Valiant Entertainment’s CEO and Editor in Chief Discuss Claims Against Independent Status at Valiant Summit

Valiant Entertainment’s CEO and Editor in Chief Discuss Claims Against Independent Status at Valiant Summit
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Warren Simons and Dinesh Shamdasani

Last Monday, Valiant Entertainment held their 3rd annual Valiant Summit, where they teased and celebrated some of their most exciting titles for the ongoing year. Proudly, the company boasted of the success with their X-O Manowar #1: Soldier comic, which as of that day had sold more than 90,000 copies. Valiant claimed this a record for them: “the bestselling single issue by an independent publisher.” This claim hasn’t gone with without argument, as many question Valiant’s “independent” status. I met with Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Dinesh Shamdasani, and Editor in Chief, Warren Simons after the summit and asked them to respond to the claims made against them.

Dinesh: I think we’re a 100-percent independent, in the sense that we’re not owned by a giant conglomerate. It’s very different when, for us, we have to live with the idea that we not only have to fight Marvel and DC, but Disney and Warner Brothers as well.

Warren: We are an indeed an independent publisher. Every single month we put out a book and that book competes with Disney, and it competes with Warner… Listen, we have friends who work at those buildings, who write for them and work for them. But at the end of the day make no mistake about it, they’d take us out back and put two in the back of our heads.

Dinesh: And they have a swat team to do it.

Warren: And a tank, and a C130 cargo plane, and a nuclear missile in the ground if it calls on it. What we got? A couple of switchblades.

Dinesh: Not even, dude. We got a couple of sporks.

Warren: We have a prison spork that we’ve melted down and folded over.

Dinesh: A “spork-shank.”

Warren: So yes, we are unquestionably an independent publisher.

Dinesh: But I love whoever thinks we’re not independent, because that means we are doing a very good job of projecting strength and getting our licks in.

Warren: And one of the benefits of this is that one of the only pressures that we have is storytelling and that’s really one of the great benefits. Now that pressure in of itself is not an easy one, as either of us can attest to, but there’s no, “We need to make it for this quarter… We to make this for this movie…” All there is, is just “Tell a good story.” And that’s really one of the foundational elements of our success.

This also brings up another contentious claim by other detractors, who feel that Valiant is only putting on a front when they say that storytelling comes second to sales numbers. When further asked about this, the two men stood by their statements, reinforcing that the story is what truly matters to valiant, and that not every book has the power to reach extravagant sales numbers like X-O Manowar.

Warren: I’d say we always hope for the best, but again if that’s the high-point of our year, awesome. Amazing job to the entire team for getting that done… But I like I do say every year, “The best is yet to come.” We’re very proud of what we’ve done in the past, but we’re not content to put our feet up and just say, “Great job! That’s it!” We’re trying to constantly beat that and do better than the last month.

Dinesh: It will 100-percent be the biggest book that we publish this year for the simple fact that numbers are primary goal. Will it be the best book that we publish this year? I think it will be among them. I think it’s a fantastic 10 out of 10 book, but I think a lot of the books that we talked about today and some of the others that we haven’t talked about yet that we’ve got planned will be fantastic works too. For us it’s about what’s the optimum case for each book. X-O is a flashy character for us who wanted to be a “big-big” launch and get as many people as we could to read it. Even here today I’ve met a bunch of retailers, who a few said they’ve been selling out of DC and Marvel trades because of X-O.

Warren: I just had a retailer thank me for the story of X-O because it didn’t seem to drag, and it didn’t seem rushed, and we took our time with it. It’s great to hear that kind of feedback.

It’s obvious that these two men are passionate about what Valiant does and what it stands for, showing why they are in the positions that they are in with the company. With a few more hopeful words, Warren and Dinesh had this to part with:

Dinesh: That’s the benefit of not having a giant conglomerate on your back or why we’re independent, so we don’t have to make everything sell 90,000 units. It can be what it needs to be, what it’s built to be.

Warren: That just means that it’s a little, organic book that people read and they like it, and then they go back and they pick it up and word of mouth spreads. And that’s what we’re striving for. We’re just trying for when you put a Valiant book down, you’re saying, “That was well worth it. Let me go get the next one.” That’s really what our goal is every time.

