September 6, 2013

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Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlight 2013: Valiant Entertainment

Welcome to another 2013 Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlight entries. Over the course of this week, I will be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at another of my favorite conventions, the Baltimore Comic-ConYou can check out all of my spotlights for the Baltimore Comic-Con from both this year and prior years here.

It's hard to believe that the revamped Valiant Entertainment has only been around for a little over a year now. They hit the comic-reading world by storm with a re-launch of their original titles, starting with X-O Manowar and Harbinger. In the following months, my personal favorite Valiant titles, Bloodshot and the absolutely awesome Archer and Armstrong followed.  Rather than try to flood the market with a zillion books and grab market share that way, Valiant opted to pinpoint their marketing, looking for the best writer-artist combinations they could find and driving attention to specific books.

That plan worked amazingly well. I'm still impressed by how well Valiant was received. They did just about everything right, between keeping the press in the loop, using creators who interact with their fans, promoting their successes, and--perhaps most importantly--appreciated and acknowledged the fan support they were receiving. Valiant's twitter feed was full of retweets of fans, talking about how they liked the books. Sure, that's self-promotion, but it also creates a huge feeling of goodwill that Valiant has leveraged as part of its success.

Now we're into the second "Summer of Valiant" and in addition to the titles that are already going strong, they've added Quantum & Woody, with Eternal Warrior coming later, by another fan-friendly creator, Greg Pak. Some of the writing and art duties have shifted from the original launches, but the quality control on Valiant books is impressive.

This is another company doing it right. They're taking a world of characters who haven't been thought of in years and showing the comics-reading public that this shared universe is an interesting and varied one, splashing a bit of crossover here and there but doing nothing that's going to cause a fan to cry foul. Though I'm sure they have plans for media tie-ins (any of their characters would make for a good movie), I really appreciate that their focus is on creating good comics and letting that drive other opportunities.

For the Baltimore show, Valiant is planning to reveal more information about another new book, Unity, which teams up characters to take on XO-Manowar. This one's written by Matt Kindt, who is just exploding into superstar status, with art by Doug Braithwaite, so it should look as good as it reads. You can get a preview comic at the con, which means you can be one of the first person to see this comic before it comes out in November.

Valiant will have writer Robert Vendetti (X-O Manowar and Top Shelf's Surrogates) and artist Barry Kitson (Harbinger, Bloodshot, just about every Marvel and DC character) at the show, and writer Jim Zub will also be at the convention. There's going to be a special Valiant panel as well, being held on Saturday at 2pm.

The Valiant booth will have plenty of trades and comics on hand, along with other items. Here's a brief rundown on their books, for those who are unfamiliar.

  • Archer and Armstrong is one of the best comics being published right now. Fred Van Lente and a rotating cast of artists is telling a madcap story that tramples history and pokes fun at everything from fundamentalists to fund managers. I cannot recommend getting at least one of these books highly enough. (A sample Newsarama review here.)
  • Bloodshot was a book I wasn't expecting to like, but writer Duane Swierczynski quickly drew me in by creating a character who literally has no idea what is real and has to rely on trust to figure out what he needs to do next. Filled with explosions and amazingly-well paced, this is a good fit for fans of thrillers. (A sample Newsarama review here.)
  • Harbinger has Pittsburgh as a backdrop, but I have to be honest, this one never caught on for me. The idea of mental powers so great they can manipulate the world is hard to pull off, and even though I tried a few times, writer Joshua Dysart just wasn't able to pull me back in. However, if secret societies are your thing, then give this one a shot and see if you like it better than I did.
  • Quantum & Woody is a fun romp of a book that mixes serious tones with some great physical and verbal comedy as the two unlikely heroes try to work through their new circumstances. If you like Archer and Armstrong, this one should appeal to you. I haven't had a chance to review this one yet, but it's definitely recommended.
  • Shadowman is intriguing, though I admit I've only read it here and there. It has magical elements and is set down in the world of New Orleans, Voodoo, and jazz. I fully agree with my Newsarama colleague that the art on the initial issues was stunning. Fans of magic-tinged comics should see what they think of this one.
  • X-O Manowar is a space-opera comic. That's a hard sell for me, but my friend Shannon is a big fan. I'm borrowing from his longer post here to tell you about it:  "I love the X-O Manowar series and how Venditti has handled it as a sci-fi and historical mash up rather than a super hero book.  I'm a sucker for sci-fi and when you hand your space Visigoth a crazy energy sword thing it is going to be hard to lose me." If your taste runs to things like the work of D&A and you're stoked to see Guardians of the Galaxy, then X-O Manowar is a book for you. I'm going to try it again at the next opening, myself.


Shannon also mentions that he thinks that the Valiant editors "know what they're doing." I couldn't agree more. If you haven't had the pleasure of checking out the new Valiant yet--run, don't walk to their booth at the Baltimore Comic-Con and see what you've been missing.

Can't make Baltimore? You can find Valiant on the web here, and their comics are also on Comixology for those of you of the digital set.