The Valiant Tangent

Welcome to the first installment of The Valiant Tangent, a series of articles whose goal it is to chronicle some of the stories and characters from Valiant Comics, and the things that made them not only cool, but some of the greatest of all time. We’re going to take a very in depth look at some series and characters form Valiant comics out there, paying extra special attention to what is commonly know as “VH1″… no, not the cable music channel, but the time period known to fans that began when Valiant originally started in 1990 and ended during the Acclaim Comics run just a few years ago…

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Stephen Pakula, and I am a HUGE Valiant fan. Up until early this year I was the editor for CPM Manga, and although I don’t edit comics as my primary job, I am still in the publishing industry. So what makes me qualified to write about Valiant? Simple…I’m a fan. I absolutely love those old comics and I want to share my love for them with the hopes that other people will get turned on to them as well. I’ll be honest, I’d much rather read the old Valiant books than some of the new crap that is out there today. During the course of this column we’ll get into why that is, and why certain modern books can’t hold a candle to the old Valiant stuff (here’s a hint…it’s because certain books today suck, that’s why.)

And why exactly should you care about a line of comics from yesteryear anyway? What makes them so damn special? Well, there are a few reasons. The first, and possibly most important, is that Valiant Comics were just plain fun. When was the last time you remember sitting down with a comic and thoroughly enjoying every minute of the experience? These comics had substance…unlike some books today that can be sped through in under five minutes. But the most important thing that separates Valiant Comics from the rest is continuity. Valiant (for most of its existence, but primarily through its first few years) had the tightest continuity around, back when continuity actually meant something. Every page of every book had some relevance to every other Valiant book. It truly felt like you were part of a shared universe, and it was done in a clever and original way. Speaking of continuity, I keep reading interviews with certain industry professionals that say similar negative things about continuity…mainly that they would rather not deal with continuity because, according to them, it gets in the way of what they would consider to be telling a good story. My question is why can’t a good story be told within the bounds of continuity. When I hear that their storytelling abilities are stunted because of it I have to think that the creators are just not very creative anymore. Continuity is what has kept comics around for decades and it should not be tossed aside because there are those that are just not talented enough to work within its guidelines. But anyway…

, a terrific website that does a great job of keeping the memory of Valiant Comics alive. This column will focus strictly on the storylines and characters…in my opinion, the things that should be focused on in a comic book company. (That’s another reason why a lot of today’s books stink…the publishers put too much emphasis on the creators of books, and not the books themselves. I don’t know about you, but if I was buying and enjoying a series, and found out that the next issue was going to be delayed for X amount of months or years because the writer or artist was slacking, I’d be pissed off that the people in charge didn’t just reassign the rest of the book to someone else. Stopping or delaying a series just to placate a creator is just poor management. Back when I was at CPM, if one of my freelancers wasn’t doing the job that I hired them to do, then I told them to hit the bricks while I gave the job to someone else. The book is the most important thing…it’s amazing how few people in the industry don’t share that philosophy. But I digress…)

Anyway, I hope that you will join me as we explore some truly amazing books. If you’ve read Valiant in the past, hopefully this will be a great place to reminisce. If you’ve never picked up a Valiant book, I hope this column will make you want to run out and find them (and they are very easy to find if you know where to look). At the very least, I hope this column will give you something to read to waste time on a slow day at work. And although it may not seem like it at first, there is a method to this column. We are going to start by introducing the first Valiant books, issue-by-issue and story-by-story. Once that is done we will hit our first benchmark—dissecting Unity, the first (and perhaps greatest) Valiant crossover. Not only was this the pinnacle of Valiant’s creativity and excellence, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best comic book crossovers EVER. I can’t wait to talk about it…it’s going to kick major ass.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you come back next time when we start our long and in depth journey. It’s going to be a fun ride!

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Stephen Pakula lives in the Bronx.

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