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Valiant Summit ‘17: The “Little Comic Company That Could” Boasts of Record and More

Valiant Summit ‘17: The “Little Comic Company That Could” Boasts of Record and More
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Hunter Gorinson, VP of Marketing and Communications

2017 has brought about the 3rd annual “Valiant Summit,” where Valiant Entertainment teases some of the titles they are most excited to release in the ongoing year. Valiant is one of those independent comic companies that prides themselves more about the quality of work and the amount of dedication that goes into every book, rather than the rise and fall of sales figures. Don’t go thinking that I’m claiming they don’t care about sales. Any company that wants to stick around for the long haul does, but they don’t let numbers dictate what they feel makes a great story.

IMG_20170417_102737This year, the Valiant Summit was hosted by the guys at Hyper RPG, in the bowels of Los Angeles, California. Delivering the goods were Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani and Editor in Chief Warren Simons. Also, playing as moderator was Valiant’s own Hunter Gorinson, VP of Marketing and Communications. The three opened the summit with the announcement that their X-O Manowar #1 comic had just hit more than 90,000 copies sold. “X-O Manowar just launched this last March 22nd, and since has become the best-selling single comic issue by an independent company!”

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At this announcement, Matt Kindt, New York Times best-selling writer and writer for X-O Manowar, joined the Valiant crew and talked of this new series. “Aric has just been one of those characters that I was excited to work with,” he said. “Getting him back in ‘Barbarian-mode’ was one of my favorite things… Then getting him into an alien planet that felt real, has its own histories and peoples that we hadn’t seen before…We built this new world from the ground up.” For Kindt, he has major plans in the works for the character of Aric. As the first issue came with the word “Soldier” underneath the main title, it was revealed that the writer intends the character to rise up the ranks of this alien world throughout the series, eventually gaining the title of “Emperor.” “It’s going to be really interesting to see his evolution of character.” Looking ahead, Kindt reveals that there will be a separate story in issue #10 of X-O Manowar entitled “Bounty Hunter,” following a collection of alien bounty hunters. The story will also provide extra character development for Aric of Dacia in his storyline progression to the role of Emperor. This issue will release in December of 2017.

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Continuing with the writing talents of Matt Kindt, another new comic named “Rapture #1” will bring together both the recognizable characters of Ninjak and Shadowman. “This is going to be The Lord of the Rings for the Valiant Universe,” said Kindt of his new Rapture series. Of what Dinesh, Warren, and Matt hinted at, part of this story will explore the question of if the rather possessed Shadowman will eventually be redeemed or if he’s beyond redemption. The ninja and “soul-man” will invade store shelves this May.

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In other Valiant news, the story of Britania will be continuing with a new series; Britania: We Who Are About to Die #1. Written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, this story will follow both the familiar Antonius Axia (“the world’s first detective”) and a new female gladiator who must both fight in the arena and survive plots made against her by the empire. This story will keep with the crime and mystery solving of the previous series, all the while presenting a thrilling tale of its own. Britania: We Who Are About to Die #1 will be on sale April 26th, 2017.

The month of May will be set aside especially for that of “Free Comic Book Day,” on which a special X-O Manowar Free Comic Book Day 2017 Edition will be available. Mark calendars for May 6th.

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June will see the likes of Valiant favorite “Livewire” in her first standalone comic. Secret Weapons #1 will be written by the Oscar nominated screen writer Eric Heisserer. The series will follow the likes of various “rejects” who find themselves being hunted down in the light of their existences. Some of their powers include: making objects glow, talking to birds, and making one’s skin harden. As Warren put it, “Think ‘Island of Misfit Toys.’” Definitely not belonging to any “A-Team,” Livewire will round up these “non-sequentials” and build them into an effective fighting force as to save the day and their very lives. Making a return will be the classic Valiant villain “Rexo.” “There’s a new plan for him,” said Dinesh. “A new program for him to follow that explains why he is back.”

For collectors and avid fans, Secret Weapons #1-4 will be available in “Pre-order Edition Bundles.” They will boast 8-pages of behind the scenes content and 4-expanded, 40-page issues. As the name implies, they will only be available for those who pre-order. See your local comic-book dealer for more details.

