After nearly 10 years off the shelves, the assets of Valiant Comics have been acquired by new owners and attracted funding from the private investment firm of Cuneo & Co. The revived comics publisher will be relaunched in 2012 with distribution by Diamond Comics Distributors.
Cuneo & Co. is managed by Peter Cuneo, just off ten years of leadership at Marvel Entertainment, and his son Gavin, a veteran of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Both men have been appointed to Valiant’s Board of Directors and Peter Cuneo has been appointed Chairman.
No writers, artists or publishing projects have been announced as of yet, but the men publishing the books will be Valiant publisher Fred Pierce and v-p, executive editor Warren Simons. Pierce was a member of the original Valiant management team before becoming president and COO of Wizard Entertainment.
In addition Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner and a former Valiant writer and editor, is rejoining the company. Gomez is a pioneer and leading producer in the field of Transmedia—the practice of recreating media properties in new ways for multiple media formats and channels—and he has been named Transmedia producer & creative consultant at the publishing house. Gomez has worked as a Transmedia consultant on such film properties as Avatar, Halo and Pirates of the Carribbean. He will be responsible for helping to reintroduce the characters of the Valiant comics universe and extending them across multiple media platforms, from films, video games and TV to digital formats and more.
“It’s the best feeling in the world coming back to work with this amazing sophisticated superhero universe,” Pierce said about the relaunch. “Of everything I’ve been involved with in this industry over the last twenty years, Valiant is the one that people ask me about the most.”
Founded in 1989, Valiant Comics built a superhero world in the 1990s that was set to rival Marvel and DC with its complex multi-universe structure and a strong stable of characters. Many of their books from that era are on top ten lists of publications such as Wizard and Sequart Research & Literacy. In 1993 Valiant was named Publisher of the Year over DC and Marvel. But in 1994, Valiant’s financier, Triumph Capital decided to exit their investment and the entire stable of Valiant characters was sold to video game company Acclaim Entertainment.
Acclaim Entertainment, publisher of franchise video games like the NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat, filed for bankruptcy in 2005, leaving the fate of the Valiant characters up in the air. But in 2007 Jason Kothari and Dinesh Shamdasani acquired all the rights to Valiant’s more than 1,500 characters and co-founded Valiant Entertainment. Now, with backing by Cuneo & Company, LLC, Valiant is on its way back to putting books on the shelves.
With more than 1,500 characters, including fan-favorites like X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbringer, Shadowman, and Ninjak, Valiant will certainly not be lacking in material to draw from. Pierce said Valiant hopes to publish six to eight titles a month in the first year, and grow from there. There are also plans for book collections of new and classic material and digital distribution.
But will the universe have relevance for readers who don’t remember Valiant’s heyday? Warren Simons, Valiant’s new Executive Editor, believes it will. “There will be no prior reading required,” Simons said. “Our fans will recognize many of the key characters, as well as the tapestry of the universe—similar to the best of Marvel's Ultimate line—but we're also casting a wide net here. I've always strived for accessibility with the titles I've edited, and I've been very lucky to have worked with some exceptional freelancers who felt the same way. It will be the same thing at Valiant.”
Simons is well known for his work overseeing the relaunches of Marvel’s The Invincible Iron Man, which won an Eisner, and Thor, which garnered an Eisner nomination. No stranger to breathing new life into old stories, he has big plans for Valiant’s future publishing program, but he also faces the challenge of pitching characters that have been gone for nearly twenty years to a brand new audience.
Simons said, “As with every character relaunch, I think it's critical to tap into the high concepts and core elements that made the character compelling in the first place. The challenge is to effectively channel that while modernizing the stories and concepts so that they speak to the current marketplace and today's extremely intelligent audience.”
He also spoke to the difficulty of the relaunching not just single characters, but an entire universe at time when many comics readers are questioning the value of universe-wide reboots. “A shared universe has the potential to be a great creative force, but it can also be damaging if it's used as a crutch,” he said. “I have little interest in reading comics about other comics, and I don’t want to rely solely on interconnectivity. We’re going to tell compelling stories that also have something to say about the outside world and the larger human experience.”
“We just got some costume redesigns in that were absolutely amazing, and some of the high concept stuff has been brilliant,” Simons said, declining to provide specifics. “There are some incredible announcements to come that I can’t let you in on just yet—and we're tapping into one of the most popular fictional universes ever created. I’m confident that we're going to inject some energy into the comic book world and make some noise come 2012.”