PopCultHQ spent last week up in the Pacific Northwest for the 15th Annual Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, WA. One of the highlights for us was the number of remarkable individuals in the comic book industry who were willing to take time out to speak with us. On Thursday, which was a shortened opening day running from 2-7pm, the first stop we made was one of the most visible booths on the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center, Valiant Comics.
Prior to the show, we were fortunate to confirm interviews with some people at Valiant that are the backbone of the indie publisher. Our first was with a man whose name may not be as familiar with the average Valiant reader as most of the creators, but Warren Simons plays an integral, and extremely important, role with Valiant as their Editor-in-Chief.
So grab a refreshing beverage and sit back and hear what the day-to-day operations look like for him, listen as he discusses characters and titles from the Valiant Universe new and old, and find out what he loves about Emerald City Comicon!
PopCultHQ: Valiant has done so much, last year was amazing. You guys really broke down the walls of what it means to be an indie publisher. From Archer & Armstrong beer to Valiant emojis, and partnerships and relationships that you just really don’t expect from a publisher. So I really wanted to get to know the people behind the publishers. Most people when they think Valiant, they might think Matt Kindt, Darick Robertson, and think about all of these creators but when someone like me thinks of Valiant, I think of Hunter Gorinson …
Simons: We all do.
Gorinson: (informing Simons about our relationship)…I send him emails every day.
PopCultHQ: Right! So that’s who I speak with and it makes me wonder what’s going on behind-the-scenes with the publisher? The people making these relationships and connections. What can you tell us about your role as Editor at Valiant and what that looks like with people presenting new projects to you or how you incorporate that into the massive Valiant Universe, as it is?
Warren Simons: As you noted, we’re a company that has an extraordinarily talented, dedicated freelance pool but also have incredible people upstairs who we work with, like Hunter who is our Marketing…
Simons: Genius. There you go.
PopCultHQ: Yes, capital “G”.
Simons: Russ (Russell Brown) who is our licensing genius…
Simons: …guru. Fred [Pierce] who is our Publisher, Dinesh [Shamdasani] is our Chief Executive Officer, so we have a really good crew upstairs. Full of talented people who really strive to make Valiant the best comics in the industry, which is, of course, a challenge because we’re a smaller company. We only publish somewhere between probably 6-15 books per month, depending on the month. We try to do everything with a high level of precision so that every time someone is forking over four bucks, or three bucks, or nine dollars for a comic book or a trade, they’re getting a reading experience which wasn’t rushed out. That someone really put their hearts in to build and make great. My job as Editor-in-Chief is basically to manage the day-to-day operations of the editorial department and to help build and oversee the long-term operations of the editorial department, in conjunction with the rest of the team. Because as the great John Donne once said, “No man is an island,” so it’s a good team of iron men up there. My job, for example, Matt Kindt is over there signing so my job is to identify Matt as a talent in the marketplace that I think would be a benefit to Valiant then recruit him, bring him in, have him start working with us, and then edit the work that he’s doing. So I do a lot of stuff like that. I was just up in Artist Alley and had the opportunity to talk to a lot of different artists up there. Part of my job among the editorial staff is to recruit them and then to work with them when they’re in-door. That’s really the day-to-day stuff and part of it is also to make sure the books ship on time. Make sure that schedules are being kept, that the artists are giving us their best work. If anyone is running into deadline problems, try to help out and not be an impediment. Be part of helping to get the solution and then really, to a certain extent, helping build and craft a narrative that’s in the books that you read every day. That’s probably the general rough description of what an Editor-in-Chief does.
PopCultHQ: Awesome. How far ahead are you already looking? I know you were talking Harbinger Wars 2 next year but you guys were talking about 2018 in 2016. So how far along are you right now? Are you working on projects for next year? The year after?
Simons: Where we are now is we’re looking one to two years down the road and figuring out where we’re headed, and then what the publishing line will look like and sometimes that will be a year out, like we are with X-O. We’re launching a book in September that I think it was announced today.
PopCultHQ: Yes, the Bloodshot Salvation news.
Simons: Yeah, with Jeff Lemire. Jeff’s got a bunch of issues in hand and an artist already working on that and we’re not going to be soliciting that for two more months. So we’re very far ahead in some regards, and we also try to be nimble and flexible so that we’re able to audible and add stuff as needed without becoming too large, too robust.
PopCultHQ: That was exactly something I was thinking about while you were talking. What happens if you’re thinking a year ahead, what happens if you find three or four months into a title, there’s some sort of reaction or response from fans? Do you then take time and make adjustments due to critical response?
