When it was announced that the Chinese based production and distribution company DMG Entertainment was heavily investing in Valiant Entertainment back in March, it could be speculated that that would only be the tip of the iceberg for the revived comic book company this year. Today (April 21), Valiant Entertainment followed things up with a pair of news items from their own website. Gavin Cuneo has been promoted to the position of chief creative officer of Valiant Entertainment, just in time for the company to announce a five film deal with Sony Pictures to bring franchises such as “Bloodshot” and “Harbinger” to the big screen.
Negotiations between Valiant Entertainment and Sony were in the works before their deal with DMG Entertainment was announced. The plan is to produce two films apiece for “Bloodshot” and “Harbinger” starting in 2017, establishing a shared universe between the two which will culminate in a fifth film called “Harbinger Wars”. The “Bloodshot” film boasts some heavy hitters behind the camera; it will be directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (“John Wick”), written by Jeff Wadlow (“Kick-Ass 2”) and Eric Heisserer (“Story of Your Life”), and executive produced by Matthew Vaughan (“X-Men: First Class”, “Kingsman: the Secret Service”) and Jason Kothari, a co-founder and vice chairman of Valiant Entertainment (alongside Dinesh Shamdesani, the CEO of Valiant Entertainment). In addition, Neil H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe from “Original Film” (the production company behind the “Fast and the Furious” franchise), will also be involved in producing the film. No stars have been announced yet, but “Bloodshot” seems on track to hit the big screen in roughly two years.
As summarized by Valiant Entertainment’s press release, “Brought back from the dead and infused with cutting-edge nanotechnology by private security contractor Project Rising Spirit, Bloodshot is a nearly unstoppable killing machine equipped with enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing. Created by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin, and Bob Layton in 1992, Bloodshot is one of the most successful new comic book characters of the past two decades with more than 100 issues published and lifetime sales of more than 7 million copies in multiple languages around the world. After returning with a sold-out new series in 2012, Bloodshot’s latest chapter recently began with the release of Bloodshot Reborn #1 in April—the first issue of a new series from New York Times best-selling writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mico Suayan.”
Meanwhile, the “Harbinger” film will “follow shortly thereafter” the Bloodshot film. Less about its’ crew is known, but its’ script will be written by Eric Heisserer and produced by the aforementioned “Original Film” and Dinesh Shamdesani from Valiant Entertainment. The “Harbinger” franchise is summarized by Valiant as well: “Centered on telekinetic teenage runaway Peter Stanchek and his recruitment into the mysterious Harbinger Foundation by secretive CEO and philanthropist Toyo Harada, Harbinger was created by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and artist David Lapham in 1992. Having sold more than 5 million copies worldwide in multiple languages across more than 60 issues, Harbinger returned with a new series in 2012 to multiple sold-out printings and widespread critical acclaim”. Both it and “Bloodshot” clashed in Valiant Entertainment’s first crossover event since its’ return in “Harbinger Wars”, a series produced in 2013.
Having whittled down their “Spider-Man” franchise to the point that Marvel Studios (and its’ owner, Disney) have reclaimed the franchise in all but title, one could imagine that Sony is eager to continue releasing summer blockbuster films based on comic book franchises much as Disney, Fox, and Warner Brothers are. The fact that Valiant Entertainment offers distinct characters who don’t appear similar to traditional spandex clad superheroes only adds to their potential appeal to general audiences.
Amid all of these massive movie moves, longtime Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Head of Strategic Development Gavin Cuneo has been promoted to the position of Chief Creative Officer. For comparison, that is the role Joe Quesada fills at Marvel Entertainment and Geoff Johns holds for DC Entertainment. This role is an acknowledgement of his expanded duties in growing Valiant’s print, digital, gaming, and film efforts. He and his father (Peter Cuneo, a former CEO for Marvel) have been on Valiant Entertainment’s board of directors since 2011 and Gavin has steered the company through it’s “summer of Valiant” relaunch in 2012. Both he and Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdesani were interviewed by ICv2 in the wake of this promotion (and shortly before the above film slate was revealed) and revealed a little more about the direction and efforts of their company moving forward. They revealed that the budget for each of their films with Sony will be roughly $100 million per film, overall comic sales for the company were up 10-15% from where they expected them to be, and an effort to share their comics with China via Tencent was “very successful”. Aside for “Bloodshot” and “Harbinger”, the next Valiant franchise which may be rising in other mediums may be among their best known – “X-O Manowar”.
The rise of comic books from niche collectibles to the ore of mainstream pop culture is here to stay, and it looks like Valiant Entertainment is positioning itself to ride that wave to new heights.