A Valiant debut at the New York Comic Con
With the Hulk-sized scale of New York Comic Con - it drew 105,000 people last year and already sold out this year - it's easy for actual comic books to get lost in the video games, winding lines to get into the "Walking Dead" panel and animé cosplayers flaunting their new homemade Pikachu outfits.
Even the two biggest companies in the industry, Marvel and DC, spread their focus beyond comic books, with hands in toys, games and films.
But for Valiant Entertainment - the newly formed comic book company headquartered a few blocks from the Jacob Javits Center, the West Side home of NYCC - the focus is on the comics.
"We're very, very comic centric, and that's how we're going to stand out," says Dinesh Shamdasani, the founder and CCO of Valiant. "We're going to bring our editors, our writers, our artists and our comics. We're very, very comic."
Valiant launched its first book, "X-O Manowar," in May, and since then has rolled out three other titles - "Harbinger," "Bloodshot" and "Archer and Armstrong." The titles have proved to be strong sellers, with the first issue of "X-O Manowar" currently in its fourth printing.
A fifth title, "Shadowman," will debut on Nov. 7, and people who stop by Valiant's booth at the con can pick up "The Future of Valiant," a free 16-page comic with a preview of "Shadowman."
Valiant publisher Fred Pierce sees this as an opportunity.
"Everybody says, 'I wish I was there for the beginning of the Marvel Universe,' but you weren't born in time," Pierce says. "Anyone who reads amNewYork can say, 'I can be there for the beginning of this universe.' This is the perfect time for them to come to the New York Comic Con, get introduced to Valiant and really jump on board, so that 10 years from now, they'll be able to say, 'I was there from the beginning. I didn't miss out.' And that's a big part of our message today: Jump on now while you can."
While this iteration of Valiant is just starting up, these characters are rooted in a Valiant Comics founded in 1989 by former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. The company initially published licensed books, including various Nintendo comics and WWF (now WWE) wrestling comics. Then came its line of superhero comics, which became incredibly popular and hit print runs that Marvel or DC would love to have today.
"The core is strong on these characters," Shamdasani says. "Some really, really genius guys worked on this stuff. It has a legacy and we were trying to retain as much of that as possible."
One of the people tasked with reinventing this comic universe is VP and Executive Editor Warren Simons. Before handling the Valiant heroes, Simons previously worked as an editor at Marvel, where he guided titles featuring such stalwart heroes as Iron Man and Thor. Now he guides the creative teams of Valiant's five titles.
"The amazing thing about working at Valiant is we have an amazing foundation of characters here," Simons says.
Simons worked with the creators of each title to ensure that each book is "relevant to today's readership and they are accessible."
"All the guys really love this stuff," he says. "They're all really dedicated to it. It's not just another job for them. They really care about what they're doing."
And if you stop by Valiant's booth at NYCC this weekend, you'll get an opportunity to meet the company's staff, artists and writers and see that for yourself.
"The great thing about the convention in general is this is a place where a dad can come down with a kid and you have artists there who can sign one of their books, or you can ... meet someone who has written some of our comics," Simons says. "The barrier between, for example, Hollywood and you - you're never going to get close to a Hollywood star for the most part. You're never going to go see a movie with your dad and go meet Chris Hemsworth.
"'Thor's' on the big screen and that's about as close as you're going to get. But in our world ... they can meet someone who's drawing one of our books," Simons continues. "It's really just a great way to rub shoulders with people who make comics ... and that's really one of the beautiful things about the convention."
A rundown of Valiant's comic books
WRITER: Robert Venditti
ARTIST: Cary Nord
SYNOPSIS: In 402 AD, Visigoth warrior Aric and his people are abducted by aliens. After being imprisoned for a few years, Aric and the Visigoths rebel and he happens upon the sentient "X-O" armor, which he dons and beats back the aliens.
WRITER: Joshua Dysart
ARTIST: Khari Evans
SYNOPSIS: Pete Stanchek is a telepath who uses drugs to help him block out the voices of everyone around him, which he hears in his head. He meets other people with powers at the Harbinger Foundation, which is run by Toyo Harada, who might not be on the level.
WRITER: Duane Swierczynski
ARTIST: Manuel Garcia
SYNOPSIS: Bloodshot is a character who's got nanites (microscopic machines) in his blood, giving him incredible healing abilities, says Valiant VP and Executive Editor Warren Simons. ("If Bloodshot doesn't die three times an issue, we feel like we haven't done our job," Simons added.) Bloodshot doesn't have any memories, so the comic follows him as he is still discovering his past.
'Archer and Armstrong'
WRITER: Fred Van Lente
ARTIST: Clayton Henry
SYNOPSIS: This buddy book joins Archer, a highly trained young man from a cult group, and Armstrong, a boisterous giant-sized immortal. "'Archer and Armstrong' has been one of our breakout books," Simons says. The New York City set book features the oddball duo taking on an evil villain group called The One Percent. It's as awesome as you think.
WRITER: Justin Jordan
ARTIST: Patrick Zircher
SYNOPSIS: Jack Boniface, aka Shadowman, fights the forces of evil in New Orleans. Check out "The Future of Valiant" at the show for a preview of the first issue.
Here are some graphic novels to seek out at the convention:
By Zack Giallongo
A princess looking for a lost civilization and a young barbarian boy face off against zombies and other evil creatures in this fantasy graphic novel. ($16.99, First Second)
By Chris Ware
This monster-sized box from the frequent New Yorker and New York Times contributor contains 14 pieces - from booklets to magazines - that tell a compelling story and act as distinct pieces of art. ($50, Pantheon)
'Saga Volume 1'
By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
With this fantasy/sci-fi epic, Vaughan returns to comics after doing some writing and producing for "Lost." ($9.99, Image)
'The Judas Coin'
By Walt Simonson
The legendary writer and artist turns out an original graphic novel that delves into the past and future of the DC Comics universe. ($22.99, DC)
'Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse'
By Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos
You'll be charmed immediately by this all-ages tale about a young bounty hunter. ($19.95, Archaia)
'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Volume 2'
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
This special "Evil Edition" of the second volume of the colorized "Scott Pilgrim" series will makes its debut at the con. ($40, Oni)
By Topps with an intro by Len Brown
This tome collects all of the "Mars Attacks" trading cards, from the originals to the ones created in the 1990s. ($19.95, Abrams)
'The Underwater Welder'
By Jeff Lemire
The creator of the heartbreaking "Essex County" trilogy returns with this moving character piece. ($19.95, Top Shelf)
By Mike Norton
Get the print edition of this fun, award-winning web-comic about a barbarian and his giant pug dog. ($14.99, Dark Horse)
If you go: The New York Comic Con runs from Thursday through Sunday at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, 655 W. 34th St. at 11th Ave., 212-216-2000. For a full schedule of signings and panels, and a list of exhibitors, go to newyorkcomiccon.com