Paramount Picks Up Comic Book Movie 'Harbinger' From Sony (Exclusive)

Harbinger Renegades 5- Publicity - H-2019
Marc Laming/Valiant Entertainment
The project moves with its current creative team, including director Justin Tipping and producer Neal Moritz, intact.

Harbinger, the adaptation of a superhero comic published by Valiant Entertainment, has been scooped up by Paramount from its initial home, Sony Entertainment.

Making the crosstown segue are also filmmaker Justin Tipping and the script by Tipping and Joshua Beirne-Golden working off an original draft by Eric Heisserer (Arrival). Also remaining involved is producer Neal Moritz, who was key in the transfer and who moved his first-look deal from Sony to Paramount in 2018. Moritz will produce with Toby Jaffe and Valiant Comics' Dan Mintz.

Harbinger tells the story of a group of superpowered teens who rebel against the corporation that tried to harness their abilities for its own ends.

The project was to have shot this summer or fall, and had actors Dylan O’Brien and Noah Centineo circling, but is no longer on the fast-track, say sources. The plan is to have Harbinger undergo a short development process at Paramount before moving forward with the same creative team.

The move has several potential repercussions.

First, Valiant is a notable publisher of comics not gobbled up by a media corporation but now owned by DMG Entertainment, which fully acquired the comic publisher in January 2018 after having an initial stake. It stands apart from other indie companies such as Image or Boom! in that it maintains and continually expands a cohesive narrative across its titles, like Marvel and DC.

With designs of building its own cinematic universe — a VCU, if one will — the company was already hitching its wagon to Sony, where it set up several of its titles, including Bloodshot. The latter is Valiant’s first produced movie and stars Vin Diesel. Sony is hoping it launches a franchise when it opens Feb. 21, 2020.

Harbinger was to have been the second title to go, also a potential franchise-starter, and Marvel Studios-like, was to have connected with Bloodshot for a cinematic universe, and even led to a crossover event titled Harbinger Wars after the 2013 comic book series of the same name.

That crossover is now unlikely to happen, nor is a VCU with those characters. With the Paramount deal, Valiant now finds itself in the situation similar to 1990s Marvel, with licensed characters at more than one studio. And it could, down the line, even find itself in a similar scenario of a Spider-Man-style divorce battle.

Project insiders say, however, that Bloodshot is less integral to the VCU than, say, Spider-Man, with the company focused on keeping together its core characters such as X-O Manowar, Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong, whose rights it retains.

Sources say the initial deals with Sony were made by a set of entrepreneurs who took over Valiant in 2012, relaunching the publisher for the 21st century. Mintz, the CEO of DMG who now runs Valiant, hopes to keep most of characters together as he builds a cinematic universe. Mintz is trying to position the company as a content engine ready to find a proper partner in the current shakeup of media companies, which are looking to join the streaming wars and find their place in the new Hollywood landscape where those with known and popular intellectual property have an upper hand.

The move also robs Sony of a potential movie franchise as it seeks to build its armory with content. With the terms of the deal undisclosed, it’s unclear what kinds of loss, if any, Sony could feel. The company has made building its Spider-Man brand its top priority and is working on furthering Ghostbusters and Jumanji, among other franchises. It clearly figures it can weather letting Harbinger go.

Paramount — which, like Sony, is also furiously building out its franchises — is about to start shooting Snake Eyes, an action-thriller it hopes will resuscitate the G.I. Joe property.