PopCultHQ was fortunate to be on hand to cover 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 Friday, we returned to the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center for a series of interviews and found ourselves back at Valiant Comics‘ booth.
Prior to the show, we were fortunate to confirm interviews with some people at Valiant that are the backbone of the indie publisher. The second interview with the indie publishing company this time was with Valiant’s CEO and CCO Dinesh Shamdasani. One thing that you will find, if you haven’t already, is that Dinesh is very active on social media, not only tweeting about announcements but retweeting fans’ tweets. He’s also a member of some Valiant comic book groups on Facebook and regularly interacts and engages with the fans within. It’s quite admirable seeing someone in Dinesh’s position to make the time to stay connected with the readers, followers, and fans. And in case you were wondering, or happen to meet Dinesh at an upcoming con, before our interview he explained his surname is pronounced like “fake water”: sham-Dasani, coincidentally right after he offered and brought me a bottle of, yup, you guessed it, Dasani water. Thought that might be useful to someone out there.
So grab a refreshing beverage and sit back and hear what the Dinesh had to share regarding the return of titles not seen from Valiant in a while, 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: I was talking with Warren [Simons] yesterday and we talked about the fact that 2016 was a huge year for you guys.
Dinesh Shamdasani: We had a good year.
PCHQ: Beside all the titles released, “The Future of Valiant,” as well as your new characters entering the Valiant Universe, you stepped outside and are doing things other publishers aren’t doing. Archer & Armstrong beer, Valiant emojis, I believe there was something early in the year with Midtown Comics…
DS: Yes, we did the Valiant Summit from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in New York. We partnered with Midtown Comics and did a bunch of live events with them. We love doing those kinds of things.
PCHQ: Definitely. And that’s what’s great is seeing you guys break down the walls of what it means to be an indie publisher. It’s not just publishing comics, you’re stepping outside of that with things like the upcoming webseries NINJAK vs. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE. Is that already complete, as to filming?
DS: We’re halfway through shooting it. We just wrapped three. It’s going to be six episodes so we’ve got about halfway to go. Lot’s of good stuff though. We haven’t announced everything. That’s a fun part about my job. There are big stars in that show that don’t know what is going to be in the show.
PCHQ: What I do know, from last year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC) last year, is we met with Kevin Porter and Ciera Foster, so we knew they’re on board. Jason David Frank has been a follower of ours [our late founder interviewed JDF numerous times], so we’ve known that for a bit.
DS: Yeah, and he’s going to be here at the show!
PCHQ: I know! I’m definitely going to hit him up [during his signing appearances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Valiant’s booth].
DS: So yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to that.
PCHQ: So now with the webseries [in-production], do you have plans for more digital series, or are you waiting to see how that one goes and how fans respond?
DS: No, no, we’re being very aggressive about this. The impetus for us was, first we wanted to make sure we launched publishing correctly, we made sure that our brand was quality storytelling. We were just really focused on that. At the same time, television something we have been working on for a long time. We don’t want to rush that. We want to make sure it’s quality as well. Those are the two ends of the spectrum. In the middle, we wanted to make sure we were bringing in a larger audience, a more diverse demographic, and we took a look at where other publishers or other properties like Marvel, DC, Simpsons, Star Wars, et cetera, how they had evolved. What we found was that Saturday morning cartoons was a huge component to that. And Saturday morning cartoons don’t really exist anymore in the same way today. We found that audience all moved to digital. YouTube was where Saturday morning cartoons essentially exist today so we built the Valiant Universe to feed that crowd, to get them excited about our characters. That’s the first one that we’ve announced. We have a number of really exciting projects on that scale and larger that we’ll be announcing. They’re all being worked on at the moment. It is a division as busy as [any] division is at this point. So you’ll see it evolve to another leg…with them.
PCHQ: And I know that you’ve been planning 2018 for a while.
PCHQ: We had HARBINGER WARS 2 announced last year.
DS: On the publishing side? Absolutely. I’m trying to think of what I can even tease you with. Secret Weapons coming up this year. Psi-Lords. We have long-term plans with Ninjak. For Shadowman. We know what’s coming out of Harbinger Wars 2, where we’re going from there. We have long-tern plans for Secret Weapons. Warren and I are always nudging each other like, “Oh man, Eric’s idea for that other thing right after that, aww it’s going to be great!”
PCHQ: Is this your first time working with Eric [Heisserer]?
DS: No, Eric and I have been working together for a couple years now, can’t remember exactly how long. How we met Eric was that we brought him on board for the Bloodshot film. Eric’s a sweetheart, an incredibly talented writer. He wrote a script which we loved titled, “Story of Your Life,” which became Arrival. which one an Oscar this year. So we loved that script, we met him as we were developing Bloodshot. We had a script from the very talented Jeff Wadlow and we wanted to do more work on it and Jeff was directing at that point so we had a meeting with all the writers, and Eric came in and he was amazing, super collaborative, incredibly smart, and such a great writer and so we started working with him on that and we fell in love with him. We were developing Harbinger so we talked to him about that and he was amazing in Harbinger too. He’s written this incredible Harbinger story, my favorite Harbinger story of all time is actually the movie that we built for Eric, that Eric wrote for us. I’m very excited about that.
