Wonder Con '13: Interiew with Valiant Publisher Fred Pierce

While at Wonder Con yesterday I had the opportunity to interview Fred Pierce Valiant Comic Publisher. Fred was with Valiant four about four years during the original companies run and then spent fourteen years with Wizard Magazine. We talked about several things involving Valiant from new titles to the company as a whole so enjoy. Dustin: How happy were you when Diamond announced that Valiant had one the best comic publisher under 4% award on your first year back?

Fred: We were shocked when we were nominated. Everyone thinks we’ve been around for a while; we’ve only started printing in May so we were shocked when we were nominated and we were thrilled when we won. It was very funny; we couldn’t stop smiling for a week. The really funny thing is for me and I loved winning, but we had a board meeting the next day and as well as we’re doing the board is always going to try and give you a hard time and that’s their job and their supposed to. So they couldn’t give me a hard time, he’s Publisher of the year you can’t give him a hard time. It was phenomenal.

Dustin: From my stand point it was also very surprising because it seems as if it’s been handed out over and over to the same publisher, so it was nice to see you guys acknowledge for how well you’re doing when everyone else kind of already knows it.

Fred: But remember it’s the retailers that voted for it. And in our category there’s a lot of competition. When you go over 4% everybody’s publishing a lot of good stuff right now and the bar is set high right now, but the real funny thing is in ours there’s a lot of competition.

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Dustin: I know that there was a lot of work behind the scenes prior to the re-launch of the company, what was Valiant’s biggest take away from the first year and what where some of the things you learned and are trying to approve upon this year?

Fred: In the beginning what we were learning while we doing all of our due diligences in speaking to the fans, retails, diamond and other publishers everyone was very helpful. Our biggest take away was at that instance in time is as much as everyone loved Valiant how does a retailer know how many of our books to buy? You haven’t bought a Valiant comic in ten or fifteen years if you’re a retailer, how many do you buy? What we came up with the Pull Box variant because we heard from the retailers, especially the Comics Pro group, that they know if they have if they have an order of five in their pull box/subscription service that they need to order ten or twenty.

I’ve been in the business for twenty years, four with Valiant in the beginning and fourteen with Wizard and during my time with Wizard they always asked me about my time at Valiant; it was a very magical time, so I knew that there were thousands of fans around and they really became ambassadors. They biggest take away was that the retailers have to know how much to buy and that it’s that first buy that is very important because retailers are very happy to buy and sell out; but if they sell out at five, I would much prefer they sold out at twenty and that was really what we found. It took a while for everyone to find what they’re level was. We go into a lot stores and check them and we’re sold out in a lot of places as I’m sure you know.

Dustin: Yeah, yes I do.

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Dustin: Last year you had the Summer of Valiant, what’s the big thing this year?

Fred: We’re going to have another Summer of Valiant. We had leading into it we have “Planet Death” on X-O Manowar, where X-O goes back and kicks ass. Over the course of the year you’ll find that the Harbingerand Bloodshot worlds have been colliding, because all of Valiant is one universe and has been designed as one universe just like Marvel and DC. We’re probably the next biggest single universe after those two. Those two worlds (Harbinger/Bloodshot) are colliding over something that’s launching next week Harbinger Wars, it’s our first crossover. You’ll be able to read Harbinger Wars individually, you’ll be able to read Harbingerindividual and Bloodshot individually as well, but if you want to get the full feel of what’s going on than you can. The Harbinger Wars will change the Valiant universe; things will be introduced in the Harbinger Warsthat will affect the whole of the Valiant universe.

Dustin: I’m seeing a lot of T-Shirt merchandising; I’m kind of big on that personally for any company that’s not DC or Marvel. Are you guys looking to expand on that and how important is to the company or is it more to just appease fans?

Fred: The T-Shirts that we’re doing now, we’re doing in house and generally speaking we’ll break even. Really what you’re asking is about licensing.

Dustin: Yes.

Fred: We’ve hired Russ Brown, who was a licensing expert at Marvel. Russ has been selling and he has closed some very big licensing deals for us. Also surprising about the nice deals that he’s closed, so you’ll be hearing about the merchandising and licensing deals you’d expect to hear about, but the deals are just closing now. We’ll start making announcements about them in the next month. Foreign licensing where our titles would be translated into other languages and stuff like that, but you’re hearing it here first.

Dustin: The Bloodshot movie, obviously people are interested in it and as you’ve said there are a lot of Valiant fans. Is there anything you can say about it?

Fred: All of these things take a long time to close. It’s not signed until it’s signed and we’re dealing with a lot. Dinesh Shamdasani who’s our CEO and CCO is very involved in every aspect of the company and right now he’s selling a T-Shirt as we speak; he also negotiates for us in Hollywood. He also gives me a hard time about the Publishing aspects; he gives the editorial a hard time. His really job is to never sleep and give all of us a hard time and he does everything so you really can’t complain. As you see.

Dustin: (Laughs) Yes, Dinesh is actually selling a comic book right now.

Dustin: What’s after Quantum and Woody is there anything you can talk about yet?

Fred: In the Free Comic Book Day issue, which is out the first weekend in May, you will see something that the Valiant Universe is famous for. It will be teased in there; you won’t be surprised when you read it “oh that makes sense” type of deal. We are doing the Summer of Valiant 2013 edition, but aside fromQuantum and Woody we will be launching a new book. Basically what’s been happening is we know that there are three to five titles we want to launch next; so Warren, Jody and Josh our editor’s request pitches from the different writers and the best pitch wins. We knew we were going to launch with X-O Manower, we knew we were going to launch with Harbinger; and Robert and Josh hit it out of the park and they did great jobs writing it. Then the next pitch that won was Bloodshot, thenArcher & Armstrong and then Shadowman. And now theQuantum and Woody pitch.

My favorite title has always been The Eternal Warrior, so we’ll see what happens when that gets launched, but really there are so many great Valiant titles. People ask me about Eternal Warrior, what about Rai, what about Ninjak and so on. We have a lot, we’re not Marvel or DC, but we’re pretty deep. As people start to like some of the newer characters we’ll start seeing the newer characters.

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Dustin: With that said are you looking to create brand new characters or just expand from the back library that Valiant has?

Fred: We’re very much about, what’s going to be in twenty years not what was twenty years ago. When you’re looking at the books there are new characters in the books like Mr. Twist, the Bleeding Monk, there are new ones. We could launch one of them as a new title; any one of the new characters as a new title. But anything we launch has to beat Ninjak or it has to beat Rai any of those titles. The smart thing would be the best title wins, the best story wins. If you come up with a great character and it’s better than Ninjak, then it’ll get launched before Ninjak, Eternal Warrior, Rai or Timewalker the list could go on and on.

A big thank you to Fred for taking the time to talk with me and a big thank you to Hunter from Valiant, for setting it up. If you’re at Wonder Con or attending tomorrow stop by booth #710 and say hi and grab some cool stuff like con exclusives and T-Shirts.