Valiant, please do right by creators and your legacy
I’m totally digging Valiant Entertainment’s comics right now. When I met a couple of the guys from the company at the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, they were extremely friendly and generous, especially considering I showed up at their table as the event was shutting down for the day. I stocked up on their books and have been diving in ever since: X-O Manowar was great fun; I’m halfway through Harbinger, and it’s even better; and I’m really looking forward to Archer & Armstrong, which had a funny and clever first issue I read on comiXology. Fantasy world-building is one of those things comics can really excel in, as evidenced by the Marvel and DC universes, so it’s always exciting when a new one comes along that does it so well.
However, I have some concerns about some things I’ve read. In case you don’t know, these current Valiant titles are relaunched versions of the series published in the ’90s by Valiant Comics. That company was very successful and was eventually bought by the video game company Acclaim Entertainment, which went bankrupt soon after, taking Valiant down with it. A number of years passed until a new company called Valiant Entertainment purchased all of the original properties, and began bringing them back to life. Sounds like a happy ending, and it mostly is — but there are a couple of red flags.
Before I get into all of this, though, it’s important to note that Valiant Entertainment has done nothing legally wrong. I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know, the company is under no legal obligations to change its actions. That said, there’s a lot of goodwill capital to be gained by doing right by the creators of the original properties.
The major issue is the relaunch of Quantum and Woody, a popular comedy series by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright about the world’s worst superhero duo. According to fellow Valiant/Acclaim creator Kevin Maguire, their contracts stated they “could buy the rights to the material back for half the profits the material made in the previous 3 years.” Following Acclaim’s bankruptcy, Priest and Bright attempted to do just that but allegedly were told their contracts were “considered invalid” because they were submitted to the wrong department at Acclaim. If that’s true, it means Acclaim allowed Priest and Bright to work without a contract for more than a year, and then at least six more months a year later, without notifying them of the supposed clerical error. Unable to pay the legal fees, Priest and Bright had no choice but to let it go. Then Valiant Entertainment purchased the property, along with the rest of the Valiant Comics/Acclaim rights, likely unaware of these issues. Last fall, Valiant Entertainment released all of the published Quantum and Woody issues through digital provider comiXology, and a relaunched Quantum and Woody by new creators is planned for July. So far, neither Priest nor Bright have publicly commented on this news. About a month ago, Maguire shared the above details as well as his thoughts on the hypothetical relaunch of his own Acclaim title Trinity Angels, which he also unsuccessfully attempted to buy back after the company went bankrupt.
During a recent video interview with Comic Book Resources, Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani said the company was in touch with Priest and Bright about finishing never-released Quantum and Woody issues, which would suggest the creators are, at least to some degree, OK with the relaunch. Shamdasani was also quick to point out that Valiant owns all of the properties free and clear. However, his mention of building a family with the current Valiant (a sentiment echoed by Joshua Dysart in a recent interview announcing his exclusive contract with the company), prompts an appropriate response by CBR’s Jonah Weiland that they’ve inherited an extended family with the original Valiant. And one member of that family is not yet satisfied.
Maguire responded to the interview over the weekend on his Facebook page, saying he’s declining to draw variant covers until he hears that Priest and Bright have “signed off on the revamp.” He also brought up the question of digital royalties for the re-release of Trinity Angels on comiXology, a question for which he has yet to receive an answer after six months of dialogue. Valiant has also digitally re-released The Grackle by Mike Baron and Paul Gulacy, and other Acclaim-era titles.
The current Valiant can’t help whatever questionable actions may have been taken by the previous incarnations; they’re separate companies. But the new owners did inherit the accompanying baggage. They can either blissfully ignore it or they can go above and beyond by doing their best to make right by those screwed over from the Acclaim days.
Valiant Entertainment has done a lot right so far. It’s making entertaining comics, and I have high hopes for its future. The time to do right by the creators past and present is now, while the company is still young. This story is still developing, so more details will probably come out over time. With luck, Valiant Entertainment is already taking the time to work all of this out to the best of its abilities. If the company isn’t, I ask it to consider sharing royalties of reissued material (digital or otherwise). Also consider getting the participation of the original creators, especially in the instance of those robbed of the opportunities they were promised by Acclaim. Is creator approval on all relaunched properties too much? I don’t know, maybe. But ignoring this issue, or simply offering them new work without addressing their concerns about past work is not the solution.
In some way Valiant should honor those that created what they now benefit from. If you’re building a family, then treat them like family.