Robot 6

Valiant, thank you for respecting creators (now keep it up)


Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody

In May, I wrote about some troubling signs of creator disputes at Valiant Entertainment, which had obtained the properties of the old Valiant free and clear, despite some buy-back clauses that weren’t honored by former owner Acclaim Entertainment. Artist Kevin Maguire spoke out about his concerns over the digital re-release of his Trinity Angels and other Acclaim-era titles like Quantum & Woody by Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright. Later that month, Maguire met with Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani, and while details were slim, he posted on his Facebook page that, after getting his questions answered regarding Trinity Angels, he was “now cool with them.”

Some questions still remained, however. Shamdasani said in interviews he was in talks with Priest and Bright about new work, but the two remained curiously silent, making no public comments about the relaunched Quantum & Woody by James Asmus and Tom Fowler. Had they signed off on it? Were they or any of the Acclaim creators getting anything for the digital re-release of their work?

I’m happy to say that after the news coming out of New York Comic Con about Priest and Bright returning to their version of Quantum & Woody, any lingering concerns seem to have been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. In their relatively short existence, Valiant Entertainment has demonstrated it’s willing to set things right even when it may not have any legal obligation to do so. Comics blogs often call out industry wrongdoings, and rightly so, but you don’t often see a lot praise when it’s done right. In May, I asked for Valiant Entertainment to do right by its creators and the Valiant legacy, and today, I’m thanking the company for doing so.

Amid the decades-long lawsuits over Superman, with scant to non-existent financial bonuses given by Marvel to key creators for its record-breaking movies, Valiant has chosen the high road.

In an interview with ComicsAlliance, Priest and Bright revealed how they’d left comics and moved on from ever handling the characters again; they don’t even seem too concerned about the relaunch by Asmus and Fowler. What’s also telling is how persistent Valiant was with bringing the duo back into comics, if even for this limited project, as Priest admitted “it took a couple of swings to get my attention.

The truth is that Valiant was able to offer Priest something other comic companies hadn’t: an opportunity to work on a character that wasn’t Black Panther/Lightning/Goliath. Executives approached Priest as a writer and creator first, not as a demographic-specific writer. Maybe, just maybe, that will lead into more comics projects on new properties by both Priest and Bright. As Shamdasani and editor Warren Simons mention in the CBR interview, this is unlike the rest of their publishing strategy to date. It’s pretty clear the writer/artist duo are getting the royal treatment. And other original Valiant creators have also gotten extra attention, such as with the Valiant Signature project, where past creators like Sean Chen and Sal Velluto create special variant covers. While that’s certainly not the same as getting to do your own comic set outside the current Valiant Universe, it’s great to see these creators getting the spotlight.

I have to admit, when I heard Shamdasani state in a CBR TV interview he had patterned Valiant’s business plan after Marvel’s post-bankcruptcy strategy, I had some concerns — but not that it wouldn’t be successful. Obviously Marvel has done very well for itself since 1996, but the company, even in its more recent incarnations, hasn’t exactly had a clean slate in dealing with past creators. From Jack Kirby to Steve Gerber to Stan Lee himself, who got shorted millions on Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, the sad truth is there have been some unfortunate missteps, to put it gently. So the association might not be ideal in this context.

However, Shamdasani was obviously not talking about that context, but instead about Marvel’s innovative handling of its characters during the early 2000s, the launch of Marvel Studios and the eventual acquisition by Disney. That’s a remarkable success story worth emulating. In addition, writers and artists currently working with Valiant Entertainment have spoken of a family atmosphere that encourages creative freedom and collaborative relationships. So I’m glad to hear that their actions today are consistent with what’s being said in interviews.

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It’s a crucial move on Valiant’s part. As the publisher is still establishing itself, its actions can make or break its ability to hire creators down the road. Creators will avoid companies if they hear a friend has been wronged or that the odds are high they’ll get taken advantage of or mistreated. Marvel and DC have market-share dominance, financial stability and childhood nostalgia as bargaining chips to counter stories of editorial interference or strong-arming. They also have the stories that praise certain editors and some creators who are able to not only stick it out but thrive in that environment. Valiant has some ’90s nostalgia to draw upon, but the company is still financially too young and its reputation still forming. Valiant seems to understand that the quality of the stories is what matters for its product, and executives seem to get that the quality of the stories depends upon creators. The company benefits from writers and artists who feel comfortable, confident and creative, because that produces better work. And the best way to achieve that is for the creators to feel like the publisher is on their side. Valiant’s handling of these issues shows it’s willing and able to walk the walk.

Now the hard part: The bar has been set, don’t lower it. Valiant is far from the first. It’s tough to beat the amazing precedent set by BOOM! Studios with its new profit-sharing deal with 20th Century Fox. There are also a host of publishers with a pro-creator approach to doing business; in fact, there are more creator-friendly publishers in existence today than ever before. Valiant is in prestigious company, and how its responsibility is to live up to that standard and, when possible, go further.



Wow !

I wasn’t aware of this, but am glad, and even more swayed to support Valiant.

After 45 years of comic book addiction, Valiant, Dynamite, and IDW are now my favorite comics companies, since DC has lost their frickin’ mind and Marvel seems to be flinging stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

I’ve bought every Valiant comic to date, EXCEPT for the Quantum and Woody series, which I’ve skipped because I didn’t want to see it done by anybody else besides Priest and Bright. Well, gosh, if they’re coming back to the book, I’m going to have to buy that, too!

Keep it up, Valiant.

I remember the old story and the author stirring up a nonsense *bleep*storm via Kevin Maguire that should’ve never existed. Now I see this insulting headline. Great.

Let’s be fair to Dc about the Superman stuff they started paying close to $100,000 a year to bother creators back in the 70’s around the time of the movie when they were under no legal obligation to do so.

Mentioning the current lawsuits is a little disingenuous…

Dc may have lost their minds editorially but they were still one of the leaders when it came to cutting the creators deals…. much of what is commonplace in the industry is due to the types of contracts forged back in the 80 and 90’s through DC and Marvel’s Epic…

Well Done Valiant!! Well done.

@Keith: Indeed, why bother reading any farther than the headline when it clearly told you all you needed to know to form an opinion on the story? As if you’re even reading this now.

@Dave: No, “a little disingenuous” is implying that DC’s deal with Siegel and Shuster when the Superman movie came out was the result of largesse and generosity and didn’t have anything to do with the massive wave of bad press brought on by everyone from Neal Adams to Kurt Vonnegut to Walter Cronkite about how the creators of Superman weren’t seeing a dime from the movie or even getting a creator credit.

…But nevermind the negativity. Priest and Bright are back on Quantum and Woody and I could not be happier. Valiant HAS done a great thing here, and deserves all the praise they’ve gotten and then some.

This is a rotten industry, and it’s chewed a lot of its most creative minds up and spit them out. Valiant has proven it holds itself to a higher standard.

And not only that, but my God, there is new Priest and Bright Quantum and Woody coming out.

Valiant, Fantagraphics, and Dark Horse should be the future of comic books.
Support or…

…brush your teeth.

VALIANT is just the best thing too happen in comics right now.

Valiant deserve much credit for playing fair.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the current Q&W, although I never read the original run. I’d be interested to hear comparisons.

This whole creator vs publisher rights thing is so lame to them people fighting over every single day. How can companies not have clearly written contracts to avoid all this nonsense by now? Comics is not a new industry and should have a better grip on this subject. The bitter back and forth of some companies has soured me on both creators and publishers, at least Valiant seems capable of having a decent discussion with the talent.

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