In Part 1 of this post, I looked at why the mini-series format was generally unsuccessful on an industry level, yet discussed the reasons why Valiant seems to defy this logic and continue publishing this format. For Part 2, I’m particularly interested in Shadowman, Eternal Warrior, and Dr. Mirage, and why I feel that the best course for their futures remains in the mini-series format.
Both Eternal Warrior and Shadowman initially struggled as ongoing series. While the former was able to quickly right the ship, the latter somehow got even worse. Shadowman failed for a host of reasons, but the implication from the sheer number of people involved in the 2nd and 3rd volumes is that one of the biggest problems was that it was too much, too soon for Valiant, who have otherwise been a model of not stretching your resources too far or attempting to expand too quickly. While the overall quality of the title did improve once a consistent creative team was in place, I think a lot of the damage had already been done (not to mention that the end of End Times leaves the series in a fairly awkward position). Arguably, the mini-series format is a means of regain goodwill from jilted Shadowman fans, because it allows the publisher to be selective about which stories it chooses to publish. If Valiant were to announce an exciting premise with a popular creative team, I would imagine that there would be a great deal of renewed interest in the title.
The “Eternal Emperor”-arc of Eternal Warrior was an immensely fun read, but it likewise left its ongoing title in an odd position. Set in 4001 A.D., it’s so far removed from any established continuity that it almost feels like an “Elseworlds” title for Marvel or DC. Fortunately, Eternal Warrior stories can be set at nearly any time (Days of Steel, thus far, occurs around 955 A.D.); however, jumping back and forth through time in this manner doesn’t lend itself to serialized storytelling. Additionally, Gilad has easily been the Valiant Universe’s most omnipresent character, appearing in five separate titles: Unity, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, The Valiant, and his own title. Although he has been carefully managed, he could eventually run the risk of oversaturation (as an X-Men fan who grew up loving Wolverine only now to roll my eyes every time he appears on the page, I speak from a great deal of personal experience). By limiting his solo appearances to mini-series’, it both limits overexposure to the character while allowing for interesting stories to occur throughout history.
While she’s not a new character per se, Dr. Mirage’s appearances has been limited to her own ongoing mini-series and a couple issues of Shadowman (full disclosure: I haven’t read any of The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage, but I’m eagerly anticipating the trade release), which makes her something of an unknown commodity. I would also argue that, purely from a genre standpoint, she’s less likely to attract an audience than, say, X-O Manowar. Thus, the wisest publishing strategy is to make every one of her appearance feel like an event unto itself through heavy promotion and strong, high-profile creative teams, or, in other words, the exact strategy used for the current mini-series.
Ultimately, I feel that there are two keys if Valiant wishes to continue publishing books in the mini-series format. The first is restraint, which has been one of their most admirable qualities thus far. Basically, they will have to ignore any pressure from fans to turn these titles into ongoing series’. Right now, they have limited themselves to only 9 titles, which forces their hand to a degree anyway (frankly, I think they should consider expanding to perhaps 10 or 11 titles, but I respect that they are committed to slow and steady growth).
Valiant also needs to continue to communicate with their readers. Fans need to understand that an Eternal Warrior mini-series is being published just once per year, because Valiant is being selective and following through on only the best pitches. In a recent interview, Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons said it best, “…we don’t want to rush this stuff out just because it’s a character in our library. We want to make sure the story’s right, the creative team is right, the concept is right, and we feel like that gives it the best chance.” An equally important part of communication is reassuring readers that the mini-series are, in fact, “important.” This can be accomplished simply by referencing the titles elsewhere. Gilad could, for instance, make a reference to Days of Steel in Unity. Too often mini-series fail at other publishers because they’re never given sufficient importance, so they feel like out-of-continuity stories. The Valiant Universe is a shared universe, and readers need to be aware that everything published by Valiant fits in it in some way.
Overall, Valiant Entertainment has been incredibly smart in their publishing strategy. It’s clear that they’ve had a long-term plan in place from the beginning, which is why they are the model for a start-up publisher. Most of the suggestions that I’ve detailed here are already being utilized, meaning that all Valiant really to do in order to remain successful is to simply keep doing what they have been doing.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com