Glow-In-The-Dark, Holofoil, Chromium and Die-Cut – Comics In The Nineties Weren’t All Bad – Valiant Comics

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by Carl R. Jansson
Senior Correspondent
[email protected]
The nineties get a lot of flack nowadays from comic fans, and some of it is very well deserved. Many things happened in the nineties that made it a very dark decade for the comic industry, many things we would like to forget happened at all, and some things we just can’t seem to let go of. And pouches, so very many pouches. Each Tuesday I discuss the many things that made that decade truly a great time to be a fan. This week, I bring you another reason the nineties weren’t all bad.

Valiant Comics.

X-O Manowar 1990sThis is not the same Valiant Comics that are currently burning up the sales charts, but this Valiant laid the groundwork, creating many memorable characters that would prove to have lasting potential. Founded by Jim Shooter and Steven J. Massarsky in 1989 with significant financing from Triumph Capital, Valiant didn’t really get going until 1991 with the licensing of several Gold Key Comics’ characters, and the subsequent publication of Magnus, Robot Fighter #1. Shooter wanted to use these long out-of-print characters to launch a new comic book universe, one that was more character driven, with strong continuity and far reaching consequences.

This line of comics was very different than anything else happening at the time, visually and storytelling wise. Shooter hand-picked many creators from the ranks of Marvel Comics, creators he had previously worked with as EIC of the company, creators that he respected greatly. Bob Layton, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Ernie Colon, amongst others, would create comics that looked like nothing else on the newsstand, especially with their far richer color palette.

With their first three titles in place – Magnus, Robot Fighter; Solar, Man of the Atom; and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter – it was time to start filling their world with all new, original creations, starting with Harbinger in January 1992. Within just a few months Valiant had introduced X-O Manowar, Rai and the Future Force, and Shadowman, as well as their first line-wide event, Unity. It was an exciting time to be reading Valiant’s titles, and the fans were eating it up, as evidenced by the Wizard Magazine top ten list every month. There were constant reprints, multiple covers, trading cards, and new titles almost every month it seemed.

By 1993 the line had grown yet again with H.A.R.D. Corps, Archer & Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, and more. The publisher was even getting into the inter-company crossover business with titles such as Iron Man/X-O Manowar, Predator Vs. Magnus, Magnus/Nexus, and the Deathmate crossover with the hugely popular Image Comics. The whole world was coming up Valiant. Until it wasn’t anymore.

Triumph Capital wanted out of their investment, and Valiant was sold to video game manufacturer Acclaim Entertainment in 1994. After cancelling the entire line, and majorly restructuring it to make it more suitable for video game adaptations, much of the magic was lost. Acclaim did create many successful video games based around its properties, but the comics themselves were shadows of their former selves, and sales were going down. The whole industry was tanking, and by 2004 Acclaim Entertainment had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Valiant was no more.

Many attempts have been made to resurrect the line in the past decade, but none successfully until May 2012. And by successfully I mean award winning, critically acclaimed, attracting top-notch creators, and constantly on top ten lists. These are some seriously great comics. Just like they were in the nineties. These characters have stood the test of time, and are reaching a whole new generation of fans, but without the original Valiant Comics these wonderful characters wouldn’t exist. And that is just one reason it was awesome being a comic fan in the nineties. Next week I’ll bring you another.

Previous columns in ascending order:
David Lapham’s Stray Bullets
Doom Patrol Volume 2

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