HeroesCon 2013: Inside the Summer of Valiant

As one of the only publishers at HeroesCon 2013 with editorial presence, Valiant Entertainment's Inside the Summer of Valiant panel was jam-packed with some of its most well-known creators. The panel included "X-O Manowar" writer Robert Venditti, "Bloodshot" #0 scribe Matt Kindt, "Shadowman" architect Justin Jordan, "Quantum and Woody" artist Tom Fowler, colorist Brian Reber, plus Associate Editor Jody LeHeup, Publisher Fred Pierce and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani.

After introductions, the panel kicked off into high gear with a brief description of the new Summer of Valiant by PR guru Hunter Gorinson.

"This is a great place to jump in and see everything that we're doing," said Gorinson, who introduced "Quantum and Woody" by James Asmus and Tom Fowler. Gorinson kicked it over to Shamdasani for more on the series.

"Basically, the premise is that two idiots get superpowers and then there's a goat," the CCO said. "Though a circumstance we can't reveal right now, they get a goat." There will also be a QR talking cover featuring the goat, which will have a talking goat rather than one of the primary characters.

Fowler spoke briefly about his experience with "Quantum and Woody." "I worked in an original comic store when the original Valiant stuff came out," he said. "That was about the extent of my knowledge of the Valiant books. A few months ago, Jody called me and asked if I wanted to do 'Archer & Armstrong' covers. That kept going with the Christmas card and other covers, and finally, he said, 'There's this top secret cover that we want you to do, it's going to be a goat head!'" While he was painting the goat cover, he was asked if he wanted to do the interiors. Gorinson showed a preview of Fowler's interior pages featuring the duo naked.

"If there's anything I know about comic fans, it's that they love naked men," said Fowler.

LeHeup gave a quick overview of the series, which involves the two protagonists having to "Klang" together their wristbands in order to keep from dissipating. Issue #3 of "Quantum and Woody" will feature the Nightmare Brigade, which is something that never appeared in the original series. "If David Croninberg had a birthday crown business, that's what it would be like," said Fowler.

Asmus and Ty Templeton are currently doing a webcomic installment of "Quantum and Woody" one-page gags on IGN.com.

"X-O Manowar" was up next, with the conclusion of "Planet Death" on the horizon.

"One of the things I wanted to do was expand the cosmic nature of 'X-O,'" said Venditti, who introduced some new alien races at the end of #13. "This idea that [the Vine] come to Earth and they swap human infants for alien infants, they've done this with other races as well." Aric will lead the races against the Vine. "X-O Manowar" #15 will kick off a new arc and will contain the Eternal Warrior. "It's a scene that I wanted to write since I started the book," said Venditti. "It's going to lead to bigger things." Gorinson teased that Aric will bring back something back to Earth that will have a large impact on the planet.

The new arc sees Aric start to fortify and build up a certain area of Earth, which puts him at odds with government. "We see the Eternal Warrior as the aid to the Visigoth king [in the first issue]," said Venditti. "They're both men out of time, but Aric hasn't had the evolving ethic with technology and government. Eternal Warrior tries to go appeal to Aric, but it doesn't go very well."

"Bloodshot" #0 writer Matt Kindt spoke up next, saying he was a fan of Duane Swierczynski's run on the book. "As a creator, it's impossible to read comics as a fan," he said. "As I was reading it, I was like, 'Oh, this is what I would want to see, this is what I would do.' Just approaching it like that, having more than one Bloodshot and seeing him in all those different eras. He's a blank slate. I had a lot of fun." Readers will get to see the origin of the nanites, which Kindt said was one of the most fun parts of the book.

"What is Bloodshot? Do I need to be rooting for this guy or should I feel bad about rooting for him?" Kindt said. "A lot of the fun was coming up with the development of the nanites and how it affects his humanity."

The book contains a "pretty awesome" sequence of '70s Vietnam Bloodshot.

Coming out of "Harbinger Wars" is "Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps" by Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart with art by Emanuela Lupacchino, whose artwork Valiant showed.

"This is tough because it's directly related to the end of 'Harbinger Wars,'" said Shamdasani.

"Bloodshot is not necessarily the leader of the H.A.R.D. Corps," said Gorinson.

There is an event at the end of "Harbinger Wars" that leads to the new formation of the H.A.R.D. Corps, but editorial couldn't say very much about the circumstances.

The final book of Summer of Valiant is Greg Pak and Trevor Harisine's "Eternal Warrior," which will see him as a character for the first time.

