“…for me those years between 2012 and 2018 were the absolute highs of my comic reading experience because when Valiant is good it’s amazing.”
by Angela Cainen
There are very few comic book companies that manage to return from the dead. Usually other companies step in like vultures and carry off anything that resembles vaguely saleable assets. Even original Valiant started their comic books with Gold Key characters they had acquired on licence. Yet Valiant would be the one company that arose from the ashes and returned, bringing with it the third superhero universe.
Before we go into how it came back, we have to briefly mention how it ended in the first place.
Acclaim bought Valiant in 1994, primarily to harvest Valiant for video games and, true enough, several licensed video games happened…and several didn’t. Characters were changed and rebooted, new characters added but Acclaim’s tenure was not perhaps the best as it was a video game company more than comics company. Several runs were planned to last a certain number of issues only to be cancelled halfway through…if that. Unfortunately by 2004 Acclaim was not doing so well (video games from slightly obscure comic book character clearly were not that lucrative) and promptly went bankrupt leaving Valiant in limbo.
Sadly Valiant would lose Turok, Solar and Magnus as those characters had merely been licensed to Valiant and they reverted to Classic Media who owned the Gold Key characters (if you want to know who owns them now… Well that’s complicated but I am still waiting for their movie crossover).
However! The rest of the Valiant gang ended up being bought by… Valiant Entertainment. Valiant Entertainment was a group led by Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari who brought up the characters as Acclaim’s assets were sold off. After forming Valiant Entertainment things fell quiet until 2007 when some classic reprints (with Jim Shooter foreword type things) appeared but it was not until 2012 that Valiant would truly be back.
Yes, Valiant returned to monthly comics in 2012 with The Summer of Valiant, and what a summer it was! Old favourites X-O Manowar (May), Harbinger (June), Bloodshot (July) and my personal favourites Archer & Armstrong (August) came back with brand new titles. It was a nice mix of the most popular classic Valiant titles with slightly different tones. Something for most people. The following months and years saw the return of the rest of the Valiant favourites – Shadowman, Quantum and Woody (rising from the ashes of the Acclaim era), Eternal Warrior and Ninjak.
The characters reverted to their pre-Acclaim selves, which was a relief. Not to say that the Acclaim era was entirely forgotten, as little bits and pieces and sly references would creep in here and there to mostly positive and successful effect; take the entirety of Quantum and Woody for instance, who had no pre-Acclaim incarnation.
Of course reverting to the old era of Valiant also meant crossovers galore! Yes, we even had a new Unity book. Though this time it was a bit easier to understand and involved less Solar shenanigans (he wasn’t part of the universe any more). This time Unity acted as the Valiant version of the Avengers, or the Justice League or any other superhero squad you may care to mention, as they battled threats too big for just one of them to manage.
Three years in, The Valiant miniseries brought together the full roster of heroes at the time and acted as an excellent introduction to the Valiant universe.
There were also line wide events such as Harbinger Wars, Armour Hunters, The Book of Death, and Divinity III among the most popular. In the future, Rai got his own 4001 A.D. crossover with all the characters from the future establishing the longevity of the Valiant universe in a simple and effective way.
Unlike events in certain universes *cough*Marvel*cough* any changes that happened actually stuck. The characters had to live and grow and die and stay dead and that was that. This was a company who wanted their characters to evolve and as a result they gave creators more control, which showed in the tone of the books and led to some really good character work and continuity as creators would complete an entire run on the characters.
Another clever thing Valiant did was resting the characters following a creators run, allowing a break to leave existing fans hungry for more, while also making it easier to pick up this universe. You don’t have to read every book in order to understand it, but you are going to get far more mileage out of one-off crossover events such as Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody’s team up in The Delinquents (plus The Goat) if you know the books involved. But it feels accessible because, well, it was new and there wasn’t 60 years plus of backstory to read. Plus resting characters meant you could easily catch up on where they were at before their title returned. You didn’t need the prior knowledge of the 90’s (though the references are wonderful and will make you feel far more intelligent than you are) you were a new reader in a new universe you could easily conquer (in reading knowledge).
Alas, in a twist of history repeating itself DMG Entertainment (already a majority stakeholder) fully took over the company and the departure of Dinesh Shamdasani who had overseen Valiant from the start soon followed.
The event Harbinger Wars II was going on at the time and well… it… wasn’t good…
Acclaim wanted Valiant for the video game potential. DMG wanted it for the film potential because comic book companies are only valuable for the media potential you can mine out of them apparently.
Since DMG took over, Valiant hasn’t quite been the same. There’ve been far fewer titles I have loved, but for me those years between 2012 and 2018 were the absolute highs of my comic reading experience because when Valiant is good it’s amazing.
Oh yes and there were DINOSAURS. Which really is all I ever wanted. Luckily for me even new Valiant has brought them back in Savage #1 so there’s hope yet for the DMG era.
Looking for a place to start?
We ran through some great starting points on our Alternative Superhero Universes podcast episode and these where our recommendations! You can also check out the full episode below!