By the time the 1990s rolled around, I was looking to fresh ideas and artwork for my addiction… ummm I mean comic collecting needs. I never really liked DC much (although I am a huge fan of Green Lantern), and Marvel was becoming too stale to me. I can’t stand, the regurgitation process. Kill a villain… bring him back. Kill Aunt May… bring her back. The comic industry still has the same problem now that it did back 30 years ago. Back then, this led to a lack of fresh ideas, where artists opt instead to recycle tropes, long ago pulverized into boredom. Nowadays, it is even worse. Artists want to make these titles THEIRS (when the formula for success was created long before they were born) as opposed to coming up with a new, fresh idea and working it into an incredibly successful model.
Then rolled in the Valiant Universe in the early 1990s. But how would Valiant capture an audience and start this array of heroes and villains that would make a collector want everything instead of just a book here or there? When it comes to comic collectors, we are a bit fickle. We like what we like, what we like. It is very difficult to make us try something new– unless you grab our attention.
Valiant was genius at the time. They recycled two heroes early on, Doctor Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter. While many kids at the time didn’t really know or care about these heroes, myself included, I had at least HEARD of them because they had previously been published by Gold Key. Not to mention the artwork was stunning. As soon as I picked up my first copies, I was hooked. The stories flowed seamlessly, the artwork was amazing, and they had a gimmick. If you bought X amount of certain titles, you could send away for an uber rare book that they would mail to you. The problem was if I had to cut a coupon from my book (which was the only way to get my uber rare book), then I HAD to buy two books, one to massacre and another to save in the collection.
And so began my obsession with Valiant. For almost 30 years, I have told people non-stop that the Valiant Universe was primed to explode. No one believed me. Trust me… at some point it will happen and here is why. Aside from the stories and artwork (which are still worth the read if you haven’t tried them), Valiant had a very low print run compared to Marvel and DC (I am talking early issues or “Pre-Unity”. By 1993 Valiant was so popular they exploded with printing books). On average Valiant had between 40k and 70k prints per book. Comparatively, Marvel and DC flagship titles like Amazing Spider-Man or Superman printed in multiples of hundreds of thousands!
Valiant also created the “rare” variant market. Many people are aware of the Marvel 30c/35c variants, but this was never intended as an incentive. Valiant, however, started giving retailers ordering incentives. If they hit certain benchmarks, they would send retailers a special book with a gold or platinum logo. These were even rarer than the normal print run. For example, the “gold” Unity 1 had a print run of 5k-10k, whereas the “platinum” edition had a 2500 to 5k print run. (comicbookdb.com) A retailer had to buy X copies to get the “gold” book, and XXX copies to get a “platinum”.
Over the years, no one it seemed (besides me), cared about Valiant. Books were dumped in the 25c bins, and deals were to be had (I have still found key issues there as far back as a year ago). This caused many conditions to degenerate, exacerbating an already low print run. It will be interesting to see how many 9.0s and above come out if the market explodes.
Below, in no order, are 10 (ok, ok a bit more) Valiant books that you need to have. Soon (and in high grade preferably, but any grade immediately). As in “yesterday” soon. Prices are starting to climb with the announcement of Bloodshot being opted for a movie, and Vin Diesel playing the role. Filming has started. If it is even remotely a hit, watch these prices become expensive very fast.
#10. Harbinger #1 (Valiant, 1992)
I will start with the most expensive one first. The simple fact is, this book in 9.8 is worth almost $1k now. Why? Great read, great art, low print run. Supply and demand. This wasn’t even the first Valiant book, but it was one of the first unknown titles. Prior to this, people were still looking at Solar and Magnus, whom they were comfortable with and knew. This was a leap of faith for the collector. It paid off. Now this book is extremely expensive if you want it in high grade. It has also been rumored for a movie, however, the prices were taking off long before.
#9. The Major #1s… Eternal Warrior, Magnus Robot Fighter, Solar Man of the Atom, Archer and Armstrong, Shadowman, X-O Manowar (Valiant 1991-92)
These are the strongest #1s in the Valiant Universe (besides Harbinger #1). I left a few out mainly because the print runs by that time were climbing dramatically. Each Valiant character made you care about them, so it was easy to keep picking up their books. It wouldn’t hurt to grab these. A few notes: Archer & Armstrong 1 IS NOT their first appearance. Pictured above is the gold edition of Eternal Warrior 1. Wouldn’t hurt to have that harder to find edition.
#8 Bloodshot #7 (Valiant 1993)
This is the first appearance of Ninjak, a major player down the line in the Valiant Universe. He gets his own title soon after this appearance. Valiant was very methodical in bringing their characters to life. It seems they started with one book, and somewhere down the line introduced another. That character got his own title. They that book introduced someone, and so on and so forth. This made them relevant in whatever title you were reading, but you were always left wanting to know more. Can we say “hook, line and sinker” boys and girls?