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2016 was a big year for both the comic Faith and its writer, Jody Houser. Fans fell in love with the voluptuous Faith and her “can-do” attitude when it came to saving the day. “They told me to take a look at Harbinger and see what characters stood out [to me],” said Jody. “[Faith] was the one that stood out to me… It’s been so much fun putting her optimism to the test.” Following her further, the new comic Faith and the Future Force #1 will bring together other superhero characters from the Valiant universe. Not only will the comic retain the writings of Jody Houser, but will also see the artistry of many artists, such as: Steven Segovia and Barry Kitsen. Not too many other details were made known, but Dinesh commented, “I know we’re being coy for now… but this is a book we’ve put a lot of time in with.” Faith and the Future Force #1 will be out July 2017.

Speaking of coy, when the month of August came into question, the only thing that Dinesh in Warren had to say were, “August is Classified… You got to wait and see.” Whether this was a silly way to tease a large title or just a cheesy marketing ploy, we’ll just have to do what they say and “wait and see.”

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Keeping with the theme of returning characters, September’s Bloodshot Salvation #1 will feature that of “Bloodshot” and the introduction of his daughter, Jessie. Jeff Lemire will be lending his writing talents to this project, in which Warren was most enthusiastic about. “I’m excited that Jeff has already written a year into this 15-issue comic, all with various arcs.” Hunter also added that, “There is nothing in this that is an accident… [Jeff Lemire] drawn a treasure map.”

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Valiant is greatly utilizing the writing talents of Matt Kindt, as we see him again in October for another new series: Eternity #1. “It takes off right after Divinity 3,” says Matt. “But now, there’s a baby!… But really, Divinity has a kid, and then loses him. He tries to use his powers to try to locate him, but finds that he can’t.”

No, this series shouldn’t be regarded as a continuation as Hunter pointed out. “It’s not ‘Divinity 4.’ Eternity uses Divinity 3 as a jumping off point… What you should also know is that ‘Eternity’ is not a person, but a place.” This ‘place’ is subtly hinted at being a science based universe. “We’re definitely going more cosmic,” said Matt. “I’ve been doing so much research on pocket universes, only to find that it’s a real thing.” Pocket universe, you say?

The color palettes for this comic appear to be plush with neon, resembling something of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. This appears to be intentional, as Dinesh, Warren, and Matt all acknowledged the likeness to Jack Kirby’s work. In all, the three men had a great deal to say about this project. “This is the most ambitious thing in comics that anyone is talking about,” said Warren.

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Valiant and their fans apparently love the character of Ninjak, as he has flit in and out of some of their various comics since his modern day appearance in X-O Manowar (2012) #5. Is it because he’s “Bit of a dick” as Warren Simons points out? But what of the ninjas that have come before him? What of the program that recruited him as “Ninja-K”? In November, we will see Ninjak as he tries to seek out the person or persons responsible for the murder various people connected to the Ninja Project. Ninja-K #1 will feature writer Christos Cage with the story periodically visiting those of Ninjas A through J, all spanning from World War I onward. Warren and Dinesh boasted that this comic will run 40-pages long and be a tone unlike that of any other Ninjak comic. “If you’ve never read Ninjak before, this won’t affect how you’ll enjoy Ninja-K,” said Dinesh.

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Finally reaching the end of the year, Valiant will be giving us the return of the outrageous and lovable likes of “Quantum and Woody.” Quantum and Woody! #1 sees the once buddies now no longer on speaking terms, only meeting once per day for the required slamming of their metal wristbands, because you know…the whole going to dissolve thing. This comic about the two adoptive brothers will delve into what happened to cause their falling out. Let’s hope it ends with a reconciliation, because you know…the whole going to dissolve thing. Expect Quantum and Woody! #1 out this December. And yes, more goat is in store.

At the end of the summit, Hunter, Dinesh, and Warren had one last teaser to give. “I know some of you might be asking yourselves, ‘What about Shadowman? Aren’t we going to get another Shadowman comic?” said Warren. “Nope, nope. Absolutely note,” answered Dinesh. This is not the case however, as on the display screen a familiar face with the terrifying image of hands literally pulling away at their face was shown, above emblazoned in red numbers was the date “3/28/18.” “That has always been a special date for Valiant,” said Dinesh, “and we always make sure something special happens on it.” Hopefully more information will be released as we reach the end of the year.

