There’s that perennial question: “Marvel or DC?” Well, to be honest, I would really go with neither. I would even ask a different question: “Valiant or Image?”
I’ve been into comic books as long as I can remember. But my love of comics hit its peak in the early to mid 90s. That was a great time for comics, too. And those were my 7th-10th grade years, so I was the perfect age.
Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Allan Moore’s Watchmen had comics getting critical attention as a serious art form. And Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman had blown the concept of what a comic book based movie could be onto a whole new map that brought international attention onto comics. Conventions happened on a very regular basis and were so crowded they were difficult to navigate.
Once a month, my dad would take me to the largest comics convention in Indianapolis, and I’d scour through the wares of dozens of dealers. Not just a handful as is often found now, but 50 or more dealers offering comics and related goods.
In this heady environment where comics were a beloved commodity in high demand, two new companies arose to offer comics that fit the demands of the day. One was Image Comics, run by the artists who created the books rather than calculating marketers with no connection to the characters. The other was Valiant. Valiant was started, run, and largely written by Jim Shooter who had been Stan Lee’s strongest replacement as Editor in Chief at Marvel up to that time.
Valiant took what Stan had started at Marvel and revamped it for a modern, arguably more mature audience. Like Stan’s characters, Shooter’s Valiant characters were flawed and often powerless against the world despite their superhuman abilities. The stories were soap operatic and the characters stumbled into and across each other in a tightly knit fictional universe.
Unfortunately, Shooter was eventually ousted from Valiant and the line fell to pieces without him. Comics as a whole would decline over the rest of the 90s and Valiant was eventually lost along with the heyday of comics collecting.
Image fell into obscurity, but soldiered on. Valiant died.
But there’s only one rule in comics: “Nobody stays dead except Jason Todd.” (And look what happened with that.)
Valiant has risen from the ashes recently. And what a meteoric rise it is from a quality standpoint. I don’t know how they’re doing financially, and I’m almost terrified to investigate. But I’ve read the first few issues of all the resurrected Valiant titles, and I desperately love all of them. It’s like the ghost of Shooter has come back to tell the best superhero stories possible.
If you haven’t jumped into the Valiant revival, go for it. The universe has been fully rebooted, so you don’t need to hunt down those original Shooter versions of the books. Jump in here and now, and see where the story takes you!
My personal favorite is Harbinger, which was also my favorite in the original Valiant. Harbinger admittedly steals whole-heartedly from the X-Men template. But it offers ridiculously unique and flawed characters dealing with many shades of moral gray and no heroes. Check it out. If you’re disappointed, well…forget you then! 😉