It's been said that great things always start small. And in the case of comic books getting a huge resurgence in popularity and readership, it's true.
Not long after he was ousted (fired, quit, retired) form Marvel Comics as
its Editor-In-Chief, Jim Shooter still wanted to be in the comic book industry
and shake up things a bit.
With a few financial backers, Jim started Valiant Comics and acquired the rights
to publish comic books based on Nintendo properties.
While the sales numbers were respectable, Jim wanted to get back into
mainstream comics. He was able to
acquire the rights to the old Gold Key characters, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok
and Doctor Solar.
Helming the writing chores, Jim launched a limited print run of Magnus Robot
Fighter with the assist from artist Art Nichols with inks by Bob Layton (another
former Marvel Comics artist) and Kathryn Bolinger, colorist Janet Jackson,
letterer Jade and editor Don Perlin.
I remember ordering the book through Diamond's Preview catalog as I was a
big fan of Magnus growing up. The book
garnered enough advance orders to justify a print run.
Suddenly Shooter had a hit on his hands.
The initial 4-issue 'Steel Nation' storyline resonated with fans of the
old series and new readers, pleased with the writing and art, rushed to find an
Being that the print run was small (approximately 20,000) there were not
enough issues to go around. The series
Shooter also instituted something that made the books even more sought
after. In each of the four issues a set
of four trading cards were included as 'coupons'. Fans could send in all four sets and in return receive by mail a
special #0 Magnus.
The response was phenomenal. It also
made complete early Magnus Robot Fighter issues even more valuable and sought
At about that same time Image Comics came into being and taking a clue from Valiant,
it too began offering 'special' incentives and 'limited edition' special
The comic book glut of the early 1990s was soon in full swing.
Speculators began snatching up huge runs of comic books hoping they would
escalate in value.
Problem. The more copies of a book
printed, the less the value. When the
speculators went to 'cash in' on their investments they discovered that the
books were worth (in most cases) less than they paid for them.
Speculators pulled out and suddenly comic book companies were stuck with
huge print runs of comic books that no one was buying.
As a result many companies went under (Valiant included), shops, stuck with
inventory no one bought, closed their doors and the comic book industry almost
It is true that big things start small. But, in the case of Valiant Comic
Books what started out as a publishers' desire to create great stories and art,
grew to an infectious monster that almost destroyed the health and life of an
The blame should not be placed only on Valiant's doorstep. Greed took its toll on publishers,
speculators, investors, collectors and the entire industry.
Under new management, Valiant is back in the comic
book publishing business and is doing quite well.