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This year’s summit had a great deal of announcements, planned releases, and a lot of Matt Kindt. Thank you Hunter, Dinesh, Warren, the various writers and artists of Valiant, and those of Hyper RPG for hosting the Valiant Summit this year. If Valiant holds up to everything they’ve promised during the summit, it’s quite possible they will be hitting more milestones like they did with X-O Manowar #1. For information on Valiant, visit their website at www.ValiantEntertainment.com, and for Hyper RPG, visit www.HyperRabbitPowerGo.com.

 

 

San Diego’s Little Fish Comic Studio Is Educating A New Generation of Fans, Artists, and Writers

San Diego’s Little Fish Comic Studio Is Educating A New Generation of Fans, Artists, and Writers
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Alonso Nunez, Co-founder and Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio

In recent years, more teachers and librarians are finally recognizing the educational appeal of comic-books. Yes, we the fans have known of their artistry, their (mostly) great writing, and the sheer enjoyment they illicit, but for many other adults, it still seems like a “nonsense medium.” Perhaps for this reason it is why places like Little Fish Comic Book Studio are needed.

I stepped through the doors of Little Fish, located in San Diego, California, and was met by the always friendly Alonso Nunez. Co-founder and Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio, Alonso sports a pointed beard and “ear-to-ear” grin that can rival a Guy Fawkes mask. And boy, does he love to talk comics. As for his studio, the walls are completely covered by comics in every sense: The entire left side of the room is lined with thick-black bookcases filled with all manner of hard and paperbacked comics; The right side has more shelves, but instead hold references books, very-used singled comic issues on (roughly) alphabetized shelves, a scanner, and a large printer; The back wall has a movable chalkboard like one would see in an old schoolroom; And the entire bathroom is wallpapered in comic pages.

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For many adults who hadn’t grown up with the medium, are not artists, or are not writers, they are hesitant to give comics a chance, let alone recommend them to their kids. This is most likely due to the lack of information regarding the comic-book job market. “What sort of jobs are connected with comics anyways? Artists are known to starve in small apartments. And writers, do these small books even need writers?” Truly, there isn’t a lot of easily accessible information on professions connected with the comic-book industry, which again does largely influence why adults aren’t too keen on introducing comics to their children in the first place.

WonderCon_0148This is the greatest impact that Alonso and Little Fish can have on the community at large, teaching kids and adults about the comic industry; the art, writing, and other aspects that go into making a comic, and possible opportunities that wait for those who wish to work fulltime in that world. For this reason, I wanted to visit the studio for the first time and ask some questions of Alonso.

As Alonso and myself set ourselves at one of the long-white tables of the studio, a number of teens between 14 and 19-year-old filter through the doors.

WonderCon_0146“Hey there,” greets Alonso. “I trust you all have your thumbnails?” Last week, Alonso gave some students an assignment to adapt a test-script into comic thumbnails and asked them to bring them back on this day. One boy waves his completed assignment in the air, but a few more look down at their backpacks and fumble with the zippers. “I sort of didn’t,” says one of the girls.

“No worries,” responded Alonso. “Tell you what, you have 10 minutes to get something done for your thumbnails. So, have at it!”

Q. Alonso, what can you tell me about Little Fish?

A. Without making it so “elevator-pitchery”, Little Fish’s mission is that we teach classes and camps utilizing techniques and a love for comic-books, all while advocating for the comic-book art form in the community. That means doing stuff like our Comic Savvy and our monthly free workshop, where the community is invited to come in, hang out, talk comics, see the studio, and take free comics home with them.

Notably, we have a partnership with KPBS, where we are then partnered with their “One Book, One San Diego” program. It allows us to go into schools once a year and talk about whatever graphic novel [the program] selected for the year. This year, they actually selected two. One is Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, and the other is Jimmy Gownley’s The Dumbest Idea Ever, which is an awesome book about “the dumbest idea ever” of becoming a comic-book artist.

Q. What age groups do you usually see come to the studio?

A. We work with ALL age groups. Most of our classes run the age gamut, all except one, which is specifically designed for 7 to 10-year-olds, called the “The Young Artist Class.” You can think of it as more of a traditional art class for kids, but in this case with comic-books. But everything else except for that class is designed to be accessible to all ages and all ability levels. A class can have an 11-year-old, sitting next to a 40-year-old, sitting next to a 25-year-old, sitting next to a 17-year-old. It’s one of those things that when we started Little Fish, we were saying, “I don’t know if this is going to work… but let’s try it.” Now, for me it’s a big point of pride. A lot of times parents or students are asking, “Really, this works?” And then when they come in they’re like, “That was a amaaaaazing!”

