Hunter Gorinson, Valiant's Director of Marketing, opened the Valiant: Must Read panel Saturday at New York Comic Con by introducing the panel members including Executive Editor Warren Simons, Matt Kindt, Doug Braithwaite, Valiant CEO and CCO Dinesh Shamdasani, Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Clayton Henry, and Associate Editor Alejandro Arbona.
With introductions out of the way, Gorinson launched right into the panel's major announcement: the return of Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright to Quantum and Woody in 2014. The original Quantum and Woody creative team will return for a five issue mini-series entitled Q2, which also returns to the original Quantum and Woody continuity, and will run parallel to Valiant's current ongoing series.
Q2 is set 20 years in the original continuity's future, and sees Quantum and Woody reuniting after many years apart. Quantum, still active as a hero, has taken a new sidekick, a decision of which Woody does not approve. "Sadly," Arbona, the book's editor lamented, "There is no Goat."
Quantum and Woody's regular monthly series will continue, and Ming Doyle will be joining the book with issue #5 for a story titled "In Security" that sees Quantum returning everything he stole from Magnum Security, only to have his former boss offer him a new job.
In addition, Tom Fowler will be a part of an as yet unannounced Quantum and Woody project.
Discussion then moved to the launch of Valiant's team book, Unity, which will be released in November, and features many of Valiant's major characters including Ninjak, Eternal Warrior, Livewire, Harbinger, and XO Manowar.
Series writer Matt Kindt said that the hardest part of writing Unity was trying to figure out how so many characters who probably wouldn't like each other would come together as a team. "Then," said Kindt, "I figure out that they just wouldn't. They don't get along. After I realized that, it all fell into place."
Unity also sees some developments that will have outside ramifications, like someone new in the XO Manowar armor. In that vein, Robert Venditti and Cary Nord are working together on a new XO Manowar arc, with Nord experimenting with a very different style. Unity launches with a 30 page first issue, and is planned as an ongoing title.
Fred Van Lente addressed "Sect: Civil War," taking place in Archer and Armstrong. In the story, the various secret societies of the Sect begin warring amongst themselves, leading to the world grinding to a halt. After months of fighting the Sect, Archer and Armstrong must now reunite them. Also in Archer and Armstrong, Ivar the Timejumper returns for "3000 Year Binge," described by Van Lente as what happens when "you give an alcoholic a time machine," and features Archer and his brother Ivar on a bender throughout history.
Shadowman is getting an all new creative team with Peter Milligan and Roberto de la Torre joining the book with issue # 13, described by Simons as a "great jumping on point" for Shadowman.
Up next, Greg Pak discussed Eternal Warrior, which introduces the return of Valiant's classic 4001 AD timeline in issue 5. Starting with issue 5, Eternal Warrior will split its time between 4001 and the present day, giving a glimpse of the future of the Valiant universe.
Harbinger will see the return of Clayton Henry with issue #20 for a story entitled "Perfect Day," which will reintroduce a new version of the character Axe, described as the "Julian Assange" of the Valiant Universe. "Axe believes that information should be free, and out in the open," said Simons, "And our universe has a lot of secrets." Axe will represent a point of view at odds with both main villain Harada and the Valiant heroes.
Bloodshot and HARD Corps will see new members added in issue #16, but readers should not expect them to stick around. Gorinson described HARD Corps as a "meatgrinder," and said that no one on the team is safe. Bart Sears will be drawing issues 18 and 19 for a story entitled "Get Some."
At this point, Shamdasani jokingly enticed Arbona to serenade the crowd with a rendition of the song Total Eclipse of the Heart, a feat Arbona refused to perform, saying "There's no music, and I'm not drunk."
On the topic of new readers, many of Valiant's upcoming issues will feature branding that identifies issues as being good points to pick up the series. Additionally, a special entitled "Must Read Valiant" will be released that features a collection of 120 pages of previous Valiant stories at a $5.99 price point. Must Read Valiant is designed to entice readers to try the stories, and is being offered at a reduced cost to retailers to draw in more sales.
With that, the panel began taking questions from the audience.
A fan asked whether Pak and Van Lente's involvement with the recently announced relaunch of the Gold Key characters, once licensed by Valiant, would signal an inter-company crossover between Dynamite, Gold Key's new licensee, and Valiant.
Shamdasani replied with a definitive "no," saying that while they were all excited by Van Lente and Pak taking on the characters, a crossover simply does not make sense at this time.
Next, a fan asked whether the upcoming Q2 mini-series would open the door for returning to other original Valiant continuity.
Shamdasani said that Quantum and Woody was a special case, designed to allow the creators to return to the characters for which they are best known.
When asked whether Valiant would be moving into other media, several panelists reiterated that Valiant was a comic book publisher first, and that while they were developing some films in house, any projects like that, or like this year's Harbinger Wars flash game would be rolled out very slowly so as not to detract from the company's books.
A fan asked about Ninjak, to which Simons replied "If you're a Ninjak fan, Unity will give you your fix. We've got big plans for Ninjak after the first arc."
When asked if the return of 4001 AD also meant the return of Rai, Simons responded with a coy "maybe."
A female fan asked how Valiant hopes to bring in more female readers. Several creators pointed to their attempts to introduce more female protagonists in their books, saying that they felt a female lead title should grow organically from the rest of the line for fear of feeling forced. Shamdasani said, "You pose a good question, and it's about much more than bringing in new female protagonists. It's about actually getting female readers involved in our stories. If you have any ideas about how to do this, come let us know."
Finally, a fan dressed as Bloodshot expressed concern over the level of violence in some of Valiant's books, eliciting uproarious laughter from the panelists and crowd alike.
That's it from this year's Valiant: Must Read panel!