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WonderCon 2017: Valiant 101 – The Story Starts Here – Panel Coverage

Positive energy and enthusiastic vibes reverberated through the Anaheim Convention Center as fans of popular culture converged the location for the return of the three-day annual event, WonderCon 2017. In one of the upstairs conference rooms on Friday afternoon, March 31, 2017, Vice President of Marketing & Communications Hunter Gorinson and publisher Fred Pierce took to the stage to lead the panel, “Valiant 101: The Story Starts Here.”

Valiant was founded in 1989 by former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics Jim Shooter and a number of investors. Focusing on comics that were story-driven, by the early 1990s, the publisher had hit its stride and had become very popular. Often, they were in a friendly competition with Image, who were art-driven. Gorinson stated that many of the current writers and artists had worked at Valiant, such as Bob Layton, Barry Winsor-Smith, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Connor. At the time, X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Shadowman, and other titles earned Valiant a number of accolades.

In 1994, Acclaim Entertainment bought Valiant and created a number of video games from the publisher’s catalogue; however, within ten years, Acclaim filed for bankruptcy, triggering a series of legal disputes over the character licensing. Eventually, Valiant secured ownership of their original characters, over 2,000 of them! Joining the publisher in 2011, Gorinson stated that the new iteration of the Valiant publishing team broke down the stories to their core themes and evolved the characters to the 21st century. Their goal: to remain clear, true, and to not wallow in nostalgia. And, like the mythical bird, Valiant shook off the ashes and took flight.

In the summer of 2012, Valiant released one title per month, starting with X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong. Rather than release dozens of titles, the publisher released a limited number of titles so readers could read all of their titles each month. And, their focus on quality over quantity has been acknowledged by the industry through several nominations and awards. Per Pierce, “we are among the best comics in the industry.” He explained that because Valiant isn’t owned by a big corporation, their creative teams can write anything; their comics are a reflection of society. Valiant covered serious themes, but they could also include humor. With that, Gorinson and Pierce turned to sharing with the audience their foundation titles.

The flagship Valiant title started with X-O Manowar, the story about Visigoth warrior Aric of Dacia who was abducted by aliens during Roman times. After working many years on an alien planet as a slave, Aric comes into possession of the most powerful weapon in the universe. Through Aric, the story explored the question: “Can you recapture the past?” Per Pierce, he explained that the characters live in our world with heightened senses, and they struggle with right and wrong decisions.

Harbinger follows the story of two men: Toyo Harada unlocked his psionic powers and established the Harbinger Foundation, while Peter Stanchek, was a street-wise kid who self-medicated to quiet the voices he could hear in his head. He also had psionic powers. Harada wanted to bring Peter into the foundation, but Peter was headstrong and not willing. Gorinson and Pierce explained that Harbinger, along with their other titles, explore the consequences of one’s actions.

Faith “struck a sympathetic chord with fans” according to Pierce. Geeky girl Faith was introduced in the Harbinger universe; although that series incorporates dark tones and themes, Faith believes in the goodness of others. Brave, loyal, and proud of being a geek, Gorinson stated she was the “truest superhero.” The gentlemen mentioned that Faith became the ambassador for The Keep a Breast Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting breast health and cancer prevention in women and men.

Roman Antonius Axia was the very first detective of supernatural murder mysteries in the comic book series, Britannia. Written by Peter Mulligan and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, themes of feminism and patriarchy were explored in the first story arc. Considered the most brutal and subversive comic, Antonius will be back in April with a new mystery.

With a few minutes left, Gorinson and Pierce reiterated that Valiant sticks to a handful of titles, approximately 6 or 7, so that readers can pick up all of the titles each month if they want. They stressed that every Valiant comic could be a reader’s first Valiant title, and because of that, the editors work diligently to present the highest quality story. As Pierce stated, “Valiant readers are our ambassadors.”

Panel photograph courtesy of Michele Brittany.

Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Contributor



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