Tagged: Valiant

Molly Jackson: Looking Past The Big Two


It’s fully summer now, with all the heat, sunburns and humidity that the earth can muster up.  As a summer tradition, I like to hide indoors by an air conditioner and read.  It’s much better than outside, where the big orange ball scorches me.

I signed up for the Comixology Unlimited app, mostly to check it out and see how it is.  Its biggest strength and weakness is the amount of older material on there.  A lot of volume ones but lacking in more recent materials.  However, it has given me an opportunity to catch up on some titles that I was always interested in but didn’t start; either due to lack of funds or lack of stock at the library.  Luckily, this has lead me back to Valiant.

Before this app, I had only read a few issues of Valiant titles, barely testing the waters in their universe.  When Faith came out, I did jump in wholeheartedly because her story really does speak to me and is beautifully created by Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage.  I agree with my fellow columnist Martha Thomases that it is a must read. Despite this amazing, eye-catching title, I feel like Valiant series are usually underrated or ignored.  So with this app, I finally have the chance to go back to the beginning of the new Valiant universe and start from scratch.  (As a side note, the current Valiant universe is based on the original Valiant universe created in the 1990’s.  A group of investors/Valiant fans restarted the company and the universe came back in 2012. I’m strictly talking about the newest iteration of this universe.)

Well, I’m loving my journey through Valiant.  It’s been an interesting ride, reading what I can from the various series.  This entire Valiant universe is weaved so well, it’s almost perfect in its structure.  Characters can float from book to book, including overarching villain plans and origin stories.  I can finally read Faith’s origin in Harbingers, while also getting introduced to Gilad the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak, Toyo Harada and so many others who show up throughout the universe.  For humor I’ve got Archer and Armstrong, and for a taste of true honor I’ve got X-O Manowar.

What I like best is that this is better for me than the big two.  I don’t feel the weight of the overtold stories or muddled past.  This universe is laid out and still new enough that stories don’t feel repetitive or overdone.  When I feel like I’ve missed something, it’s just because I haven’t gotten to that series yet, not because it is a reference to an older story from 5 reboots ago.  It’s a fresh, different take on superheroes, mutants (aka psiots in Valiant), aliens, and mythology.  With all of our complaining about DC and Marvel constant resets, we had another worthwhile option this whole time.

If you need another opinion than mine, the fact that Valiant received 50 Harvey award nominations this year (as in more than every other publisher) should sell you on checking out this universe.  If you haven’t read anything from Valiant, I still think the Faith mini-series is a great place to start, followed by the upcoming Faith ongoing series that starts in a couple weeks.  Just remember, Faith is a gateway to a whole new universe of superheroes.  Once you get started, I think you’ll want to continue.

Molly Jackson: Invading Reality


Valiant announced that Vladmir Putin, also known as the real life leader of Russia, would be the villainous mastermind in Divinity II, their next series event. It was announced only a few days ago in an exclusive interview in the New York Daily News with the comics’ writer, Matt Kindt. In the story, our villain manipulates a ’60s-era cosmonaut who has returned to Earth from deep space with super powers and a desire to build a new Soviet empire.

We all know that this isn’t the first time a real life figure has popped up in a superhero story. Obama’s appearance in Spider-Man may have been the biggest one in my lifetime, but hundreds of politicians and celebrities have shown up as guest stars in comics or had comics done about them. However, the vast majority of the time, the real life person isn’t cast as a villain, and especially not without their permission.

The grand exception to this is of course the Nazi Reich and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The difference being those original Captain America comics were used as propaganda to help encourage and keep the American people invested in the war. While I won’t be the first to point it out, Putin has done some pretty mean stuff lately. The U.S. hasn’t been on the best of terms with Russia. But this comic does not sound like it brings the spirit of Captain America with it. Kindt did go on to say that he used Putin sparingly to not diminish his impact. He also pointed out that he never thought about if this was a good idea to piss Putin off in any way.

The thing that bothers me most of all is Kindt’s insistence that because the story is taking place in Russia, it must paint the leader of Russia as the villain. In an industry of constant make believe, this single fact cannot be changed! No matter how much of the story is complete fiction, it would undermine it to change the single fact of who is the Prime Minister of Russia. Stories based in reality can make that small shift from absolute reality. It’s not like we have superheroes with amazing powers in real life. Or do we and no one told me?! Sci-fi has laid the groundwork for a country leader swap in a story or having it be a never-before-heard-of higher up politician in the government. Stories have always had thinly veiled parodies of real world characters without calling them out by name.

I know, in the other hand is artistic license and freedom of expression. I support those freedoms. And yes, public figures are putting themselves in the limelight to be used by the creative element. If it is the only way Kindt could write the story, then I can accept that. But at the same time, people tend to forget that this is a global community and we need to act like it. Americans come off bratty in a lot of ways in the world.

So my question right now: is this one element crucial to the story? Or is this just the main element to Valiant’s marketing plan?

Marc Alan Fishman: So There IS a Spotify of Comics!

Comic Blitz

I love it when I’m wrong. I love to be put in my place. Tough love, kiddos, is often the best kind of love. So, just a few weeks ago I shouted at the heavens “Why isn’t there a Spotify of comic books yet, damnit?!” And with that, I figured the universe would laugh at me and that would be that. But nay, dear reader! Not even a day had passed with my posting before I was politely pinged by the founder of a newly minted app by the name of Comic Blitz. And thus I’m here to redact my previous cursing of the heavens – to a point.

