A Guide to Valiant Entertainment's Superhero Universe
Sunday's news that Valiant Entertainment has received a nine-figure investment from DMG Entertainment to fund movie and television development (in addition to an additional eight-figure investment in Valiant as a whole) proves that the company has the potential to make a Marvel-size impact outside of the comic book store — but those looking to get a jump on the next big thing might find themselves wondering, just who are the Valiant characters, anyway?
The Valiant mythology as it currently stands can be roughly split into the following areas: Psiots, Aliens, Immortals and Everyone Else Trying To Deal With Them (although that latter group is quite varied, as you'll soon discover). Of those different categories, "psiots" is the only term requiring some level of description; essentially, it's Valiant's version of Marvel's Inhumans or mutants — super powered individuals whose abilities are genetic, as opposed to the result of some outside interference, although some psiots require their abilities to be jumpstarted by others.
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The premiere psiot in Valiant mythology is a figure called Toyo Harada, who used his abilities in secret to build a business empire, which includes something called the Harbinger Foundation — an organization whose true purpose is to locate and train other psiots. Before you write him off as a Professor Xavier clone, however, there's one important difference: Harada's kind of the bad guy of the story. In recent stories, he's not only revealed his powers to the world, but recruited some questionable comrades — including robots, aliens and maybe a supernatural being or two — with the goal of bringing his vision of utopia to the world, a course of action that has set him at odds with every other government on the face of the planet.
Harada's journey to this position including a conflict with a young psiot whose power matched his; their battle was at the core of the 25-issue Harbinger series. His current predicament is the center of the recently-launched Imperium series.
The extra-terrestrial element of the Valiant universe can be found in the X-O Manowar and Unity series. X-O Manowar's concept can be summed up in one simple line: "What if Conan the Barbarian became Iron Man?" In this case, that means a fifth-century Visigoth kidnapped by aliens, who escapes captivity in a stolen suit of alien armor only to discover that he's arrived back in 21st century Rome, with a weapon more powerful than anything else on Earth. Well, almost anything else on Earth — the Unity series features Ging-R, a giant robot sent to Earth to destroy X-O Manowar, only to decide to hang around and help humanity instead.
Immortals, meanwhile, are represented by three brothers: Ivar, Aram and Gilad Anni-Padda. Following the accident that gave them eternal life — by sucking the life-forces from everyone else in the city around them — the three went their separate ways: Ivar discovered holes in reality that allowed him to travel through time, while Aram devolved into a drunken haze that lasted millennia (and persists to this day, more or less); Gilad, meanwhile, ended up in the service of the Geomancer, a mystical entity that is constantly reborn in new bodies to protect the Earth and guide the future of mankind as a whole.
Each of the three have anchored their own series: Gilad can be found in Eternal Warrior (and also the Unity series), Aram becomes one of the two leads in buddy comedy Archer & Armstrong (Archer, meanwhile, is a child warrior trained to kill Aram; their friendship is complicated), while Ivar heads up the new Timewalker series.
Understandably, the emergence of such beings has resulted in humanity trying to catch up. That's where characters like Bloodshot (a nanite-powered super-soldier whose memory was wiped in an attempt to transform him into the perfect killing machine; think of him as the dark side of the Captain America dream) and Ninjak (a British secret agent who likes to dress as a ninja) come into things. There's also Quantum and Woody, two brothers who ended up with superpowers as the result of an accident, with the unfortunate side-effect of them having to maintain physical contact once every 24 hours or else they'll both die.
There are other characters in Valiant's mythology — the company claims around 1,500 in its IP library — such as Doctor Mirage, a woman who can speak to the dead; Shadowman, a mystic powered by voodoo; and Rai, the cyborg defender of Japan in the year 4001. With the current incarnation of the company's mythology only a few years old (Valiant Entertainment relaunched its comics line in 2012), it's remarkably easy for new readers to catch up on whatever characters and concepts they might be interested in, with "team" series like Unity or The Valiant offering the chance to sample multiple ideas at once.
Whether or not any of these ideas will be accepted by mainstream movie audiences depends to be seen, of course; movies like Green Lantern or Marvel's multiple attempts at a solo Hulk project have demonstrated that the journey from comic to multiplex screen isn't always an easy, or indeed a successful, one. But there's certainly the potential for Valiant to create a Marvel-esque shared on-screen universe out of what's on the page already, if the audience is willing to accept it.
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