Valiant has been one of the top comics publishers outside the big two of Marvel and DC Comics since its rebirth in 2012. And now Joe Illidge, who just took over as executive editor, thinks it’s poised for an even bigger breakout moment — especially as it gears up for this summer’s “Harbinger Wars 2” and future entertainment deals with Sony.
After starting his career in comics as an intern at Milestone Media in the early 1990s, Illidge moved to editing “Batman” for DC Comics at the turn of the century. He was most recently a senior editor at Lion Forge imprint Catalyst Prime.
“For me, it was an opportunity to work with a highly respected publisher that has great relationships with creators, fans and the retailers,” Illidge told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs.
Illidge says his new position will give him a bird’s-eye view of the Valiant universe, working with editorial staff members to outline the future publishing plan of Valiant and create ways to expand its audience. Valiant Comics includes comic book titles “Bloodshot,” “Shadowman” and “X-O Manowar.”
He’ll oversee the upcoming “Harbinger Wars 2” crossover event, featuring many Valiant characters — a follow-up to its initial event in 2013. And with a “Bloodshot” movie starring Vin Diesel rumored to start production later this year, Illidge is convinced that Valiant’s movie deal with Sony will bring new sets of eyes to the publisher in the near future.
“I feel like with the upcoming ‘Bloodshot’ film … that is going to allow the larger mass audience to become aware of Valiant,” Illidge said. “It’s of crucial importance that the Valiant universe is ready to accommodate all those new potential fans.”
It’s not just movie deals that has Illidge excited about coming to work for Valiant. He says that its comics reach across multiple genres and that Valiant can’t just be labeled a superhero universe. “Shadowman” is a horror comic. “X-O Manowar” is deep-space science fiction. Popular heroine series “Faith” falls into the young adult category.
“You can tell stories in almost any genre in Valiant,” Illidge said. “I think [that] is a quality that no other multilayered universe in the North American [comic book publishing] space or the global market has.”
One potential gold mine Illidge sees at Valiant is “Shadowman,” a supernatural series (being written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Stephen Segovia) based on a character that debuted in 1992. Illidge says “Shadowman” combines the vibes of two recent Hollywood blockbusters, “Get Out” and “Black Panther.” A “Shadowman” movie is in development from Sony with Reginald Hudlin attached to direct.
“You’re dealing with a male black lead. You’re dealing with the legacy of the Shadowman power going back decades and centuries,” Illidge said. “And it’s horror, so it connects to personal identity in these ways that are really painfully and humanly true but are also scary and horrifying.”
In his previous position as senior editor of Lion Forge/Catalyst Prime, he was a constant voice for diversity within comic book panels and for the creative talent behind those comics. But in looking back at Catalyst, Illidge is reminded of a time when he was working on Batman comics with legendary Batman writer/editor Dennis O’Neil. When O’Neil left, he said, what he wanted most for Batman comics was to see things O’Neil never would have done. Illidge says he wants the same for Catalyst Prime.
“I’m very thankful to the co-owners of Lion Forge … for giving me the opportunity to close the circle on a debt I felt I had to comics, to fans and to the founders of Milestone, and so I’ve done that,” Illidge said. “It’s going to be great to see that evolve and go in other directions.”