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By: Alexander Jones

“He’s definitely the largest robber baron in the history of the human species,”

said author Joshua Dysart of Toyo Harada, the main character in his newest ongoing series Imperium.

Valiant Entertainment could have just published another volume of their fan-favorite Harbinger title which Dysart also wrote and called it a day; but instead the company is striving for something different with their upcoming Imperium title. Toyo Harada, one of the most heinous villains of the Valiant Universe is the star of the upcoming series. Dysart shared some new information on the new project, spilling the secrets on the new Vine soldier joining the team, giving more insight into Toyo Harada’s motivations, and checking on the brand new status quo of Peter Stanchek. Witness how Dysart and artist Doug Braithwaite are taking advantage of Harbinger creators Jim Shooter and David Lapham’s groundwork to spin something wholly original:

IMPERIUM_002_COVER-B_BRAITHWAITEComics Beat: Let’s start with the obvious: why Imperium? After Harbinger was such a rousing creative success, why take this insane risk?

Joshua Dysart: It’s for exactly that reason. I’m not super interested in going right back into the same thing. I feel like we pulled something off with Harbinger completely by accident. The last thing you wanna do is go in and keep meddling with it. Obviously we will eventually get back to that story. It’s just more interesting to do something new and different. The whole point of being a creative person is to not constantly repeat yourself.

CB: Is there a trend coming now with Valiant’s renewed interest in melding brand new characters and additions to the lore that were not present during the initial run of the company?

JD: Absolutely, I think that it’s in their best interest, and I think that’s what I am trying to do in Imperium, which is a book about almost all new characters. That’s a big part of what Valiant is looking to do next.

CB: While Imperium begins, are Peter’s stories going to be pushed to the side?

JD: Yeah, I think what’s happening with the Renegades and what’s happening with Toyo are on two divergent paths for the time being. I mean basically what’s happened here is Peter and his crew won, but in winning they sort of destroyed themselves. In Harada’s losing it sort of entrenched him and reinforced his ideals to himself so we have a situation where the winners have really lost and the loser has ultimately won, which I think says something interesting about the nature of conflict. That’s what I think where we are at. The Renegades are not even capable of fighting Harada, and is that even interesting to that even more. One of them lost their life, and the rest of them gave all their efforts to this conflict for so long, and to what end? They just reinforced him and entrenched him. I don’t even know if that’s something they are interested in anymore.

CB:  How large is the scope of Imperium? Will Imperium affect the greater Valiant publishing line?

JD: It’s being designed to interact with the larger Valiant Universe in a way that Harbinger wasn’t. You know Harbinger was a sort of insular thing that was about these young people, and I sorta moaned and groaned every time the larger Valiant Universe came crashing into my little bubble. This is a much bigger conflict. This is ultimately a conflict for the world so we would have to imagine the whole Valiant U will come up against Harada and his plans. The whole thing is built to embrace that absolutely.

IMPERIUM_001_VARIANT_BRAITHWAITECB: Now that you are opening up the Valiant Universe more with your upcoming project, is there any correlation between penciller Doug Braithwaite’s art and what you are trying to do to sort of open this book up wider?

JD: I think thematically yeah, absolutely. You know I really love Doug’s work. I love that he can use density and that he can handle these big moments but then I started talking about the series, but then I wanted him to do work that was really human and very concerned with the minutia of the moment, so Doug automatically became the perfect person for this book. He can go big, but instead he’s going small. He can have an epic moment, based around human drama that will lead to a better comic. I think he’s an incredible asset to the book.

CB: With an interest in HBO shows where we’re exploring a lot of anti-heroes, how do you walk that line between following some people who are sort of making some questionable decisions, but still making it so we can identify with them in the book?

JD: That’s hard to talk about, because it’s the kind of thing you do when you’re writing. It’s just really important to make sure they feel complicated and human. Once a person feels as complicated as you can make them as a character, then that person can actually become really interesting. Apart from that there’s no real secret trick or anything you just try to humanize them as much as possible.

