Tagged: Bloodshot

Ed Catto: More Valiant Than Ever

Faith Comics

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fantastic experiences I had years ago working with the first iteration of the company that we know today as Valiant. I was in brand management in Nabisco on OREO cookies and was introduced to the company (on a professional basis) through a wonderful guy named Seymour Miles. He was responsible for Ad Sales and Custom Comics. Of course, as a lifelong fan and comics enthusiast, I knew all about Valiant and was enjoying their innovative comic line.

I was also being pitched by Marvel, DC and Malibu comics, but those are stories for future columns.

Fast forward to today. Valiant jumpstarts with the 2.0 version of the company and continues to innovate and provide great storytelling for fans.
The new organization is a “perfect storm” creatively driven by a fan-turned- entertainment entrepreneur, Dinesh Shamdasani. He has boundless energy, and projects a vision that pulls and impressive team into his orbit.

Dr Mirage ValiantOver coffee, I talked with part of the team, including Publisher Fred Pierce, PR Expert Hunter Gorinson and Gavin Cuneo, Valiant’s Chief Operating Officer & CFO.

Fred is a long-time comics guy, having worked at a myriad of positions over the years, including the previous incarnation of Valiant. Hunter is the type of guy who embraces his professional mission and explains his tasks and goals with the mischievous glint of a dedicated comics fan. Gavin is newer to comics but has great respect and understanding of the industry and for fans.

My first meeting with Gavin was a crazy start to our relationship. It was on a train during my regular commute from New York City to Ridgewood, NJ. It was crowded, as it often is. We were all standing shoulder to shoulder. I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder to see who that the guy was reading a preliminary script for Bloodshot #1.

We struck up a conversation and I explained who I was and my background with Valiant. He introduced himself as Gavin Cuneo, part of the new Valiant team, and then we were surprised to find that we were both Ridgewood residents.

And today, he’s more engaged than ever. “As we approach the fifth anniversary of Valiant’s return to publishing in 2017, we’re accruing more new interest with each passing month,” said Gavin. “First-rate story content has always been at front of mind for Valiant, and that principle continues to resonate across the entire company – from sales to marketing to licensing to social media.”

“To my mind,” he added, “we’ve built the most knowledgeable, passionate, and effective management team in comics. Their dedication to keeping Valiant vital for fans and retailers worldwide continues to make us a formidable presence in the marketplace, even as Valiant expands into other media forms.”

It’s all about the comics

It’s easy to tell that this company is all about comics because the offices are packed with comics. There are boxes and shelves of comic everywhere. And despite the entrepreneurial frothiness of it all, everyone there knows just where each comic is.

Someone will shout out, “Can you get me that last issue of Bloodshot and the hardcover collection of The Valiant?”

And then there’s a rapid response: “Sure – here they are!”’

Valiant and BloodshotWearing Out Shoes at All Those Conventions

Valiant genuinely supports comic conventions. Not just the huge ones like San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con, but a wide range of conventions.

Late last year, at the inaugural New Jersey Comic Expo, you could tell the Valiant booth team loved being there, meeting fans and spreading the word. And just recently at Awesome Con in Washington, DC, Valiant was one of three publishers beating the drum on the convention floor.

Their love for conventions seems so legitimate – it’s not just about packing and unpacking an exhibition booth. You get the sense that this company loves their fans and wants to be at the right places to meet both existing and potential fans.

Retailer Focused

Gavin and Fred take a lot of pride their retailer efforts. Led by Atom! Freeman, Valiant is an organization that takes their sales channel, the comic shops, seriously. They court the stores, sell hard and work to provide retailers with what they need to sell their books.

And these folks don’t just sit in their ivory tower. They put their money where their mouths are.

Atom! Freeman is part of this comics retail team. He’s a guy who knows his stuff and loves the industry. In his former life, he was an Eisner-Award winning retailer. Now he’s leading a team of folks who are all about interfacing with the retail community on behalf of Valiant.

While the bigger publishers cut back on their interaction with comic shops, Valiant seems to be going the extra mile. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively.

