"When I wake up in the morning and the alarm gives out a warning, and I don't think I'll ever make it on time..."
If you grew up in the '80s, those words might sound familiar to you. However, if you're from that era and have these lyrics sung live to you by actor Dennis Haskins, I think there would be no doubt as to where they're from: it's the beginning of the "Saved by the Bell" theme song. And this was exactly how the Lion Forge Comics panel began on a Saturday morning at Emerald City Comicon 2014.
Haskins (a.k.a. Principal Belding) moderated the gathering energetically, quickly introducing everyone on the podium: comic book writer-artist Adam Warren ("Empowered"), Senior Editor Shannon Eric Denton, Lion Forge Founder David Steward, transmedia author Joelle Sellner and Senior Editor Adam Staffaroni. Primarily a digital publisher, Denton began by discussing some of the titles Lion Forge has released.
First, they presented the comic "Night Trap," by writer Cullen Bunn ("The Sixth Gun"). Although it isn't associated with an '80s property, the flavor of that era is still present in the book as it's a horror title inspired by B-movies and classic video games.
Next up was "Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier," a fictional title that has some fun with a real-life individual - mixed martial artist star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. His character gains powers from a meteorite and decides to use them for good. The publisher indicated that Jackson has been enthusiastic about the book and said they've had a good time working with the star.
Following this was another book about a larger-than-life individual - Andre the Giant. Lions Forge is working on a biography of the deceased wrestler in cooperation with his estate. Their goal is to give a historically accurate telling of Andre's life story.
The panelists then revealed their big announcement for the convention: a "Knight Rider" vs. "Air Wolf" crossover event. These two television properties will be seen battling things out in a way that wasn't possible on the silver screen. Warren is writing the event and said he enjoyed playing around with the characters from these two shows. In addition to the event, the publisher mentioned there will be several one-shots that lead into the crossover and that one of them will be written by Chuck Dixon ("G.I. Joe," "Batman").
After all this discussion of horror movies, fighting and explosions, Staffaroni switched gears and began to talk about the publisher's Roar line of comics, which are written for an all-ages audience. This group of titles includes a couple of well-known properties, as well as several brand new concepts and characters.
To begin with - and to explain why Haskins was present - the editor showed off some art from their upcoming "Saved by the Bell" comic series. Written by Sellner with art by Chynna Clugston Flores ("Hopeless Savages"), the book brings the cast of Bayside to the 21st century.
"In the show, Zack was kind of a rich kid and had his own phone - the Zack-Phone," Sellner said. "Nowadays though, all kids have cell phones. So we had to find new ways for Zack to get in trouble with modern technology."
Haskins joyfully jumped in to say that he's read the comics and feels Sellner got the characters' voices down perfectly.
The scribe also has her hands full with another popular troublemaker from the '80s - Punky Brewster. This TV property is also being brought into the present by Sellner with Lesley Vamos ("My Dad is a Superhero") on art. The cute craziness of the property has been kept intact, but the writer did confess having to change a few details.
"We had to change some details for the comic book," Sellner said. "Like it may have seemed okay for this old man, who was a stranger to Punky, to adopt this little girl in the '80s. But we kind of wanted to remove the 'ick' factor of this. So now Henry is a distant relative of Punky's."
On top of these titles, Roar has two other offerings for kids of all ages who are looking for something different. First up is "Mer," also by Sellner with Abby Boeh on art. This title is about a new kid in town who makes some peculiar friends in school that just happen to be mermaids. Secondly, there's "Crystal Cadets," written by Anne Toole with art by Katie O'Neill. This comic features girls from around the world who find magical crystals. Together, they must team up and fight the forces of darkness. These last two comics aren't available yet, but the rest of Lion Forge's books can be found on Amazon for the Kindle and at the Google Play store.
Haskins then closed out the panel with a question from an audience member about his favorite "Saved by the Bell" episode. The actor fondly reminisced about the time his character's brother came to the school as a substitute teacher. In the end, the brother was going to disappoint the kids, but Haskins' Belding protected the kids from any emotional harm. To him, that was the essence of the character - the protection of the innocent. As this is a common theme in comics, it sounds like a "Saved by the Bell" book will fit right in with other books on the (digital) spinner rack.