Depth of Characterization Sets Valiant Universe Apart

Since it began publishing in 2012, Valiant Entertainment has defied the conventions of storytelling, opting to tell non-traditional stories about super-abled individuals and situations. Heroes who aren’t always heroic. Shades of gray. Like the world outside our window, right and wrong in the Valiant universe is often a matter of perspective.

Valiant has taken a different approach to the depiction of women as well. This is one of the reasons that I find their line appealing and accessible. Valiant women aren’t merely damsels in distress, sex pots, or middle-aged mothers without appeal. They’re depicted as real people with a multitude of quirks and many-faceted aspects of personality – just like a real woman. Their female characters embrace their sexuality without being depicted as eye candy or token gifts for men. Valiant women can be strong leaders without being one-dimensional man-hating bitches. Middle age doesn’t equate to homemaking motherhood and frumpiness. Valiant female characters can save lives without wearing a thong costume and having breasts larger than their head. Even better? Some of them are highly intelligent and yet not illustrated as asexual nerds, and pretty doesn’t mean dumb.

To date, there is only one female-led series in Valiant’s stable, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage. Brought to life by author Jen Van Meter, Doctor Mirage is remarkably well-done. A woman of color whose personal story does not focus on her race. Beautiful without narcissism. Emotional without being irrational.  Gifted with powers yet not abusive of them. Mirage seems to be an intelligent and contemplative woman capable of great acts of bravery and sacrifice. She’s not perfect and doesn’t seem artificial.  She has misgivings and insecurities, and she’s trying to hold everything together. She is a woman that other women can identify with and even admire without feeling threatened.

Despite the lack of female-only titles – and to be fair, industry-wide there is a lack of female-titles – there are several prominent women in the Valiant line who are featured as regular members of teams, such as the Geomancer Kay McHenry, Harbinger and Unity’s Livewire, and Harbinger’s beloved Faith. Many more provide depth as secondary characters, such as Colonel Capshaw, the commanding officer of M.E.R.O., and Mary Maria of Archer and Armstrong. Many of these characters have proven popular enough to have their own one-shot title books: Punk Mambo was just released, and Faith #0 is upcoming. Archer and Armstrong #24 was dedicated to the backstory of Mary Maria.

Physical representation of female characters is also diverse in the Valiant universe. Many of the characters fit the mold of athletic body types, but none are depicted hyper-sexually. They are attractive in feature and form without being unrealistic. Their attire is befitting their activities. You may see body conscious clothing, but none are crude, nor will find a Valiant heroine fighting in a bikini or bondage gear. Not all of their heroines fit into society’s physical ideals. Harbinger’s Faith Herbert, much beloved for her winning personality and heart, is also heralded by fans because she is depicted as being obese. While there are moments where the reactions of others to her size come into play, her weight is not the focus of her storyline or the butt of every joke. For many readers, Faith is the first heroine who is relatable. She allows readers to see themselves in the story.

In December, Valiant will kick off a new initiative, Valiant Next. The first offering will be The Valiant, a superhero team-up miniseries that includes Geomancer Kay McHenry. Timewalker, debuting next year as part of the next wave, will feature a new female character sharing the limelight with the titular character. Previews of both titles have been intriguing. I’m looking forward to the new wave of stories and characters.

But what about the men? As with their female characters, Valiant has done a great job of breaking the mold with the male counterparts. But that’s another story…

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