Sunday, October 1, 2017

Valiant Has Split-Personality Disorder

Okay after a couple of hours of dicking around in Gimp and MSPaint, we're going with this image. I'm not a graphic designer or artist, and I have no idea what I'm doing. I apologize for the overhang on the right side of the image, but I'm a writer/voice actor, not a graphic designer. Not even a little bit. 

That being said, Valiant is a comic company I've had my eye on for a while now. I'm familiar with their comic X-0 Manowar from the 90's back when I was a kid, but apart from that I really don't know many of their properties. I know that they're running the goofy fat acceptance super hero Faith, which fine, whatever, I'm not gonna read that. 

But I find myself judging things by their covers quite frequently. More often than not I'm right. I've bought several albums, books, and comics based on cover alone, and usually I've got a good nose for that kind of thing. If there's a quality cover, there's more than likely a quality product underneath it. 

So, after following Valiant Comics on twitter, and becoming exposed to several of their covers for upcoming comics runs, I was getting very excited. I didn't know who Quantum & Woody were, but I wanted to read their comic. It looked fun, and funny. On the same tack, Bloodshot looked badass, with tons of action and gun fights, which I'm always up for. Well, I received some news that makes me think that someone at Valiant might be a few cans short of a six pack.

Few side dishes short of a Thanksgiving dinner.

Few comics short of a full run.

Insert your own metaphor here.

What I'm talking about are these articles, archives of which I'll link here and here, because one is Washington Post and they don't deserve any more attention than they already get, if they even deserve that much. The reason I'm bringing these to your attention is because it's two very different approaches to writing comics from the same company, and Valiant seems to be giving their writers quite a bit of rope. 

So in the first we find out that the writer for the upcoming Quantum & Woody series is, wait for it, brace yourself, a writer for Stephen Colbert's The Late Show. Now, if you've been keeping up, since Colbert took over and the primaries last year, The Late Show hasn't had a funny joke within five miles of the studio it's filmed in. It is a black hole of anti-humor and political messaging that is so embarrassing and cringeworthy I'm amazed that Colbert can sleep at night. Hiring one of the architects of that abortion of comedy to write comic books seems to me like a quick way to tank your numbers into the Earth's mantle. 

Just look at IDW. They reported a 91% loss in net income this year after they decided to do some dumb shit and put lots of political messaging in their comics, and hire an anti-military/anti-government/anti-cop SOCIALIST to write for G.I. JOE. Here's the article if you think I'm shitting you. Not to mention the numbers over at comichron for August of this year, wherein Marvel can barely get a book to top 86K, while DC has 3 books over 100K, and one of those is a 1st issue! Social justice, politics, cultural marxism, whatever you want to call it, kills industries, and it kills businesses. We have definitive proof of it. This is irrefutable at this point.

So why, in the name of everything good and decent, you would hire someone who writes for the social justice wankfest that The Late Show has become to write for your comic books when Valiant is already a small publisher is completely beyond me. If word of this gets out, thanks to people like me talking about it, you're already looking at low starting sales. Then, on top of that, if the man goes through with his plan to do social commentary and political jokes (because the comic is going to take place mostly in Washington, D.C.), you're going to watch those sales fall drastically over the next five issues, until nobody is reading it, and it gets quietly cancelled and Kibblesmith gets shunted out the backdoor so they can reboot it in five years when hopefully no one remembers this horrendously stupid decision they're making.


I could be wrong. Maybe Kibblesmith will do an excellent job, the story will be interesting and funny, the comic well-drawn, and the political jokes will be understated and non-partisan. It might be a perfectly wonderful series that will blow me away, and if it is I'll happily eat crow over it. 

I just sincerely doubt that's going to happen. And it's up to Kibblesmith to prove me wrong. Either way, I'm going to give the new Quantum & Woody a shot. It looks fun, and if he keeps his raging I-HATE-DRUMPF boner in his fucking pants he'll probably do at the very least a decent job. We'll see.

