I took a brief respite from all the events on Sunday to go check out the Valiant headquarters, only just two blocks away from the Javits Center, where New York Comic Con was being held. It was Sunday, the last day of the convention, and I had already secured most of the stuff I had wanted or sought out to get in the previous days. I reserved Sunday, to go back issue hunting and to just meet and greet some of my favorite creators in the comic book business. After a brief stint in the artist’s alley, where numerous creators were pitching prints, merchandise, sketches, and original art, I left the convention to attend my invitation to the Valiant Entertainment office.
I get a text from Hunter, the manager of Marketing and Communications for Valiant Entertainment, that he’s going to be 15 minutes late. This happens to be perfect for me because I was a bit held up at the convention. You need to tack on an extra 15 minutes to whatever you do there because you will have to push and squeeze yourself through multiple lines and foot traffic just to get anywhere. Anyway, Hunter’s delay couldn’t have come at a better time, as I made my way to a street vendor to purchase an overpriced bottle of water to quench my thirst. I had brought my own bottle of water from home, but quickly dispatched those bottles earlier in the day. As I entered the building, I was greeted by a stern, and terse old man at the front desk.
After telling him where I was going and showing proper identification, he had asked me to sign and let me into the elevators. ”Sixth floor” is what he reminds me just as I enter the elevator. To say the least, I was a bit nervous and anxious as to what to expect. I had never been in any sort of “headquarters” so it was a bit intimidating for me as I stared at the front door of the office waiting for Hunter to arrive. I examined the outside offices, and noticed that they were mostly all publishers of some sort. Each office had fogged glass doors and a modern aesthetic to them that still had an heir of professionalism or maybe I was caught up in the sensationalism of the moment. I set my bag down and open my jacket up. It was a warm day in New York. The two block hike and the combination of not knowing what to expect may have increased my body temperature up a bit. I fan myself off a bit and then…
The elevator sounds and the doors slide open. “Roderick?” I walk down the hall to greet him halfway, “Hunter?”
He apologizes for being late, and I reassure him that it was quite all right because I was running late myself. I snap a quick picture of the Valiant label outside the door with my cell phone just before entering. Hunter sees that as a cue to inform me that he’d prefer no pictures being taken because some of the stuff is still highly sensitive projects that are still in the works. I flitter with my phone for a bit and look up as we enter the offices. We glide past some cardboard boxes opened and filled with X-O Manowar comics and an unattended receptionist desk. We traverse through some more boxes filled with comic books and walking into the main office. Hunter apologizes for the evident mess and explains that they are currently in the process of moving downstairs into a bigger office. I offer my appreciation and understanding as we make our way to the shared office room. Hunter tepidly darts to the center of the room and rubs his eyes, “Well this is it!”
At first glance, I guess I was surprised at how tiny the office was, but then again, they were able to achieve being the 8th leading comic distributor with currently only five titles going on at them moment, what the hell else did I expect? Still from this office, X-O Manowar #1 was able to sell over 42,000 copies which made it one of the best selling books outside of Marvel and DC, just behind The Walking Dead, I was very impressed.
We park a seat in the office of one of the big whigs. There are dry erase boards plastered almost everywhere with covers of the hottest titles by Valiant –Harbinger, Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, and the newly added title Shadowman –adorn the walls with some of the most gorgeous covers and variant covers you’ll ever see. Sitting across the desk from me is Hunter, as he calls my attention to the wall. There are incredible images of Arik from X-O Manowar, and Bloodshot going ballistic with automatic weapons, and even a simple picture of a Torque wearing a Harbinger baseball hat sideways. I look up and gawk at all the amazing work presented before me for a moment.
One cover immediately catches my attention; it looks like a sketch from a notebook and reminds me of Sweet Tooth. Hunter tells me that Jeff Lemire is a big fan of the Harbinger series and was asked to do a cover for it. Being a big fan of Jeff Lemire and knowing he did a cover for Harbinger, one of my favorite series from Valiant, gave me some sort of vindication that I was reading the right title. I glance at the other walls in the office through the glass doors and see monthly deadlines and event story lines coming up in the future and it made me smile. We get up and journey out of the smaller officer into the bigger room.
“So how’d you get started in all this?,” I asked.
Hunter tells me that he initially started out majoring in journalism and then eventually deciding that he wanted to work in the comic industry. He endured the fast-paced, hustle and bustle of the comic book industry by starting an internship at Marvel Comics. After discovering that it just wasn’t for him, he landed his gig at Valiant Entertainment. “Just because it’s a smaller publisher, doesn’t mean the work is less… It’s a lot of work,” he emphasizes. From editing/writing solicits, to the endless amounts of promotional work he’s doing, he genuinely seemed like he was always working on something, especially the new “Planet Death” event happening for X-O Manowar, coming up in January.
“Tell me about that picture over there?”
Hunter looks over as we sit down at a table in the communal part of the offices. He explains to me that the picture is some guy from Italy that was a big into Valiant and the winner of the online promotion they did this past summer. He looked a bit silly, but the picture was up to inspire everyone else about just exactly who they’re working for every day. That fan over in Italy is just as important as that fan two blocks away at the Javits Center and that seemed to still matter to them over at Valiant Entertainment.
That sentiment sort of stuck with me as we concluded my tour and walked down the hallway to the elevator. You really get the sense of grassroots and just enough underdog sentiment, that you have to root and applaud all the efforts they’re doing. Hunter took the interns out on Saturday night to show his appreciation and was heading over to the convention to see how they were doing.
We parted ways amicably. I pushed the button to the lobby in the elevator. I waved goodbye to the stern old man at front desk and passed through the revolving doors with a new sense of greater appreciation for the work Valiant has out right now. As I walked down towards 42nd street, Hunter’s echos of “it’s a lot of work” go through my head and can’t wait to see what’s they have in store for the future.