Valiant Comics

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The various characters of the Valiant Universe

Founded in 1989 by former Marvel Comics Editor Jim Shooter, and several top artists and writers, Valiant Comics was one of the many "creator owned" comic companies that appeared during the Dark Age. The main idea behind Valiant was to "out write" the competition, which it did by deconstructing the various aspects of the typical comic book universe as presented by its rivals. Valiant used strong characterization in its plots, at a time when the Big Two and Image were focusing more on art than writing. By having all of their characters' powers come from one of three sources (Technology, Psychic Powers, and Magic), they reduced the need for Applied Phlebotinum, allowing them to pursue a more Hard Sci Fi approach than would have been possible in the established universes of DC and Marvel. Their cast of heroes combined characters based on old pulp-style adventurers with more modern character types, as well as buying and revamping a few old Gold Key characters, with interesting results.

Perhaps the biggest innovation was their use of continuity. The events in the comics almost always took place during the same time frame as publication with readers expecting one month time jumps between issues. There was the rare exception to this rule, such as two back-to-back issues covering the events of the same night, in this case the narration box would date them, for example both issues would be dated "December 12th 1991" if the event began in the December issue which was released on the 12th. Another method they used was to take advantage of the more hard scifi setting, and have characters experience a jump forward of several months as a side effect of traveling faster than light. An event in one comic had immediate and lasting effects in another. Once an event happened it was set in stone, RetCons never happened, and Comic Book Time was thus averted. The Valiant universe was split into two time periods, the modern day, and the 41st century, with events in the former having effects on the latter. All in all, the formula worked, attracting many fans with its refreshing and unique style, and Valiant sold over 80 million comics in its first 5 years, becoming the third highest selling comic book company (after of course, Marvel and DC, the big two).

That is, until 1993, when Valiant did an ill-thought-out crossover with Image called Death Mate. Valiant's professionalism clashed brutally with Image's notorious Schedule Slip, and Valiant and Image's writers had no clue how to write the other company's characters. Both companies saw their reputations in tatters. Deathmate is widely believed to have been the straw that broke the comic book industry's back, setting off the comics crash that the industry is still recovering from.

Valiant's sales started to slip and, after an ill-considered Birthquake revamp, Valiant was bought out by Acclaim Entertainment, a then-popular videogame company. The line was renamed "Acclaim Comics" that introduced a brand-new, "more marketable" universe (dubbed Valiant Heroes 2). Ultimately, though, the declining fortunes of Acclaim Entertainment and Executive Meddling led to the line's slow and painful demise. The original Valiant is still fondly remembered as one of the best companies of the Dark Age.

Dark Horse Comics recently acquired all the Gold Key properties -- and hired Shooter to manage them-- but unfortunately after about 8 issues of each title Dark Horse announced they would be cancelling the line due to the rights holders wanting too much money as well as low sales. Dynamite Comics licensed the rights and is putting out new versions of the titles.

Luckily, the renewed Valiant Comics, now called Valiant Entertainment, is publishing comics again. They began with four series in 2012 starting with the release X-O Manowar #1 in May followed by the release of new #1s for Harbinger, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong in June, July and August respectively. For a relaunch it has been unusually successful, having lasted several years and with movie deals already in the making

Characters/Titles from Valiant Comics include (in alphabetical order):

  • Archer and Armstrong - Archer is a martial artist monk with Charles Atlas Superpowers. In the new Valiant, Archer has actual powers. Armstrong is an effectively immortal brawler and drunkard. Both are being pursued by a largely incompetent cult as they have adventures.
  • Armorines: H.A.R.D. Corps with cheap government-issue knock-offs of X-O Manowar's armor. Not yet at the new Valiant.
  • Bloodshot: A Mafia hitman is betrayed by his family and left for dead. His Body is found by "Project Rising Spirit" who inject him with Nano-machines that resurrect him and turn him into a Japanese flag themed superhero who doesn't remember his past. Revamped for the new Valiant in a somewhat different form.
  • Doctor Mirage: A ghostly "necromancer" who fights evil with his sexy Brazilian wife.
  • Eternal Warrior: An immortal warrior, one of only a handful of characters to see both the 20th and 41st centuries.
  • Harbinger: A group of super powered teens are on the run for their lives from an evil business man.
  • H.A.R.D. Corps (old Valiant): A group of comatose Vietnam Vets are revived through the use of brain implants that give them the psionic powers of the Harbingers, but only one at a time.
  • Ninjak: Basically "What if James Bond was a ninja warrior?"
  • Psi Lords: In the 41st century, the descendants of the H.A.R.D. Corps have become the most powerful psionic warriors in the known galaxy. Not part of the revamp yet.
  • Quantum and Woody: A comedy about "The world's worst superheroes". Perhaps the ONLY series from the Acclaim Era that is fondly remembered.
  • Rai and the Future Force (old Valiant): Rai is the protector of 41st century Japan. Through his veins flows the "blood of heroes", the same blood that flowed through the 20th century hero Bloodshot.
  • Rai (new Valiant): Rai is a superpowered character in a future Japan that is an island floating in the air.
  • Secret Weapons (old Valiant)
  • Shadow Man: An African American living in New Orleans discovers he is a powerful voodoo magician.
  • Unity (new Valiant): A team made up of Valiant's most popular characters. Named after the Crisis Crossover Unity which brought the old Valiant to popularity.
  • X-O Manowar: A 5th century Visigothic Warrior who is kidnapped by space aliens, gains an alien robotic suit, and returns to the Earth in the modern era.

