Warren Simons: Valiant Comics and Amazing NoiseA comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
Valiant Comics are returning in 2012, and in a big way. As you can see from the conversation with Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons, to be followed tomorrow by an interview with Publisher Fred Pierce, the return is happening in a major way that will undoubtedly excite Valiant loyalists. As CB columnist Daniel Elkin mentions in his latest "Cheap Thrills" column, the orignal Valiant line packed a lot of great story in their comics. Simons promises that the new Valiant line will be true to its roots while providing modern thrills and excitement for readers today.
Jason Sacks: The original Valiant line was much loved by fans. How will you be striving to revive that spirit of excitement?
Warren Simons: What set Valiant apart from its competitors in the early 90s was the quality of its titles. Our goal is to raise the bar once again and establish Valiant as the preeminent place for character driven content. We have some terrific talent lined up, and some amazing characters -- like Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, and Harbinger – to help propel us back into the spotlight. We know our fans are excited, and the office is crackling with energy.
Sacks: There have been several revivals of the Valiant characters that have not really grabbed readers' attention in the way that the original line did. What lessons did you learn from those revivals?
Simons: I wouldn't go so far as to say there have been several revivals that did not work. I believe that after Acclaim Entertainment purchased Valiant in 1996, they rebooted the Universe to mixed results because they strayed far from the high concepts that made the characters such a success in the first place. It was like making a James Bond movie starring 009. No matter how brilliant your creators are – and there were some amazing writers and artists working on those titles – you have to put your teams in a position to succeed. I believe the goal of the ‘96 reboot was to make the characters more accessible for video games. I understand why the video game company wanted that, but I also understand why the Valiant fans didn't come along for the ride.
In 1999 or 2000, I believe that Acclaim had problems to deal with in its core video game business which had nothing to do with Valiant but affected its publishing initiatives.
This, however, is a new management and editorial team, with Peter Cuneo, the former CEO of Marvel, as a guiding force. The Valiant fans have been patiently waiting to see an incarnation of the characters they know and love reenter the marketplace. And it will happen in 2012.
That doesn't mean, of course, that there aren't lessons to take away from past publishing initiatives, whether by Valiant or Marvel or DC, but I'm confident that come 2012 we're going to be publishing some of the best comics in the industry.
Sacks: In the press release about your taking on the Executive Editor role, you were called "an expert at revitalizing classic characters." Is there a formula for keeping 50-year-old characters seemingly fresh and contemporary for readers?
Simons: There's no formula, but lining up the right creative is critical, as is tapping into the high concepts that made the characters resonate with fans in the first place. I think Marvel did this incredibly well with the Ultimate line. The Ultimate line tapped into the genius of Stan and Steve and Jack and all of the amazing creators that built the Marvel Universe in the first place. They also modernized the characters so they were relevant to the outside world. Our goal is to similarly tap into Valiant's rich history and also tell compelling stories that matter to today's extremely smart readership. We need to update many of the Valiant characters, but there are great titles here that Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Layton and other terrific creators brought to life. Successfully mining the DNA of those titles will be one of the keys to our success.
Sacks: What is your take on the recent, abortive revival of the characters under Jim Shooter's management at Dark Horse?
Simons: Well, I think that there's a great strength to being a part of a shared universe. While I love Captain America, for example, I think he's a stronger character in the Marvel Universe than outside of it. I think Captain America punching Iron Man in the faceplate doesn't hurt either of them, as long as there's a reason why they're doing all the punching in the first place. Similarly, while I think those Gold Key characters are great, I think the tapestry of the Valiant Universe strengthens them. As for the Gold Key reboot itself, it's not how I, as an editor, would have approached those characters. But I think that Dark Horse is an amazing company that's created some of my favorite comics, and Jim Shooter's obviously a very accomplished talent. I wish them nothing but success, but what we're doing is the polar opposite of how they tackled the Gold Key revival.
Sacks: Why are you waiting till 2012 to roll out the revival?
Simons: There's a lot of architecture that goes on behind the scenes. That may not be sexy, but that takes time, and it's critical to long-term success.
Sacks: Can you give readers hints about what to expect from the revival?
Simons: Our goal is to show everyone the best that our medium has to offer. We've got great creative lined up and we can't wait for you guys to see what we're working on.
Sacks: How will digital be part of your strategy?
Simons: Our digital initiative will be unlike anything else in the marketplace.
Sacks: As the leader of a team that's rebooting a whole line of comics, what is your reaction to DC's "reboot" plans?
Simons: I hope the reboot is a complete and total success. I'm sure most writers, artists, editors, fans, and retailers feel the same way. A robust and vibrant DC is good for the industry. It will bring more fans into the shops and strengthen the competitive nature of our marketplace. Every company benefits from more people walking into comic shops. I just hope that any success is sustained over the long haul. I worry when numbering plays a role in fixing a title, but there's a weird numerological thing going on in our industry – beyond the speculative angle -- and I'm sure we'll all have a better understanding of it in the afterlife.
Personally, I am very excited for Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman's Animal Man. I know it's a little off the beaten path, but I think Sweet Tooth is great, and Travel Foreman can flat out draw.
Sacks: Anything else you'd like Comics Bulletin's readers to know about the revival of Valiant Comics in 2012?
Simons: I'm excited. I think the marketplace is poised for something new, and we're going to be in a position to make some amazing noise come 2012.