Make Mine Valiant
I am a pretty boring person. When I first entered the comic world I didn’t stray too far from center; if it wasn’t Batman, Superman, or at least well established and not that “out there,” I would probably stay away from it. Sure, I’d venture out occasionally, but I was pretty cautious. As my first long box filled so did my courage, and I began looking into more comics outside of Marvel/DC eventually stumbling into my newest obsession – Valiant Comics.
There are several factors for why Valiant took over my pull list. The company has terrific customer engagement, great characters, and a strong fan base, but before we get into those aspects I want to look at another interesting facet of Valiant – their history.
The last two decades have been a wild ride for Valiant. Originally founded by former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter in 1989, Valiant began to make a name for itself in the early 90’s. It started off with some of Nintendo’s properties and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation not the World Wildlife Foundation – not that there’s anything wrong with that), but in 1991 they began to build their own superhero universe starting with Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 (Magnus, along with Solar and Turok, were Gold Key characters licensed by Valiant). In 1992, Shooter and company introduced about one character a month, slowly growing the interconnected Valiant Universe.
Things were looking good for the new company. In 1992, Valiant won the Best Publisher under 5% Market Share from comic distributor Diamond. In 1993 Valiant won Best Publisher over 5% Market Share, which makes them the only publisher outside of Marvel and DC to do so. Shooter was even given the Lifetime Achievement Award for co-creating the Valiant Universe in a 1992 ceremony (Stan Lee received a Lifetime Achievement Award during this ceremony as well for co-creating the Marvel Universe).
Unfortunately, in the mid 90’s Valiant’s parent company, Voyager Communications, was sold to Acclaim Entertainment. You might remember them as the video-game company behind games like Mortal Kombat, Turok, and NBA Jam. Acclaim didn’t see the current universe as very video-game friendly so they rebooted the universe and re-branded Valiant as Acclaim Comics. Unfortunately, these comics were far less popular than their Valiant predecessors, but that was the least of Acclaims problems. Financial problems were mounting after suffering several lawsuits, the loss of the WWF license, and dwindling video-game sales. In 2004, Acclaim filed bankruptcy and their assets were liquidated to pay off the companies debts.
This could have been the end of the Valiant brand, had it not been for the efforts of a group of entrepreneurs led by the current (spoiler alert) CEO, Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari. Both were fans of the original Valiant titles and when they found out the rights to Valiant were up for sale for $50,000, they got the money together, went to auction, and acquired the rights to the Valiant Comics library. After some lawsuit issues involving some of the rights to certain characters, Valiant Entertainment was formed.
Valiant began putting out hardcover collections of the original Valiant characters, but in 2012 they reentered the monthly comic game with a new favorite of mine – X-O Manowar – written by Robert Venditti. From there they relaunched several popular titles, including: Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Unity, Harbinger, Eternal Warrior, Quantum and Woody, and more recently, the Valiant, and Ivar, Timewalker. This year several new ongoing titles have been announced as part of the Valiant Next line. I am particularly looking forward to the new Ninjak, launching in March.
The reason I bring up their history is because it just makes the current state of Valiant Entertainment all the better. The people in charge genuinely care about this property, and really want to put a great product out their that’s both respectful to old fans while also expanding the fan base. Which brings me to the next reason Valiant has won my loyalty – their characters are awesome.
I have been binge-reading X-O Manowar over the last week or so trying to catch up to the current issue, and one thing is for certain – Robert Venditti is one hell of a writer. This is his first monthly book, and I have loved every one of them so far. Executive Editor Warren Simmons knew what he was doing when he asked Venditti to relaunch their flagship character. I have already written pretty extensively of my love for Eternal Warrior, and now we get a new Ninjak comic in March? Not to mention The Valiant by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt, which has been phenomenal. They don’t put out a lot of books each month, but what they do put out is top notch. I would argue that they have the highest quality comic output per capita than any publisher out there.
They don’t just put out good content, they are also really down to earth and helpful too. When I was having trouble locating a copy of Eternal Warrior #8 and my Eternal Warrior, Days of Steel #2 kept getting damaged by the distributor, they sent courtesy copies of both books to my local comic shop, Comic Collector Live: the Store. I have also heard a story about another Valiant fan who’s entire collection was destroyed in a flood. When Valiant CEO, Dinesh Shamdasani read the story, he offered to lend a hand. Obviously, Valiant couldn’t replace the original comics, but they were able to provide reprints and collections of a lot of the books the fan had lost, provided they were characters that fell under their license or ownership. That goes above and beyond your average customer service, and shows you how much they care about their fan-base.
Speaking on the Valiant fan-base, I have never met a more welcoming comic community ever. My good friend, and fellow 4LN writer/recent Valiant enthusiast, Stephen put it this way, “Most fan-bases want to stay closed off and not let anyone in. They love their characters but yet they jeopardize their success by not wanting anyone else to know about them. Valiant is exactly the opposite. Valiant fans WANT other people to know about these characters. They WANT to share the amazing stories with anyone and everyone who is interested.”
When I mentioned on Twitter that I was looking to get a complete run of X-O Manowar so I could read through Valiant’s launch title, a member added me to a Valiant fan page on Facebook, tagged me in a post asking the members to help out, and within minutes I got a great deal on #0-15 (some of them were even autographed by Mr. Venditti). The seller was so enthusiastic about converting a newbie to Valiant that he even threw in the trade paperback collecting the first four issues of the original X-O Manowar. By the way, his gamble paid off, which should be obvious if you read the title of this post.
The reason Valiant won my loyalty isn’t simply because they put out a good product, although that’s a part of it. They are great to their fans, have a good underdog story, and legitimately care about the properties they own. If you are interested in supporting a great company and read terrific comics at the same time, make yours Valiant.