Now on the other side of this company suffering from split-personality disorder, we have Bloodshot. This is another one I'm not familiar with, but the leaked covers from Valiant's twitter feed of Bloodshot Salvation look cool as shit. And, in the second article I linked above, it seems that somewhere along the way the writer grew a brain, or at the very least a sense of self-awareness. I'm going to quote him here:

“The more I worked on the book, the more the political aspects I had planned just started to feel obvious and forced,” Lemire told IGN. “So, Bloodshot will not longer be going up against the alt-right or any white supremacists in this series. That stuff was feeling very heavy-handed. And I also felt that including the white supremacist/alt-right angle was just distracting from the story I really wanted to tell with Salvation. So I have removed many of those elements from the series altogether. That's the joy of working really far ahead, it allows me to get a sense of the series as a whole and shift things.
“I know, personally, I get enough politics on a day-to-day basis and know that it's the last thing I want to read about in my comics. And if I wasn't feeling it, I knew the reader wouldn't either. So instead I've adapted and adjusted things and focused more on the aspects of the story that excited me. Salvation will be a series that explores faith, revenge and parenthood, which is what I originally wanted to focus on anyway.”

 Hat tip to Jon Del Arroz for showing me this interview, and making my night better after the Quantum & Woody news was so disappointing.

This is how people should be thinking, in my extremely arrogant opinion. But, as they say, it's not bragging if you're telling the truth, and I'm right on this. If you're concentrating on political messaging, you're not concentrating on story. If you're not concentrating on story, you're not writing something for fans to enjoy, you're jerking off. Stop it. It's bad for sales, and it's bad for your portfolio. You really don't want to be known as "The Person Who Killed [Insert Comic Franchise Here]". Or at least I wouldn't. 

For example, I don't envy Dan Slott his position of "The Guy Trying To Kill Spider-Man," and I don't envy Aubrey Sitterson his position of "The Guy Trying To Kill G.I. JOE," and I don't envy Maggs Visagio in any way, shape or form.

But, because the Bloodshot writer, Jeff Lemire, has decided to remove all the screeching about white nationalism, the alt-right, the KKK, and all these other imaginary problems, and concentrate on "faith, revenge, and parenthood" I'm fully confident he's going to tell a much better story that will appeal to a much wider audience. Bloodshot Salvation is probably going to do very well because of this. I'm going to be picking it up, and if it's good I'll be recommending it to people.

Now, I'm not an artist, I don't know from good art, I can't explain to you why one drawing is better than another. But I know good storytelling, and I know a good comic when I read it. So while I won't be able to critique from an artistic point of view, I'll be telling you guys if I like it or not. And given what I've seen so far, I think I'm going to.

But so far as Valiant goes as a company, they seem to be straddling a fine line wherein they let their writers just...kind of get away with whatever they want. They have Faith, the fat acceptance "super hero", they have X-0 Manowar, the man in the mechanical suit who spends his days ass-raping robots to defend humanity, Quantum & Woody, the night and day brothers with unstable powers trying to find out who killed their fathers (Woody was adopted), and Bloodshot, the nanite infested super soldier. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of editorial oversight at Valiant, and as a result they have a very eclectic catalogue, with more titles than I've listed here. 

Nobody went and told Lemire that he had to include all the political dreck he was originally going to, and likewise I'd imagine nobody told Kibblesmith that he had to tone the political shit down. They seem to have a serious amount of creative freedom, which means that we're going to have a real-life example of which approach is more beneficial to an entertainment business. That is, of course, if Kibblesmith goes full SJW with Q&W, which I fully expect him to but hope he won't. Faith appears to be selling well enough that they haven't cancelled it yet, so really who can say?

All I know is that Valiant is a very interesting company, with a very confusing case of split-personality disorder, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. The article on Q&W is disheartening, and gives me an acute sense of dread about what I might be spending my money on, but I'm willing to dole out some dosh and see what happens. You'll have to make up your own mind. But it's clear to me that Valiant is a company to watch very closely over the next year. 

Very closely.

No comments :

Post a Comment