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.

 

 

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics
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Alex Cox of CBLDF

If you are familiar, or in the least semi-familiar, with the early history of the comic medium, images of fit men flying and punching everything in sight while wearing tights might blip through your imagination. Perhaps to your surprise, comics in the early 1900’s were diverse and meant for a broad audience. In fact, it was not unheard of for those comics to be used as political, social, and economic soapboxes for their creators. As discussed in room 208 of this year’s WonderCon by CBLDF’s Alex Cox, the history of comics and activism have come a long ways together.

“All the examples I have for you today were controversial in their own way,” said Alex while he prepped the PowerPoint he was going to present. He then looked over the crowd and gave an apology. “I’m working with a hundred years-worth of material here, and I didn’t know just how over my head I was until I started putting this lecture together.” He added that if anything, this was to be the lecture’s first “test run,” where certain omissions were to be expected. Eventually, when the odd bits and crooked corners were straightened out, he said it would be posted on their website. “I also left out [our] work from this. It seemed like the humble thing to do.”

The presentation began with a look at 1912, with comic legend Winsor McKay, best known for his eternal Little Nemo. “Windor McKay was deeply political and a pacifist,” said Alex as he showed strips entitled The Victor and Three More Days of the Suffrage Hike to Washington. 1913 had the likes of Nell Brinkley. “She was a very modern woman of the time,” said Alex. “She began to cartoon at the age of sixteen, and eventually caught the eye of William Hurst, who supported the arts.”

The 1920’s brought about socialist ideas surrounding President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” a response to The Depression. Harold Grays used his comic Little Orphan Annie to express his dislike for President Roosevelt’s program. “[Grays] worked at the Chicago Tribune and got a lot of support from his boss, who also disliked Roosevelt’s New Deal.” On the other side of that, comic icons Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster loved the program. “Superman was partially due to the New Deal; An alien to planet Earth who works his way up in life… Early on he fought dishonest stock brokers, slum lords, corrupt politicians… He was a post-depression hero.”

War marked a great deal of the 1940’s. With it, comic publishers used their properties as pro-war propaganda. Jack Kirby, another comic legend, co-created Captain America during this time. Iconic is the image of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face. “G.I.s were buying these types of comics by the truckload,” said Alex. The Little Orphan Annie comic had also became pro-war, asking for the sale of war bonds and urging aluminum drives.

After WWII, the 1950’s saw a rising again in the approach to social issues. “EC Comics, started by William Gaines’ father, use to be educational, geared toward religious studies… After his father died, Gaines turned it towards entertainment.” EC Comics is important because it introduced “New Direction Magazine,” which didn’t shy away from hard-hitting social issues. One comic that Gaines tried to push was one called Judgement Day, which featured an African-American astronaut. “The Comics Code kept rejecting the comic for various reasons… finally saying they would not publish it do to the black-main character.” In response to this, Gaines just about shut down every one of his company’s projects out of spite, except for a little magazine you might know called Mad Magazine.

The 1960’s became a time for the rise of women’s issues in comics, especially with the likes of Wimmen’s Comix.” “It was the first comic to feature an out lesbian,” said Alex. Afterward, the 70’s became marked with more cutting-edge satirical comics, with the likes of National Lampoon, a far different entity to how we know it today. It wasn’t long after this that Mad Magazine followed suite and increased their level of satire. Another important work of the 70’s was 1973’s Abortion Eve. “On the heels of Roe VS. Wade, this educational comic was released as a way to discuss women’s issues. Of course, it was also very controversial.”

Throughout the next couple decades, we got the likes of Blume County, Bill the Cat, Dykes to Watch Out For, The Boondocks, Love is Love, and many more comics regarding activist stances. However, with time running out on the panel, Alex Cox had hardly any time to thoroughly discuss them.

If we are to take at least one thing from this lecture, is that the comic medium is a great place for artists and writers to express the ideas and concerns that they feel are important for today’s world. Though it has a booming entertainment side, comics are also a refuge for activists and hopeful people who want only to bring about positive change in our society.

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Up and Early for Social Fandom for Geek Properties

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Up and Early for Social Fandom for Geek Properties
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(Left to right) Jonathan Tavss, Jenny Stiven, Matt Dunford, and Anina Bennett.

Bright and early on a Sunday morning, collected in San Diego Comic Fest’s make shift “Kirby Café” panelists Jenny Stiven, Jonathan Tavss (working in digital and social fandoms for over 20 years), Anina Bennett (once editor at First Comics and co-author and co-creator of Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel and the science fiction series Heartbreakers), and Matt Dunford (Comic Fest Chairman and President of Little Fish Comics) gathered to discuss the ever present and growing area of social media in regards to creators and fans.

