Tagged: Valiant Comics

Martha Thomases: Young, Gifted and Fat


DC BombshellsThis column was assigned to me so that I might bring you, Constant Reader, some insight into popular culture and, if we’re both lucky, a few laughs. It’s not supposed to be a virtual therapist’s couch, wherein I share with you the tortured depths of my very soul.

Bear with me. This week, you might get both.

When I was young girl approaching puberty, my mother explained to me that no boys would like me if I was fat. In case I might forget this, she repeated it numerous times throughout my adolescence and beyond. She wasn’t being (deliberately) cruel; she was passing on the life lessons she learned from her own parents. Too bad her words had precisely the opposite effect.

In any case, I would probably obsess over my body and what it looks like no matter what my parents said. I’m a woman and I live in a modern Western society. My sense of self-worth has been trained to depend on how I fit into the standards of beauty presented to me on television, movies, and magazines. Including comics.

Now, I’m more or less an adult, and a feminist, and the rational part of my self-image does not depend on attention from men. It’s the less rational parts that continue to eat away at me, no matter how much I try to berate myself over this.

In the process, as a defense mechanism, I can get really judge-y.

This was brought home to me vividly in the new book, Shrill by Lindy West. I was not familiar with Ms. West, a writer for The Stranger and for Jezebel, but the excerpts of her work printed in the review I read were hilarious, so I bought it.

Ms. West is fat. She’s also loud and opinionated and has the unmitigated gall to expect to be able to live her life without a lot of anonymous advice from strangers. Which, apparently, fat women get all the time.

I confess that I have worried about fat friends for health reasons. West debunks this concern with rather specific evidence that fat people can be healthy, and she has her own blood-work to prove it. I think she may oversimplify that obesity isn’t a health issue as much as those who think it is. Some people need to lose weight for medical reasons because that’s the body they were randomly assigned by whatever cosmic entity stopped me from looking like Tilda Swinton.

Some people can’t spend time in the sun, but we don’t shame them for their fair skin.

It’s also really insulting to think that any woman in the world in which we live doesn’t know how much she weighs, what size clothing she wears, or which parts of her jiggle. We know. We also know that we have lives. We have shit to do. We are not here to be ornaments on your world-view. We don’t exist for your judgment.

Remember when I said this would relate to comic books? Here it comes!

My pal, boy-editor Mike Gold, sent me a DC Bombshells story about the super-heroines in the Warsaw Ghetto. I hadn’t seen this particular story, but I love the series in general. Marguerite Bennet makes some of my favorite characters feel right at home in World War II, and her stories are a fun mix of fantasy and horror and fight scenes.

FaithIn this case, however, I feel like the creative team missed a real opportunity. The artwork, by Sandy Jarrell, tells the story beautifully, but the range of physical types is extremely limited. All the women seem to have the same body type, whether they are American or Roma or Polish, whether they are young women or mothers or grandmothers. Even the faces are similar, with hair color the only trait that differs from one to the other. It’s wonderful to see Jews and gypsies and softball players share an adventure, but it would be even more wonderful if they seemed like individual women, not generics.

As a palate cleanser, let me recommend Faith. I think this is the first Valiant comic I’ve ever bought, and it’s so much fun. Faith Herbert is a super heroine. She has a job. She has a sex life. She has interests that extend beyond these three areas. She’s fat and she wears spandex because that’s what lets her do her super-heroing.

This book is as refreshing as iced mint tea on a summer day. Have some!

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.

Emily S. Whitten: The World’s Worst Superhero Team!

Quantum and WoodyThis week I thought I’d get back to basics and, you know, actually talk about a comic book (gasp!). Being in the mood for some potentially light reading, I poked around the myriad stories that I’ve picked up and not had time to read yet, and happened upon the first TPB for Quantum and Woody! The World’s Worst Superhero Team (the Valiant Comics 2013-2014 version). One look at the title and the cover (one tough-looking costumed superhero, one completely douchey-looking frat boy type superhero, and… a goat?) and I knew I’d probably at least not be bored.

And boy, was I right about that. I’m trying to think of a way to sum up what I just read, and I feel like, “This book is so wrong it’s right” might just about cover it. The premise – about two estranged brothers who end up reuniting to find out who murdered their father – sounds like it has potential from the start, and it does provide a good structure for the action. But what makes the book really work are the irreverent humor, the zany take on storytelling, and the strongly developed personalities of the characters we’re introduced to; as well as the flips back to the early years of Eric (Quantum) and Woody.

Those glimpses of earlier times show us a couple of brothers who were once very close, despite Woody being a foster child in the home of Eric and his scientist father, and, well, … a bit of a problem kid. They draw us in to make us want to know more about how the brothers ended up in a present where they’re fist-fighting over their father’s casket; without overwhelming us with the past.

The present shows us a Woody who is always careless and short on funds and, almost always, as douchey as he looks on the front cover (like when he tries to tell the cops who are coming to arrest him and his brother that his brother is a “crazy black man” and a “Muslim fundamentalist who tried to blow up our Godless white science!”).

Because, oh yeah, did I mention? Eric is black, and Woody is white. Which the story totally owns, in the way that the TV show Psych owns the best-friendship of Shawn and Gus – by not ignoring it, but turning an alternatingly warmly humorous and sharply commentarial look on it instead. The present also shows us an Eric who is more serious and responsible (except when led astray by his ne’er-do-well brother), and who also has Army and tactical training, and an actual paying job. Naturally this mismatch turns out to make the two the perfect pair to see “working” together. It sets up a fun buddy story dynamic that (surprising to no one who knows me) reminded me a bit of Cable & Deadpool – the responsible straight man and the wacky irresponsible comic dude somehow balancing each other out. Oh, and the results of an exploding science experiment force them to spend time with each other even when they’d rather be anywhere else (can anyone say, “bodyslide by one?”).

