Valiant Comics was one of the largest companies in the American comic book market during the 1990s, initially packaging specialty comics and going on to sell more than 80 million comic books in its first five years. Its characters have seen print in a number of languages internationally and have been featured in video games that have sold over 10 million units.
The Valiant universe includes Archer and Armstrong, Armorines, Bloodshot, Eternal Warrior, H.A.R.D. Corps, Harbinger, Magnus Robot Fighter, Ninjak, Psi Lords, Quantum and Woody, Rai, Second Life of Dr. Mirage, Shadowman, Solar, Man of the Atom, Turok Dinosaur Hunter, Unity and X-O Manowar, among others.
In 1988, former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter and a group of other investors attempted to purchase Marvel Comics. Shooter's group submitted the second highest bid, but ultimately investor/entrepreneur Ronald Perelman wound up submitting the highest bid to purchase the company. Steven J Massarsky, former manager of the Allman Brothers Band, and Shooter then convinced a venture capital firm, Triumph, to back their creation of a new comics publisher. They founded Voyager Communications Inc. and its comic-book publishing imprint, Valiant Comics, and hired Bob Layton away from Marvel to help with its planned superhero line. Voyager/Valiant licensed three dormant properties from 1960s and 1970s publisher Gold Key Comics: Magnus Robot Fighter; Doctor Solar; and Turok Dinosaur Hunter.
In 1990, Valiant launched its superhero line, mixing modified versions of the Gold Key characters with several original titles and characters such as Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Harbinger, Rai, Shadowman, and X-O Manowar, to establish a new shared universe. In mid-1992, the company published a line-wide crossover called Unity. By producing unique characters, Valiant quickly developed a passionate fanbase. Through word of mouth and marketing, the popularity of the company grew. Publications like the Overstreet Price Guide and Wizard Magazine took notice of Valiant's success, specifically the escalating demand for rarer pre-Unity books that established the new universes origins and featured the first appearances of its characters.
Despite this burgeoning success, Shooter's security within the company was not ensured. His relationship with Triumph had been badly damaged and he reportedly resisted his partners' plans to position the company for a rapid sale. This dispute lead to Shooter's dismissal. Bob Layton then took over the bulk of Shooter's duties in publishing operations while Kevin VanHook became Executive Editor. Valiant greatly expanded its comics line and soon became the #3 comic book publisher in terms of market share, behind only industry giants Marvel and DC. In 1993, the first issue of Turok Dinosaur Hunter sold 1.75 million copies. This was one of a series of highly successful books that cemented Valiant's place as an industry heavyweight - Bloodshot #1 sold 900,000 copies, X-O Manowar #0 sold 850,000, Rai #9 sold 800,000, Ninjak #1 sold 500,000, etc.
A year later, in June 1994, Voyager Communications, Inc. was sold to the video game giant Acclaim Entertainment for $65 million. Along with the rest of the comics industry, Valiant's sales soon slumped as the speculative boom collapsed, and Acclaim management took a more active role in publishing decisions.
In 1996, Acclaim relaunched the Valiant Comics line as Acclaim Comics. Their primary motivation was to make the properties more suitable for use in video game development. This lead to the creation of the Shadowman and Turok Dinosaur Hunter video game franchises.
In 1999, Acclaim began publishing Unity 2000, written by Jim Shooter, that was supposed to integrate the old Valiant universe and new Acclaim Universe. However, Shooter used the high profile book as an opportunity to strike back at his former partners, creating a group of new villains who mimicked their looks and personalities. Additionally, Acclaim failed to market the books but, nevertheless, saw a good deal of interest on the issues that saw print. Acclaim was forced to stop the series after only three issues because of an art return fiasco with Jim Starlin (artist on the series) and a payment problem with Jim Shooter. The company ceased all publication two months later to focus on its faltering core business.
In 2004, Acclaim filed for bankruptcy and shut down its offices.
Valiant Entertainment has begun releasing deluxe hardcovers of the origin stories of the Valiant characters:
Valiant Entertainment has released a deluxe hardcover collection of the first seven issues of Harbinger entitled Harbinger: The Beginning. The collection has been digitally recolored and "remastered" from the original material and includes a "Origin of Harada" story by Jim Shooter, the title's original writer.
The press release from Valiantfans.com states:
This 192-page deluxe hardcover edition collects the full Harbinger origin story from Harbinger issues 0-7 digitally recolored and remastered, and also features an all-new "Origin of Harada" story written by comics legend JIM SHOOTER and illustrated by BOB HALL (Shadowman). This "Origin of Harada" story includes its own original cover and features the first appearance of a new character in the Valiant Universe! Valiant's goal is to make this deluxe hardcover edition something special for Valiant fans and a great introduction to the Harbinger saga for new Valiant fans. The book retails for $24.95 and will be available in comic book stores in August 2007. Diamond Previews orders from comic book retailers are due July 5 2007.