WonderCon_0154We have a woman who just started our Thursday class called “Project Management”, which is for people who have projects well underway or a tightly-conceptualized project, and she is in her early 50s. She was like, “I don’t want to be the old lady in a group of kids.” When she came in the first day, she was able to see the level of collaboration and the bouncing of ideas of other people… She found it really cool.

At this point, Alonso takes a moment to excuse himself from the interview looks across the table at his busy students, namely the one who said she didn’t do her thumbnails. He asks, “How’s that thumbnail coming along?” The teen gives a half-hearted reassurance. In response, Alonso says, “Can you at least get one more done in ten minutes? No, wait. How about this; You have ten minutes, knock out another one. Move with the speed with we usually reserve for the opera.”

Alonso looks back to me and explains that last comment. “We have a cool partnership with the San Diego Opera where we go and sketch during their 2nd dress rehearsal of their performances. It’s really neat.”

Q. What other “Hydra-tentacles” do you have out there?

A. Well, we have that partnership with the San Diego Opera, we’re partners with KPBS, we also have a strong partnership with the Kevin Workman Foundation, which is a foundation that operates out of Qualcomm that advocates for art, technology, and community; Through them, we do a once-a-week workshop at the “Monarch School” in downtown [San Diego]. The Monarch School is for kids who are somehow impacted by homelessness, so it’s really cool to get in there and to teach art to kids who don’t have access to art programs.

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Q. What’s your favorite thing that you do through Little Fish?

A. Mm, wow… I think it might be the annual One Book, One San Diego stuff. In the last couple decades, comics have gained more of a mainstream recognition; we’re now accepted as a legitimate artform. But there’s still this lack of awareness from the larger world of what comics are really are about and what they can do as an artform.

So with the One Book, One San Diego program, we kind of sneak in via the “serious” prose-book selected as the book that all of San Diego is supposed to read because it has themes pertinent to San Diego or it’s by a San Diego author, and being the young-adult companion graphic novel, we get to be involved in everything, host panels, and talk about why comics are awesome… We get to connect with a lot of people that once they realize “Oh, this is what comics can do,” their eyes light up and they begin to see the possibilities that they can utilize comics with connecting with others. Through that, it’s led to partnering and visiting other schools within the last couple years,

WonderCon_0130Q. Where would you like to see Little Fish in the next 5 years?

A. I’d like to see us bigger, with more partnerships, since we are still fairly young. We should be getting “501(c)(3)” status any day now, which will open us up to grants, letting us reach out to a wider audience and letting us do more workshops in schools and other venues; A big part of what I want to do. I think we’ve really solidified our camps and classes program.

Q. Finally, what animal would you be, and what superhero would you belong to?

A. Ow, I like this. I would be an octopus, so that way I would have eight hands in which to answer emails and draw simultaneously. Aquaman would be the obvious answer, but I would like to think that I belong to Batman. Then I would have access to the Batcave and that wealth of information.

Alonso Nunez and Little Fish Comic Studio is doing tremendous work in the education of comic-books. The impact that this organization and others like it have on communities, comics, and literacy may not be felt now, but it certainly sow the seeds of what’s to come.

If you wish to know more about Little Fish Comic Studio, visit their website at: www.lilfish.us

Even Small Escapes Can Fuel Creative Dreams

It’s not often these days that I get a chance to say “Adios, muchacho!” to what I see as humdrum. Not often that I can leave my “yes sirs” or “no ma’ams” at the door and dress myself in my “that’s so cools” and “what the fucks.” Not often that I can leave my work uniform, my “monkey suit”, in the darkness of the closet, imagining that it will randomly obtain consciousness if I were to let it stay there for too long.

Life is funny in that we are told to enjoy it to the last, but yet we often have to do unenjoyable things in order to keep that life going. To the next person in retail or customer service who tells me with an earnest smile that they “love what they do,” I’ll love the Hell out of their face with my fist.