#7 Archer & Armstrong #0 (Valiant 1992)
The origin and the first appearance of Archer & Armstrong, readers immediately connected with the bulletproof nigh indestructible Armstrong, who always has to protect his friend Archer. Sometimes the #0s were introduced after the #1s came out, and sometimes prior as is the case here. This is also a rumored movie in the works. Be aware, that if they finalize it, this book will jump heavily.
#6 Rai #0 (Valiant 1992)
Why am I only talking about one book but showing two? Both the above books were printed the same month so there is a “tie” in the comic world about what the real first appearance of Rai is. I will tell it to you straight. It IS NOT Eternal Warrior #4. One panel doth not make a first appearance. It is a cameo for sure (I just had to look it up so I wasn’t lying to you). If you want to play it safe and pick up the Eternal Warrior #4, by all means, do so. Unless the comic world starts to believe that the minute a character shows up in any way, no matter how small, determines a first appearance, then Rai #0 is the clear winner as far as the significance of Bloodshots first. As a side note, there are two versions of Rai #0, a “matte” version and a “glossy” version. Both are worth the same, but I personally like the look of the “glossy” version better. The “matte” is shown above. You can see the “glossy” version here.
#5. Magnus Robot Fighter #12 (Valiant 1992)
This book has literally been the bane of my comic book existence. For some reason, known only to the Universe and comic book gods, I have never owned a copy of this book. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying. Sure, I could throw money at it to obtain it, but I always look for deals and I cannot find one for a decent price, or in decent shape. GAAAAHHHHHHH! Curse you, comic book gods! Back in the 1960s, Gold Key printed three important titles that the Valiant Universe adapted into the 1990s: Magnus Robot Fighter, Solar Man of the Atom, and Turok. While Magnus and Solar came in almost immediately, Turok didn’t show until over a year later. This is his first appearance in the Valiant Universe and is the only book on this list that I don’t have (Shaking fists at the heavens).
#4. Shadowman #8 (Valiant 1992)
When the movies arrive, it will be interesting to see what villains they really pull from the titles. The one I have always remembered and been fond of was Master Darque. The ultimate “bad guy” in the Valiant Universe, he was always incredibly evil, and used magic as a weapon. The fact that this cover is one of those ‘black covers”, they tend to not be in great shape when found. They always have creases along the spine, show even the smallest flaw in great detail, and are just difficult to find. This will be a monster key book (think Joker, Lex Luther, Kingpin caliber bad guy) in the future if the Valiant Universe ever expands on the silver screen.
#3 Harbinger #0 Pink Variant (Valiant 1992)
I didn’t list any of the individual variants as ones you “need” to have with the exception of this one. You could only get this book through the mail via Valiant when you took out the coupons in the first six books. It seems alien now to think anyone would do this, but as I stated before, that’s why I bought two of each. I wanted the mail books and a copy that wasn’t hurt. Some people claim that there are 6500 copies of this book. Others claim as little as 3500. Let’s think about that for a second. If the print run is on the low end of 3500, this puts the total extremely close to the print run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. Have you seen the prices of that book? Food for thought.
#2 Unity #0 (Valiant 1992)
Above is shown the red variant for Unity #0, but any copy can’t hurt you. These were initially given away for free and acted as a lead-in for the major Unity crossover event that ran through the Valiant titles. The red variant is rare, but remember all copies were free and kept in quarter bins for decades.
#1 Solar Man of the Atom #10 (Valiant 1992)
What’s worse than an all-black cover? An all-black cover that is a key book, highly desirable (or will be), that fingerprints easier than your local police station, and has printing defects. I own a 9.6 copy of this, 9.8s eluding and taunting me. There is a weird urban myth that has been cycling around for decades and I would love to know who perpetuated it. The myth is you need to wear gloves for high-grade books. That is an outright LIE. Paper is fairly sturdy and will stay so if handled and stored with care. There are only TWO books I have ever held that I say right now: WEAR GLOVES. This is one of them. Did you look at the link? You just fingerprinted the book. It is that bad (the other book being The Crow #1– that’s actually worse if you believe it). This book is also the first appearance of The Eternal Warrior, so a major key in the Valiant Universe. Add to all this, the cover is embossed and of stiffer cardboard stock, so pressing doesn’t work. Is that all? NO. Some copies have what looks like a subscription crease. This is a printing defect but because of all the black ink, guess what reflects in the light? That’s right, your friendly little line running the length of the book. Sheesh.
Start hunting now friends. I have a close buddy of mine who refused to listen to me when I talked Valiant. For some reason, he is listening now, just recently picking up a few key books. This is a good start for him, but I will continue to pressure him. Why? Because it would be easier on his wallet to get them now while they are relatively cheap as opposed to a few years from now when the cat is out of the bag. People always ask me what I think are “good investment” books. I think this is a loaded question. Personally, I like to say “collect what you like”. But if you want to get books on the cheap now, this list is a good start. If Bloodshot bombs, then I will be wrong and prices won’t skyrocket. But how long will that hold true? With print runs being as low as they are, at some point supply and demand will take over. That will make this list worth cents.