There is an anonymous proverb that states the only three things that are certain in life are birth, death, and change. Within the realm of ongoing comic book narratives, these take the form of retcons, resurrections, and reboots. For the purposes of this weekly feature, retcons are elements added into a character’s history after the fact, resurrections are characters returning from death or some state of limbo, and reboots are wholesale changes to a character or characters canon (history, supporting casts, origin story, etc).
These changes, just like all stories, range from those that add definitive things that still stand with the characters to those that sometimes should best be forgotten. Except, they won’t be in this feature. Each week we’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Retcons, Reboots, and Resurrections.
As the past few entries have proven, this column is going to heavily lean on the side of DC and Marvel Comics. Not because of a bias or personal choice or anything of that matter. It’s just the fact that they tend to have far more of the Three R’s because of their many decades-long histories of being ongoing shared universes. That being said, we’re looking elsewhere this week as we take a trip back to the 90s and then the 2010’s.
Actually, we begin in 1988 to be exact, when former Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter (who was fired from Marvel in 1987) and a group of investors tried to purchase Marvel Entertainment. They ended up failing, coming in second behind investor Ronald Perelman, so they instead put the money into forming the company Voyager Communications which launched their own comic book imprint known as Valiant Comics. Through Valiant Shooter recruited a number of creators from Marvel comics, including Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton, for this interconnected universe which consisted of a number of their own original creations and licensed characters (such as Magnus, Robot Fighter and Solar, Man of the Atom) from Western Publishing/Gold Key.
Some of the original characters & titles that are now of course quite well known in comic circles were X-O Manowar, Rai, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Ninjak, Quantum & Woody, and many more. Despite the ousting of Shooter in 1992 (creative differences), things went pretty well for the imprint as its sales were quite high and it became the third-largest publisher for a bit. In 1994 though, one of the investor partner groups pulled out and the imprint was sold to video game company Acclaim. They published a number of comics over the years with the characters, even mixing them with Marvel characters at one point, before the company lost a major video game license the company ended up filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004 and began to look to sell off these superhero characters.
Thus begins the point where this moves into the reboot realm for Valiant. In 2005 a group of investors led by Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari raised enough to purchase all of the original Valiant characters from Acclaim (the Gold Key characters were returned to the current owner of that imprint Classic Media before eventually ending up at Dreamworks and eventually Universal) and formed the company known as Valiant Entertainment.
For a few years, they published some updated reprints of the original Valiant Comics, even hiring Jim Shooter to write some new short stories to accompany the reprints. During that handful of years, plans were made and Valiant even returned to old practices as they hired executives from Marvel and Wizard Entertainment including Warren Simons who became Valiant EiC, and former Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo who became Valiant’s Chairman and an investor.
While at the time it was a year joked about as the supposed ‘end of the world,’ 2012 to Valiant was dubbed the “Summer of Valiant” as the publisher began their full reboot relaunch of the Valiant properties for a new era. Rather than roll out a whole line of comics, they chose the novel approach of launching one new title a month (and their approach to not having too many titles going at once has pretty much lasted to this day). May brought the launch of X-O Manowar (by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord), Harbinger arrived in June (by Joshua Dysart and Khari Evans), July was claimed by Bloodshot (by Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia), and last but certainly not least in August was the duo of Archer & Armstrong (by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry).
Success with this relaunch led to an extension of the 2012 summer with the November launch of Shadowman (by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher) as well as the sequel of a 2013 Summer of Valiant which brought about the debuts of Quantum & Woody and Eternal Warrior.
When Bloodshot, Harbinger and Archer & Armstrong came to an end in 2014 the publisher rolled in new ongoings like Unity and Rai alongside a slew of limited series such as Harbinger: Omegas, Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel, The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage and The Delinquents. Subsequent years saw them beginning event/crossovers like Armor Hunters and Book of the Dead while ending more series and launching new ones featuring familiar and new Valiant characters such as Ninjak, Imperium, Ivar, Timewalker and Bloodshot Reborn, the Divinity trilogy of books, Britannia, Savage, and Faith among many others.
This process of only having a handful of ongoings that cycle in and out alongside a slew of limited series and crossover stories was what got the universe kicked off and pretty much is the same way they handle titles to this very day. Many of the characters have had numerous relaunches and even soft reboots along the way.
While the company was basically sold off again in 2018 to DMG Entertainment, who previously owned 57% and now owns 100%, and figures like Simons, Cuneo, and Shamdasani left, the success of this relaunch hasn’t abated. The books are still going pretty strong with the launch pattern still being followed as titles rotate in and out. The biggest sign of success is how the characters have expanded beyond the comics into wider media realms.
There was a Bloodshot film from Sony Pictures starring Vin Diesel on the big screen (and quickly in homes) in early 2020. A whole cinematic universe was meant to happen at various points through a few studios but so far hasn’t materialized, but Bloodshot is reportedly getting a sequel.
There was also a short-lived web series/short film called Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe in 2018 and even a live-streamed TTRPG series from Hyper (formerly Hyper RPG) officially sanctioned by Valiant to tie into their second Harbinger Wars event. The Russo brothers (of Community and various Marvel Cinematic Universe films) are even reportedly developing a Quantum & Woody TV series.
This is a reboot that can easily be placed into the successful category.
Next Week: Family is family, no matter the retcon