Perhaps I’m just being too impatient. I’ll graduate someday and then pursue my writing fully. It is hard though to find time now for my own personal writing when I not only have to keep a full-time job, not to mention having to read hundreds of pages a week for my English class and cram my head with French vocabulary to fulfill my required language credits. The prospects of getting my Bachelor’s next summer seems like an eternity away. At least I’m doing my best to keep my writing skills somewhat sharp with the reporting I do for The Beat (a comic and popular media news blog I contribute to).

That blog is actually why I was able to get away recently and immerse myself in the nerd culture of WonderCon, a convention run by the same people behind the well-known San Diego Comic-Con. I had a fantastic time; Walking the sales floor, reviewing and writing up panels for the blog, forgetting that I live on a budget and buying more books than that of my monthly food allowance. Life’s pressures seemed temporarily lessened. It wasn’t that I felt liberated by “acting a dork,” but more instead had the honor of mingling with other like-minded people and was able to “ride-the-wave” of this same “like-mindedness.” Others who enjoy comics, reading, collecting. I loved strolling the rows of “artists alley” and seeing all the art that was created with painstaking care (though I felt guilty that I couldn’t help everyone of them out with a purchase).

The highlight was when I had the surprise and delight of running into someone that I knew, though to be honest I knew quite a few people there. It was unexpected none-the-less. He and I used to teach martial arts in the same organization and always saw each other at tournaments. A very fit individual and my same age, he was there promoting his third fantasy book. I didn’t even know he was a fellow writer! We talked of his works, the series that was projected to be nine-books total, and of my works, the three rough-drafts of different novels that I hadn’t yet the courage to reread and edit. Of course, I had to support him and buy his three books (there went more food money). I was excited for him. He was living the dream, the writer dream that I wanted. My excitement wasn’t just for him though; This encounter rekindled my “writing-fire.” The old adage is still ringing in my head as I write this entry: “If he can do it, so can I!”

We exchanged information (I really wish I hadn’t forgotten my business cards at home) and promised to talk later. I even got his editor’s contact information, who was also there, and promised I’d contact her when at least one of my drafts was worthy to be seen by strangers.

Of course, I had to eventually come home and liberate my waiting suit from the closet. “I knew you’d be back,” I could almost hear the sentient garment say. Yeah, it’ll be a while still before I can just hang it up for good, where in its new sentience its thoughts will eventually drift onto greater-philosophical imaginings. Someday, that door won’t open again, and then you’ll have all the time in the world, buddy. “Will I dream?”, it will say from some raggedy seem, but no one will hear. Just the dark.

But of course, that’s some time away still. Regardless of that fact, my brief escape from the atmosphere was nice. You really can’t tell when something can give a nice jolt to your creative dreams; you just need to give it a chance.

 

Valiant to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of “Eternal Warrior” with “Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1”

Valiant to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of “Eternal Warrior” with “Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1”

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From the creative writings of Robert Venditti, the one behind Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps., and the artistry of Renato Guedes of Wolverine and Bloodshot Reborn, Valiant Entertainment is excited for the release of their upcoming one-shot title Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1. A tribute to the original Eternal Warrior #1 comic first published in 1992, Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 celebrates the character’s 25th anniversary.

Set in a time long before recorded civilization, the story follows an amnesiac warrior turned farmer named “Gilad Anni-Padda” as he tries to remember his past. He eventually discovers his heroic nature, and thus begins a new, bloody-conflict.

From what I’ve seen so far, the comic is lovingly done by Guedes. The artistry, intricate detailing, and befitting coloring all show a great level of care to this comic and its source material. Each page appears to be painstakingly put together and situated into panels when needed. The dialogue and lettering also does well to further demonstrate the dedication that has gone into it.

Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 will go on sale May 10th of this year, retailing for $3.99. Don’t forget to add the date for this one-shot comic tribute to your calendar.

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WonderCon ’17: Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman Share Touching Memories of Jack Kirby

WonderCon ’17: Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman Share Touching Memories of Jack Kirby
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Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of legendary comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby’s birth. The artist’s influence has undeniably touched the comic book industry, helping to change and shape it forever. Of many that have personally met the icon, they would say he was always friendly, took the time to talk to them, and was very encouraging to those who said they were trying to become artists themselves.

Of those that knew him best, long-time assistants and friends Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman have made it their life’s duty to keep Mr. Kirby’s memory and legacy remembered and alive. At this year’s Anaheim WonderCon, both these men, accompanied by Rand Hoppe (executive director of the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center), Paul S. Levine (attorney to the Jack Kirby estate), and Scott Dunbier (Special Project Editor at IDW Publishing), were eager to share stories of the comic book icon.