CB: After reading Robert Venditti’s work with X-O Manowar, I saw that the Vine was painted as these dehumanized killers that entrapped Aric’s group of Visigoth. Whereas during the Planet Death Arc, we see a different side of the Vine. With the new Vine character integrated into the Imperium team are you going to explore that side that Robert opened up in Planet Death?

JD: Yeah absolutely, I think the complexity of the Vine is going to be revealed eventually, maybe not in the first arc, but eventually. Lord Vine 99 is less of a product of conscious free-will vine, and more of a clone that the Vine has created. He doesn’t represent exactly the Vine mindset. I don’t think we can share a story about Toyo trying to take over the planet and not have the Vine be intimately involved in this. The fact is that the Vine took over the planet and won a long time ago. Now we are going to share Harada’s history with the Vine that goes back to the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. It’s all going to be woven in pretty tightly into the narrative.

CB:  What will the antagonists look like in the title? I heard something about robots, aliens, and poets?

IMPERIUM_002_COVER-C_GUICEJD: Harada has his basic psiot that survived the collapse of his first post civilization in first crew. He basically has a fully functional robot which is a version of his med-bots that he kind of amped up. The A.I. was a total accident, and now he has an A.I. shackle. He is incapable of entering any network. He is extremely limited in how his intelligence can grow and what he can affect. This is Harada’s basic check to not having a singularity happen overnight. It’s only a matter of time before artificial intelligence is affected all across the internet. He’s a really interesting tragic character for me. He’s capable of so much, yet he can’t intellectually grow but he knows that. We also have mad scientists!

CB: While the Harbinger Foundation was in control of an incredible amount of corruption, Harada surely cannot employ telekinesis on the entire planet. With limited power, does Toyo Harada have any chance of clearing his name?

JD: The current situation with Harbinger foundation that was sort of the secret organization buried within Harada Conglomerates, but Harada’s conglomerate has dissolved. However, Harada still has thousands of secret accounts located all over the world. These things are actively being tracked down all over the planet. That exists, so there is money and revenue. It’s difficult for him to track all of them down, but they exist. The Harbinger Foundation itself is now whatever technologies he has found and pilfered. And it’s now predominantly found within the U.S.S. Bush – Harada has stolen one of the largest nuclear aircraft carriers in the United States, and they are also taking the Somalia itself. But that’s all that’s left of Harada’s empire. He has money, but it’s tricky for him to use the money without being seen and he has a lot of his old tech, but he doesn’t have it all. For instance, he can’t activate psiots right now. It’s like if he were a musician, at one time he was in the biggest stadium band in history, but now he’s back to playing garages.

CB: Is Harada interested in clearing his name?

JD: He has done everything he is accused of doing; he’s definitely the largest robber baron in the history of the human species.

I don’t think that Harada believes that he has done anything wrong. I think he believes that the narrow shortsightedness of the species and their inability to see all that he gave them in return for the few things that he had to only reinforces him to see what others can’t see. It would have been easier if he keeps his global institution in place it would be easier for him to operate things within the shadows. Instead of having every government and every corporation pitted against him. He has no desire to clear his name.

IMPERIUM_001_003CB: Was Unity Toyo’s failed attempt at building a team like the one featured in this comic?

JD: What’s really interesting about Unity is that their initial inception was to keep Aric [X-O Manowar] from taking over Romania. Harada has done exactly the thing that Aric did, in that he put together this team to fight him which is a real vine of hubris and hypocrisy.

CB: What has Peter learned from the first volume of Harbinger to now?

JD: For a while, we’re not gonna know what’s going on with them. The last time we saw Peter he was contemplating that the only true heroism is doing nothing at all. I don’t know that they were ever ready to play at the level they played Harada at all. They are just kids, they are kids with a lot of power and they took on a really big task, and I don’t think they knew what it entailed. I think they are pretty heartbroken and beaten down from the battle.

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