“You have to be scrappy. There’s a tremendous amount of noise. There’s more good comics coming out right now than probably any point in the history of comics. In order to make Valiant stand apart and let everyone know what we’re up to, you have to get a little bit P.T. Barnum from time to time. We have a tremendous amount of fun doing it, but we also want to make sure that anything that we do is in service to the storytelling of the books. That’s something that we take very seriously.”
– Valiant Entertainment’s Hunter Gorinson, discussing cover gimmicks like the 8-bit animated “variant” for Unity #1 in a lengthy group interview with Comic Book Resources that addresses the publisher’s growth, marketing to retailers, development of stories and events, and more. Unity #1 sold a reported 68,500 copies to the direct market.
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.
Just a few months after unleashing a talking goat cover to Quantum and Woody #1, Valiant has revealed another unconventional, QR-activated variant: the “8-Bit Evolution Variant” to November’s Unity #1.
Valiant calls it the “first fully animated 8-bit cover,” although it’s really a two-and-a-half-minute animated short that can be viewed on a mobile device via a code found on the cover — or watched right now. The clip gives background on the book’s main characters — X-O Manowar, Toyo Harada, Eternal Warrior, Ninjak and Livewire — in the distinctly whimsical 8-bit style, which Valiant has used before on a series of covers. The video was produced in partnership with YouTube channel CineFix, as part of its “8-Bit Cinema” series.
Unity #1, written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite, is scheduled for release on Nov. 13.
There were precious few comic-book video games in the late 1990s that were actually, objectively good. (Remember Superman 64? Terrible, just terrible.) However, one decent game that got both console and PC treatment was Shadow Man, based on the Valiant comic of the same name. Released to solid reviews, the game was published by Acclaim, back when the company held the rights to the Valiant characters.
For those wishing to relive the glory days of Shadow Man and late-’90s gaming, digital game distributor gog.com has made Shadow Man available for purchase for a mere $5.99. To sweeten the deal, Valiant Entertainment has partnered with gog.com to give those who purchase by Sept. 24 a free digital copy of Shadowman #1 through comiXology, and a $5.99 discount off an upcoming Shadowman T-shirt design through Cinder Block.
The Shadow Man game centered on literature student-turned-hitman Michael LeRoi, whom players controlled to stop the villainous Legion and “The Five,” five serial killers, from bringing the apocalypse to the living world. The game slightly tied in to the Acclaim Shadowman title of the time by incorporating the Deadside concept created by Garth Ennis. The game did well enough that a sequel was released in 2002: Shadow Man: 2econd Coming.
Amazon Publishing launched its Kindle Worlds store this morning with more than 50 works, including Shadowman: Salvation Sally by Tom King, X-O Manowar: Noughts and Crosses by Stuart Moore, and Harbinger: Slow Burn by Jason Star, all inspired by the Valiant Entertainment properties. In addition, the Self-Service Submission Platform is now open, allowing writers to publish stories based on certain licensed properties and earn royalties in the process.
Billed as the first commercial publishing platform for fan fiction, Kindle Worlds was announced last month as “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.”
When Amazon Publishing unveiled Kindle Worlds last month, one of the first questions in comics circles was which publisher would be the first to sign on to the program, which allows fan-fic writers to earn royalties for certain corporate-approved stories. Now we know the answer: Valiant Entertainment.
The recently revived publisher was announced this morning as part of the second wave of licensors, alongside bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Silo Saga), Barry Eisler (John Rain novels), Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines) and Neal Stephenson (Foreworld Saga). Under the agreement, writers will be able to create and sell stories inspired by Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger and Shadowman, with more properties expected to be added later.
In addition, the Kindle Worlds Store will launch later this month with more than 50 commissioned works, including “Valiant-branded” short stories by Jason Starr, Robert Rodi, Stuart Moore and others. The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform will open at the same time.
Veteran artist Kevin Maguire, who’s been vocal with his concerns about the Valiant Entertainment revival and the treatment of the original creators, reveals his questions were answered over the weekend at Phoenix Comicon.
“… Had a pleasant chat with Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani who gave me all the information I was looking for vis-a-vis Trinity Angels,” he wrote last night on his Facebook page. “I am now cool with them.”
Following the announcement in March that Valiant planned to relaunch Quantum and Woody, the mid-1990s series by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright, Maguire publicly recounted efforts by the two creators to purchase the rights to the property, and his own attempts to reclaim Trinity Angels, following the 2004 closing of Valiant Comics successor Acclaim Entertainment. The rights to the Valiant Comics library were acquired in 2005 by the current owner, Valiant Entertainment, which began relaunching the original titles in 2012.