“While I was downstairs on the sales floor,” began Mark Evanier, “I was asked ‘Why do you celebrate Jack Kirby.’ I just stared at them and said ‘Jack Kirby is our industry.’ And then looking around, at just about every booth I could see his influence… So much of [it] is what Jack did.”

On the large projection screen in the room, a black-and-white image flicked into life. In the center was a sitting Jack Kirby, flanked on each side by a young Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman. “This was shortly after Jack moved to California,” instructed Evanier, himself seventeen at the time and Sherman twenty. “Steve and I formerly went to work for him in 1970. At the same time, we were entrusted with the information that he was leaving Marvel for D.C… He need people that he could rely on. It probably took us half-a-second to tell him ‘yes.’”

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Rand Hoppe and Paul S. Levine

Throughout the years, Evanier, Sherman, and later attorney Levine had to watch and weather the denial of Mr. Kirby’s co-creator status and credits. “He wanted only two things,” explained Evanier. “He wanted acknowledgement for what he had done and that his family would be financially secure.” Sadly, it took years after Jack Kirby’s death until this would be realized.

Many efforts have gone into the archiving of Jack Kirby’s work and legacy. Scott Dunbier with IDW has had a large hand in seeing special works of Mr. Kirby getting produced in large and lovely artists editions. “In conjunction with the ‘Jack Kirby Museum,’ IDW came out with last December the Jack Kirby: Pencils and Inks Artist Edition,” said Dunbier. “When we started doing the artists editions, I was so happy. I use to be an art dealer, and so when I would see these small prints, I would feel they didn’t do the art justice… Kirby drew in 12.5” by 18”, and these artists editions are printing in 15” by 20”, showing every detail, including the edges of the paper he worked on.”

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Paul S. Levine and Scott Dunbier

The next Jack Kirby artist edition, Forever People, will be coming out sometime next month, and then later the second Fantastic Four book. All those who are part of the Jack Kirby estate have been pleased with IDW’s work. “Scott made sure to stay in contact with the estate,” said Levine. “Him and IDW have been very respectful.”

For Rand Hoppe, he’s had a hand in the preservation of Jack Kirby’s work for a number of years now. “At some point, I had the weird idea to learn how to create a website. I decided it should be on Jack Kirby.” With some help by John Morrow, who co-founded the Jack Kirby Collector magazine, Hoppe used the now-very defunct service “CompuServe” to create a Jack Kirby online art archive. “Currently, we have 5,000 original art scans and 7,500 photo copy scans.” Hoppe also currently educates students on Jack Kirby and his work.

Steve Sherman chimed in with his own memories of Jack Kirby. “Jack was a wonderful guy. He could connect to anybody. He was just interested in people… Always gave people the time.” Here he recalled the time that Evanier and himself were at the second house that Mr. Kirby moved into when he lived in the Thousand Oaks area. “The house had a big section of gravel in front of it. In comes Joe Kubert (a comic book artist who worked at DC) and his family in the largest R.V. that I had ever seen… The next day, Jack had drawn what looked like a huge R.V. with thrusters on the side of it and put it into the comic he was doing at the time… He just could take anything that he found fascinating and incorporate them into his stories.”

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The entire panel went this way, with Evanier, Sherman, and Levine sharing stories of Jack Kirby and his work. There were more stories than I could possibly fit into this article. The entire experience was both educational and very fascinating. Before the panel ended, Mark Evanier told the audience to be sure to attend San Diego Comic-Con. “I really can’t say a lot, but if you look at the cover of the San Diego Comic-Con souvenir book, you’ll see Jack Kirby in a big way there.” He had also mentioned that there would be something “very special” planned for Mr. Kirby’s 100th birthday. “Everyone will be very surprised and happy.”

WonderCon ’17: Industry Artists Give Insight on How to Draw for Action Scenes

WonderCon ’17: Industry Artists Give Insight on How to Draw for Action Scenes
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Left to right: Jessica Tseang, Hope Larson, Andy Park, Marguerite Sauvage

Many an artist of the comic, graphic novel, and manga format will cringe when the respective writer they work with asks for the dreaded “action scene.” Perhaps more confusing than the rendering of hands, the action scene can easily confound any veteran artist; Do I go for a side-profile view, or over the shoulder? Is this running scene supposed to be blurry, sharp, or just vague lines of direction? How the heck do I make this choking scene look believable? To discuss this, moderator Jessica Tseang (comic book historian and founder of Little Geek Girl) gathered industry artists Hope Larson, Andy Park, and Marguerite Sauvage.