Stiven began by recapping what was discussed during last year’s Comic Fest as to where the concept of “social fandom” came from; “…From the late 80’s where people gather on bulletin boards and talk about what their favorite creation was,” she said. “It was a great way for geeks to get together and talk online from around the world.”

Nowadays, the options are plentiful for this “social-fandom culture” to connect, share interests, and for better or for worse give their own comments. This growth in connectivity has given rise to what wasn’t possible before; Creators and intellectual property (I.P.) owners are now taking extreme notice to what fans are saying. Shocking, right? In the same realm, these creators are also reaching out to fans to let them know they are being heard.

“The power shift has really gone to the fans online,” continued Stiven. “The fans really started to drive some of the conversation for the publishers, for the studios with their ‘geek’ properties in a way that hadn’t happened before.” Of such examples, the Dealpool movies is one of the most recent and strongest. “That is a fan driven movie that came to be after a multitude of times that FOX said ‘no.’”

“I think what social [fandom] really does well is fill a number of huge gaps,” said Tavss. “One is that there can be feedback now for creators as an opportunity for those ‘2nd and 3rd tier’ creators to connect it a way that they couldn’t before because they couldn’t get the support of the major publishers.”

The power of these fan-driven conversations fueled by social media has also allowed the “smaller presses” to find fans, connect, and gain traction. For a time, only the “first-tier” presses and recognizable names were getting notoriety and winning awards. Now, we are seeing a greater diversity in what and who are getting nominated for awards, as Bennett discussed. “It used to be that way more superhero tales were getting nominated, and today it’s much more likely to be creator owned and creator driven comics that are nominated for the Eisner’s.”

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No one can deny the power of social media and thus the social fandom that has risen from it. The internet has provided a great platform for fans and creators to stand on. However, the panel also warned against creators delving too precariously into it. There are a great many social platforms now; Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to name a few. “When you’re getting too concerned with finding the time to consistently post, no one is going to care,” warns Stiven. This means that creators should first focus on creating. From there, they should then find that fine-balance when they should post to social media as to keep their communities involved and interested.

Related to this idea of “too much” is deciding what platforms to use. Stiven said on the matter that, “It really comes down to the creator and what they’re comfortable with.” She also added, “Fans are the best people to have test these platforms as they have nothing to lose… Also, look to other creators and see what is successful to them.” Also, never underestimate the power of a traditional website. Fans will still want to see what you are up to and what you are currently creating.

The dangers of social fandom also extends to the very fans that keep it running. Matt Dunford discussed a story from a creator he knew that could have turned ugly. “He was about to confront someone that said his work was crap.” As Dunford explained it well, the best thing that a creator can do is to simply thank the commenter for reading and to ask what they didn’t like. “Be the bigger man… The trick really is being nice… You do not want to be that one person that someone says you’re a jerk… You cannot believe how fast a story can spread that can sabotage your career.” And you never know, valuable commentary might lead out of being the nice guy.

There’s no denying the power of social media and the power that it has given to fans, allowing social fandoms that can take the helms of conversations regarding major I.P.s. As a creator, you need to keep your fingers on the pulse of what fans are saying about you and also to you. Try to engage with them, listen to them (with a grain of salt) and be ever courteous. If you disrespect your fans, you may not like the wraith the internet can enact.

New Year, new… me?

New Year, new… me?

It seems like the same routine every year: I resolve to write more, namely on this blog, resolve to work out more, resolve to live more. And I do so, strongly for perhaps a couple good months until I eventually fall off the edge like Wile E Coyote on that same old cliff that is life’s complications.

Don’t let me lead you to believe 2016 ended entirely poorly for me. There was a lot of positive things that went my way. In the face of fear that I would lose my primary, full-time job, I actually was able to keep it and see a slight raise. I had to leave the martial arts teaching job that I loved because my physical and mental health were at jeopardy, but now both of those are getting back in line again. The cherry on top is that I participated in November’s National Novel Writing Month with my “beastie-besty” Victoria and we both beat the 50,000 word deadline in 30 days!

Now just a couple weeks into 2017, I’m left with a feeling of accomplishment; Things are well at work, I just had a wonderful visit to the kung-fu school that I left, I’m so far doing well in my Spring semester at school, I’m well into editing the rough-draft from NaNoWriMo… things just seem to be getting back on track.

What should that mean then for the rest of 2017? Normally the new year is supposed to signify new beginnings. I don’t see that for myself. Instead, I see getting back to basics. Sure, I’m resolved to travel more. I want to see the sequoias. Since this is the 10-year anniversary of when I went to Japan, I want to go back. But I also see more than that. I see continuing the trend that I finally got a hold of at the end of 2016. I see avoiding all the mistakes and pitfalls that I dealt with in the year prior. There is indeed new growth, but they are from seeds that have been well planted before, and they are also from the cuttings made to dead limbs that were choking everything else around them.

I am hopeful. Ultimately, that’s the best start one could ask to have.