By Trent Pitts
The old adage goes: "If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." Judging by the fun at the Valiant panel at Heroes Con 2014, then they're doing everything right. Aaron Haaland of Bleeding Cool's own A Comic Show hosted colorist Brian Reber, writer Matt Kindt, artists Tom Fowler and Lewis Larosa, and editors Alejandro Arbona and Josh Johns on the rollicking Valiant panel.
Haaland began by complementing the nature of the small shared universe, how much fun the work environment seemed, and how "cool" a place it seemed to be. Prompting some Crossgen quips and comparisons that culminated with Haaland declaring, "It's like CrossGen without the cocaine."
The tone was set that this panel would be more about shooting the breeze with guys who seemed to genuinely enjoy each other and their work.
Haaland moved into how each creator was brought into work for Valiant.
Kindt, a 90's Valiant fan, had just been told by his brother that Valiant was back and was reading Bloodshot #5 when Executive Editor Warren Simons called and asked if he'd like to write Bloodshot #0.
Kindt said, "Warren called and was like,'Would you want to write Bloodshot #0?' and I was like what happens and he said, 'We don't know, we need you to write it.'"
Fowler deadpanned a guttural, "They called me".
Arbona began to jump in with Fowler's Valiant origin but Fowler jumped in, "I'm going to tell the more interesting version of this."
Fowler's version was a call out the blue that asked if he'd heard of Valiant. After answering "no", he was asked if he would like to do some covers for Archer and Armstrong. According to Fowler's joking version of the story he then inflated his usual price and Valiant said "yes". Later he was approached again to do painted covers so he again inflated his price and was met with a "yes". Then he was asked about interiors so he once again inflated his price and was paid. This was also delivered to comic effect.
Arbona interjected, "Making us sound like suckers…".
"Yeah," Fowler fired back while the rest of the panel chuckled.
Reber, the first exclusive colorist in company history, revealed he had actually been headhunted at a previous HeroesCon.
When asked if Valiant there for similar reasons, Johns answered, "It's a great con. We always look forward to meeting new talent."
For Larosa it was all about Simons, who he said had "reignited his love for comics and drawing."
On the small group of titles and small group of guys working on the titles Larosa said, "You don't wanna be the weak link in the chain."
This sense of responsibility was repeated by everyone on the panel. Reber described it as having an investment in the company and characters and wanting to do the best work possible. Kindt went as far to say he had done more work on Rai than he had any previous work. With the title being set 2000 years in the future, Kindt mapped out the future of the entire universe for those 2000 years to get the groundwork for the title.
Kindt was highly praising of the creative freedom at the company and said, "Valiant is the creator's publisher"
Asked about former creators returning to the company, the panel all agreed that they were fans and would like to see some return. Johns said, "I'm the biggest Barry Winsor Smith fan there is and if you've got his email address I'll take it."
When the question of the Gold Key characters like Solar and Magnus returning came up Arbona said, "No those characters are off the table."
Johns later added, "Yeah we're not losing sleep over those characters."
The creators were asked what projects were their favorite to work on or if they had a dream project.
Fowler answered first, "I have a sliding scale at Valiant for the things I love to draw and it starts with what I'm paid to draw and then anything but Ninjak, and then Ninjak."
As the other panelists and audience laughed as Reber answered, "For me I wanna work on Ninjak."
Fowler followed up immediately with, "For the first year I was working at Valiant I kept hoping ther would be well Part of me wishes there was never a Ninjak but the part of me that's evil and wants to screw with Brian wanted there to be a Ninjak series so I could get the cover for it and then paint the cover myself. Just to mess with Brian."
The good natured jabs had the room laughing and Fowler and Reber were working the room as well as any great comedy duo ever has.
Larosa said he felt honored anytime he got to take part in Harbinger and was awed by writer Joshua Dysart's work on the book. Larosa said he was excited about the upcoming Bloodshot #25 but the writer couldn't be revealed yet.
Kindt couldn't talk much about his upcoming work and later said, "Warren told me to say nothing."
Arbona did point out that no launch all of Valiant's upcoming projects were creator and story driven and grew organically. There was no limit in place to hold Valiant at only 9 titles they just keep the number of titles around that number to the make sure each book gets the resources it deserves.
On the digital front Valiant was exclusive to Comixology for the first 2 years of the company's existence, but some new announcements would be forth coming in the next 30 days.
To close the panel a fan requested more of the giant robot GN-GR. Kindt obliged and answered, "The first 20 pages of Unity is a GN-GR story."
Johns added, "Unity #10 is a GN-GR story."