My Valiant Origin Story: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Valiant Comics
I wasn’t an old school Valiant fan. I didn’t read Valiant back in the 90s. Outside of Sandman, I didn’t read much in the way of comics. I was deeply ensconced in my literature classes at school, and the typical superhero story didn’t interest me. By the late 90s, there wasn’t anything appealing to me at the LCS, and I stopped going altogether. At that point, my free time and money was spent on another hobby: collecting Star Wars toys. It wasn’t until another decade had passed that I started picking up random Star Wars comics to supplement the novels I had been reading. Then after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series ceased production but continued the series in comic form, I returned to the medium with regularity. But while I was willing to expand my reading list to include comics, the experience never fully clicked with me. I felt vaguely uncomfortable in the comic shop. It seemed like a man’s lair, and every time I popped in for a book, the reaction was akin to herd animals that just had a predator dropped among them. Needless to say, I didn’t spend time browsing, just picked up my “girly” superhero book and left.
Then I met a guy. Not just any guy, but the guy. And this guy was a Valiant guy.
It was spring 2012, and Valiant had yet to release any books. I was reading Buffy and picking up random books sporadically. Like something out of a Kusack movie, after much chatting online and one near miss (when I chickened out of speaking to him at an art show), Dan (the guy) and I arranged our first face-to-face meeting in a comic shop. The Smiths were playing on the sound system – which was actually just an old boom box. Three large cats lounged around the shop. It smelled like old books. I remember picking up a Buffy and a Femme Fatale. Dan picked up quite a few books, including Saga, which had just hit the market. I still regret not picking one up then – by the time I went back for one, it was second printing. We talked a bit about what we read, and I knew he was a Valiant fan, but I didn’t know what Valiant was.
Flash forward a few weeks, and the hype around X-O Manowar launching was growing. Dan’s enthusiasm was infectious. He talked about what the original Valiant had meant to him and how exciting it was to see it come back anew. He attended C2E2 in Chicago where Valiant had their first official convention booth and panel. As the May release date grew nearer, so did his excitement. It was easy to get caught up in it, but I wasn’t ready to jump on board just because he had. As a reader, I love mysteries, suspense, history, and a bit of sci-fi. But I wasn’t sold on the idea that I’d enjoy reading about a Visigoth in space. It didn’t escape my attention that the writer for X-O was Robert Venditti, who I was familiar with as a novelist, so it had that going for it.
When new release Wednesday hit, Dan was excited to once again be able to buy a new release Valiant at a comic shop – something he hadn’t experienced in a long time. He road tripped to visit me in my city, and we went to the shop together. Low and behold, it had already sold out. He had skipped picking it up that morning in his own town because he knew he’d visit the shop in mine. (Note: this is how you know it’s love – when a fan puts you before the launch of a line they’ve been waiting a decade for.) At least we got to speak with the owner about the receptiveness of readers to the launch. Fortunately, Dan had the book waiting for him in his store back home.
I still wasn’t on board for X-O, but I was intrigued by the concept of Harbinger which was scheduled for release in June. Dan gave me the early run of VHI Harbinger to tide me over. I enjoyed it and was excited for the VEI version to debut. (How I read Harbinger #1 is its own story, and one I won’t elaborate on here.) Harbinger #1 was awesome. I liked Josh Dysart’s version of Harbinger so much that I decided to try out the other book in the Valiant stable, X-O.
From that point on, Dan started giving me little piles of required reading – classic VH1 books. I read Shadowman, which was written by a local author/artist, Bob Hall. I read Unity. Doctor Mirage (which I loved as it had a bit of that Buffy the Vampire Slayer flavor). Archer and Armstrong. Solar. Rai. Bloodshot. There were many good books, and while I appreciated them, I found that I preferred the “new” Valiant. With each new title release, I added to my pull list. The comic shop, incidentally, was no longer uncomfortable. I became known as the “Valiant” fan. They put up with my frequent questions regarding Valiant in their store and posed for more than one photo for Valiant twitter contests.
Valiant books were unlike anything I had experienced during my initial comic stint during the 90s. I’m a voracious reader, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to plow through two novels a week. Now, I plow through stacks of comics each week, with novels on the side. I became active in the online fan community at ValiantFans.com, eagerly discussing plot points and characterizations. Valiant has a welcoming, dedicated group of fans that always made me feel comfortable posting in what at the time was largely a male network. That fan awareness has extended into nearly all social media avenues. There’s a group out there for everyone.
I read the entire line. It’s a shared universe, the size is manageable, and the quality of storytelling and art is terrific. I have my favorites, though. Harbinger and Imperium. The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage. Divinity. Unity.
Now every spring, Dan and I head to C2E2 together. It’s both our anniversary trip and the opportunity to connect with our favorite publisher and their creators.
While it’s easy to gloss over this and say that I got into Valiant because of a guy, that’s not really the truth of the matter. Valiant was brought to my attention because of “the guy”, but it was the quality of their books that turned me into a Valiant fan.