 

Tseang started the ball rolling by asking, “Has your style changed over the years?”

Hope Larson who has produced the webcomic series I Was There and Just Returned, worked on a graphic novel adaption of A Wrinkle in Time, and has her own publishing imprint called Tulip Tree Press, was first to answer. “Oh yes. I’ve been [drawing] action for about five to six years now… And now, I am working on Batgirl,” she said.

Andy Park, Korean comic book and concept artist who’s worked on the Tomb Raider comic and on the Visual Development team for Marvel Studios, also agreed that his art has greatly changed. “I don’t think there isn’t anyone who’s style doesn’t change over time.”

Marguerite Sauvage also chimed in, having the unique position of being an illustrator who later found herself getting into comics. “I’ve been in the comic book industry for three years now,” she said. “As I use to be an illustrator, it was a big change to do full page narrations… [For comics], you have to think of the story you want to tell with the action.”

The depiction of action through writing or art almost come from two different mindsets. On this subject, Larson said it was “about the emotion” that the art can illicit. Park said it was like the “concept art versus creature design” in which he has to deal with during visual development. “For Sony Pictures and Marvel I have to do ‘key frames,’ which mark the beginning and end of an action sequence. My comic book past really helped me a lot with this… like [when I worked] on Tomb Raider.”

Especially for aspiring artists, the thought of “color or black-and-white” will eventually arise. “Sometimes it’s good to do everything in grayscale to get some texture,” said Sauvage. “To me, color just seems like a luxury.”

“I think it works both way,” chimed in Park. “These are tools after all… they can add or detract.”

Perhaps one of the most prevalent questions a veteran artist will be asked is, “What advice can you give to find one’s style?” To this, Sauvage said, “By digesting influences. When I was young, I copied everything that I liked… It’s a long process to find that balance. As if to clarify this, Andy Park added, “Jim Lee was my number-one artist. I wanted to be like him. I’d copy in the beginning [of my art] and study. I really emulated more than copied… I never wanted to be [Jim Lee’s] clone, and didn’t really concern myself with finding my style. I just drew. It should come naturally. Just trust that it will come.”

“You’ll have your own quirks that you’ll lean into,” said Larson still on the subject. “That’s part of your style, so make sure you incorporate them.” And like the others, she added, “It’ll come naturally.”

Getting back to the idea of depicting action, the three artists shared some tips to keep in mind. The most common and basic words of advice they had were to study action, know anatomy, watch videos on fighting like MMA, expand the panel to two or more if what you’re trying to convey is too involved, and to of course read comics or watch animation. “There’s a thing called the ‘One-hundred and eighty degree’ rule,” instructed Andy Park. “What it says is to not switch back between one point of view to the other. If you have to do it, maybe have a transition panel to break it up.”

The idea of conveying quickness is another action detail that varies from artist to artist. Should it be uniform across the board? “It depends on the scene,” said Hope Larson. “Having a preference is why writers work with specific artists,” responded Park. To this, Larson added, “That’s why I like working with a writer who’ve I worked with many times before. It’s not that I don’t like working for other writers, but with those I’ve worked a lot with, I know what they want.”

Lastly, the three artists discussed the validity of changing one’s style purposefully to fit a particular writer or market. “I feel they hire me because of my style,” said Marguerite Sauvage. “If I change, I feel like they would say, ‘What have you done!?’”

Andy Park said, “In my job as a concept designer for film, we are encouraged not to have a style… I feel like I have to take [it] out if I find it creeping in.”

To share the negative side of changing one’s style, Hope Larson had this to say; “I’ve been working for so long that I feel like I get approached for my style. I’m actually working on a book right now where I want to change my style, but when my publisher saw it, they told me I can’t. That if I didn’t do it in my usual style, no one would know it was me.”

More or less digressing into a panel surrounding one’s style than depicting action, the three artists still had valuable advice that any beginning or struggling artist should take to heart.