“I will announce right now that if they have any intentions of re-vamping Trinity Angels without me, I will be 1000% against it,” Maguire wrote in March. “I should have the rights to the material, just as Priest/Bright should have the rights to Quantum and Woody.”
The new Quantum and Woody, by James Asmus, Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire, premieres July 10. In a March interview with CBR, Valiant’s Shamdasani said the company has spoken with Priest and Bright “about a bunch of different projects — most recently one that I’m super-excited about.” “We have a couple things up in the air with Chris, and we’re pulling to circle back and solidify them now that we have the new series up and running in a place we’re happy about.”
Comics sales | Is Mark Millar on to something after all? The first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 105,000 copies to direct market stores in April; the only other Image comic to reach those numbers in recent years is The Walking Dead. ICv2 runs the numbers and also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for April. [ICv2]
Passings | Matt Groening’s mother has died at the age of 94. Although she always went by Margaret, Groening borrowed her name for Marge Simpson in his animated series The Simpsons. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | Amanda Emmert has resigned after nine years as executive director of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade organization. [ComicsPRO]
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.
“We Acclaim creators signed contracts before we started working on our projects that had a clause saying we could buy the rights to the material back for half the profits the material made in the previous 3 years. Several years after Acclaim went under, Priest and Bright tried to get the Q/W rights and were told that the contracts we signed were never submitted to a different division of Acclaim and were thus considered invalid. Someone else came in and bought up all the Valiant/Acclaim leaving us with nothing. I’ve been following what Priest/Bright were doing because I wanted the rights to Trinity Angels back. But the legal fees it would cost to get it back would just be too much for us. I’m pretty sure Priest/Bright are not pleased with the new Q/W, but I don’t know that for a fact. As I said, I know if they went in and re-vamped Trinity Angels, I would be furious. There are only three properties that sprung completely from my imagination — Strikeback, Trinity Angels, and Tanga. I consider them my children and would not abide anyone else giving voice to those characters.”
– Kevin Maguire, creator of the 1997-’98 Acclaim series Trinity Angels, reacting to news that Valiant Entertainment is resurrecting Quantum and Woody, the mid-’90s brainchild of Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. “I will announce right now that if they have any intentions of re-vamping Trinity Angels without me, I will be 1000% against it,” he said. “I should have the rights to the material, just as Priest/Bright should have the rights to Quantum and Woody.”
In an interview today with Comic Book Resources, Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani said the company has spoken with Priest and Bright “about a bunch of different projects — most recently one that I’m super-excited about.” “We have a couple things up in the air with Chris, and we’re pulling to circle back and solidify them now that we have the new series up and running in a place we’re happy about.”
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]
Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]
Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Possessed by a spirit that dwells within him, charged with protecting the people of New Orleans from ghastly creatures from the beyond, Shadowman has always been a dark character. With the revival of this classic Valiant series, Patrick Zircher and Justin Jordan have “hit the refresh button,” as Zircher says below, going back to the moment when Jack begins to experience himself as the Shadowman and moving forward from there. His old nemesis, Master Darque, is still in the picture, but Jack’s more immediate problem is a horrifying new villain, Mr. Twist. I talked to Zircher, penciler and co-writer of the series, about where he and Jordan plan to take Jack. Valiant also provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Shadowman #3.
Robot 6: How did you get this gig? And did you start out as a co-writer as well as the artist, or did that just evolve?
Patrick Zircher: Warren Simons, Valiant’s executive editor, called. Warren and I had worked together at Marvel on Thor, Iron Fist, and several other books. Warren was one of Marvel’s best, and he has always been willing to let me expand as a creator. I first began inking my own work for Warren and we talked even then about writing, too. With Valiant, from the get-go we discussed it as well as drawing. The capacity of the writing has evolved. As I’ve shown what I can do, I’m, happily, writing more.
Awards | Although the website for the 40th Angoulême International Comics Festival is down, several outlets managed to pick up on the official selections for the 2013 festival, to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Contenders for book of the year include Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Fables by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and others, The Hive by Charles Burns, The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon, Paying For It by Chester Brown, and The Walking Dead Vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case were among those named in the crime comic category. [BoDoi]
Publishing | Bluewater Productions Publisher Darren G. Davis isn’t afraid to talk about real numbers: Bluewater’s income is about $2 million a year, and the most popular titles sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies apiece, although others never make it out of the triple digits. And while he admits he doesn’t have a thick skin, Davis says he has gotten used to criticism: “I’ve learned that I’m not my company. When they attack my company, they are not attacking me personally.” [The Columbian]