Nick Kazden reports from Wondercon for Bleeding Cool:
I know it's April Fool's day, but I'm not joking when I say the new footage for Valiant's upcoming Ninjak Vs. The Valiant Universe looks pretty damn good.
Hunter Gorinson, VP of Marketing and Communications for Valiant Entertainment led a panel packed with key players in the company's future digital plans.
The first person bought onstage was Benny Potter, the Comicstorian. For those of you who don't know him, Benny runs the largest comic book related youtube channel and has partnered with Valiant to develop recap videos for their series. Benny complimented the recent Valiant reboot and said he "loves the idea of a universe that just started without 60 years of history."
Gorinson showed off a video Benny released last year as part of his "Quickie" series, a two minute, animated introduction to Archer and Armstrong. Before moving to the far end of the table so Gorinson could talk about the next project in the wings, Benny said his favorite Valiant characters are Eternal Warrior and X-O Manowar (coincidentally mine too) and he's waiting for Eternal Warrior to get a new ongoing book soon.
Part of Valiant Digital's mission is to expand their brand to various online spaces. A big part of that has been the Hyper RPG production, Valiant Vanquish. There are already two episodes in the second season of the show that follows a group of actors and comedians playing a Valiant RPG game with real connections to the Valiant universe. The upcoming storyline is set to tie into the Harbinger Renegade storyline and help set the path for Harbinger Wars 2.
Hyper RPG CEO Zack Eubanck, who also doubles as the game master for the show, called it a fun, unique experience. He did mention he was a little worried about how he was going to make sure everything ties back into the Harbinger storyline with the shows improvy nature, but he said things are going great and the cast is all having a blast. H are unique ways for fans to interact, including prizes, in-chat games and the chance to be turned into a character for the remainder of the season.
Last but certainly not least, Gorinson turned the focus to Ninjak. First he brought out the father-son directing duo Sean and Aaron Schoenke, who are best known for their Superhero Beatdown videos, to talk about the project. They said that Josh Johns, Valiant's Director of Digital Media and Development, originally approached them to produce an episode of Beatdown featuring Valiant characters, but they wanted to do something a bit bigger with a narrative to link everything together.
Sean, who said music was his first love and he even used to play piano at the Hilton lounge right outside the convention center in the early 2000s, also develops the music and does the sound mixing for the series. He and Aaron said they really wanted to create themes that felt unique to each character and gave the series that classic feel instead of relying on beats the whole time.
Ninjak himself, Michael Rowe, Kevin Porter, who will be playing Armstrong, and Chantelle Barry, who's pretty much playing the supervillain of the series, Roku, joined the panel to debut a few new clips and talk about their excitement for the project.
All of the cast talked about how exciting and liberating it feels to be the first actors to portray these characters on the big screen. Barry called it a collaborative effort and loves the fact that so often Valiant executives are on set with them giving notes and celebrating alongside them.
"They're not just suits in an office, they're out there getting dirty with us," said Emerson describing Valiant Entertainment CEO Dinesh Shamdasani and Josh Johns.
Emerson specifically loves how physical he gets to be in the role. He said Ninjak is the first project he gets to do a lot of his own stunts and he says as a long time WWE fan he couldn't be happier.
"It's a really intense process, but it feels really good. You come out of it a little beat up, but it helps, it definitely helps with the character."
Action plays an important role in the series. Since each episode will feature Ninjak taking on another iconic Valiant character, the directors said it was important each of the characters feel different in the middle of the fight scenes. The Schoenkes are great at adding personality to the structure of a fight scene, and since each episode features Ninjak taking on a different character, they want to ensue each battle feels different.
Emerson, who mentioned the fact that so many people call superhero movies the new western, said Ninjak feels more like the Kung-Fu movies that he grew up with.
"You get to learn a lot about the characters though how they fight."
The new clip features Roku attacking and forcing Ninjak to break into MI6 for her, likely setting the events of the series in place. We also got a closer look at Jason David Frank's Bloodshot as he brutally takes down thugs in an alleyway.
After the last clip was shown, the panel room stayed dark, forcing the Q&A to be cut short. But let me be clear, the clip was worth sitting in the dark.
Ninjak will debut later this year and run for six episodes, so keep your eye's glued to Bleeding Cool for more information as it becomes available!