In a major move last week, the Canadian publisher behind Captain Canuck, Freelance, and many other revivals of classic comic book characters changed its name from Chapterhouse Comics to Lev Gleason® Incorporated. Lev Gleason was the name of an American publisher of comics from 1939-1955 based in New York City.
This came as a surprise to many Canadian comic book fans and has drawn some confusion, so I spoke with Fadi Hakim, Founder and Co-Owner, by phone to get the facts straight from the source to explain things to fans. We spoke about the reason behind the change, their position in the marketplace and publishing plans. To be clear this is still largely the same publisher and has not been sold but is a major rebranding and re-entry into publishing comics.
Officially founded in 2015 but starting off in 2014 with the Captain Canuck Summer Special, Chapterhouse Comics was a new publisher created to be the Canadian source of monthly superhero comics with Canadian characters and mostly Canadian creators. Starting off to great acclaim and media attention for their reboot of Richard Comely’s Captain Canuck character from 1975 with a striking new costume designed by Kalman Andrasofsky.
They quickly became a source of pride for Canadian comic fans to finally have our own answer to Marvel and DC with our own superhero universe. Publishing both company owned rebooted characters and creator owned books such as Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human Lizard, their line up also expanded to prose novels.
The challenges of publishing from Canada and dealing with American distribution and shipping, along with the general challenges of growing a business such as cash flow and managing freelance creators caused some issues along the way. There have been many book delays and uncertainty about publishing over the years which has caused many fans to lose interest due to not being able to reliably get books unless through digital distribution.
There has also been talk among creators–for which I only have anonymous sources–which claim difficulty with negotiating fair contracts and not being paid for work done. As is true with any comic book publisher, creators should always look out for themselves and try to negotiate fair contracts with some protections. Seek remedies if they are broken. Hopefully, these troubles are in the past as the company begins a new chapter as Lev Gleason®. But these issues lead to a near halt in published titles from Chapterhouse in 2019 and 2020 with just free comic book day issues and digital comics coming to market.
After much internal discussion Chapterhouse decided it was time to re-work and reposition the company. They had worked hard to establish the brand, but a few points swayed the decision to do it. In part that the Chapterhouse name was actually devised very quickly at its inception. They felt It doesn’t clearly convey that they publish comic books as “chapter” usually implies prose books. Additionally, once they published the biography of Lev Gleason AMERICAN DAREDEVIL: COMICS, COMMUNISM, AND THE BATTLES OF LEV GLEASON, they found in that a source for a new brand identity which aligned with their goals. While it is an American one, the idea of using the name of a legacy publisher and revamping it for modern publishing is in line with what Chapterhouse has done since its inception.
The first Lev Gleason publishing company also had sub-brands, which clearly aligned with the plans for the new entity. Gleason’s ‘Comic House’ has now become the main Chapterverse line of interconnected superhero stories, while ‘New Friday’ will be the imprint for creator owned books, to exist largely separate from the Chapterverse. This wasn’t something always as clear to readers before. It’s felt that ‘Comic House’ also will be easier to market as a comic brand then Chapterhouse was.
It’s hoped that this will be a clear sign to consumers of the new publishing direction they are moving in. It would have been nice to revive a defunct Canadian publisher name, but when asked we are informed that many of the originals were too generic or had copyright issues. Meanwhile they feel Lev Gleason presents a greater brand opportunity.
The timing of this change was forced by the need to change their Diamond Comics Distributor accounting to the new brand in time for the solicitations which were released January 29. So, once they had secured trademarks in the US and Canada for the new brand and some characters it went public. While it came suddenly to the public, we’re told it has been in the works for a while and will now hopefully be well known by the time their first issue of Lev Gleason Presents arrives in April.
We’re informed that creators have been working on new comics for the past year and a half to provide the new brand launch with a buffer to avoid delays. They have also established a US office and legal framework to allow for smoother dealings in terms of printing and Diamond logistics. The departure of DC comics from Diamond in 2020 has allowed for some more emphasis on smaller publishers which Fadi hopes will help them grow. And that the new division between Comic House and New Friday imprints will allow stores to tailor orders depending on which appeals to their clients.
A Captain Canuck movie was in development as previously mentioned at a Toronto Comic Con panel and also by Canadian actor Jay Baruchel who invested in Chapterhouse. We’re told there’s nothing to announce at this time in regard to that, but I presume that an American office will be beneficial in continuing that pursuit.
Lev Gleason has announced many new comics which will be available later in 2021 with the focus being their monthly Lev Gleason Presents title. An anthology with 4 20-page stories in one 80-page giant issue. It will be used as a launching point for every new season of stories. Sticking with its organisation of series into 4 issue seasons culminating in one collected paperback per season.
For example the relaunch of the Silver Streak is debuting in April, and will conclude in the fall as it won’t be in all subsequent issues. A bit like how Dark Horse Presents used to work from the sounds of it. And once a season has concluded within Lev Gleason Presents, individual 20-page issues and a paperback collecting it will be made available through their online store, possibly at different times.
This is the plan for now, future publication dates are not yet officially announced. They hope that by focusing on a single monthly title to start, a consistent publishing schedule can be maintained and retailers and readers find it easy to support and enjoy them. In time possibly more monthly titles can be added as well.
If you are interested in giving this new direction for Lev Gleason
Chapterhouse a shot, ask your local shop to add it to your pull list, with Diamond code FEB211396. Titles announced from the New Friday brand can be found on www.levgleason.com/newfriday as well.