The dedicated fans of Valiant Entertainment came out in droves Saturday at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA to hear writer Joshua Dysart, Publisher Fred Pierce and CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani talk about Valiant's first family crossover event, "Harbinger Wars." Also on hand were James Asmus, writer of the upcoming "Quantum & Woody" revival, and colorist David Baron.
Valiant's Marketing & Communications Manager Hunter Gorinson served as moderator and opened the hour-long panel with an announcement that thrilled fans already chanting "Josh, Josh!" as the writer entered the room. Dysart is now exclusive at Valiant, where he will continue to write "Harbinger." After the cheering died down, he discussed how "Harbinger War" fits into the plan for the line of comics.
"This is the firs time that two books are clashing. When you read "Harbinger Wars," you'll see that we've been seeding this thing since "Bloodshot" #1," Dysart said. Calling crossovers somewhat incestuous affairs, he joked, "Incest is always interesting."
As far as the book itself, Dysart explained, "We're taking four issues of every creative decision and turning it up to 11. This is our summer blockbuster." With that in mind, Dysart admitted to recognizing the challenge of ramping up the action while maintaining an "entertaining narrative" with the characters. "Certainly with issue #1, we've done it at least once."
The series also functions as an introduction to two-dozen new characters, including a team of young children who escape from Project Rising Spirit but, as Dysart explained, were tortured into becoming unwilling soldiers. Profiling a couple of the team members, Dysart noted they have unusual power sets. One such character is the Telic, a young girl who sees connections in relativistic space-time. "She can make flash-predictions," clarified the writer. "She can sort of see the near future." Another of the new characters transverses an unusual plane of reality, essentially creating wormholes that Dysart suggested may end up driving him mad.
Gorinson announced "The Harada Protocol" will be activated in "Harbinger Wars" #2.
"It's how to get the blood out," joked Baron.
The protocol is a special set of objectives and skills activated in Bloodshot should he ever encounter Toyo Harada. An event which will come to pass in the crossover's second issue. One of these new tactics will be special suicide nanites designed to burn Harada from the inside out. For Dysart, the protocol also raises some interesting questions for Bloodshot. "His free will may not be his and may never have been his… Imagine you're living your life and then, suddenly, your real purpose just kicks in," Dysart mused. "This is the conflict that Bloodshot was built for."
Shamdasani called it the best "Harbinger" script that Dysart has written yet.
Turning attention from the crossover to the main "Harbinger" title, Dysart said upcoming issues deal with the emotional impact and other consequences from "Harbinger Wars." He also teased the following: "There's also flashbacks to Harada's first encounter with Rising Spirit." Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine will continue sharing art duties on "Harbinger" following the crossover.
According to Shamdasani, "Bloodshot" #10 by Duane Swierczynski and Barry Kitson sees the title take on a more grounded focus than the first nine issues. "What you'll see is a book that builds Bloodshot as a character," he said. It will also build on the changes coming out of "Harbinger Wars."
"Until he became aware, Bloodshot has been a tool of Rising Spirit," Dysart added. "Duane is exploring the themes of sentience and compassion."
Not everything in the Valiant universe is "Harbinger Wars," however, and the panel touched on the recently announced return of "Quantum & Woody" to the line. Writer James Asmus explained he was more than happy to take on the title and that his whole life was bringing him to it. "What I love about the original was the humor, the heart and the insanity. My background is theater and comedy. I wrote dialogue heavy relationship and jokes," he said. "I've spent the last four years writing superhero punch-em-ups and now I get to breathe new life into one of my favorite original concepts of the last thirty years."
The initial storyline will retell the duo's origin while they investigate the death of their father in the present. Asmus also clarified an important point for the title's fans: "Yes, there's a goat."
Highlighting the work by artist Tom Fowler, Asmus suggested, much like himself, that Fowler was destined to draw "Quantum & Woody" with his sense of balance for the book's combination of comedy and action.
An upcoming issue will feature another QR code talking cover, just as Valiant's "X-O Manowar" #1 did. According to Shamdasani, the image is a beautifully rendered goat by artist Tom Fowler. He and Dysart went back and forth on the merits of adding goat dialogue to the cover.
The Valiant team also previewed a pair of upcoming #0 issues. "Shadowman" #0 by writer Justin Jordan and artists including Roberto De La Torre will feature the secret origin of Mr. Dark and serve as interlude in the ongoing "Dark Reckoning" storyline.
"I got these pages yesterday and I said, 'I have to color them,' Baron explained. "I'm happy to bring these pages to life."
"Archer & Armstrong" #0 will see how the brothers got to the Emerald Tower. It will also feature the real epic of Gilgamesh and set up a few threads for issue #10.
While Shamdasani said he couldn't talk too much about the changes coming to "X-O Manowar" as Aric invades an alien planet, he could reveal that the character returns to Earth in #15, where he will meet the Eternal Warrior.
With all these characters meeting up, Shamdasani quickly explained their plan for the Valiant universe going forward. "The titles are meant to be individual, but the line is building a tapestry of relationships," he explained.
In addition to more comics, the "Harbinger Wars" spill into the company's first mobile app, a side scrolling shoot-em-up that recalls fond memories of the 8- and 16-bit eras of gaming. With the first several levels free, subsequent levels will arrive with each new issue of the event. "I don't think anyone has tried it before," said Shamdasani. "It's everything you love about bad games from the '80s."
There will also be a line of variants by artist Matthew Waite featuring the other Valiant titles in homages to great '80s games like "Metroid" and "Double Dragon."
Looking to the international front, Valiant is moving forward with plans to bring their books to foreign language markets. Their first venture brings them to Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries. The titles, in Portuguese, will also be available in the US.
During the audience Q&A, publisher Fred Pierce explained why "Ninjak" and other titles from the old Valiant have yet to appear. "If a writer submits a good pitch, we'll do it. My favorite book back in the day was 'The Eternal Warrior.' Eventually, we hope to have all of the character books roll out, but we want to do it slow and steady." The plan also includes titles not part of the original Valiant line.
Another fan asked Dysart about the response to Faith. He found readers love her, but the character has taken on a life of her own. "As a character, the minute I started writing, she took on a life of her own. She became central to the nature of the Valiant Universe. It was a dark world until Faith appeared," Dysart said. While she began as something of a mouthpiece for the writer, he found that "she's changing the entire vibe of the people that meet her. Everyone is going to become a better person in my book and it's Faith who's doing that. It's extraordinary to work on her."
After a brief pause, he added, "She's also making me a more tolerant person."
"Harbinger Wars" #1, written by Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski with art by Clayton Henry, goes on sale April 3.