatural accident.
After joining a team of astronauts on a risky mission to save the Earth from an impending asteroid, Powell returns to Earth in Noble with new powers and no memories. Although it’s been a year since his disappearance, David’s beloved wife Astrid Powell is determined to rescue him, even as the newly amnesiac and telekinetic David starts making his own way back to his family.
Noble #1 hits stores on May 3, a few days before Free Comic Book Day on May 6. Writer Brandon Thomas, artist Roger Robinson, and letterer Saida Temofonte talked to EW about the book and their new superhero. Check that out below, along with a brief excerpt from Noble #1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What excited you guys about working on Noble?
BRANDON THOMAS: One reason I wanted to work on this book was to see black and brown characters operate on a widescreen stage. I didn’t want to write a book about a black character protecting the neighborhood. I respect those kinds of books, but to me, what was more impactful was seeing a black man all over the world, saving and interacting with people, and having these large-scale superhero adventures that “diverse” characters don’t typically get to have. I wanted this to be a book that didn’t have any limits. You can see in the first issue. I can’t remember seeing a black superhero in Argentina on the run, and as the issues progress, David is moving through even more different locations. A lot of the perspectives we get from comic and movies, they’re very boxed-in. That was my mission statement for Noble: epic, wide-screen stories that take place all around the world, and oh yeah, they’re centered around a black male character.
ROGER ROBINSON: I almost feel emotional about it. I definitely feel a huge responsibility on this book, because we need this in the mainstream. I spent a lot of effort on this book.
THOMAS: I’m glad we’re taking part in superhero science-fiction comics that look like the world, not the world as it existed in the 1960s – which is a main problem with mainstream comics. They are a product of the times they were created in. Despite the conversation and angst over these comics universes that we’re all very familiar with, they’re very much a product of their time, and Catalyst Prime will be a product of its time. In this day and age, superhero and science-fiction comics deserve to look like the world.
What is David’s wife Astrid’s role in this series?
THOMAS: I’m so excited to talk about Astrid. David Powell and his power set were already in place when I came on, so Astrid was my first big contribution to the world of Noble. The more I write her, the more I love writing her. Astrid’s journey parallels David’s in many ways. She’s learned David’s alive during this lost year, which we’ll explore a bit. She’s on his trail, she’s tracking him down. There are certain elements of her past that will help her in this quest. It was important to me that Astrid was not just the heartbroken, affectionate wife. She is a massive, massive part of the book — not even just to David; she’s connected to other things that you will learn over the next few issues. I love writing her and writing him separately, and when I can finally get them back together again, expect the unexpected.
ROBINSON: I feel that in the writing, the way he’s writing her character. He wrote her really cleverly, where she goes from passionate wife mourning her husband to the last page, where she’s doing something about it.
The majority of the first issue is an epic fight scene. What are your action inspirations?
THOMAS: I wanted this first issue to be 80 percent action. Some of my favorite comics of all time, the really big-time superhero stories like The Authority and All-Star Superman, are all punctuated by these perfectly staged action sequences. It’s something I felt we needed to do with Noble, to show people this book is going to be different. I think it says a lot about the character that David keeps getting knocked down, and he keeps getting back up. He keeps fighting and running and trying to escape this situation.
ROBINSON: It just plays like a movie for me. For each panel, it’s deciding what’s the more dynamic shot to get the reader into it and make the reader feel like they’re there seeing the action and feeling what David’s going through. The way Brandon writes, it was easy for me to visualize.
TEMOFONTE: I generally feed off the art. I noticed there was a crescendo of the action scene, big lines and things breaking and lots of debris, so I tend to use fonts that have a lot of debris – from a design point of view, it incorporates better into the art. Sometimes the sound effects need to take over for just a second, and it just becomes part of the story. I ask myself, what’s the story of the panel? Then I might cover over a part of the art that doesn’t deliver the story.
ROBINSON: I think people don’t realize how much lettering and sound effects are part of the storytelling. Sometimes there’s dialogue on the page, but a sound effect helps. Lettering helps readers stay on the page for another few seconds.
In a lot of recent cases, such as Marvel having The Falcon temporarily take over as Captain America, “diversity” has amounted to plugging characters of color into old templates. What is the advantage of creating new characters and universes?
THOMAS: When you create a new universe with new characters, you can create your own expectations. When Sam Wilson takes over being Captain America from Steve Rogers, he is so weighed down by the decades of previous Captain America stories featuring Steve Rogers that his tenure is going to be fairly and unfairly measured against. When you create new characters and new worlds, you create your own expectations. When Sam Wilson becomes Captain America, you know it’s temporary. If you know anything about comics, you know they’ll get to a point where Steve is Captain America again, and Superman comes back to life, and Batman’s back is healed. When you work with new worlds, you don’t know where the goalposts are. You don’t know how far they’re going to go. There’s a lot of excitement and anxiety in that, because people are sometimes resistant to new things. It’s always a balancing act, but if you can take the flavor of something people are already familiar with and give it a new lens to operate through, you have a good chance of hooking those people into what you’re trying to do.