"The Eternal Warrior is the brother of Armstrong, he's lived for a thousand years," Shamdasani said. "Gilad feels there is a duty man has to make the world better, and he's spent his entire life fighting to make the world better. ... It's a big mythology, he has a lineage of Geomancers who tell him where to go, he has an enemy -- a reincarnating force of eternal chaos." Shamdasani said that Greg Pak will show slivers of the mythology of the warrior. "The premise is that thousands of years ago, he was in a battle that he was losing. He was in a battle with these crazy large tribe members. Gilad's fighting, but his two children come and save him, but his children are more brutal than him." Gilad's children slaughter everyone in the camp, and they leave him for dead. Thousands of years later, his daughter comes to him and said they let something out that killed Gilad's son. The Eternal Warrior has to make a choice -- and father and daughter go around killing people. "Greg Pak has delivered a balls-to-the-wall story. We think you're going to like it a lot."

Justin Jordan was up next to discuss his upcoming developments with "Shadowman." "Jack is in a relatively dark place. The problem with Jack is he's thrown into this legacy and he has none of the training he should have had," said Jordan. "His ancestors knew exactly what the loa can do. Jack doesn't know any of that. At this point, there are very few Abettors left. ... On one hand, he's happy to be part of something bigger than he is. On the other hand, it kind of sucks. How is he going to be Shadowman when he doesn't have the resources for him to do what he has to do."

Coming in September, "Shadowman" #10 will continue the story from "Shadowman" #0. "I assure you, there is an intimate connection between [Master Darque and Sandria Darque] and the Shadowman," said Jordan. "The Shadowman loa has a specific purpose and 'Shadowman' #10 will show you what it is." (Check out our exclusive interview with Jordan and Jody LeHeup on "Shadowman" #10 for more details.)

Roberto De La Torre will return for the second origin installment, and both Jordan and LeHeup both praised the artist's skill.

"Archer & Armstrong" editor Josh Johns came up to the panel to discuss Fred Van Lente's team book, which just started a new arc that takes the duo to the faraway.

"It's crazy time for Archer & Armstrong," he said. "The next arc is in Area 51. In the new arc, Archer & Armstrong find themselves in the Farway. They have an enemy, General Redacted, which is where the term 'redacted' comes from. He hunts them down in the Faraway. They have a great adventure, there's a ton of fun stuff coming up."

The Faraway is a repository for all the crazy things in history. Gorinson called it "the ultimate exercise in a fantasy land."

"The arc is going to set up something rather large in the Valiant Universe," said Johns.

Valiant's first crossover book, "Harbinger Wars," was the next on the docket, and the H.A.R.D. Corps gets introduced in issue #3. "Josh Dysart has written them that the only way they can get their powers is by telephone networks [due to the decimation of Project Rising Spirit], which is not the best way to get information downloaded. It creates a lot of interesting problems." H.A.R.D. Corps de-facto leader Charlie Palmer will play a bigger role in the Valiant Universe later down the line.

"Harbinger Wars" #4 comes out in July. "Harbinger" #15 will star the first post-"Harbinger Wars" arc, with Barry Kitson coming on to the book.

In a special announcement, beginning in October, some of the original Valiant artists will come on to do covers for the series they were known for in a special "Signature Series" of covers. Sean Chen will do "Harbinger," Bob Hall will do "Shadowman." Sal Velluto will do "Bloodshot." The first cover will hit in October -- Sean Chen's "Harbinger."

Something very big coming up at the end of the year is "Unity," which will be something new. "Pay attention to the end of the year -- November, December, January. If you've never read a Valiant book, this will be the best place to try out what Valiant has got going on."

The audience Q&A opened with a quick question about whether Magnus, Robot Fighter was in the cards, Publisher Fred Pierce said that he didn't believe it fit in the modern Valiant Universe, but from a nostalgia perspective, it's possible it'd be interested in picking the rights back up. "If you look at the Valiant Universe as it stands today, it's a much more cohesive place without them," said Pierce. "I don't think it's better for the characters, I don't think it's better for the universe.

The "Signature Series" covers won't be signed, but the signatures will feature on the actual covers. The colors are keyed to the trade dress. "This is not a Valiant validated signature series," said Shamdasani. "This is something you'll be able to buy, but it won't be hand-signed." Decisions have not been made as to whether it's going to be a variant or incentive cover.

In terms of the future of Valiant and stories set specifically in the future, Shamdasani was careful not to reveal too much. "One of the mantras of the company is slow and steady," said Shamdasani. "The future is something we've talked about, and the best future stories, we want to make sure we get them right."

Kindt wrapped the panel by saying that "Yes," he would be doing more in the future for Valiant.

Venditti finished up by relating an anecdote about his time working in the Top Shelf warehouse and read "Pistol Whip" by Matt Kindt. "I never knew comics could be like that. For me, personally, for us to both be working at Valiant like this, it's something really cool."

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