Valiant Entertainment CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani visited the CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon Anaheim to speak with CBR’s Jonah Weiland about the latest incarnation of Valiant, the company’s long journey back to publishing comic books, signing “Harbinger” writer Joshua Dysart to an exclusive, rights issues and the importance of reaching out to past Valiant creators including Priest and Kevin Maguire.
On wanting to give up over the eight-year period it took to get Valiant Entertainment off the ground: It was a long journey, eight years, a mountain of bad days and you’re constantly second guessing yourself, you’re constantly wondering if you made a poor choice. How you’re gonna get through the next day, the next week, the next month, how you’re gonna get through to where you know you need to get to. But also I think there’s some blind, stupid optimism that you need to keep going. When Jason Kothari, my partner, who’s now our Vice Chairman — when we started this, we knew where we wanted to go. We didn’t think it would take eight years — we thought it would take two, two and a half. We were happy to do that kind of a time period. If we’d known it would take eight I’m not sure we would have done it. The thing is you get into it and all of it takes so much more than you thought it would. I think that the blind optimism that we had then really helped us get through it all.
On the turning point that was getting artist Cary Nord’s first “X-O Manowar” page: The day that Cary Nord’s first page, page 1 of “X-O Manowar” #1 came in, I remember I was in [Valiant Editor-in-Chief] Warren [Simons’] office and we looked at that thing and it was like, “Okay, this is gonna work. That page is beautiful.” And it’s just a page of two Visigoths climbing a hill, if that works — the next page is a double-page spread of Visigoths fighting Romans — can work. Which means “X-O” can work, which means “Harbinger” can work. Maybe the whole thing can hopefully work. There were a lot of milestones like that.
On throwing ideas at the wall versus taking a more analytical approach: The ideas that you see come out of us, they are the top 1% of ideas that are thrown out in the office. There’s 10,000 bad ideas that come from everywhere. Hunter Gorinson’s our head of marketing, Hunter’s constantly throwing ideas at us. We just did a teaser, “The world’s greatest comic book company presents the world’s worst superhero team.” That came from Josh Johns who is one of our editors. We’ve maybe had fifty different teaser ideas for that and that was the only one that was just black with text and it’s the one that worked. The video game, the luge thing — there’s so many bad versions of those that we thankfully avoided. The process internally, it’s a very — what we’ve done is we’ve created a very safe environment to throw bad ideas out. No one feels like they’re gonna be judged. No one feels like they have to hit it every time. And everyone knows that you can throw a bad idea and maybe someone else will turn that into a less bad idea, someone else will turn that into a good idea, someone else will turn that into a great idea. There’s very much an attitude that we build upon the ideas that are presented to us.
On building a sustainable business model: We have a five-year plan. Part of the reason it took so long to get to the point where we started publishing was Jason and I didn’t want to build a plan that meant that we had to do things that just weren’t likely to happen. There’s companies that have come and gone that have made a huge splash, they’ve launched ten books, and they’ve tried very hard to get movies made or video games made, and the process to get a movie made is 8-10 years. It’s just not quicker than that. That’s the development cycle, and that’s if it happens. So we built built a business plan that didn’t need to be profitable for a number of years in publishing. We just had to make great books. And it allowed us the dexterity to be slow and steady, which is kind of a motto in the company. We built a business plan that does not need us to ever make a movie, does not need us to ever make a video game. Our profitability is defined not by merchandising, it’s purely publishing-based. And right now I’m very, very happy because right now we’re about 5, 10% ahead of where we need to be. We’ve got plenty of cash in the bank, so it’s a good place to be and people like the books.
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