Valiant Days of Old

Back in the early 90’s, several comic book companies were trying to secure their foothold in the industry.  Comics were selling, but not necessarily at the volume they are today.  The aggressive onslaught of comic book movies has only helped this surge in book sales, but twenty years ago, Marvel, Dark Horse, and DC didn’t have this luxury.  Okay, so there were your Superman movies and the Tim Burton Batman movies (followed by the atrocious Joel Schumacher versions) but these tended to stray from what made the characters successful on paper.

With that being said, the floor eventually gave out on some of the smaller companies.  One of which was Valiant Comics, a company founded in part by former Marvel Editor-In-Chief, Jim Shooter and Steve Sassarsky, the former band manager of the Allman Brothers.  The two encouraged investors to provide them with the backing needed to create a new company, and start one they did.  Valiant was soon on its way to publishing-success.  According to one article on Wikipedia, Valiant, at one point, garnered a 12% share of the market with DC slightly ahead at 16% and Marvel dominating with 30%.

So what was it that made this newcomer such a hit?  It was the intent of Shooter and crew to deliver solid storylines that had far-reaching effects within the Valiant universe.  Not that it’s necessarily right or wrong, but so often today we see a hero or villain do something rash or even devastating that is easily ‘corrected.’  Take Marvel for instance. Captain America was shot on the steps of a courthouse a few years back.  Steve Rogers was no more as the blonde-haired, shield-wielding patriot bit the dust.  Or did he?  Of course not.  As it turns out, the gun used to ‘kill’ him was actually a time/dimensional transporting contraption.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the Cap’s character, but if you’re thinking what I am in regard to that method of revival, it is somewhere along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Valiant didn’t take such drastic measures without a solid plan in place first.  If someone was off’d, a pistol wasn’t going to be the magic time machine that brought them back.  The company focused its sights on originality, though many parallels can be made between their characters and those from other publishers.  Still, call them original or call them copy-cats, Valiant’s formula and their occasional chrome covers worked.  Financial success was due in part to some of their biggest titles such as Harbinger, a story of a new breed of humans with gifted super-abilities.  These enhanced beings were known as Harbingers and were being used to dominate the world.

Then there was Magnus Robot Fighter, which was actually a title founded in the early 60’s but modernized by Valiant.  Fast forward 2,000 years into the future and the world of mutiny-acting robots that are out to harm humans.  Magnus, whose skin was as strong as steel, had the ability to take on the anti-social mechanical menaces and literally rip them apart.  Despite his awkward attire (apparently in the year 4000, we’re all going to wear laser-repellant tunics, Stormtrooper boots, and 1980’s NBA shorts), the title drew enough attention for an eventual crossover with Dark Horse’s Predator series.

What do you get when you cross the Union Jack with a ninja? Ninjak! Actually a ‘who’ and not a ‘what’, Ninjak was a British citizen growing up in Asia who learned the ways of the ninja. His lightning-quick reflexes as well as his marksmanship and mastery of the blade would prove useful when the time came to avenge his father’s death. Also meeting success at the same time as Ninjak was X-O Manowar. X-O was a similar concept to Iron Man, in that a well-meaning man donned a suit of armor to wreak havoc on the bad guys, except with X-O, he fought aliens and his living armor could heal itself. Other solid titles in the Valiant mix included Archer & Armstrong, Turok Dinosaur Hunter, and Bloodshot; a soldier enhanced by microscopic robots called nanites that enabled him to fight better and heal faster…wow…GI Joe movie anyone?


I’m not quite certain why a company such as Valiant, who encountered significant success and grabbed a large piece of the comic book pie, fell to their doom.  Logic would hold that smaller companies such as Dark Horse and Image should have also gone the way of the dodo, but then again, I can only take what I know from the surface.  Either way, Valiant certainly left its mark in the industry, although its creations have parted ways due to rights auctions after the company met its end.  Efforts have been made to try and recoup some of the old team of characters as a new Valiant emerges and efforts are currently in the works to bring one of its titles to the big screen.  Look for a Brett Ratner (director of Rush Hour) / Paramount team-up in the future as they work on a live action film based on the Harbinger series.

For those readers and collectors seeking the Valiant titles, I suggest Amazon for the more recent hardcover releases of Harbinger: The Beginning and X-O Manowar: Birth books.  For the old material from the 90’s, there is always ebay, but I’m one for supporting small businesses so I say check your local comic book store.  Most places have impressive back-issue collections for your sorting pleasure.

For information on the Valiant universe, check out http://www.valiantentertainment.com.



2 Responses to “Valiant Days of Old”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    I remember the Valiant titles. My favorites were Turok and XO Manowar, but only when Bart Sears would draw them. Valiant didn’t always have the best artists.

  2. Gregg

    They had some good stuff out there and your favorites were actually some of Valiant’s biggest bread-winners. X-O was great, kind of like a Venom meets Iron Man concept and Turok went on to spawn a series of video games. Ninjak just looked kind of ridiculous, only to be outdone in the silly outfit category by Magnus.

    As for the artwork, it’s funny to look back on some of that, then forward to today. Everything from the coloring to the pencil work has gotten so much better across the board.