The first four issues in the Volume I TPB show us the crazy science experiment and origin of the “superhero” part of the buddy story, and it was a weird and interesting enough tale to keep my attention, despite being a little convoluted. Some of it almost felt like an elaborate excuse to take a stab at a certain historical figure (I won’t spoil everything for you) but, eh – I was amused anyway. And the rest of it, involving the brothers’ dad, allowed for some great emotional beats in a comic in which most of the time, nothing is sacred, as the story pokes fun at clowns, cripples, superhero costumes, and more. But it’s played for a laugh that works, because the writer (James Asmus) isn’t asking you to agree with the (sometimes offensive) commentary; but instead, writes it in such a way as to lampoon the wrongness of the joke as much as the target.

And while we’re mentioning creators, let’s send a fist-bump (Woody would totally fist-bump) to artist Tom Fowler and colorist Jordie Bellaire for dynamic and expressive art, and vibrant (except for the muted flashbacks, done to good effect) colors in the book. The writing and art make for a fun, and cohesive whole, and kept me laughing or smiling (even while sometimes shaking my head) pretty much the whole time.

Needless to say I want to continue reading to see what happens to these two knuckleheads. It looks like there are at least two more TPBs by James Asmus out there, and a quick Google search shows that it’s recently come back under the new title of Quantum and Woody Must Die!. Sooooo…I know what’s next on my pull list.

Off I go to acquire some more Quantum and Woody! Maybe you should too? And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Mike Gold: Everything Old Is New Again

Justice IncWhen was the last time a major comics publisher launched a new series of superhero comics? Of course, by new I mean “totally original characters.”

For example, both Dynamite and Dark Horse are doing quite nicely with their somewhat integrated lines of heroic fantasy. Dynamite based theirs upon well-known pulp heroes such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger and Zorro. Dark Horse has resurrected golden age licensed characters such as Captain Midnight and Skyman and has been integrating them with their own Comics Greatest World (X and Ghost), brought back from wandering around the1990s. Nice stuff – some of it great stuff – but these are not new characters.

The same thing is true over at Valiant. They’ve resurrected their characters and did what amounts to the fourth or fifth relaunch of their universe, sans those licensed from Western Publishing (which are now over at Dynamite Comics after Dark Horse took their shot). This time the effort seems to be well-received and its worthy of that but, again, these are not “new” characters or original characters.

DC and Marvel keep on altering their atlases as though somebody dared them to confuse M.C. Escher. Nothing new here outside of the occasional new-person-with-old-code-name gambit, sometimes followed by the old-person-returning-to-the-old-code-name variant.

So where’s the new stuff? Where are our totally new and original superheroes? I remember the thrill I felt when I fell across T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 – the real one, done by Wally Wood and Reed Crandall and Steve Ditko and Gil Kane. Totally original stuff created by some of the greatest talent the medium has seen. They made such an impact upon baby boomer comics fans that they’ve been resurrected by such well-financed publishers as Archie Comics, Penthouse, DC Comics and, most recently, IDW. Even Marvel had a bid in on at least two occasions. And, as it turned out, the only thing these latter efforts were lacking were the likes of Wally Wood and Reed Crandall and Steve Ditko and Gil Kane… and the 1960s sensibilities that molded the property in the first place.

We’ve got brilliant creators wandering around out there today. Most are all well-employed, and their creator-owned stuff tends to be non-heroic fantasy. That’s completely understandable. If you spend most of your time doing The League of Uncanny Spider-Bats, you’re going to want your own stuff to taste different. Even the brilliant lads at Aw, Yeah Comics (the imprint, not necessarily their home-base comics shop) do that.

Nonetheless, it is 2014. We’ve got a whole different set of concerns. The DC Universe was born out of the depression and World War II. The Marvel Universe was born out of the nuclear arms race. Today we’ve got terrorism, plagues, a completely dysfunctional government, and a planet that has been savagely and perhaps terminally abused.

So. Where are our superheroes?


A digression on comic categories

Over at Making Light, former Valiant Comics editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden started a thread on trying to explain marketing categories in publishing, and how they’re not solely determined by the content:

Say your book features a strange and powerful device, the Transnistrian Infundibulator:

If the storyline is about the inception, interim difficulties, and eventual happy resolution of the relationship between the inventor of the Transnistrian Infundibulator and some nice young woman, it’s a romance.

If he’s a scholar studying the Transnistrian Infundibulator, she’s a governess, and his best fossil specimen of T. infundibulator falls out of his pocket during a reception at Almack’s, it’s a regency.

If one or both of them is not 100% human, they meet cute while fighting off spooky badguys, and the Transnistrian Infundibulator is an ancient magical artifact they use to defeat said badguys, it’s a paranormal romance.

If she’s his lab assistant, he thinks she looks hot in goggles and a tool belt, and the Transnistrian Infundibulator is a huge rivet-intensive steam-driven mechanical wombat, it’s steampunk.

If the Transnistrian Infundibulator is magic, but instead of working like a handheld appliance, it generates profound and numinous changes that affect the world as a whole, it’s probably fantasy.

And the discussion took off from there.

Farther down the list of comments, I added:

If you actually see what the Transnistrian Infundibulator looks like in the book twice, it’s comics.

If it also has a spine, it’s a graphic novel.

But it occurs to me that we should be much more precise in trying to decide comics categories. For starters:

If the Transnistrian Infundibulator awakens a long sleeping creature the size of an elementary school that speaks perfect if grandiose English, it’s a Marvel monster comic from the late 50s.

And so I throw the floor open to you. Have at it.