Thursday, August 17, 2006

Valiant Comics: Gaze not unto the Panel, for the Panel Gazes back

There was a Valiant Comics reunion panel at the San Diego Comic Con in 2005. About 10 people who had worked at Valiant showed up: Kevin Van Hook, Rodney Ramos, Sean Chen, Bernard Chang, Jeff Gomez, Howard Simpson, myself, and a few others that I'm forgetting. The panel was brought about by the nice folks over at Valiant, a great website if you harbor a secret love for Solar, Turok, X-O Man-O-War, and the robot killer with the white go-go boots. The number of us up on the podium was about equal to the number of people in the audience, partly because there wasn't a lot of promotion. Still, a good time was had by all; we brought up bits and pieces of the past as questions were asked about the early days of Valiant when Jim Shooter was still running things, when Bob Layton took over, etc.

This year there was a second panel, one that was actively promoted, and, lo and behold, about 50 people showed up, up about 38 from last year. I walked in expecting to see the other artists and writers, but at 5 minutes to go, no one was there. And by 5 minutes after, it became clear that no one was going to show up either.

Now, let’s be clear about my credentials. I worked on a number of Valiant books: Turok, Magnus, Geomancer, X-O, Shadowman, The Grackle, Trinity Angels, Troublemakers, and probably a few more that I can't even remember right now. Even more impressive, I survived a couple regime changes at the top. I’m eminently qualified to be up there. However, I was not editorial, I’m not a writer, and I can’t tell you all the things that a Kevin VanHook can about why certain characters acted the way they did, why certain plotlines continued the way they did. And those are great questions to ask when you’re a fan sitting in the audience.

So, over the next hour, very few people walked out, indicating that I was not nearly as boring talking about this stuff as my wife thinks I am. I’m not quite sure that I’d fall into the category of “entertaining”, but I figured that for whatever was brought up, I may as well try to continue the conversation with any interesting tidbits that happened to relate, however tangentally. I was actually surprised to see that almost no one was going to jump on a few of the things that I said that might have been controversial, a couple of lines about Shooter’s working methods that I was critical of, stuff like that, but no one did. If you stumbled across this post by searching for Valiant Comics, then come to the panel next year. I'm sure there will be some more people than me next time.

The reality is that I believe that most comic fans don’t want to know what actually goes on behind the scenes of their favorite comics company. They may think that they want to, but it does spoil a bit of the magic for most people. And I think that most creators know this, and will soft sell even the controversial stuff when asked.

Either that, or I’m simply too damn critical.

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