Striking while the iron was hot around noon on a Saturday at Baltimore Comic Con, Valiant took the podium to talk about their big summer crossover and the ways in which it has, quite literally, influenced all things to come in the Valiant Universe.
Joining Marketing Director Hunter Gorinson to talk about the Book of Death and "beyond" were Matt Kindt, Robert Venditti, Clayton Henry, Fred Pierce, and Dinesh Shamdasni.
Gorinson said that this has been a big year for Valiant, especially with their 25th Anniversary, and they are the most nominated publisher at the Harvey Awards, happening tonight.
Book of Death is now the most successful crossover event from an independent publisher of the decade, Gorinson recapped, as was stated earlier this week.
Venditti explained the Book of Death as a story based on Tama, the Geomancer, who has been at the center of a series of "natural calamities", and the Valiant Universe thinks she's responsible. Gilad thinks there's something else at work. That puts Gilad in conflict with the rest of the universe through differences in logic and reason, and his 5000 year history is informing his view.
Gorinson reminded that Book of Death is also about the "future" of the Valiant Universe since you see glimpses of it in the Book of Death. Venditti reminded that Ninjak and Bloodshot as well as the new Harbinger are all tie-ins to these events and give "expansive looks" at what's coming up. As the company moves forward, over time, fans will glimpse things they have heard are coming and being able to cross them off a "check list".
Clayton Henry and Venditti are actually from adjacent towns in South Florida, and after hitting it off at C2E2, within a couple of years were working together, he said. Venditti said Book of Death was a chance for creative teams to all look at their characters in different ways.
Clayton Henry said that drawing Armstrong is still his favorite, since he has comedic expressions, and elements of "lightheartedness" even though he gets angry.
Getting to design the armor on X-O, though was a big highlight for Henry. Yes, the armor has been redesigned.
Something very big is coming in November, the Wrath of the Eternal Warrior. Venditti is having a lot of fun writing Gilad, a character who appealed to him from the beginning, along with X-O Manowar. His approach to the character is to look at the "cost" of his immortality and what the cost is to fight for humanity. Venditti sees him as the "eternal optimist" who thinks that things are getting better, that we can "endure" and "be good". It's a different way of looking at immortality in heroes.
In this new storyline, we'll see Gilad facing a foe like he's never faced before, nor any character in the Valiant Universe. In the opening of the first issue, Venditti asked the artist to approach sensory feeling, here a sense of smell, as well as sound and touch, in a challenging way. Raul Alllen has signed on exclusive with Valiant as artist on this, and he's doing his longest arc yet in American comics on this.
Right now, Ninjak is still going strong, of course. In Issue #6 a new arc kicked off. In each issue, a new villain has been introduced into the Valiant Universe to a total of 4 so far. There's La Barbe, Sanguine, Fitzy, and Fakir. You can look for Matt Kindt's original character designs if you check out his Twitter feed. He feels he needs to know a little what they are going to look like and "visualize" to write about them. Each of these issues has a new artist for the first appearance of the villains. "Fitzy" is a character who keeps getting cloned and has the memories of his previous clones. One of the clones breaks out of the clone chamber and doesn't want to be recycled and share his memories, so he breaks away and goes out into the world. He had trouble finding things he doesn't know about yet since he has so much inherited memory, Kindt explained.
Asking the audience how they felt about "Fall of Ninjak", one of the attendees said that they cried, and the full costume Ninjak cosplayer present was surely moved too. Kindt confessed that when he's writing it, he doesn't feel a lot of emotion, but does now about it. Clay Mann returns on the art on Issue #9 to close out the arc.
This will lead into "Operation Deadside", the next Ninjak arc, where Ninjak will meet Shadowman and they'll "have a good time together", he laughed. He's loved Shadowman for a long time, Kindt said, and he fit into an idea for Ninjak, "Going to the Dead Side". Ninjak believes in "science" but can't explain the stuff on the Dead Side. He has a special suit since he doesn't want to breathe all the "pathogen". Kindt joked that if he went over there, he'd have "super hand sanitizer". You'll get some backstory on some things that have happened to Shadowman in the past in the same way that we got backstory for Ninjak previously.
