When Valiant spearheaded the 1990s resurgence in 2012 I jokingly said that they were going to “do DC comics better than DC Comics.” The joke was a truthful one. DC was faltering by the time Valiant had geared up for its major creative push and the young upstart had amassed an amazing selection of talent with a familiar approach cribbed from DC’s classic style of storytelling.
With Catalyst Prime—a Milestone in spirit though not name—history is poised to repeat itself. I predict the imprint may just do Marvel comics better than Marvel. For Marvel Entertainment, though blessed with beloved brands and solid creative teams, seems to be floundering. The company is besieged by lackluster events such as Civil War II and Monsters Unleashed and its new directions (ex: Captain America’s current stint as a brainwashed Hydra agent) seemingly irritate long-term fans. While the company is equipped to turn things around, charting a new course for an industry behemoth takes time. And in that time fans can easily be wooed away by the competition.
While DC has claimed a few of those wayward Marvel fans (and will likely capture even more with The Wild Storm), the company cannot easily ape Marvel’s approach. Marvel capitalized on its universe being “the world outside your window.” If your apartment is in New York City, that is. The Marvel universe is akin to the world we live in—messy, diverse, flawed, and fragile—with a generous dollop of fantasy. DC, however, provides its readers with idealized Americana—a true melting pot where the bad guys are supervillains, not the intuitions that guide us.
Enter Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime (as well as Wildstorm, but that is a topic for another post).
Catalyst Prime is poised to give us the world outside our window—and started on said path by hiring the people we could see through that window. The project is helmed by senior editor Joseph Illidge, a man who earned his stripes at DC and Milestone. He in turn has brought on another notable Milestone alum in Christopher Priest and a diverse selection of talent from Marvel, Image, and DC. Surely taking note of the inroads Marvel has made in regards to diversity from the Blaxploitation era on, the project is also peppered with a multi-cultural and visually interesting band of characters. The premise, however, while intriguing, is reminiscent of the launch of the original Wildstorm universe in which a mysterious asteroid hastened the proliferation of super-powered beings. Hopefully Catalyst Prime will discover its own unique direction from that common starting point. If the industry can handle a dozen Superman pastiches it can certainly weather two asteroids!
Yet how will Marvel weather two new imprints infiltrating the arenas it once dominated? The answer likely lies within the Secret Empire.