Comic events and company-wide crossovers are commonplace in the superhero genre of comics especially in mainstream comics. Publisher Valiant Comics is no stranger to this storytelling approach having just wrapped up their Armor Hunters story arc, which took place over a large portion of the company's different titles. This winter, however, the independent publisher seeks to launch another special project through a more narrowly focused, prestige-styled format with The Valiant.
Anchored by long-time Valiant creator, Matt Kindt, this comic will also feature the first work with Valiant by Jeff Lemire as well as Paolo Rivera. More than just providing a platform for yet another pair of celebrated creators to join forces with Valiant, it also introduces The Immortal Enemy – a being who has haunted Gilad's footsteps since time immemorial and bested the Eternal Warrior every step along the way.
In spite of the chaos that is New York Comic Con, Newsarama had the opportunity to catch all three creators all at once to talk for a few minutes about their upcoming joint venture. We also have the exclusive reveal of art from The Valiant #2, plus fellow Valiant Next series Ninjak #1 and Bloodshot Reborn #1.
Newsarama: Matt, it's great getting to talk again since the War Report interview series from Armor Hunters. I know you are continuing to write Unity, but you were also recently announced to be writing Ninjak and co-writing w/ Jeff Lemire on The Valiant. With Ninjak already co-starring in Unity, what was the pitch to editorial to get them to greenlight a separate book?
Matt Kindt: He doesn't really get enough screen time in Unity, you know? He's a part of a team and you have to balance it out. He's always been this sort of mysterious character who comes and goes, but you never really know anything about his backstory. He's always been one of my favorite characters in the Valiant Universe even back into the 1990s so I've always wanted to tackle his story and see what he's about. And that's what his series is about: showing where he came from, how he is, what he's doing now, and just making him the focus.
Nrama: Now, Jeff, this is going to be your first time joining the Valiant creative team. How did they bring you aboard?
Jeff Lemire: It really came out of my friendship with Matt as we've been friends for about ten years as we came up together through Top Shelf doing independent work. We've been really close, and when Matt started working for Valiant, we were talking about how he was having a great time there. They were letting him do some fun stuff, so we discussed going in on a short project together at Valiant after my DC-exclusive contract ended.
It originally started as just a small project like a Bloodshot story that we would co-write and co-draw like a one-shot sort of thing. As we got together and started talking story ideas, it just kind of grew into something more substantial. Then it kind of became this thing where we realized we had this opportunity to tell a story that encompassed the whole universe.
Nrama: So what was your goal for this first time outing?
Lemire: I think our main goal would be to tell a story that would be a great entry point into the Valiant Universe for people who may have heard about how great it is but haven't tried the books yet. However, when you do something like that, you also want to have a story that also rewards the long-time fans who are already invested in that world. We tried to strike that balance between having something that was a great entry point and rewarding long-term fans, which sounds like it can't happen in an organic way, but I actually think we found a good way to do it.
Yeah, it wasn't one of those things where Warren [Simons] came in and said "We need an event!" We had a story we wanted to tell and it just grew into this thing, The Valiant.
Then we got Paolo on board --
Paolo Rivera: Which was a big deal! [Laughter]
Nrama: Paolo, I was going to ask you the same question: How did Valiant get you to sign up for this project?
Rivera: Warren called me and said "We have an event!" [Laughter] No, he's been asking if I had any room in my schedule since …2012? This just seemed to be the right project. I get to draw a lot of people, a lot of settings, I get to work with these two guys, and it would be a sort of self-contained story. That's kind of what I like to read as a reader, so those are the kinds of books I like to be a part of.
Nrama: Now, this isn't an event or a crossover like Armor Hunters, but it seems given the span of time and the breadth of the narrative, there is a lot of room for the many heroes in the Valiant Universe to work their way into the story. Anything you want to share about that? Anyone we can expect to see?
Lemire: It starts with Gilad the Eternal Warrior as the entry point to the story where we spend some time with him. Then very quickly, Bloodshot becomes a part of the story in Issue #1 and then we have Kate, the Geomancer. I would say they're the three leads, you know? The core of the story really revolves around those three characters. I think everybody else will be in it at some point or make an appearance. The whole universe will be involved.
Kindt: To various degrees or another.
Lemire: Yeah, we wanted to have a really good story to tell that revolved around those three characters, but as you go through that story, it will be like driving in a car and you'll see the rest of the Valiant Universe passing by. Hopefully, it will be enough to entreat you to want to read more about those characters as well.
What sort of surprises do you, Jeff, and Paolo Rivera have in store for readers with The Valiant?
Nrama:Now, given the breadth of the time that this story seems to cover, and some of the literary and historical allusions interspersed throughout The Valiant #1, what was your research like for this story?
Kindt: It was easy for me! But it was hard for Paolo! [Laughter] Pirate times! Viking times!
Rivera: [Laughter] But that's the part of it that I liked. Start me off and say it's going to be a certain Greek island; that allows me to go to Wikipedia, andsee what you're talking about. I get to thinking "This is really cool!" and then begin doing my image search. I have this big Photoshop files where there are just tons and tons of pictures that I find online, so it's like an inspiration page. Once I gather all that up, I just start drawing, and put whatever it was I thought was cool into every single panel.
Nrama: Last question – since I know how busy each of you is with New York Comic Con – for people who are still on the fence, what's the elevator pitch you would give them to give The Valiant a shot?
Rivera: [choking gesture] Read it! If they're in an elevator, just shake them! [Laughter]
Lemire: It has a huge scope but a very small story. There are a lot of really big things that happen with long-lasting results that people will find very exciting but at its core, it's a very small, human story that anyone can relate to.
Kindt: And you have Paolo as the artist!
Lemire: And people will finally find out what Bloodshot keeps in all those pouches! [Laughter]
Readers will be able to get their first look at the first of the Valiant Next line of books with Lemire and Rivera's first full-length project on December 10, 2014. Valiant Comics also announced the release of its second wave of books following Valiant First with its Valiant Next line. In addition to The Valiant #1, readers will see Ivar, Timewalker #1 (Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry) in January, Divinity #1 (Of 4) (Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine) in February, Imperium #1 (Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite) in February, Ninjak #1 (Matt Kindt and Clay Mann) in March, and Bloodshot Reborn #1 (Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan) in April. Check out additional pages from Bloodshot Reborn #1 below as a special bonus.