There's room for another superhero movie universe — at least, that's what Valiant Entertainment is hoping.
Founded in 1989 by a group of comic industry veterans, Valiant is home to the third-largest connected universe in comics, behind Marvel and DC, with over 2,000 characters. DMG Entertainment fully acquired Valiant early last year and has ambitious plans to grow its presence in Hollywood.
"Ultimately, it would be great if you saw a film and you could tell if it was a Valiant movie without seeing the logo," DMG Entertainment cofounder and CEO Dan Mintz told Business Insider. "That goal drives us every day."
Mintz views Valiant as "one of the top untapped IPs right now" with great potential for a cinematic universe, he said. But the biggest obstacle to that, at the moment, is that not all of its characters will be under one roof.
Valiant's first foray into theaters will be in February with Sony's "Bloodshot," directed by Dave Wilson and starring Vin Diesel as an enhanced soldier resurrected from the dead. Beyond that, there are other Valiant projects scattered around different studios.
Here's a rundown:
- Paramount Pictures recently acquired the film rights to "Harbinger," Mintz confirmed to Business Insider ( The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news last week). The comic follows a group of young, superpowered individuals known as Harbingers who possess psychic and telekinetic powers. While "Harbinger" and "Bloodshot" will be at separate studios, the connective tissue is producer Neal Moritz, known for the "Fast and Furious" franchise.
- "Faith," about a groundbreaking plus-sized superhero, is also in development at Sony.
- A "Quantum and Woody" TV series, about crime-fighting adopted siblings known as "the world's worst superhero team," is in the works at TBS from producers Joe and Anthony Russo (the "Avengers: Endgame" directors).
- A "Doctor Mirage" series, about a paranormal investigator searching for her dead husband, is being set up at The CW.
"Seeing these characters on screen is significant and fulfilling the wish of a lot of fans, that's number one," Mintz said. "Number two, it's a great way to enter the universe."
Before "Iron Man" kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, Marvel's characters were similarly scattered across Hollywood.
The film rights to "Spider-Man" are owned by Sony. 2003's "Hulk" movie was under Universal. Before this year's Disney-Fox merger, the X-Men and Fantastic Four belonged to Fox. Even the first few MCU movies before "The Avengers" — from "Iron Man" to "Captain America: The First Avenger" — were distributed by Paramount.
"Right now, these are great characters to introduce fans around the world to the uniqueness of Valiant," Mintz added.
Mintz actually has some experience with the MCU: DMG Entertainment coproduced "Iron Man 3." Mintz said it helped prepare him to usher Valiant into the world of Hollywood and eventually build a connected universe of movies.
"There's no better of an inside experience than to make those films with them and see that process" Mintz said. "With 'Iron Man 3,' what was very apparent from the beginning was that Iron Man was the key figure in the Marvel universe. You needed to protect that and understand the character as he's seen in individual movies and in other films, and how that character is developed and protected through that process."
He added, "It was a little scary because I didn't want to be on the film that killed Iron Man [laughs]. It worked out but you look back at Marvel and you think, it wasn't a given."
'We're a comic company first'
Mintz said comic books are the "anchors of pop culture" and studios are growing more aware of that.
"Marvel and DC have built the comic book superhighway," Mintz said. "That visual vocabulary has been established. We're finding our voice within that. There's a defined lane for what we can do. But it takes time. Nothing happens overnight. So one of the things we're focused on is how we roll out the universe, how we develop and sharpen differentiation in storytelling, and how we bring you into the Valiant world."
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Valiant fights tooth and nail on the publishing side to make a name for itself among much bigger publishers like Marvel and DC, and now it will be trying to grab Hollywood's attention on top of that.
"Hollywood loves our industry because a comic book is already a storyboard," Valiant's publisher, Fried Pierce, told Business Insider. "Our world dominates the movie world today. But we're a comic book company first. We know in the back of our minds that we want to create movies and TV, but we'll be successful if we're a comic company first and then take off."
In the comic industry, the top 100 best-selling comics at any time are dominated by Marvel and DC, according to Pierce. Valiant is in a "weight class" of "non-premiere publishers," so success is measured differently. But Pierce said that six Valiant titles have still managed to crack the top 100 since November and sales are up 10% compared to last year.
"We put out much less content than other publishers," Pierce said. "DC and Marvel put out over 100 comics a month. We put out six or seven a month. But all the comic stores know our six or seven. The adamant comic fans know them. Our goal is to make sure we are the thing that shines at you when you're in a comic store."
One of those comics debuts September 25: a new "Bloodshot" ongoing series from writer Tim Seeley and artist Brett Booth, the first story arc of which will wrap up just in time for the release of the "Bloodshot" movie.
As the first film adaptation of a Valiant property, "Bloodshot" has high expectations, and nobody is raising them quite as high as the star, Diesel. The actor told Comicbook.com in October that "Sony is finally going to lead the charge in the superhero movies of the future" and he declared "let the Valiant era begin" on Instagram in January.
"Bloodshot," and the potential Valiant era, hits theaters on February 21.
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