Lion Forge, which was founded in St. Louis, Mo., as a comics publisher in 2011, is expanding beyond the comics and graphic novel format with the launch this spring of a line of picture books. The books will be released under Lion Forge’s two-year-old CubHouse imprint of books for readers up to age 12.

The line will debut in May with two original picture books: Oothar the Blue by Brandon Reese is the tale of a depressed barbarian, and is the author-illustrator’s first book; and This Is a Taco by Andrew Cangelose, illustrated by Josh Shipley, is the meta tale of a squirrel who takes over and re-writes his story. A follow-up to This Is a Taco, titled This Is a Moopsie, will be released under the CubHouse imprint in October.

Lion Forge is also publishing a picture book that originally was released in France: The Enchanted Chest by Jean-Francois Chabas, illustrated by David Sala, a take on “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” also due in May.

Executive editor Andrea Colvin explained that launching a picture book line was a natural progression for the rapidly expanding company. After she joined Lion Forge in 2016, she recalled, she suggested to her colleagues that Lion Forge should explore publishing picture books. “We were already doing words and pictures together,” she said.

“So many great cartoonists are now doing picture books,” Colvin noted, adding that she considered “each page” of Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie series of picture books as “one big comic.”

Acknowledging that Lion Forge is entering a highly competitive market, Colvin said she hopes its picture book line will stand out by publishing picture books in a comic style that features “extra clever twists.”

Lion Forge’s two debut picture books are “edgy and humorous,” she said, but like many other traditional picture books, they also contain an important message for young readers. For instance, she said, Oothar the Blue shows readers that if one does not like what one is doing in life, one should try something else in order to find happiness. And This Is a Taco teaches self-reliance, she said, “If you don’t like your story, you can re-write it.”

Colvin said that Lion Forge hopes to grow its picture book line quickly, with a goal of publishing 10 or more titles in 2019, and 15–20 titles in 2020. “We’re actively looking for a children’s editor, hopefully from the trade world, to help carry this forward,” she said.