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Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Cynical Times: Is VALIANT Skating On Familiar Ice In Search For Fortune?


        Awhile back we found out that independent comic company Valiant Entertainment had been purchased by a global entertainment company by the name of DMG Entertainment.  Has anyone heard of these guys?  Probably not, but apparently you should if you know the name Valiant.  This discovery reminded me that while you may know the name, you may not know the story.  This prompted me to take a further look at Valiant, and what I found out, is that this acquisition happens to be a particularly interesting change of events, or perhaps, lack thereof.  You see, this is a road that Valiant has been down before with what is now a lost relic known as Acclaim Entertainment, which ultimately led to a heartbreaking collapse.  Now, with Valiant having risen from the ashes to the third largest publisher in the industry, they have been looking to get a foothold in the ever prosperous cinematic realm.  It's apparent that that's where DMG comes into play.  They've been making moves with Valiant over the last year to get Valiant's properties to the screen.  The partnership has managed them a pretty wholesome deal with Sony who already has a sufficient and long-running stake in comic book properties, a deal with the comic book movie seasoned "Russo Brothers", and a deal with comic book heavies, CBS, and The CW.  Although, while this deal could slingshot Valiant into a "Big Three", it may very well just send them spiraling down a familiar and unfortunate path. For you to truly understand I'll have to ask you to take this time arc with me while I highlight the parallels of Valiants history to today's circumstances in a little story

          In the 1970s, Marvel Comics was undergoing a rapid series of changes in leadership as many found that with Marvels growth, the job would prove too daunting.  Jim Shooter who was brought in as an assistant editor and writer at the time quickly rose the ranks until becoming the ninth editor-in-chief for Marvel.  Shooter did what nobody else could manage to do and got Marvel back on track while also revitalizing the industry as a whole.  However, he did this with a strict grip, and that grip led to many growing weary.  Disputes developed until it became too much for Marvel and they terminated his nine-year tenure in 1987.
          In 1988, Shooter joined Steven J. Massarsky and a group of investors in an attempt to buy Marvel Comics, but their bid fell short to that of Ronald Perelman(No, not Ron Perlman). The group then took their venture capital financing from Triumph Capital and started Voyager Communications in 1989. Valiant, an imprint of Voyager, opened the doors to their fifth-floor loft in Manhatten to numerous writers and artists from Marvel, many of who succumbed to some miscalculations and regime shakeups before finally releasing their first line of original titles in 1992. The titles included Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman, with Eternal Warrior and Archie and Armstrong following up shortly after. At the time, Wizard Entertainment/Wizard Press, now known as Wizard World Inc., was one of the premier magazines of the medium. Wizard ranked Harbinger #1, which would eventually be named "Collectible of the Decade", on its top ten list for a record-breaking eight consecutive weeks, which would only be followed up immediately after with a new record of nine consecutive weeks for Valiants Rai #0. That year Diamond Distributors ranked Valiant as 'Best Publisher under 5% market share' and followed the next year with 'Best Publisher over 5% market share' becoming the only publisher other than Marvel and DC to do so.
         Despite the success for Valiant through 1992 and Jim Shooter even receiving a lifetime achievement award for co-creating the Valiant Universe during a ceremony that also honored Stan Lee for his co-creation of the Marvel Universe, Jim Shooter left the ship before it even lost sight of land. By the end of 1992, Valiant and Shooter had parted ways, with Massarskywho before joining Shooter was nothing m saying, "Jim had a different idea as to the direction of the company, and was asked to leave."  As to if this was the beginning of the downfall or not, I'm not entirely sure, but it is worth noting that this was the first hiccup in Valiant's rise, and will come into play later on.

          In 1994, shortly after Shooters departure and the last of the projects put into play during his time including Ninjak, H.A.R.D. Corps, The Second Life of Doctor Mirage and Timewalker, Voyager Communications was bought by Acclaim Entertainment. Acclaim was a company that was formed by employees who had departed the Atari renegade, Activision. Acclaim was known for its games based off of television, movie and comic licenses. The company was most known for its work with the World Wrestling Federation and its work with Midway Games. To nobody's surprise, Acclaim went on to create a slew of games based on several of Valiant's characters and even put XO Manowar alongside Iron Man. From Massarsky's perspective, this didn't seem like a bad deal; Acclaim was buying up companies and licenses left and right and even became the first gaming company to have a motion capture studio built into their headquarters. In fact, this probably was a solid deal, but unfortunately, as I stated before, Acclaim's biggest income was from the WWF and the company had already been slipping with their production.
          Does anyone remember Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX? Well, I do. The demo proved this to be a worthy opponent to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and the only game to effectively touched the sport since, but in 1994 Acclaim failed to refactor the games coding properly and lost the license along with several others that felt Acclaim had failed. Now personally, this would have been a major red flag coming into this deal with Acclaim on a downward spiral, but I also wouldn't have gotten rid of Jim Shooter. After years of success with the WWF, their downward spiral hit its bedrock in 2001 when they failed to match THQ's World Championship Wrestling. At the time, the WWF and the WCW were engaging in head to head bout known as the 'Monday Night Wars' that would lead to a revolution within the business. in 1999, the WWF was not happy with Acclaims recent work and ripped the license away from them and handing it to THQ, and delivering the final nail to Acclaims coffin. While they gave valiant effort(Yes, I went there.)to turn things around by picking up the licensing for Extreme Championship Wrestling, ultimately it failed because much like WCW, the ECW fell to the WWF and went bankrupt while still owing Acclaim money. In 2004 Acclaim saw an end to their slow death at the hands of their former bringer of life.

