By Gregory Paul Silber
A crowd of passionate Valiant fans gathered at New York Comic Con on Saturday to learn firsthand from Valiant editors and writers about the publisher’s ambitious plans for 2020 and beyond in the “Valiant Uprising” panel.
Valiant had promised some major announcements, so prior to the panel, speculation ran wild. Some fans could be heard hoping to learn more about the upcoming Bloodshot film starring Vin Diesel set for a February 2020 release. Other than some conversation about a new Bloodshot figure (modeled after Diesel) from MacFarlane Toys, however, cinematic information was kept close to the chest.
That didn’t seem to be a problem for the audience of Valiant diehards, however, nor the enthusiastic, even bombastic moderator, Benny Potter, host of the Comicstorian channel on Youtube. After getting the crowd energized, Potter introduced the “Valiant Uprising” panelists: bestselling YA author Julie Murphy (Dumplin), writer and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz (Legion of Superheroes), writer Christopher Hastings (The Unbelievable Gwenpool), Valiant senior editorial director Robert Meyers, and Valiant editor Heather Antos.
Potter opened the discussion by saying that Bloodshot #1, written by Tim Seeley with pencils by Brett Booth, was Valiant’s bestselling title for 2019, adding that it brought him “right back in” to Valiant after “not being around much for the past year or so.”
The “Valiant Uprising” continued from there, he opened the floor to Julie Murphy. While she’s made a name for herself in young adult prose fiction (with Dumplin having been adapted into a film starring Jennifer Aniston), she’s been interested in superheroes, comic books, and “nerd culture” for years. However, she never felt she saw herself represented until she learned about Faith. “It was just some random thing,” she recalled. “Some article about ‘all the body-positive characters you should be reading’ or something. I said ‘cool,’ I added it to my reading list, and moved on.” Incidentally, it wasn’t long after that that Valiant contacted her to ask if she would be interested in writing about one of their characters.
She went on to explain that one of the “funnest” parts of writing the upcoming YA prose novel about Faith was creating a new pop culture craze for the young superhero (she’s entering her senior year of high school in this book) to “geek out over.” Hence, “The Grove,” inspired by Murphy’s own fondness for Degrassi and other teen dramas.
“I was terrified to move into this space,” she added. The other books she’s written so far are more in the realm of realistic fiction. “They’re exciting in the sense that it’s fun to make out,” she clarified, but Valiant’s sci-fi and fantasy-oriented world was a departure. Luckily, Valiant was eager to “hold my hand,” with Antos and Meyers thanking her for capturing the spirit of Faith in this new medium for her. Faith: Taking Flight is set for release in July 2020.
Murphy left following the discussion of her book, leading into Levitz’ upcoming title, The Visitor. Potter encouraged the audience to applaud for “the legend.” Levitz was hesitant to reveal many plot details, but emphasized that this was a new challenge for him. “When Valiant invited me to do something, this was something like my 504th comic book story, but the first time in all of that that I’ve been invited to play in somebody else’s universe other than the DC Universe,” his creator-owned work notwithstanding.
Being new to the Valiant universe (“don’t ask me any trivia questions, please!”) he thought this would be an interesting opportunity to introduce new readers to the fictional world, as well as adding his own spins to it. He added that he was “lucky” to be working with MJ Kim, a winner of the Best New Talent award at the Harveys, with Levitz describing her as a “sweet,” “extraordinarily talented,” and “energetic” young woman.
He also emphasized that The Visitor will be a 6-issue miniseries inspired by his time living in New York City. “If you survived UN week, you know how it is.” He also teased that “New York hasn’t seen this much action since Gwen Stacy died.”
Next up was Christopher Hastings to discuss his new Quantum and Woody series, with art by Ryan Browne, colors by Ruth Redmond, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. “The boys are back in town baby!” he exclaimed. “Boy do I love a comedy superhero book. So much that… it’s all they hire me to write!”
One of the hooks of the new book is Woody getting new powers and trying to get himself and his adopted brother Quantum back in “the public’s medium-level graces.” Quantum, being the one who “actually gives a shit,” does not take the new development well. He and editor Antos promised that it would be a fun and funny series, with each issue acting as standalone conflicts with a narrative thread running from one issue to the next. Hastings also teased that while Quantum and Woody are known for their “daddy issues,” as their late-father adopted Woody following the death of Quantum’s mother, the new series will introduce some “mother issues.”
There’s also the return of Dr. Toilet (pronounced “twa-lay” and, of course “there’s the goat. Everybody loves the goat!”
Other titles discussed during the panel included current series like Bloodshot (“it’s crazy, high-octane action, as I’ve said too many times in the past few months,” promised Robert Meyers regarding the second issue and beyond), Rai (written by Dan Abnett, with Juan Jose Ryp’s welcomed with “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience,”) Roku by Cullen Bunn and Ramon F. Bachs (“it’s about time that Roku got a book!” said Potter), and Doctor Mirage by Magdalene Visaggio and Nick Robles. Meyers revealed that Visaggio told him she considers this comic “the best thing I ever wrote,” and Meyers agreed.
Audience questions largely consisted of fans asking (or demanding) for their favorite characters to return. Vin Diesel may not have made an appearance, but it was clear that the fans attending “Valiant Uprising” were as invested in the publisher’s plans as ever.