November 22, 2013

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Digging into Digital: Valiant Goes to China, Digitally

Quantum and Woody: International Travelers
Valiant Entertainment looks to tap into a market with a readership potential of nearly a billion, announcing today a deal with the Chinese-language equivalent of Comixology, ComiCube Publishing.

In a press release distributed today via e-mail, the publisher, which has met with great success upon its return to the comic book market, gave a few details of the agreement, including the names of the debut titles, which are Archer and Armstrong, Bloodshot, and Quantum and Woody, set to debut in December. Valiant promises other titles to join the Chinese language line in the months to come, following the same pattern they used when debuting these comics to the English market. This is all tied to the launch of ComicCube's iOS app in December, with an Android app planned in 2014.

A few quotes from the parties involved, shared in the release:
"This is an incredibly exciting partnership that will allow Valiant to bring its award-winning library to the Chinese public – an entirely new readership base with an ever-growing appetite for digital content in their native language," said Russell A. Brown, Valiant’s President of Consumer Products, Promotions, and Ad Sales. "With the support of ComiCube, we look forward to winning over even more vocal fans in the world's fastest growing media market."
"With more than 160 million comic fans and the world's most rapidly expanding base of mobile users, there's an unprecedented demand for American superheroes in China today," said Di Wu, CEO of ComiCube Publishing. "Quality superhero comics in a number of genres are exactly what our readers want to see, and with Valiant on board as a launch partner, we look forward to bringing them full force into the Chinese marketplace."
I've written before about how impressed I am by the management team and plan in place at Valiant. This is another example. They stand to potentially gain a ton of readers this way that might not otherwise pay for their comics in a market where, if I may dip into politics just for a moment, building consumers is a bit part of the overall economic plan of its government. If Valiant can tap into a part of that desire for growing in spending, it's another revenue stream. Since these are effectively reprints, that potential gain comes at a low entry cost, too.

This move also doesn't hurt when Valiant finally gets into the superhero movie game. Having a solid international base of fans is a nice thing to have in your pocket when Hollywood inevitably comes calling.

There are definitely some risks involved here. Given this partnership and China's known censorship, will Valiant's editors be keeping one eye on that market when pondering story direction? Pressure from distributions channels is definitely a concern when it comes to comics publishing. (Look at the prudes at Apple and their constant battles with Image Comics, who have stood fast--for now.)

The other thing I wonder a bit about are the choice of launch titles. I love Archer and Armstrong (I've even been quoted on the cover, via Newsarama) and Quantum and Woody, but they are driven strongly by their humor, which is notoriously difficult to translate. I'm not shocked by starting with one of those two books, but doing both surprised me a bit.

This announcement could be huge in its implications for English-language comics, and will be be interesting to see where it goes from here. Regardless, it's a smart and savvy move from a publisher that, at least so far, is doing everything right.