So the way movie development works is that you do rewrite after rewrite after rewrite because it’s a different kind of format than comic books because you have to get every single thing right the first time out in ninety minutes. There’s no room for error, there’s no catch it in the next issue, there’s no continuity gaps that you fix in the trade. It all has to be perfect, so there so much to get into that and very luckily for us is Eric fell in love with the characters. He had an idea for Livewire that we studied in the Harbinger film but we had to cut vast portions of it for space. My guess is that it sat like an itch in his brain and festered until he felt he had to come to us and say, “Hey, I want to write…for you. He pitched his story for Secret Weapons and I was blown away. He went to Warren, Warren was blown away. That’s how Eric has become involved.
PCHQ: Wonderful. And you guys are taking on a lot of new talent, such as B. Clay Moore with Savage.
PCHQ: Jody has been great with Faith. Speaking of Rafer Roberts, tell me we’re going to see Archer & Armstrong sometime in the foreseeable future.
DS: Absolutely! 100%, you’re going to see them in the Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight, so they’re in that. They’re also in another love letter we’re doing. We’re doing a love letter to Rai #0 where we’re essentially telling…it’s a love letter to Rai #0 but it isn’t Rai #0. In that Rai #0 was everything that was happening today all the way to 4001 including all these new pieces the retro Bloodshot, H.A.R.D. Corps, we’re not doing that. We’re doing, “Here’s the Valiant Universe starting at the earliest period, the three brothers and the Boon, and working all the way up to 4001.” It’s the story of Rai in 4001 looking back and learning everything that’s gone on. We look at it as our love letter to Rai #0 but also hopefully an entry-point for new readers to come and in 22 pages learn what our Universe is like, why it’s so cool, and why we love it so much. Why it’s different.
PCHQ: Some of your new titles actually added almost like new new dynamics to the storylines and characters in the Valiant Universe. You look at Savage and think how is this going to tie-in or connect with, say, X-O [Manowar]. Or like Britannia for another one. I mean, we know Valiant is very methodical and strategic to what what they do so we know that there is more.
DS: There’s definitely plans. One of the perks, really one of the joys of the job that I have and Warren has and the rest of the team has, is not only do we get to build stories with these characters, but we get to build the Universe. Part of that is this big macro storytelling where we get to look at the Universe and say, “Hey, you know what we’re missing? We’re missing a character that is a Godlike character. Someone like Odin is to the Greek Pantheon Superman is to the DC books. If you’ve read Kingdom Come…
PCHQ: I’m a huge Alex Ross fan so I know Kingdom Come. 😉
DS: Yeah, he’s fantastic. So I’m sure you’ll remember the third act, the turn, comes when everyone’s fighting, everyone’s battling, so from a storytelling standpoint, the only organic way to shift that story into the third act without a character portraying, the characterization of them being out of character, is for a big force like Superman who can turn all these guys around, who can convince them to change. We didn’t have that kind of force in our Universe. When you think about it, beyond Divinity, there really isn’t a character who can do that. X-O is very powerful but he can’t turn up and shift the course of a story in that way. Bloodshot can’t. Ninjak can’t. So we set out to build that character for ourselves. In the same way, there’s certain structural designs we had that led us to building Savage, into building Britannia. I won’t tell you what they are yet because it’ll ruin the plans we have going forward but rest assured, much like Divinity, there are very specific plans that we have and goals that we have for those characters.
PCHQ: Plans for Gub Gub?
DS: I love Gub Gub.
PCHQ: Do you? I’m a big fan. When he and Archer had the body-swap was hilarious.
DS: Gub Gub’s a great character. We all love him. We don’t have any specific plans for him right now, but we will. We just wrapped A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong, we’ve got Armstrong being in a couple of different places including the Rai zero book, he’ll be in there. We do have plans for some of the other characters. We will get to Archer & Armstrong very soon but at the moment, no concrete plans.
PCHQ: That’s great. Let me ask…Emerald City Comicon in Seattle…
DS: Yes. Great show.
PCHQ: What is it about Emerald City Comicon that you like, or perhaps Valiant as a whole likes about ECCC?
DS: First of all, Reed [ReedPOP] is fantastic. They’re complete professionals and they run a fantastic show. They are so meticulous in building a show and curating it. That’s the first thing. Second thing is the crowd that comes to Emerald City is such a great crowd. I mean, the city has a great vibe, great personality, and we see that in the people that attend this convention. They’re huge comic fans and we’ve built a huge comic fan base here. It’s the start of the convention year, so we kickoff at Emerald City.
PCHQ: Anything you’d like to share or pass along to the readers?
DS: Free Comic Book Day is coming up and I’m really excited to see the reaction from fans because we put so many because we put so many teases in there. You’re going to get your first look at a major component, a new character, a major character.
PCHQ: We’ll be at Joe Field’s store [Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff] in Concord, CA so we’ll certainly be looking forward to that on Free Comic Book Day. Final question: Who are you reading right now?
DS: Outside of Valiant? Stained [from 451 Media]. I just read Stained last night which is David Baron‘s new book. Very excited about what he’s doing with that book. That’s the first thing that comes to mind.
PCHQ: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time, Dinesh.
DS: Thank you, man. That was awesome, lot of fun.
If you would like to keep up on where Valiant will be appearing this year,
take a look at their 2017 Convention Schedule
to see if they are coming to your hometown.
Be sure to check out our interview with Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons too!
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…