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Overthought Bubble #3: How Valiant Could Change the Comic Industry if it Doesn't Run Itself Into the Ground First

Written by Gavin D. on Thursday, July 16 2015 and posted in Columns

Overthought Bubble #3: How Valiant Could Change the Comic Industry if it Doesn't Run Itself Into the Ground First

Valiant is doing things both very right and, as of this week, very wrong.



If you look at the market shares you will see Marvel and DC taking anywhere from 70%-80% in any given month. Image is next in line with about 10%, and then the remainder is divided up amongst smaller publishers. Somewhere in that final 10% is a publisher who may very well change the comics market. This publisher barely makes 1% of the market in a month, but recent developments have suggested a change is coming. Valiant Comics is primed to become a premiere publisher.

Now the jump from less than 1% to premiere publisher is not a quick one, but there are several factors which one must consider. First, we need to examine the creative environment in comics. In recent weeks Marvel has seen the departure of several key writers. These writers refer to their exit as "taking a break," but there sure are a lot of people taking a break if nothing is wrong. Combine this with rumors of editorial interference at Marvel and it is no wonder some writers are "taking a break."

Meanwhile DC writers are facing a similar problem. In fact James Robinson publicly aired his grievance in a creator owned title. Yes, that creator owned title. The transphobia controversy of Airboy #2 left many to overlook this key aspect of the book.

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Robinson drops a bomb (in this admittedly satirical comic) about the stress and depression he incurred working at DC. Now obviously DC likely isn't the sole cause of this problem, nor was that implied, but the way Robinson talks about the situation insinuates that DC's practices are not conducive to a creative environment.

Let's take a look at Valiant now. We do not know the workings of their offices, but we can look at their output and recognition within the industry. The recent SKTCHD article showed that on average Valiant pays the highest page rate for art amongst those surveyed. Many artists are making more than $200 a page, which, at 20 pages an issue, gives the artist about $40,000 a year. A person can live on that much. Throw in variant covers and commissions, and suddenly you have a decent living, at least relatively speaking. The article also states creators enjoy working for Valiant because Valiant believes if you treat creators well they will give you their best work. This concept, which should be commonplace in the industry, allows for some of the best books to be made and gains the respect of creators who do not work for Valiant.

If you take a look at the Harvey nominations you're going to see something interesting. Valiant is all over the ballot. For a company that struggles to make 1% of the market this is huge. Now Harveys are nominated and voted on by other creators. This means that writers, artists, colorists, letterers, and editors amongst others in the industry are looking at Valiant's work and taking notice. There is a subtly increasing push by creators to be paid fair wages, as there should be. Valiant's treatment of employees has already garnered them creators such as Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Jeff Van Lente, Robert Vendetti, James Asmus, Joshua Dysart, Clay Mann, Clayton Crain, Paolo Rivera, and Mico Suayan just to name a few. It's only a matter of time before other creators make a move towards Valiant books.

On the topic of creators, we are now faced with Valiant's biggest flaw: diversity. The writing staff and a good portion of the artists are white men. The next step for Valiant is to bring in more diversity. The opportunities are out there. Rob Guillory will soon be done with Chew, and it would be great to see him on a Quantum and Woody book. You could even pair him with Noelle Stevenson who will be stepping away from Lumberjanes. Now this would be a bold move given their unique styles, but that diversity, both in creative team and style, would be a great addition for a Valiant's comics universe.

As for character diversity, they could do better, but they're doing pretty well relatively speaking. There is a fair amount of persons of color and women in these books, but most of the time they are in supporting roles and do not lead the title. Divinity was an excellent book starring a person of color, and Valiant has done some one shots featuring women as protagonists. Most of the time, however, minorities fall into supporting roles. On this path, Valiant could easily take control of the industry by winning the creators, unless of course they start shilling EXXXCLUSIVES, printing more variants, and releasing "special issues." A few weeks ago Valiant released a double sized X-O Manowar wedding issue. The issue received that wonderful $4.99 price tag, and given the history of comics and marriages it may not mean much. However because the company pays their creators well it is easy to let the fact that the double sized issue was a higher price slide.

What I can't let slide however is the special Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer. The idea was that stores would order 25 copies of Book of Death and in turn receive a single issue of Legends of the Geomancer which would have a limited print run. The book is currently being sold for $30-$50 on Ebay because of its rarity. This was an awful decision both in respect for fans and in regards to business. You see, this book is colored by Jordie Bellaire (Injection, Moon Knight, Everything Not Colored by Dave Stewart). Bellaire has worked with Valiant before on Quantum and Woody, but that title does not interact with the larger Valiant Universe as much as Unity or Gilad the Eternal Warrior. Placing Jordie Bellaire on a book which involves a larger portion of the Valiant Universe is an excellent way to bring in new readers, but by placing her on a limited run book and making it virtually inaccessible you have lost the opportunity to have new readers. In fact, it may cause some fans to resent the company and avoid titles even more than before. Valiant may have made a profit in the short run, which will please investors, but this marketing ploy risks consistent growth.

If Valiant Comics remains committed to quality and fair pay, then the company can take a large step forward. The upcoming Valiant Cinematic Universe, given the right creative team, could enter the discussion of best superhero films and draw more readers in. If the company decides instead to continue the cheap marketing ploys it has begun to enact, then history will only repeat itself for Valiant.





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About the Author - Gavin D.


Gavin Dillinger exists in a constant state of restlessness as he runs between two jobs and spends every spare moment writing articles or scripts. He has also perfected the art of being simultaneously dead tired and jacked on coffee, and is the best-selling author of When is the Right Age to Tell Your Highway It's Adopted. Gavin graduated Cum Laude from MTSU and should probably get a real job. You can follow him on Twitter or see a random thought on tumblr once every three five months.


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