SENYC: Valiant Firsts

Valiant Entertainment may be going back to the '90s for its incoming chromium cover series, but the theme of their panel at Special Edition NYC was "Valiant Firsts" after their new series of character launches. "Armor Hunters: Bloodshot" writer Joe Harris and "Armor Hunters: Harbinger" artist Robert Gill joined Valiant staffers including CCO Dinesh Shamdasani, Director of Marketing Hunter Gorinson, Associate Editors Alejandro Arbona and Josh Johns, and Executive Editor Warren Simons.

Things got started with a rundown of recent Valiant news, including their marketing of a new iced tea drink with New York-based coffee chain Oren's Daily Roast. "I'm not a coffee drinker and I like their coffee, which says something," Shamdasani said, noting that the Valiant drink was made to match the color of X-O Manowar's energy blasts and was being advertised in Manhattan's Oren's locations with promo art by Terry Dodson.

Meanwhile, the publisher's recent contract with digital comics company Madefire is about to see its first projects released, and Gorinson showed off a digital/audio-driven version of Doug Braithwaite's "Unity" #1 opening action art. That five-issue series will cost $3.99 for each installment. At the present moment, there are no plans to bring any additional series to the platform, though the door is open to more after "Unity" is fully available.

"Armor Hunters" #1 - the first part of Valiant's summer crossover which shipped last week - has sold out through Diamond Comic Distributors and will see a second printing arrive July 9. The panel spoke about the revelations of that first issue, as a major city was destroyed by the eponymous hunters who are targeting X-O Manowar for his unique bond with his alien armor.

"This may not be a good thing for Aric. The armor itself may be a very, very dangerous thing for its host," Simons said, saying the armor may have planetary destroying abilities. The story picks up when soldiers from space appear to try and stop him, though characters like Bloodshot who have never interacted with X-O in the new Valiant universe will also be brought into conflict with him starting in issue #2.

Harris and Trevor Hairsine will continue the story in "Armor Hunters: Bloodshot" - a three-issue miniseries starting next month. "We're going to explore a lot of what we haven't seen before," Harris said. "It's essentially an action-packed, wall-to-wall battle between Bloodshot and the Armor Hunters...it's pretty brutal."

On the other side of the crossover, "Armor Hunters: Harbinger" deals with the fallout of the destruction of a major American city in the main series first issue. "I'm really excited to draw the next couple of issues...there's millions of little things I've had to drawn and design for this. It'll be an intense couple of months for me," Gill said of the story which involves both giant robots and massive swarms of nanobots.

Writer Joshua Dysart takes his "Harbinger" run in a new direction as the Renegades battle against Harada in issue #25 - with art by Khari Evans - and beyond. "It's a big blowout issue with tons of stuff in it," Simons said, pointing to the many backup stories including one by "Fifth Beatle" writer Vivek Tiwari and artist Lewis Larosa.

"One of the things Josh and I have talked about a lot is, 'Where does the book go from here?'" Simon added, saying that tons of change will happen through the issue and the incoming "Harbinger: Omegas" mini series that focuses on Peter, Chris and Toyo Harada's life now that he's been revealed as the world's first superhuman to the general public. "Part of the renegade's mission was to do that and bring Harada down, but it's kind of like taking the leash off a rabid pitbull," Simons said. The book will be drawn by "Red Hood & The Outlaws" artist Rafa Sandoval.

October brings "Archer & Armstrong" #25, featuring the return of Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry on the main feature as well as backups by the likes of Ray Fawkes, Donny Cates, Pere Perez and Barry Kitson. "It's going to be a great book," Johns said, noting the book would return to a familiar location from the early issues of the book, as well as "The Archer & Armstrong drinking game" which gives fans who have all the issues instructions on where to drink during certain moments in the run - with plenty of health warnings, of course. "It's probably the most fun you've had with a comic in a long time." But before that story, "Archer & Armstrong" #24 is a special one-shot about the origin of Mary Maria written by former Marvel Editor/"Watson & Holmes" writer Karl Bollers and drawn by Henry.

The much anticipated return of Christopher Priest and MD Bright's original "Quantum & Woody" hits in October. Arbona said of the five-issue series, "This is hugely exciting...the series is pretty much finished now, and it's like a dream come true...they've been separated for over a decade when this story begins." In the story, Quantum is working with a new teen sidekick, and Woody chases him down for fear that his former partner is endangering the lives of kids - only to find that it's a new young Quantum under the mask being backed by the original.

Valiant will also collect the entire original run of "Quantum & Woody" in an over 600-page omnibus edition shipping in October. Gorinson promised more of that kind of massive collection of past Valiant material in the future as well.

In the modern era, the current "Quantum & Woody" ongoing is wrapping in advance of a crossover with "Archer & Armstrong" in the pages of the new "Delinquents" series. The story involves the King of the Hobos leaving the heroes an "ass map" to important items, or as Johns said, "This is really a story for the kids." Kano will draw the book as written by Van Lente and James Asmus. The variant covers for the series will form to make a giant board game of the Valiant Universe. Before that, "Quantum & Woody" #12 hits, where the characters will become "Heroes for Cash," as Arbona explained.

The final new book of the Valiant Firsts push is "The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage" by Jen Van Meter and Roberto De La Torre. "This comic is very near and dear to me," Arbona said of the spinoff from "Shadowman," adding, "Right off the bat on pages two and three...they choke me up every single time. They give me all the feels. So if you just read three pages of this story, you'll be into it." The series focuses on the titular character's search for her husband - who, like her, can speak to the dead, but has been exiled in the afterworld.

But before that hits, the first Valiant Firsts series, "Rai," continues with issue #3 in July. The series is set in Japan in the 41st Century as told by Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain. The book starts as a murder mystery with the first murder in Japan in over a thousand years, and the panel said that issue #4 will start to explore some "weirder quadrant" of the new world, including an area of Japan that's been built as an homage to the 20th Century. Spylock, a new fictional character within the world of Rai, bizarrely shows up and gets involved in the mystery this month.

The company then announced that the publishing plan for "Rai" will be focused on keeping the creative team together and consistent. So the book will go on a hiatus for three months until Kindt and Crain return with issue #5 in December, when it will then go monthly for another four months. Shamdasani compared the strategy to how Image releases arcs of "Saga" in monthly runs with trades in between.

Finally on the news front, Valiant's $1 first issue promotion for all its big series will return in October.

When fan questions hit, the future of Shadowman after the current "End Times" story was asked about, and Arbona promised that after the next issue, a huge twist will change how readers see the character and how they view the future of the franchise.

One reader asked for a Goat spinoff series from "Quantum & Woody." Arbona said there were exciting developments for the mascot in issue #12, and of course it'll appear in "Delinquents."

Another Valiant talking cover featuring Ginger, "the giant purple killing robot," will hit as a part of "Armor Hunters" as drawn by Tom Fowler.

Asked the perpetual question of when film and TV adaptations will hit, Shamdasani said that there are things in the works on the heels of previous Valiant development announcements, but their core focus is still on publishing and will remain there.

Simons said the company would be honored to have Barry Windsor Smith back to work on new "Archer & Armstrong" material, but at the moment, he's not focusing on comics work.

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