Comic Blitz is as I’d demanded; an app that collects a multitude of publishers’ work and offers the entirely of their expanding catalog to the public for a small monthly fee. At the time I cracked open my secret iPad (the one my wife and son don’t know about, so they can’t ask for it, bwa ha ha) and registered for the service, it was a mere $9.99 for a month. I should note you actually get your first month free, so, really… it’s a damn fine deal.

Upon cracking open the app for the first time, I was quick to bypass the splash screen – which owes a UI nod to Netflix – to peruse the list of publishers on board. While I didn’t see the big two and a half… I did see plenty of recognizably awesome names: Action Lab, Dynamite, Valiant, and Paper Films to name a few. A swipe back from Publishers over to the all-inclusive Titles section waylaid me with enough options that I immediately regressed back to the publishers to quell the visual cacophony. This is the future of comics I was hoping for.

Because just as I’d anticipated, with a literal library at my fingertips – devoid of individual issue pricing – came a hunger as big as Galactus to consume as much of it as I could. Within a few taps, and five minutes, I’d downloaded and filled a virtual bookshelf with titles I’ve passed dozens of time. But now, with Molly Danger, The Boys, and Accelerators downloaded, I’m one bathroom break away from numbing my ass to the sound of swiping, as the digital pages flutter by.

Even more important than getting to those titles I’ve eyed for a while though, are the titles I’m now inclined to check out that I’ve never even heard of. A quick tap into Paper Films introduced me to Monolith. Tap, tap, tap, and the book is pitched to me in a single paragraph. And with literally no barrier to entry (assuming rightly that I’d paid for the month already), I’m downloading it in between writing paragraphs of this week’s column. I’m also downloading a handful of titles from small press publishers I’ve never even heard of: Alpha Gods by Markosia from the UK, The Deadbeat from Alterna Comics, and Bodie Troll from Red 5 Comics.

What Comic Blitz is offering is everything I’d hoped for, minus of course DC, Marvel, Image, and Boom!. But being only several months old leads me to believe that this is merely the tip of the pulpy iceberg. We should be realistic though. The big bad boys of comic books are no different than premium content creators akin to HBO, or the WWE – top of the mountain in their respective ecosystems. Comic Blitz is an even playing field. It’s safe to assume even if Blitz becomes ubiquitous in their saturation of the market… that DC is more likely to HBOGO their way into subscription services. But a boy can still dream. And maybe even shout at the heavens. But I digress.

To be honest, I’m rooting for Comic Blitz’s success to spite the bigger publishers. As the New52 did its job of making me swear off current comics, it’s an app and service like Blitz that’s going to drag me back in. This time around however, I’m apt to read those titles on the fringe of the industry (and let’s be clear: Action Labs and Dynamite and Valiant are whales in comparison to the guppies like Unshaven Comics) instead of defaulting back to Green Lantern or Iron Man. And that’s actually a great thing. Just as I’ve expanded my consumption of music, television, and movies… Comic Blitz has opened Odin’s trophy room, and let me finally explore treasures I’d otherwise leave caked in digital dust.

The future is now, and my words make ideas material. I’d like my monkey man now, Rao.

Martha Thomases: A Whale of A Comics Story

What do whales have to do with comics? I’m glad you asked.

According to this study, in times of trouble, whales turn to the post-menopausal females to lead them. They trust these elderly females to know where the food is.

Besides humans, whales are the only other mammals to live after menopause, sometimes decades longer. Males tend to die at 60, but it isn’t unusual to find a female whale at age 90 or more.

(For the record, but without any evidence whatsoever, I like to think whales would also respect a male who lived to be 90. Just saying.)

There’s a lot of money going into comic book companies lately. Valiant just entered a partnership rumored to be worth nine figures. That means at least $100,000,000. Another company, Black Mask plans to grow its audience, not just with comics, but with videos and movies. That kind of outreach isn’t cheap.

Reading these articles, I was once again struck by the way popular culture equates graphic storytelling with superheroes. Yeah, lots of comics have superheroes in them, but so do a lot of prose novels (like this and this for example). And there are successful movies based on graphic novels that have no superheroes, like this and this, again, just as examples.

But superheroes are considered to be a film category now, with seepage onto television (where it is often more successful, in my opinion), so the big entertainment money is looking for comic book properties to buy. And there are lots of graphic stories out there, in a variety of genres, that would make terrific movies. The challenge is going to be finding the best ones.

Which brings us to the post-menopausal whales.

Like other forms of popular entertainment, comic book publishers and fans are always looking for the next great thing. Historically, sometimes the next great thing is terrific, like the way the Beatles shook up pop music in the 1960s, or Alan Moore opened up comics in the 1980s. Sometimes, the next great thing is terrible, like Justin Bieber.

Most often, we don’t know which new thing is truly great until it has a chance to stand the test of time. A by-product of looking for the next great thing is that, too often, these same people fail to consider the possibility of failure when making their decisions. A few years ago, Jerry Ordway wrote about being overlooked despite the hundreds of millions of dollars his work had earned, either directly or indirectly, for Warner Bros. At any comic book convention, if you go to Artists’ Alley, you’ll see lots of other professionals, all successful at one time and still possessing awesome skills, who can’t get work.

Like the post-menopausal whales, these folks know how to find food in tough times. They know the difference between a good story and a bad story, and how to make a so-so plot into something thrilling.

If I were a Hollywood investor, in addition to my nine-figure deals, I’d hire a couple of these old pros.

(Ye Ed notes: The art, above, is of Black Lightning villain Tobias Whale. Get it? Whale! Look, trust me, you wouldn’t want to see my first choice.)