Gold Key licensed characters, part of the old Valiant, then licensed to Dark Horse, then to Dynamite. Summaries apply to the old Valiant version:

Tropes used in Valiant Comics include:
  • A God Am I: Mothergod
  • Aliens and Monsters: the Spider Aliens, semi-humanoid raiders who swing by to loot and pillage whenever they're in the neighborhood. Since there's no Faster-Than-Light Travel in this 'Verse, relativity means they show up every few thousand years, our time.
  • Anyone Can Die: H.A.R.D. Corps changed its roster a couple times because of this.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Phil Seleski, gaining phenomenal cosmic power, recreated himself in the image of his favorite sixties comics character and eventually rebuilt the entire universe to bring in others. A pre-reboot story by Dan Jurgens featured Solar leaving the Earth in order to create a world closer to the one he adored in comics as a child. One where super-heroes operated openly and in a more 4-color manner, and his mortal counterpart lead a charmed, idealized life of love and contentment. It didn't end well.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Archer's super-power
  • Big Bad: Toyo Harada.
  • Canon Immigrant: Inverted- During the "Unity" crossover, it's revealed that Torque and Kris of the Harbingers are the parents of Silver Age hero Magnus Robot Fighter.
  • Canon Invasion: Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter and Turok, Son of Stone were originally from Gold Key Comics, way back in the 1960s. Justified, as we learn that the whole universe has been recreated by Solar's subconscious, based in part on his memories of old comics he loved as a kid.
  • Continuity Reboot: One of the key factors leading to its collapse.
  • Continuity Snarl: Averted hard due to their continuity system
  • Crisis Crossover: Unity. It unites the modern and 41st century characters against a woman with the power to destroy the universe, and would have had long term repercussions if Valiant had survived. (Most noticeably that Shadowman would have died in 1999)
    • Chaos Effect, 1994 is the Year of the Visitor, and the infamous Death Mate are other examples of crossover events from the Valiant Universe.
  • Cult: Armstrong is hunted by one
  • Cyberpunk: The 41st century is home to continent spanning Megacities governed by Corporations, or Artificial Intelligences.
  • Dark Age: Valiant was founded during the dark age, and went under at around the same time as it ended.
  • Dark Age of Supernames: XO-Manowar, Bloodshot, H.A.R.D. Corps
  • Death Is Cheap: Mostly averted before the Acclaim era reboot. One of their slogans was actually "Valiant, where dead is dead"
  • Deconstruction: Too many examples to count, but the biggest would have to be Harbinger. Harbinger featured a groups of super powered teens on the run for their lives from an seemingly unbeatable business man who, at least at first, seems to be an Expy of Charles Xavier. While the man seemed to genuinely care for his subordinates, he never hesitated to mistreat them for the sake of what he felt was the greater good of humanity (which is to say, a better world that would be completely under his control). He was desperate the hunt down the protagonists because their team leader has the same powers as him - the near-unlimited telepathy and telekinesis and ability to activate superpowers in others. The hero, incidentally, wasn't exactly pure either - early issues in particular showing him using powers in selfish and potentially dangerous ways. It also does a good job showing the mental and emotional toil this kind of thing would have a group of teens, constantly moving from town to town, and being the only thing keeping this guy from becoming dictator of the world.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Shadowman's ally Mama Nettie needed a regular dose of Vitamin S-E-X from the Shadowman to maintain her youth.
    • Only in the videogame/Acclaim version of the comics. In the original Valiant Comics version, Mama Nettie was an elderly woman and quite happy with it. So much so that a minor storyline was her seeking a voodoo ritual to restore her aged form after exposure to Master Darque's necromantic power changed her back into a young woman, seeking both the return of her "crone power" (the natural affinity for voodoo magic granted by her aged form) and to escape from the youthful hormones she was plagued with.
      • In the Acclaim version, Nettie had nearly been killed when a dangerous man escaped from Deadside and Jack Boniface WAS killed. Nettie was badly messed up, using voodoo to keep herself alive which may have affected her mind. She was forced to change the rules to stop Tommy Lee Bones and to deal with any other threats coming through. Then again, the concept of Deadside had never even been mentioned in the Valiant books before so Shadow Man's connection to this realm was new for everyone.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Doctor Mirage's real name is "Dr. Wang"
  • Mr. Fanservice: One issue of Doctor Mirage guest-starred a popular actor from the soap opera All My Children, even going so far as to establish him as a former rival for Mirage's wife, Carmen.
  • Evil Counterpart: Doctor Eclipse for Solar, Master Darque for Shadowman
    • And Heroic Counterpart Doctor Mirage for Master Darque
  • Evolutionary Levels: A rare case of this trope being both invoked and averted. While Harbingers are generally believed to be the next step in human evolution (by people who know about their existence), they are not in fact physically different from ordinary humans. Their powers are derived from elevated levels of activity in the brain which causes them to exhibit psionic abilities that produce the full range of comic book super powers. Special brain-stimulating cybernetic implants can enable ordinary humans to manifest Harbinger powers.
  • Executive Meddling On a truly epic, and company killing scale:
    • It's even more apparent how far the meddling must have gone when one realizes many of the initial batch of writers on the Acclaim titles...Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Christopher Priest, etc. would seem to be the ideal writers to create a fresh, exciting new super-hero universe.
      • Well, the original X-O Manowar was Visigothic warrior that get abducted by spider aliens and steals their power armor. Very original, and unique, and that's why it's fans liked it. The Mark Waid reboot was basically Captian America in the Ironman suit, not bad, but not what the fans were used to, and better suited to an entirly new book than X-O Manowar.
        • Waid was basically given a situation begun in the all-but-forgotten X-O/Iron Man crossover, where the coda inexplicably has an alternate Aric find alternate armor at the end but not go to the future via abduction. So he had to spin off a book from a hook in a book hardly anyone read...because...well...just because.
          • The reason was there was an Ironman/X-O Manowar game coming out by Accliam around the same time as the reboot. A game that sucked.

