Lantern City is a bold idea for a franchise built around the steampunk community. It has begun life as a Boom! Studios comic series, but it is currently in development as a television series, and possibly as a roleplaying game too. For a franchise to provide enough good content to cover a comic series, television series, and roleplaying game, it must have a very detailed and fully-realized world, and characters who face problems its audience can relate to. In short, it must have enough depth and enough detail to ensure that fans will want to return to that world again and again. Few franchises actually do this well, with Star Wars and Star Trek being among the standouts. However, Lantern City seems to have a creative team that is strong enough to create a steampunk franchise that could stand with the aforementioned giants.
At the Lantern City panel at Baltimore Comic Con, co-creator Matthew James Daley explains his role in fleshing out this complex world. He said, “[co-creator/executive producer] Trevor [Crafts] had an idea and he and [executive producer] Bruce Boxleitner brought me on to help flesh things out. I started expanding on the world, and so I don’t think they quite knew what they were getting into by bringing me onto the project. I get a little crazy with world-building sometimes.” Daley went on to explain that he took Crafts’ character ideas and germ of a world and began developing all the details of that world including everything from its diseases and religions to its street and neighborhood names and the types of fruit that grow there.
According to Daley, the continent in which Lantern City is seated is the southernmost city on the continent. There was a huge war called The Last War. All the survivors of that war sought refuge in Lantern City. One family ruled the city at that time. The good intentions of the city’s first leaders that came with allowing those refugees in quickly spoiled after a few generations, and they became greedy and started taking away the rights of the citizens. This became a situation where working class people have no rights, they can’t practice religion, they are forced to work for most of their waking hours, and they barely have enough food to eat, but they’ve been programmed to think that this is just how life is. Lantern City is policed by the Lantern City Guard who are the enforcers of the empire. The working class citizens of the city live in constant fear of them.
Obviously, Daley did indeed go crazy in his world building, but in working on a franchise of this scope, that is a positive attribute. And he doesn’t seem to have sacrificed story in creating such a massive world, either. In creating the plot that this world serves as a backdrop for, Daley pulls from his own experience as a father. He said, “I constantly think about what I would do, and what wouldn’t I do for my kids?” These questions fuel the decisions the protagonist of the comic series, Sander Jorve, has to make when he finds himself being roped into a rebellion against the empire that rules Lantern City. The person roping him into that rebellion is his brother-in-law Kendal Kornic, who will be played by Raphael Sbarge of Once Upon a Time fame.
Sbarge assures fans of the comic book series that the television show will not simply be a rehashing of the comic’s storyline. He said, “The story Matt and Trevor are developing for television is completely different than the one in Boom’s comic series, although some of the characters, Kendal Kornic for example, will crossover.”
Daley agreed, then went on to point out what inspired Trevor Crafts to create Lantern City. He said, “Trevor saw that there wasn’t a single property, a single world, for the steampunk community to latch onto and call their own.” He said that Trevor saw the huge builder community in steampunk and noticed that fans were creating all this imagery, but there was no narrative to tie it all together. Daley said, “The idea here is that in the future when someone says what is steampunk, people will say Lantern City.”
Sbarge added, “Steampunk is sort of a country without a flag in that way. It’s astonishing how enormous the audience for steampunk is in every country. There are wonderful makers of costumes and just wonderful folks who have built this underground society.” In fact, Daley and company are encouraging steampunk fans to contribute to the world of Lantern City by submitting designs and ideas to incorporate into the franchise. Daley said, “The fun part of steampunk is the fans who build the costumes. Trevor went out to some of the big names who build the costumes and the props in the steampunk community and asked them to help build this world for both the comic book and the television show.” Considering the large, albeit underground, steampunk fan-base, the scope of the world Daley and Crafts have created, and the plot which will appeal to basic emotions that anyone – steampunk fan or not – can relate to, Lantern City possesses all the elements needed to become an epic science fiction/fantasy franchise.