NYCC ’17: Valiant’s Harbinger Wars 2 Panel Paves The Way To Dual Conflicts

by Hannah Means Shannon

At the Valiant Harbinger Wars 2 Panel at New York Comic Con, panelists included Rafer Roberts, Patricia Martin, Raul Allen, Warren Simons, Eric Heisserer, and Hunter Gorinson.

Ahead of NYCC ’17, the publisher announced the details of their 2018 summer crossover event Harbinger Wars 2, as a double-sized book with two parallel storylines by different creative teams for four issues.

Talking about the first Harbinger Wars, back in 2013, Gorinson asked Simons what made this such an important event initially. Simons said that in working with Fred Pierce and Dinesh Shamdasani, they looked at all their characters and gave it some thought. They concluded that if there were powered young people like psiots, the government would have an “answer” to that like Bloodshot. In Harbinger, they built a “collision course” between Bloodshot and psiots, building in scope and intensity.

Secret Weapons has been the biggest limited series of the year outside of DC and Marvel, Gorinson said. Heisserer, the writer on the series, said the biggest questions for him centered on Live Wire and the process that psiots go through to be activated by Harada. When he asked if there was an “Island of Misfit Toys” in the Valiant Universe, and found that there wasn’t, he planted a flag on doing that. Hence his team of Secret Weapons, misfit psiots.

Asked what the process was in creating these teenagers, Raul Allen said that they created the characters to be like “anyone”, and since their potential seems “useless”, they seem normal. Creating based on that was “fun”. It wasn’t your typical approach to superheroes.

Asked about putting this creative team together, Simons said he’s obsessed with birds and pigeons, so having a character who could talk to birds made him want to be involved. He’s known Allen for many years, and quickly brought him in to work at Valiant. Simons described Raul’s style as “unique” and “humanistic”. These are “kids” and “teenagers”, not weight lifters, and they’ve been affected by their psychological experiences, so they needed a different approach.

Martin was asked about her process working with Allen. She said they work “side by side”, pretty closely, a total of 8 eyes including both of their pairs of glasses. She said these characters “deserve to be in the Valiant Universe”. Allen said they “lean on each other” artistically and for morale support since the work of a comic artist can be “daunting”. The process is organic. Martin starts working on the script initially and “goes bananas” in a good way, Allen said.

Martin likes to “design everything as a whole” for each issue, and each series, and instils a lot of “symmetry”, she said. After they discuss layouts, they discuss reference work. They go through google streetview, since they live in Spain, and have never been to Oklahoma, where the book is set. Allen loves architecture as much as characters, so he brings in environmental factors strongly in his work. He wants readers to feel like they could “walk out of the panel” and keep moving through the locations.

Heisserer said that he was “most compelled by stories that were very personal but where the actions of the characters had enormous consequences on the world” and he has brought that to Secret Weapons.

Dinesh Shamdasani joined the panel, to applause.

Talking about Harbinger Renegade, Rafer Roberts said that Generation Zero haven’t given up their territory without a fight, but it meant Roberts got to draw a “giant Chthulu” attacking a plane. Roberts said that right now they’re exploring the “psychological” repercussions of an event like this on American soil.

Shamdasani said that Generation Zero kids are “trained, militant killers”. In an act of terrorism, they took over a town in America. It’s the “logical endpoint” for these characters. They aren’t going to reach old age or have a family as child soldiers. All they can do is try to find some happiness before the end, Shamdasani said.

The HARD Corps have also been coming to the fore, and Roberts said that writing Charlie has been a pleasure, a “grizzled man” who is “wearied by war” but has to get his team out and try to bring everyone home alive.

Talking about where the Renegades will be at the end of the series in issue #8, Roberts said it’s the build up to a war. The Renegades are “building their strength”. It’s going to be a fight for survival, basically.

Talking about the “landscape” of the Valiant Universe leading up to Harbinger Wars 2, Gorinson said that Omen is coming to power, Livewire is active, and X-O Manowar has been “off world” but may not always be.

Harbinger Wars 2 is literally “twice the size” of their events to date. A new format with two 22 page stories in each issue will come from two creative teams. Heisserer, who’s writing one plot-line explained that Livewire had been part of Unity, and so she’s brought in to deal with the escalating problems with Omen. She’s someone who can uncover secrets easily, and discovers the government is lying, so she takes the “toys” away and “shuts down the entire North American power grid” which doesn’t go over well.

Heisserer said that the “other side” needs operatives to take out Livewire, which leads to calling in familiar figures like Bloodshot, Ninja-K, and others.

Simons said that this “non-traditional event”, a “world war”, will have many battlefronts. They “fragmented” it to see how the war would affect different groups of people and familiar Valiant characters.

Shamdasani spoke about this unprecedented format for Harbinger Wars 2, and said “it comes from a place of story” with these two big ideas, and wanting to use both. The big plot with Livewire and the plot of the Renegades were equally important to tell as a story. They wanted to do something different here, as a sequel, and “doubling down made sense”.

Allen spoke about working on Harbinger Wars 2 with Martin, and said that they’ve explored different things creatively in their previous work at Valiant, but this is going to “blow some minds”.

Heisserer said, quoting a Magneto-like approach is that the best stories build on having sides that could both be right or wrong, and that’s part of his approach for Harbinger Wars 2.

The first issue will drop the Wednesday before Free Comic Book Day in May 2018.

There are some zero issues coming from Valiant ahead of this event, a trio of them. One of them is Harbinger Wars #0 arriving in December 2017.

Roberts is working with Juan Jose Ryp on that book, and he said it’s the culmination of Alexander Solomon’s “background plan” as he’s being hunted by HARD Corps and Omen. He can manipulate people into falling into “traps”, Roberts said, and that’s going to be an interesting process.

Secret Weapons #0 is a “true zero”, telling the origins and life and times of Nikki Finch from the original Secret Weapons series. Heisserer said this issue came to him from an idea he had from looking at “a second a day for a year” video sequences he saw online, made to highlight things like the refugee crisis. Typically the person is in the center of the frame, and you see “transformative experiences” happening to them as they change over the course of a year. He wanted to do a “comic book version of that” and was surprised he was allowed to do something so experimental with the book. The book follows Nikki up to the night of the events of issue #1 of the series.

Shamdasani said he thinks it’s the best thing Heisserer has written so far. Heisserer said he’d like to do a couple more issue zeros and one would be great would be a “yard sale” of junk being sold by Secret Weapons character Owen, and the story gives micro-narratives of how he conjured each of those objects using his powers. The interior art on issue #0 is by Adam Pollina.

That issue will be arriving in shops on January 3rd, 2018.