"Hey guys! We just got the license from Marvel to make an Ironman game! Let's milk this for all it's worth! I know! Let's have a pointless crossover! (because that turned out so well in the past.) We can make the game and the comic tie-in! Say? Weren't we also going to reboot soon? No problem, let's just make the crossover part of the reboot to avoid confussion.

    • Though signs of serious creative decay could be seen in the entire line some years before the purchase by Acclaim. Probably it began around the time of the ill-conceived Death Mate crossover with Image Comics (yes, Rob Liefeld was involved). After that, "kewl" artist and speculator-driven concepts began to infest even their best titles.
      • It should be noted that only two of the studios that then comprised Image actually participated in the crossover...Liefeld's Extreme and Homage Studios (which eventually split into Wildstorm and Top Cow). The other Image creators like Larsen and Valentino either had no interest in the Valiant titles or thought the crossover sounded like a really bad idea. How right they were!
      • Oh yes, Death Mate.
      • One can possibly trace the inevitable downfall back even earlier, to the point where the venture capitalists who helped fund the company pushed Jim Shooter out of his job. Since he was the one pushing hardest for strong plots and a certain degree of internal consistency, his absence opened the door to many of the gimmick-driven problems that would ultimately kill the company.
  • Heel Face Turn: Livewire and Stronghold, two of Harada's Eggbreaker shock troops
  • Immortality: Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, and Timewalker
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Death Mate Also the Iron Man/X-O Manowar crossover, intended to advertise a new video game, then inexplicably made the hook the writers brought in for the Acclaim reboot were forced to base the new universe on.
  • Knight Templar: Toyo Harada, the primary villain, plans to "save" the world by conquering it.
  • Legacy Character: Lots in the 41st century. For example the 41st century had the PSI-Lords, an organization directly descended from H.A.R.D. Corps, and Rai, who was created in the image of the 20th century hero Bloodshot.
  • McNinja: Ninjak.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The whole idea behind the Acclaim era reboot was to make the characters "more suitable for adaptation into video games".
  • My Nayme Is
  • Nanomachines: The source of Bloodshot's powers, passed on to the Rai dynasty.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Being active during the early nineties this was unavoidable. Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps stand out.
  • Oh Crap: Magnus and 1-A get one of these in Magnus #0: after (in the original run) a year or two of fighting the occasional accidental rogue robot, fairly easily mopped up, they hear the following message over the robot communications frequency:

Do not be afraid. You are not alone. There are ten million of us.