Punk Mambo will be turning up in this arc, and instead of the way in which the Loa rides around on a human in her story, he's going to reverse that, and she's going to be seen possessing the Loa in this story. Doug Braithwaite will be reuniting with Kindt for this arc.
All of the shelf covers for this series will be "glow in the dark", "Dinesh's favorite thing", and Matt Kindt, hearing it for the first time, was very enthused. It'll be coming in December. Issue #11 has a cover by Clayton Henry that has the new design of Punk Mambo. Henry has done 4 covers for "Operation Deadside", he said, and they are "interlocking". Those are glow in the dark as well, and he got to (re?)design Shadowman.
The concept album by a DC metal band, based on Shadowman, "A Sound of Thunder" is out, and the audience was encouraged to compete via heavy metal screaming to win the gatefold cover of the album.
There was a lot of cool cosplay in the Valiant panel, including a Bloodshot who won a copy of the album by trivia. That led to a nice segue into Bloodshot Reborn. Not everyone who has been possessed by Bloodshot's nanites think it's a "bad thing", Gorinson hinted. Over the next few issues of the series they'll be building into a "very big thing". Shamdasani said this has been in the works for nearly 2 years and some artwork already exists. This spins out of the 25 issues Jeff Lemire has already written. There are a number of things in Fall of Bloodshot that will come out further in the new issues, too.
Regarding Rai, Kindt said he wants to make him a "more interested, likable character". Having him fall to earth is going to "force him to grow up". Rai is becoming his own person, and Kindt is channeling the experience of moving away from home and starting his own life as a younger person. With he and Clayton, Kindt said, they sat down and talked ahead of time to find out about their modes of storytelling and preferences. They check in after every arc and talk about what they are doing.
The audience assured the panel that they were interested in hearing more about 4001, and Valiant has a massive 4001 story that Matt Kindt is working on. It's going to be "awesome" but they can't talk about it. The year 4000 is leading to something very big in the Valiant Universe, they teased.
Coming up this December is also The Death Defying Doctor Mirage's return for a sequel, "Second Lives" a book that's multiple-nominated for the Harvey Awards. The trade of the first series is one of their best-selling trades, Shamdasani said. It's about "ghosts and murders" but also about a couple in a relationship and the question, "Does love transcend physicality?" Some special retail covers will be coming out, which you'll need to talk to your retailers about, including a special ballpoint pen cover by Jeff Lemire for Doctor Mirage.
X-O Manowar has had a host of excellent artists, and Clayton Henry on "Fall of X-O". X-O is about to get its "big bad" in the zero issue for X-O Manowar Presents: Commander Trill. We'll learn more about Vine culture and find out why he's so driven. He believed that he should have been the one to wear the armor, and we'll find out what led to his decisions afterward. This closes out 2015.
In 2016, a big milestone is coming up in X-O Manowar #50. Every arc is going to come around again, Venditti said, and we'll see the "bigger plan" playing out. The catch phrase for the series is "Long Live the King".
In a discussion with fans, Matt Kindt commented that dramatic tension can come from many things when you know a character can't die, like in Eternal Warrior. There are "tons of things" in everyday life that are dramatic even if not "world ending".
A fan praised Valiant for their humility and accessibility at their booths and panels, to applause. Asked about Clayton Henry's interlocking glow in the dark covers for Operation Deadside to see if they would be available in shops. They will be a shared retailer exclusive that will be announced regarding what shops are taking part in the next month.
Asked about Divinity, Kindt says he's working on the sequel now. Some art is already done too, and it's coming in April. Venditti praised Divinity, and said that Kindt was one of the first people who read Venditti's work and vice versa. He admires how Kindt tells things "structurally" and things converge in the middle in a way he can't. Kindt said that the fact that many of the Valiant guys have been working around or with each other for years and that contributes to a sense of humility.
Dinesh Shamdasani said there'll be some big merchandise announcements soon, and that'll include a massive statue in January Previews.