In March 2008 Paramount Pictures announced that they were adapting Harbinger into a feature film to be directed by Brett Ratner.
Valiant Entertainment released a second deluxe hardcover collection in April collecting the first seven issues of X-O Manowar. The collection has been digitally recolored and "remastered" from the original material and includes a new "Rise of Lydia" story by Bob Layton, one the title's original creators.
The press release from Valiantfans.com states:
X-O MANOWAR: BIRTH (FEB084088), published by Valiant Entertainment, is solicited in the February Previews (Volume XVIII #2) and scheduled to arrive in comic book stores nationwide on April 30 2008. This digitally re-colored and re-mastered special edition collects the full X-O Manowar origin story from issues #0-6 for the first time ever, and includes an all-new epic "The Rise of Lydia" story by comics legend Bob Layton and a new cover by Sean Chen! Aric Dacia is a Visigoth barbarian captured by spider aliens and enslaved aboard their starship until he steals their ultimate weapon - the X-O Manowar armor. Aric returns to Earth only to find that 1600 years have past. Now the most primitive man on the planet wields the most technologically advanced weapon in existence! Features explosive art by Barry Windsor-Smith and Marvel EIC Joe Quesada and a story by legendary creators Bob Layton and Jim Shooter! The book is a full-color 192 page deluxe hardcover edition with a suggested retail price of $24.95.
Valiant Entertainment will release a third deluxe hardcover collection in October collecting the first seven issues of Archer & Armstrong. The collection has been digitally recolored and "remastered" from the original material and includes a new "Formation of the Sect" story by Jim Shooter, one the title's original creators.
The press release from Valiantfans.com states:
The most unlikely traveling companions are back! This digitally recolored Valiant special edition collects the full Archer & Armstrong origin story from issues #0-6 for the first time ever, and includes an all-new "Formation of the Sect" story by series co-creator Jim Shooter and illustrator Sal Velluto, and an all-new cover by legendary artist Michael Golden! When Archer’s preacher parents betray and try to murder him, he goes in search of enlightenment returning as the world’s greatest hand-to-hand fighter seeking revenge. Instead of revenge he finds Armstrong, the centuries old immortal wanderer who spends his time drinking, fighting and spinning tales of his hedonistic adventures throughout history. When a ruthless cult and its bumbling agents try to enlist Archer to kill Armstrong, the one they believe to be the devil, the two most unlikely traveling companions turn the tables and team up to face down the threat that could destroy the world! Features groundbreaking art by series co-creator Barry Windsor-Smith!
In the beginning, the Valiant Universe was a reflection of Jim Shooter's vision for an ideal comic book universe: character-driven, strong continuity with emphasis on science fiction, long-reaching consequences and internal consistency. It was the first company to attempt to follow a real-world timeline, where events in the comics occurred at the pace similar to their publication schedule. The company writers adhered to real-world science as much as they possibly could. No matter how powerful its characters got, they were still affected by friction, Newton's Laws of Motion, Einstein's laws of relativity, etc. While the Valiant Universe had its share of aliens, they never used popular sci-fi conventions such as universal translators and faster-than-light travel. All Valiant Universe superheroes had powers that were derived from psionic awareness (the "power of the mind"), energy manipulation and/or technology. Valiant Comics' writers tried to emphasize the human aspect of superpowers, as well as how the actions of various superpowered individuals affected average human beings. Most Valiant heroes were not superheroes in the strict sense of the word. Some had more in common with the old-style pulp adventurers than traditional superheroes. Valiant Comics titles were set in a tight, carefully integrated fictional universe, where events in one title had indirect effects on other titles. In several cases, major characters debuted in established titles before their own titles were launched.
The Valiant Universe was created by Solar as the result of his attempt to recreate his universe after he accidentally destroyed it. As a result, a universe similar to his own emerged. Solar's psychological tendencies manifested themselves in his recreation of the universe. It was eventually discovered that several times during Valiant Universe's history, Earth was menaced by a race of spider-like aliens, who sought to use the human race for slave labor and food. Their efforts were indirectly responsible for creation of several heroes, most notably X-O Manowar and Shadowman. The early 1990s saw the rise of psionically empowered humans called Harbingers. They were led by Toyo Harada, a powerful psionic businessman with a Messiah complex. While on the surface, he operated in a manner similar to Professor Xavier of the X-Men, he actually sought to use Harbingers to take over Earth, in order to "save the world from itself", with himself as leader. The history of the Valiant Universe's super-powered community was greatly influenced by Geomancers, human beings who had an ability to listen to psychic impressions left on most everyday objects.