Atom! explained to me that they rotate the staff so someone’s always on the road visiting comic shops on Wednesdays (news comics day) and weekends. And more often than not, they’re driving their Valiant-wrapped Chevy.

Archer and ArmstrongThe Real Deal

Russ Brown leads their licensing and partnership efforts. He’s a long-time industry and licensing guy, with a contagious enthusiasm focused on business that makes it seem like he’s fresh out of Wharton.

Russ took me through several of the recent licensing deals that Valiant has struck, and in much the same way a coach of a winning team is proud of each student, he’s excited about each business relationship.

“Each and every month, Valiant is forging new opportunities with an impressive and wide-ranging slate of partners,” said Russ. “We currently have nearly 100 active licensees, which is practically unheard of for a company of our size and relative footprint. At the end of the day, you can credit that to one thing – the strength and diversity of the Valiant library and still-insatiable interest that these characters inspire in fans around the world.”

All the deals are put together with the ultimate goal of pleasing fans, but that doesn’t mean the Valiant folks aren’t very pleased too. And there are a lot of deals. The sheer quantity is very impressive. But they are aimed at building the Valiant brand.

“From longtime icons like X-O Manowar and Bloodshot to relative newcomers like Faith and Divinity, the library is richer and in higher demand than at nearly any other point in Valiant’s 25-year history,” added Russ.

Valiant Times Ahead

Valiant is on a tear with a busy summer of announcements, solid comics and a big hit with the recent comics series Faith.

I enjoy reading the comics. But as I get to know the entrepreneurial vision and stories behind the stories, I respect Valiant as an enterprise all the more.

“From the runaway success of Faith to the massive plans outlined for the 4001 A.D. event this summer, Valiant has never been stronger,” said Publisher Fred Pierce. “2016 has truly shaped into a banner year for our publishing line, as we continue to influence the industry with our innovative ideas and compelling stories. We’re excited for what the future holds as we continue to grow and introduce Valiant’s story-first approach to comics to an even larger audience.”


Ed Catto: Valiant Efforts

wizard7The creative process has two cruel extremes. On the one hand, you might be involved with something big and exciting, like a Hollywood movie or a Broadway show, but everyone involved has to work closely with so many other people. Your creative vision, even for the director, may seem like an endless battle of compromises.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re creating something where there are no collaborators to work with, like a page of an artist’s sketchbook, you don’t have those concerns. You can do whatever you want. Of course, there won’t be any marketing budget or distribution plan in place. It’s likely that not as many people will be exposed to your work.

When I was in marketing for Oreo cookies, I thought I’d be more like the creative visionary moving the brand forward, but the job actually had much more in common with the Hollywood or Broadway creative process.

eternal-warrior39-coverAs a brand manager on Oreo cookies, the crown jewel of Nabisco, it seemed that everyone at all levels was very involved in every marketing effort. Advertising, promotions, line extensions – so many different layers of management were involved. Collaboration was the name of the game. A marketer with an entrepreneurial streak often had to subjugate those urges in lieu of corporate diplomacy for the greater good.

But a few times I got the opportunity to express my creative vision practically unencumbered.

There was a big Disneyland tie-in partnership I was leading. There were many parts to this program, including a grand prize of trip to Disneyland and a commercial with Keri Russell. In addition, Disney Adventures Magazine offered Oreo six ad pages. We didn’t have any current print ads then, and the ad agency wasn’t interested in creating new creative. But as Disney Adventures Magazine was very comics focused, you know I had an idea or two for these ads.

bs14I reached out to some of my new friends at that time – the then-fledging publisher Valiant Comics. They were the new kids on the block, and for early 90s fandom, they were white-hot for collectors (and speculators). I worked with Seymour Miles and Don Perlin to develop comic pages to promote Oreo. We featured a family called The Dunkin’s who would dunk their Oreos into milk. It was great fun and very well received.

