I’ve mentioned before that I love Archer & Armstrong, and I’ve just added Shadowman to my pull list. Valiant’s reboot, now two years old, is going pretty swimmingly, at least in terms of critical reception.
Sales have been respectable. A quick check with Comichron indicates that most of their titles sell in the neighbourhood of about 10K-12K copies a month. That puts them in Image territory, with titles like Chew and Rat Queens, and some of the D-list DC titles like StormWatch. They’re nowhere close to the top-tier books like Batman (120K issues) or Superior Spider-Man (90K issues), but they seem to have carved out a nice little niche for themselves.
My guess, however, is that Valiant’s ambitions lie elsewhere. Valiant was founded by Jim Shooter and Bob Layton back in 1988. In the mid-90s the company was sold to Acclaim Entertainment whose primary business was video games. Acclaim put out a few Marvel games, (including a terrific Maximum Carnage game for SNES!). They also made a number of games based on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, a Valiant property. Surely they planned to do more with their Valiant properties, but ultimately, Acclaim went belly-up in 2004, taking Valiant with them.
A few savvy investors were able to rescue Valiant’s characters from the wreckage five or six years ago. They’ve since received financial backing from people with deep pockets who have experience in both the comic book and movie industries.
Here’s the thing: comics are great, and a well-run comic publisher can, no doubt, be profitable, but everyone has seen what Marvel has done at the multiplex. Investors are looking at comic books and seeing movie and merchandising deals. They’re not looking for moderate profits, they’re looking for franchises and licensing deals with Hasbro. These guys saw a universe of superheroes that had fallen into disrepair and saw the potential for millions of dollars in profits.
In a New York Times article from July 2012, two of Valiant’s chief investors, Jason Kothari and Peter Cuneo, aren’t shy about discussing movie plans:
“Mr. Kothari said he expects Bloodshot to be the first Valliant character to make the leap into theaters. Sony is working on the property with the producer Neal H. Moritz, perhaps best known for the “Fast & Furious” film franchise. The director Brett Ratner, whose films include “X-Men: The Last Stand,” has committed to Harbinger.
The remaining three movie projects are tied to Archer & Armstrong and characters called Shadowman and Ninjak. “Movies are obviously important to us, but great comics are absolutely essential,” said Mr. Kothari, who holds an undergraduate business degree from Wharton and is Valiant’s chief executive. “Readers are very discerning, and they are not looking for a movie pitch in comic book form.”
When it comes to movies, Peter Cuneo said he is not worried that Valiant’s characters are not well known outside comic circles.
“The general public didn’t know Iron Man and look at him now,” he said of the Marvel character that has starred in two hit movies and anchored “The Avengers.” “What matters is the quality of the movie you make.”
A more recent piece over at Super Hero Hype suggests that plans may have changed slightly. It seems J. Michael Straczynski started work on a Shadowman script a little over a year ago.
Straczynski confirmed that the first draft of the script will be turned in by the end of spring and they’re hoping to start production in the first part of next year for a fall 2014 release date. He also confirmed there likely won’t be any other Valiant Comics cameos in the Shadowman film, but that down the road it’s a possibility.
All of this is to say that any number of Valiant characters could be headed for the big screen at any time. Obviously this isn’t a done deal, but it seems more likely than, say, a Grifter movie, or a Silver Sable TV show. If these characters do make it to the box office, there’s a fair chance that the first issues of Valiant’s reboot could go up in value. More than that, the first appearances of these characters in the 90s are likely to go up in value too. I’ve picked up a couple of NM Valiant #1s from the 90’s (Quantum & Woody, Archer & Armstrong) for $1.00 each in the past year. You might want to see what you can find in the sea of discarded 90’s dreck at your local back issue depository.
And, in the meantime, pick up some of Valiant’s rebooted books. Maybe they’ll be worth something someday, but, if not, you’re still getting your money’s worth. Some great stories being told over there.