Simons: In an ideal world, we’d be able to but I think we’ve done a really good job of just trusting our gut, going with what we believe in, working very hard to make it great, and then trying to execute. There are certain books that take us by surprise that we’re very happy with. Divinity had, I think, ten printings of the first issue or something like fifteen printings of the first three trades, overall per individual issue, which is something very healthy, so we love to see that. When we see that, we know that it’s touching a nerve in the marketplace and it’s important for us to be cognizant of that. If a book is not hitting the creative like we’d want it to then we might adjust but we try to trust our guts upstairs and execute and thankful we have a lot of talented people who help try to make sure that the vision gets executed.
PopCultHQ: That’s wonderful. Speaking of that, talking on some surprise ones. Has there been any that have surprised you that the creators produced that blew you away or weren’t expecting?
Simons: Yeah sure, that happens all the time. Secret Weapons…
Simons: Eric [Heisserer] is doing…the scripts are wonderful. I re-read them on the plane ride over today. There’s just moments in all of them that are beautiful, characterizations that are wonderful, he’s got such a feel for these characters and they’re brand-new but I feel like I’ve known him for years already. He’s a talented writer. Britannia. I think Peter Milligan did an exceptional job with that. The reaction we saw with that was wonderful. Faith, Jody Houser‘s gem, just a wonderful job on Faith. We have something coming up with that which I’m very excited about. Divinity. The list goes on and on for me where it’s like talking about my children. I love all of them. I’m constantly surprised and that’s why I think I love the job so much is because I like to see the writing and the art, at what comes in
And that’s just the writing side that I’m talking about. You know, getting in a cover from Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic or Lewis LaRosa. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to create so much under Valiant with these characters which were created by guys like Joe Quesada and Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Shooter, Bob Layton…
PopCultHQ: Just such history.
Simons: Great history.
PopCultHQ: I even brought with me my Archer & Armstrong #0, all my stuff from ’92 and ’93, but I also have Savage with me.
Simons: That’s wonderful. Yeah, we stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s great.
PopCultHQ: With the Valiant Universe continuing to expand. Last year was big with “The Future of Valiant” ushering in Generation Zero, Harbinger Renegade, and all. How’s the response or reception been for integrating those with these long-lasting characters like X-O Manowar or Colin King?
Simons: Just great. Couldn’t be happier with it.
PopCultHQ: Because that’s not an easy thing to pull off.
Simons: It’s not. It’s really not.
PopCultHQ: You have such storied characters and then saying that these will be the new ones.
Simons: Valiant fans [aren’t] your average fans, they’re…a little nicer…more open-minded…
PopCultHQ: More receptive to what you’re doing.
Simons: Exactly. Because you also have to understand that these are guys who came to Valiant in the first place, as opposed to going to Marvel or DC. So I think their appetite for something new is a little different.
PopCultHQ: Real quick, one last thing. I know we’re short on time.
Simons: (looks to Hunter) What do you think, Hunter?
Gorinson: (signals thumbs up)
Simons: Thumbs up from Hunter.
PopCultHQ: Nice. A++ from The Genius himself. So, this isn’t your first time in Seattle, is it?
Simons: No, it’s not. I love Seattle. One of my favorite American cities, actually.
PopCultHQ: No kidding?
Simons: Yeah, I love Seattle.
PopCultHQ: What is it about Emerald City Comicon that you love? I know ReedPOP puts on several cons across the country…
Simons: I think this might be the best Artist Alley in the industry.
Simons: Every year I come back to Seattle, the Artist Alley is exceptional. I love the Artist Alley here, I love the city itself, it’s one of my favorite shows of the year. In fact, if I had to go to only one show a year, it would be probably be this one. It’s not insane like San Diego or New York, where you can’t walk around. There’s plenty of space to walk around. Like today, people aren’t mobbing you.
PopCultHQ: But even for a Thursday afternoon, it’s a pretty decent turnout.
Simons: No, it’s packed. It’s packed, it’s just not…it tends not to get claustrophobic.
Simons: There’s a lot of space here. I just like the layout. I love Seattle, it’s one of my favorite cities, as I noted. I try not to travel too much, but I love this show.
PopCultHQ: Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Simons: Thank you. I appreciate it Jason.
Gorinson: Thanks man, great seeing you. And thank you for all the coverage you do.
Simons: Yes, thank you! We appreciate it!
Special thanks to Warren, Hunter, and all the incredible people at Valiant for their time and making us feel welcome. Be sure to check out our interview with CEO Dinesh Shamdasani! And be sure to stay up on all the latest with Valiant Entertainment by following them online and social media. Links can be found below.