Valiant Comics: How Not to Put the Cart Before the Horse

Within the last month, Valiant Comics, one of the biggest publishers of the 1990s, has emerged from the depths of bankruptcy to make quite the splash in the comic book world starting with their relaunched versions of X-O Manowar and Harbinger with two more books (Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong) to follow.

You know, that’s only four books, and I’ve gotta be truthful with you guys here:  I think that’s brilliant.

Work with me here. A publisher that’s relatively unknown to comic book readers who started reading after 2000 shows up in the marketplace, and instead of shipping 20 books, they ship one in their first month. When people say, oh this new Valiant stuff is good, what happens?

People know that the title they’re referring to? That had to be X-O Manowar #1. When people went into comic stores saying that they wanted to read something from the new publisher they were hearing buzz about, the comic retailer was able to tell them where to go rather than offering ten different choices and making them feel like they were all important (because when everything’s just as important, nothing is).

Some comic book creators (Mr. Liefeld, I’m lookin’ at you) were on Twitter talking about how Valiant couldn’t have possibly pulled the numbers they did on their first issue without some kind of insider scandal, something where they told retailers to order high on their books and they’d buy back whatever didn’t sell. But really, if you look at it from a publisher’s point of view, that doesn’t make any sense. You’d have to have the money to do that in the first place, and as a starting publisher, that has to be impossible to be the case. I think that this was the case of some really, really smart marketing.

They’re all over the social media map. Their Twitter feed is constantly abuzz with feedback from Valiant fans old and new. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone hinted that toward Rob Liefeld just to get him to blow up about it on Twitter. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known about the X-O debut issue and gotten in on the ground floor.

And what’s beautiful is that it’s just four titles for now, and according to Valiant execs, probably only going up to a total of six titles within the first year of publishing for them.

That’s how you build a universe and a fanbase. Sometimes, the big guys are too bulky, too confusing. The way Valiant is handling things seems like a way to get readers without boggling their brains when they look at the comic racks, and I think it’s a good effort (struggled not to say “valiant” there) for any new publisher in this marketplace.

I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next!

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