For me, one fantastic side effect of this program was getting to know the entrepreneurial folks of Valiant Comics. It was a place of excitement and optimism, and as a lifelong comics fan, it was a treat to have a ringside seat during this publisher’s growth spurt.

There’s been a lot written about those early days, but for me it was all very positive. I got to know Jim Shooter, Jim Massarsky and Fred Pierce.

During that time, longtime comics artist Don Perlin was enjoying a wonderful second act. All of sudden, with comics like Bloodshot debuting, he was a sought-after artist at conventions and fans would wait in long lines for his autograph. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fella.

armaleNow it’s years later, and Valiant has been reborn as a new Valiant. It’s run by people with a big vision and big hearts. And Fred Pierce is back again for his second tour of duty as Valiant’s publisher.

Valiant re-debuted almost five years ago, and soon their output will surpass the original. I thought it was time to sit down with them and find out just exactly what they’re trying to do, why they are working so hard, and what to expect in the future.

Next week, I’ll let you know what they said. And in the meantime, treat yourself to an Oreo or two.

Ed Catto: Second Act and Good Deeds

perlin2This month’s Fortune Magazine has a career-focused article that I passed along to my daughter Tessa, a recent college graduate who just joined the workforce. One part of this article that stood out for me was when you enter into the workforce, it is the first time, for many, that the adults closest to you don’t always have your best interests at heart. For many fortunate individuals, they go through life with supportive parents, teachers, coaches and community leaders all who are trying to help them achieve success. But in the “real world” your boss might not a supporter. In fact, a boss’s self-interest might even be contradictory to your own success. It’s a sobering reminder about but it’s a tough world out there.

TCbNLixJ_0101151758371(Luckily Tessa’s boss seems to be a pretty good boss.)

But one of the nice things about a creative industry, like the wild, weird of Geek Culture, is that there’s often room for good things. Specifically kindness and second acts. Paradoxically, I’ll talk about second acts first.

Don Perlin is a long-time comics artist. He’s had a long and a varied career, but when I met him in the 90s, he was best known for his Marvel work on characters like Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night and The Defenders. Interestingly, before all that, he worked for a number of publishers including Hillman, Harvey and Ziff-Davis. And he even spent a short time working on The Spirit and PS Magazine, the magazine that Will Eisner was contracting for the government.

bs13In the 90s, I was working for Nabisco and needed to fill ad pages in Disney’s Adventure Magazine. We didn’t have any creative on hand, so I came up with the idea of doing a comic strip to promote the brand. The team at Valiant supplied the creative work for this strip called “The Dunkins”. It was sweet and charming and the type of thing that you don’t see too much anymore.

Don was an artist at Valiant at that point, and every time I’d visit Valiant I’d be to sure spend a little time with him. This was about the time when Valiant was red hot – every book they created was loved by readers and hoarded by collectors. And Don was the artist on one of the new big launches, Bloodshot. The debut was astronomical by the standards of the day, and the standards of today, and Don was treated like royalty at comic conventions.
Moon-Knight-First-Costume-580x356I remember him telling me that how touched he was when one young fan at convention said “You’re my favorite artist”. Don clearly enjoyed this newfound second act and was very grateful. He was that kind of guy.

Don has since moved to Florida and was continued his art career for several years. Recently, he was overwhelmed by medical bills following an illness.

And that’s where the kindness part of this article kicks in. Longtime comics guy and occasional ComicMix contributor Cliff Meth organized a campaign to ask fans to contribute to help Don wrestle with these medical bills. The proceeds went directly to Don. And it’s still going on if you’d like contribute.

4254654029_13f3c707d0This isn’t the first time that Cliff’s created something like this. He has a big heart and can do attitude and is excellent at mobilizing fans to help their artistic heroes. In this case, Geek Culture rose to the occasion with an impressive display of participation and kindness.

A lot rotten stuff happens everywhere. But I’m encouraged that so many positive things bubble up in Geek Culture. I’m impressed with Don’s perseverance and humility, Cliff’s “just do it” attitude and fans that step up to the plate. So here’s the question – what positive things are you going to do in 2016?