       In 2005, with Valiant/Acclaim's original characters rights heading to the auction, Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari founded Valiant Entertainment and purchased the rights to the Valiant Comics library from Acclaim Entertainment's estate. In 2007 Valiant hired back Jim Shooter to write new short stories that would accompany hardcover reprints of classic Valiant Universe stories. Yet again, Valiants properties spoke for themselves and reminded fans what once was and that their favorite characters were still here with two of its three collections being named "The Ten Best Collected Editions" over their respective years. In August of 2011, Valiant took their rebuild to the next step by hiring multiple Marvel and Wizard Entertainment executives, including current Valiant publisher and editor-in-chief Fred Pierce and Warren Simons, former Marvel Comics CEO Peter Cuneo as Valiant's chairman and an investor in Valiant Entertainment and Gavin Cuneo serving as CFO and COO. Keep in mind that at this time Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari continued to serve as CCO and CEO and in May of 2012, Valiant Entertainment began publishing new monthly based on the Valiant Comics universe of characters.
          Valiant Entertainment relaunched the Valiant Comics universe with an event dubbed "The Summer of Valiant" with four ongoing titles, one launching with each new month. With X-O Manowar leading the charge in May, it received over 42,000 pre-orders eventually selling through four full priced printings and three reduced priced printings, making Valiant the largest publisher launch in over a decade. In fact, not only did this prompt Valiant to extend the event with a November launch of Shadowman that took the #1 non-Marvel and/or DC comic of the month spot, but their years work paid off once again when at the end of 2012, Diamond name Valiant the "Publisher of the Year under 5% market share" and nominated X-O Manowar #1 for "Book of the Year" at the Diamond 'Gem Awards'.
          Just like before, despite Valiants success, Dinesh Shamdasani was promoted to the seat previously held by co-founder Jason Kothari. With the change on leadership came a change in focus for the books, only this time things turned out for the better with old titles coming to their originally planned end and newer titles shining bright, including Quantum and Woody which walked away with the most nominations for a title at the 2014 Harvey Awards. Valiant took the next two years continuing with new strong titles and propelling themselves to the third largest publisher in the industry and capping off 2016 with 50 Harvey Award nominations, more than any other publisher.

          Fast forward to January 29th, 2018, when it was announced that already 57% owner DMG Entertainment had acquired full ownership of the company, pushing out Dinesh Shamdasani. Valiant had already been working their way onto the big screen since early 2017 with 5 movies based off of Harbinger and Bloodshot in the works over at Sony and the latter of the titles even having Vin Diesel attached, as well as, Quantum and Woody being brought to life by the Russo Brothers' Getaway Productions and a Doctor Mirage series in the works with comic book heavies CBS and The CW to name a few. Here is where things once again become tricky for Valiant. DMG Entertainment is a company that formed around the time of Valiants rise from the ashes. They made big waves with their productions on Looper and Iron Man 3, but they haven't really done much else.  The little they did do however was right up the alley that Valiant was looking for and DMG was brought in to produce the films with Sony. Somewhere along the line, DMG CEO Dan Mintz and Shamdasani apparently didn't see eye to eye in their vision and thus prompted Mintz to buying the company outright for a venture that he believes is a "tipping point" that is ready for the next level.
          Mintz assures us that comic production will not be affected and that the writer of their series will even play a large part in the cinematic universe, but also states that, "You can expect more strong storytelling with a defined road to other platforms." So now we have two paths for Valiant. On one hand, an overzealous businessman might have bitten off more than he could chew and may once again tank Valiant and along with it, his own company; while on the other, the success Valiant has garnished this time around being significantly more than its first go around, combined with a medium that has already proven to be a sure-fire success in this day of age, Valiant Entertainment could propel itself into what would then be known as "The Big Three".
          What does Valiant need to do that the current "Big Two" can't seem to do? Precisely what they've been doing with the comics. A handful of uber focused stories that are nothing like anything else out there, done with utmost effort and utmost quality. I make it sound easy but that's a huge bar to hurdle, especially for a smaller company like DMG. However, it's not too far-fetched either being also backed by Sony, add to it that Valiant has done this for years now and with writers working adjacent it might just be possible. According to Mintz, he doesn't want to keep the ever popular brand "siloed into the comic book area." Cinema is a huge money maker that could do a lot for Valiant and whether this moves turns out to be a repeat of the past or not, Mintz sure seems to think that this was the right move when stated that, "You don't step into something like this lightly. You don't want a very expensive pet."


Which way do our readers think this will play out? Is Valiant making the right moves this time; will an overly aggressive leader or an overstrained medium giving way when least expected shut things down once again? Was Shooter in too aggressive, or was he backed into the corner?  Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the matters in the comments below and discuss with our team.



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1 comment:


  1. This prompted me to take a look at Valiant's nephew's interest and follow up on it. And who would like to read this as well.

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