[Editor’s note: to clarify, for years, Valiant has been listed by Diamond on their indie publisher charts (although that chart has been renamed “non-premier publisher”) and just what constitutes an “indie comics publisher” is an ongoing issue that The Beat has addressed before…and will address again. Valiant is not publicly traded and the majority owner is one person. The only publicly traded comics publishers are Marvel, DC and IDW.]
Last Monday, Valiant Entertainment held their 3rd annual Valiant Summit, where they teased and celebrated some of their most exciting titles for the ongoing year. Proudly, the company boasted of the success with their X-O Manowar #1: Soldier comic, which as of that day had sold more than 90,000 copies. Valiant claimed this a record for them: “the bestselling single issue by an independent publisher” for 2017. This claim hasn’t gone with without argument, as many question Valiant’s independent status. I met with Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Dinesh Shamdasani, and Editor in Chief, Warren Simons after the summit and asked them to respond to the claims made against them.
Dinesh: I think we’re a 100-percent independent, in the sense that we’re not owned by a giant conglomerate. It’s very different when, for us, we have to live with the idea that we not only have to fight Marvel and DC, but Disney and Warner Brothers as well.
Warren: We are an indeed an independent publisher. Every single month we put out a book and that book competes with Disney, and it competes with Warner… Listen, we have friends who work at those buildings, who write for them and work for them. But at the end of the day make no mistake about it, they’d take us out back and put two in the back of our heads.
Dinesh: And they have a swat team to do it.
Warren: And a tank, and a C130 cargo plane, and a nuclear missile in the ground if it calls on it. What we got? A couple of switchblades.
Dinesh: Not even, dude. We got a couple of sporks.
Warren: We have a prison spork that we’ve melted down and folded over.
Dinesh: A “spork-shank.”
Warren: So yes, we are unquestionably an independent publisher.
Dinesh: But I love whoever thinks we’re not independent, because that means we are doing a very good job of projecting strength and getting our licks in.
Warren: And one of the benefits of this is that one of the only pressures that we have is storytelling and that’s really one of the great benefits. Now that pressure in of itself is not an easy one, as either of us can attest to, but there’s no, “We need to make it for this quarter… We to make this for this movie…” All there is, is just “Tell a good story.” And that’s really one of the foundational elements of our success.
This also brings up another contentious claim by other detractors, who feel that Valiant is only putting on a front when they say that storytelling comes second to sales numbers. When further asked about this, the two men stood by their statements, reinforcing that the story is what truly matters to Valiant, and that not every book has the power to reach extravagant sales numbers like X-O Manowar.
Warren: I’d say we always hope for the best, but again if that’s the high-point of our year, awesome. Amazing job to the entire team for getting that done… But I like I do say every year, “The best is yet to come.” We’re very proud of what we’ve done in the past, but we’re not content to put our feet up and just say, “Great job! That’s it!” We’re trying to constantly beat that and do better than the last month.
Dinesh: It will 100-percent be the biggest book that we publish this year for the simple fact that numbers are primary goal. Will it be the best book that we publish this year? I think it will be among them. I think it’s a fantastic 10 out of 10 book, but I think a lot of the books that we talked about today and some of the others that we haven’t talked about yet that we’ve got planned will be fantastic works too. For us it’s about what’s the optimum case for each book. X-O is a flashy character for us who wanted to be a “big-big” launch and get as many people as we could to read it. Even here today I’ve met a bunch of retailers, who a few said they’ve been selling out of DC and Marvel trades because of X-O.
Warren: I just had a retailer thank me for the story of X-O because it didn’t seem to drag, and it didn’t seem rushed, and we took our time with it. It’s great to hear that kind of feedback.
It’s obvious that these two men are passionate about what Valiant does and what it stands for, showing why they are in the positions that they are in with the company. With a few more hopeful words, Warren and Dinesh parted with this:
Dinesh: That’s the benefit of not having a giant conglomerate on your back or why we’re independent, so we don’t have to make everything sell 90,000 units. It can be what it needs to be, what it’s built to be.
Warren: That just means that it’s a little, organic book that people read and they like it, and then they go back and they pick it up and word of mouth spreads. And that’s what we’re striving for. We’re just trying for when you put a Valiant book down, you’re saying, “That was well worth it. Let me go get the next one.” That’s really what our goal is every time.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.