I’m reporting live from the Valiant Digital panel at Emerald City Comic Con, and the topic of the hour is Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe and Beyond.
Following up from NYCC 2016 where footage was shown for the first time of the live action webseries “Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe”, this panel’s title promised some developments on that front. But Valiant also have Youtube partners, projects with animation, and more, so anything digital was on the table for the panel.
The panel is being hosted by Hunter Gorinson, and featuring the original “nerd boss” Dinesh Shamdasani and Josh Johns. Speaking about Valiant’s identity and current work, Shamdasani said the “whole point of view of the company is about storytelling”. Johns said incredible work is going into digital work and Valiant also wants to create digital spaces and support digital artists, hence Valiant digital.
Gorinson digital is also a great “discovery” system for Valiant, since lots of people are watching Youtube now and Valiant wants to be there too. It may be many peoples’ first encounter with the Valiant Universe.
Johns discussed Valiant’s digital partners, including channels with millions of viewers, including “Comicstorian” Benny Potter, who hosts Youtube’s leading comics channel. Potter was in the military for about a decade but during one of his deployments, he did a ton of research into comics backstories, since he didn’t have much else to do. He caught up on superhero histories, and once home and leaving the military, he decided to create a channel to explain to folks what happens in a comic while still leaving room for the reading experience of nuance to be enjoyable, too. He now has 1000 videos featuring backstories to comics. Speaking about why he’s starting making Valiant videos, Potter said he started to feel stale regarding the Big Two, and he reached out to new publishers. Valiant was a publisher he fell in love with and loved the fact he didn’t have to go back decades to understand the universe. He now recommends to others to jump in with less baggage of continuity to deal with.
Teasing future collaborations between Comistorian and Valiant, Potter says they are going to be having more fun with the channel and introduce new ways to engage, including animated series. Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, and others are characters of interest. Potter played an animation that explained various heroes in the Valiant Universe in relation to each other in a series called a “quickie”. Further productions will not be confined to only 30 seconds, as this one was, he said. Comicstorian also participates in a podcast with a group of other Youtubers.
Valiant also has a growing presence on Twitch. Zack Eubank of Hyper RPG joined the panel, leading to a full fleet of nerd boss hats being worn. He is the game manager of “Valiant’s Vanquished“, Hyper RPG’s weekly live tabletop gaming experiences based on the Catalyst Games Lab game. Eubank said he’s been a lifelong Valiant fan and was excited to get a Valiant RPG on the channel as soon as the game came out. The first season is wrapping up and the second season is going to be in the vein of the Harbinger series dealing with psiots, Eubank said. They played the intro video to season one to give an idea of the vibe. It was decorated with fan art.
Valiant’s Vanquished is coming back for an official Season Two, an ECCC announcement for Valiant and Zack Eubank. The season will be based on The Road to Harbinger Wars 2–Valiant’s major 2018 crossover event. Members of the gaming cast were present in the panel, including Ify Nwadiwe. If you’d like to join up for Season Two, it starts March 22nd, the same day X-O Manowar #1 is on sale. Find it at Twitch.TV/Hyperrpg.
Moving on to Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe, Gorinson said they’ve been working on it for over a year, and conceptually even longer. Bat in the Sun Productions are directing the 6 part webseries, and of course it’s produced by Valiant Entertainment. Coming in 2017, the original story is being filmed and they are locking in a distributor, but they can’t announce the release date just yet.
Playing the trailer shown at NYCC for the first time previously, the audience gave a big round of applause.
Today in the panel, they teased the arrival of cast member Jason David Frank, Bloodshot in the upcoming series. Asked how he got involved in this project, Frank said he was working on other Superhero Beatdown projects with Bat in the Sun, and being a comic fan and collector, he started looking into Valiant. Frank wondered if he’d look enough like Bloodshot, but once he saw the makeup on, it was a transformation. Asked how it feels to have the makeup put on, he said it’s like “cosplay but even better”. It takes about 2 hours each time to have the paint applied.
Valiant showed some footage that had never been seen before to illustrate the Bloodshot makeup. The video was remarkably violent, of course, but also very funny, and concluded with Bloodshot getting his hand blown off and regenerating it on camera, as well as pulling a dagger out of his own face and recovering from a gunshot to the head. The make up, as promised, was awesome.
Asked about his preparation for the role, Frank’s martial arts background helps, he said. He wanted Bloodshot to be pretty much good at everything, he said. He’s a blend of martial arts. The stunt guys were also very helpful, he said, which is like playing tennis with a good tennis player, he said. He loves being Bloodshot–it’s the #bloodshotmindset, he said [Hashtag that!]
Johns said the fighting style of particular characters each being different helps the live series fit with the comics. Frank loves the Valiant Universe, he said, and as a martial artist he knows it’s difficult to come up with all these different fighting styles as needed. To make it so consistent with Valiant is remarkable, but this also stays “consistent and true”, he said.
“Putting guns in my hands, putting swords in my hands is very dangerous but I like it“, he said meaningfully. “Rehearsing and preparing makes a good dish”, he added. Things can get tricky because the same moves have to play equally well from multiple camera angles, but that’s what they are working on.
Gorinson reminded us that this series is bringing a whole pantheon of characters to life, not just Ninjak or Bloodshot. Frank is playing Bloodshot for the first time on film, and this ideas was attractive to him since branding that character who he can partly create is a big deal. The best thing about Bloodshot is “his inner thoughts” and he likes being the first one to represent that, Frank said. Doing a scene with Ninjak, Frank was captivated by how great the costumes were in person, he said.
Gorinson said they’ll be building toward the release of the series over the course of the spring and summer. On the upcoming Valiant event Rapture, there will be a cover with Michael Rowe as Ninjak and then John Morrison as Eternal Warrior will be appearing on an Eternal Warrior #1. The same team doing the makeup and costumes worked on Suicide Squad and Netflix’s Daredevil, Shamdasani reminded.
In a special reveal, a special 6 minute video premiered, an unedited clip and rough piece for the fans in the room. It featured and excellent Ninjak fight scene against several opponents, the appearance of Roku, and a special and unwelcome mission with plenty of unpleasant incentives from his nemesis.
During the Q & A:
Shamdasani said that not all the characters who will appear in the digital live action series have been announced yet.
Asked how Valiant are addressing canon between print, digital, and big screen, Shamdasani said there are a “number of digital shows being developed” in the Valiant Universe, not just Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe. They have gone pretty far in development for the films, too, but they are going to hear fans out about what they want regarding continuity.
Make sure to visit the Valiant booth #1701 at ECCC this weekend.