Although the first arc of Valiant Entertainment's "Harbinger" reboot is still unfolding, readers have already gotten to know protagonist Peter Stanchek and his soon-to-be nemesis, Toyo Harada -- but fans haven't seen what really makes Harada tick. That's why, as announced at New York Comic Con 2012, series writer Joshua Dysart along with artist Mico Suayan will delve into the origin of series antagonist Toyo Harada for "Harbinger" #0, which hits stores in February. Dysart's zero issue explores how Harada became the force of nature at the head of the Harbinger Foundation and will be the second issue of "Harbinger" shipping that month, providing readers with a second installment of the series for February.
Dysart spoke with CBR News about the still in-progress issue, the concept behind bringing back zero issues to Valiant in the modern era, the parallels between Peter and Harada, how the writer arrived at the concept for Harada's origin and the greater themes in play for the series.
Josh, what's the concept behind the "Harbinger" zero issue?
Joshua Dysart: To the extent we can talk about it at this point, it is an attempt to give the reader way more Harada than they've been given before. Unfortunately, because we have to pay service to the march of our narrative in the actual "Harbinger" book, I've been longing to explore Harada more and this is our opportunity. So what we're going to do with that is look at Harada pretty early in his life when his powers first begin to manifest while he's in a Japanese refugee camp after the dropping of the atomic bomb.
How did the decision to do a zero issue come about? Considering how important Harada is to the narrative, why make this a zero issue rather than a stand-alone story during the course of "Harbinger?"
A couple of things came together. There was a tradition at Valiant -- and we're very much trying to keep the spirit of the original Valiant alive -- of zero issues inside of what they were doing in the early '90s. Apart from that, I had been pitching to my editor Warren Simons for a while now the concept of half issues. I could deviate from the regular narrative, but it wouldn't derail things too much because it would be a half issue. You would have an issue #4 and then you would have an issue #4.5 that would come out two weeks later with a different artist -- a single one-shot that would explore some aspect of the mythology that we were creating with "Harbinger." You'd get issue #5 two weeks after that, which would be the normal line. There were responses to the idea and we kept talking about when we could make that work. It just sort of all came together in a recent story meeting that all the writers flew into New York for. The most ideal way to do this is to do a series of zero issues.
My hope is, and this is coming from me not from editorial, that there will be a series of zero issues. This will be zero issue Harada, but we can also do zero issue the Bleeding Monk, zero issue Peter, things like that.
Zero issues in comics have had a wide range of goals -- everything from teasing a series to telling origin stories and filling in the blanks of continuity. What's your main goal with "Harbinger" #0?
We want to do a couple of things. The first thing is just to really flesh out the mythology. Sometimes I think it's enough to explore the world with your character. I'm always a big character first, plot second kind of guy, but having said that, we do hope that it ties into something that's coming soon. That's something we need to work out. We're very much in the editorial process of building something large that's approaching fast. I want to tie it into that, but the truth of the matter is we're in the middle of writing the issue right now. Whether we can pull that off or not, I leave you to decide when the issue finally hits -- but that is the hope. The hope is that we can somehow really create texture to the universe with the book and really flesh out excitement for one of our primary characters -- Harada -- and at the same time speak to coming events in the current Valiant Universe.
"Harbinger" features two major players: Peter and Harada. Looking at this zero issue, will readers see any parallels between the two characters?
Here's what's really interesting -- and this is something I'd really like to do eventually. We do get a little bit of this in the first issue, but the two parallel opening sequences of the first issue of "Harbinger" ever really shows Peter and Harada at exactly the same age, using their powers to get what they want. The difference of course is that Harada's ambition is vast. He's traveled into an extreme war zone to say the least, which is the Tibetan steps of China in the '50s and he's going after the Bleeding Monk. Whereas, Peter's ambitions at 18 are just to get the drugs he needs to stay high and not really have to deal with the crap in his life. It was really important that we set that up early. I would love to continue drawing a parallel between the two early on in their lives. Other than that, you can see how drastically different their lives are. Peter is sort of a first-world discarded kid with very little ambition -- almost a piece of litter, really -- and Harada is really this epic force of nature who emerged from the end of imperial Japan and into the atomic age. We can draw parallels between them, but really the strongest parallel is just how much disregard Peter has for himself, his culture and his generation and how much regard Harada has for himself, his culture and his generation. Other than that, we're just splitting hairs.