From the beginning, all Valiant Comics titles were divided into two groups: titles that were set in the 20th century (the present) and titles that were set in the 41st century (beginning with 4000 A.D.) The heroes from the present weren't aware of the heroes of the future until the Unity crossover. Four heroes from the present—Solar, Gilad the Eternal Warrior and his two brothers, Ivar ("Timewalker") and Aram (Armstrong from Archer & Armstrong)—survived into the 41st century, but their experiences throughout the centuries had made them different from their contemporary counterparts.
The most successful titles in this period were the re-imagined Turok and Shadowman. These titles sold well and the characters were later developed into successful video game properties by Acclaim's parent company Acclaim Entertainment.
Originally, this new universe appeared to have little to do with the original Valiant Universe. However, later crossovers revealed that the Acclaim Universe was the result of a time paradox caused by Solar.
The Acclaim Universe was similar to other superhero-based universes and wasn't as interconnected as the Valiant Universe that preceded it. Writers began to experiment with the scientific aspects of Valiant Universe and moved away from science fact and theory to science fiction.
Acclaim Comics met with initial success but by early 1999 most of the line had been cancelled. Acclaim Entertainment suffered huge losses on a number of video game titles and were cutting costs on their non-core businesses. Nicieza eventually left and staff levels were cut. The next year Acclaim attempted to merge the two universes with Unity 2000.
In 2005, the rights to the Valiant and Acclaim original characters (such as Archer and Armstrong, Rai, Quantum and Woody etc) were auctioned off. The rights to the three licensed characters (Solar, Magnus and Turok) reverted to Random House, which currently owns Western Publishing and Gold Key Comics properties.
During the trading card boom of the early 90s, Valiant Comics, through licenses with the major trading card manufacturers, produced a number of trading card sets and promotional cards to highlight the comics and characters of the Valiant Universe. The major trading card sets include:
|Title||Year||Producer||No. of Basic cards||No. of Chase cards|
|Unity card set||1992||Comic Images||90||6|
|Valiant Era series 1||1993||Upper Deck||120||20|
|Valiant Era series 2||1994||Upper Deck||140||27|
Please see Valiant Comics trading cards, for more information.
Valiant created a highly successful yet controversial marketing campaign based on word of mouth sales by correctly betting that higher quality stories would inspire retailers and fans to recommend Valiant. Valiant encouraged its fans to show off their pride in public, rewarding the best efforts with gold logo variant versions of Valiant comics. Even though the gold logo program is no longer in effect, the Valiant fans continue to exhibit their passion by organizing Valiant Conventions that are staged annually at the San Diego Comic Con and the New York Big Apple Con, and produce a variety of Valiant fan projects, including signed books, posters, lithographs and toys, funded entirely by fans. A new fan-based website emerged in December 2007 called the Valiant Collector's Society
Valiant Comics has been copied and parodied a number of times:
Valiant's first logo appeared on its licensed products (Nintendo and Wrestling comics) before being seen on its superhero line. In May 1991, the logo first appeared on a superhero comic when it appeared on Magnus Robot Fighter #1 but without a comic box. In January 1992, the logo first appeared in a comic box on Solar #5 and Magnus #8.
In November 1992, Valiant updated its logo changing the typeface from a fancy script to a thick bold script. This change occurred only two months after the end of the successful Unity crossover and on the back of the departure of Jim Shooter.
Immediately after the Chaos Effect crossover the logo was updated again. The type face was kept but the wording was changed to "Valiant Presents". The compass logo was diminished in size and moved from below the text.
After the sale to Acclaim Entertainment Inc. for $65 million, the logo was completely revamped. The compass logo was replaced by a large letter "V" that appeared above the wording "Valiant", which appeared in a new type face (the same went with both the Armada and Windjammer imprints).
To coincide with the Acclaim Comics relaunch in 1996, another completely revamped logo was created. This logo signified the synergy between Acclaim and Valiant, merging the letters "A" and "V" into one logo with the wording "Acclaim Comics Valiant Heroes".
More recently, following the formation of Valiant Entertainment, the compass logo has reappeared along with a variation of the original type face. The only major change is the addition of the wording "Entertainment".
On August 15, 2007 Valiant Entertainment unveiled the new Valiant logo. Designed by world famous corporate identity consultant Henry Steiner, the new logo will be used in all media and made its debut on the Harbinger: The Beginning hardcover.