Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Valiant Prince

Sometimes when customers enter Forbidden Planet, a sudden surge of nostalgia hits them square in the face like bukkake. Their eyes swell up in amazement, their smiles stretch out from ear to ear, and they are transported back to their personal glory days of comics. Recently, I heard news that Valiant Comics will put out a hardcover trade of Harbinger, collecting issues #0-7 with an additional origins story of Harbinger nemesis Toyo Harada by Jim Shooter. And thus, Mr. Shooter unloaded his metaphorical kids into my stunned-gaping mouth.

For those who remember Valiant Comics and for those who don't, let me speak of their transient and glorious history. Founded in 1989 by Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton, Valiant focused on strong character-driven and well-developed stories. Think of the complete opposite of the early Image comics. The triumvirate challenged the big Two (Marvel and DC) in sales by offering its readers something called QUALITY! Not to disparage the works of Marvel and DC, but let's kick the ballistics here. Sometimes, you pick up a comic; scratch your head and say, "What are they thinking?" (See Rob Liefeld's Captain America and DC's Extreme Justice)

Enough about Liefeld, this is about my memories of Valiant. One of the greatest aspects of Valiant was the two concurrent timelines: the present and the future. The characters in the 20th century were Bloodshot, Shadowman, X-O Manowar, Dr. Mirage, Turok, and the Harbingers just to name a few. Their comic compatriots existed in the 41st century: Magnus the Robot Fighter and Rai and the Future Force. Seemingly immortal characters like the Eternal Warrior and Solar appeared in both timelines albeit with drastically different personalities. In addition, the actions of the 21st century heroes affected those of the 41st. Rai's appearance was based on the heroism of Bloodshot; Magnus' time-displaced son, Torque, was a founding member of the Harbingers; and the group, H.A.R.D. Corps, would evolve into the beings known as the Starwatchers who fought alongside Rai and Magnus. In all this madness, Shooter maintained continuity. Unlike the big Two's major events, the reader knew exactly where and when all the different storylines occurred.

Unfortunately for Valiant Comics, Acclaim bought the company. Jim Shooter was replaced and the much-touted quality of the company suffered. With the burst of the comic book bubble in the nineties and Acclaim's failed direction of making video game-based off the characters, Valiant Comics finally closed its doors. But conscientious comic readers will never forget the legacy of Valiant Comics.

Thank you Mr. Shooter for showing us how it should be done.

- The Guy You Walk Past at Bag Check



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