Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Love Jim Shooter.

First: Happy anniversary to me! It has been one year since my first post here at I Love Rob Liefeld. It's been a fun year, and I want to thank everybody for reading and commenting.

In honor of that first post, in which I explained why I love Rob Liefeld, let's once again turn back the clock to those banner days of the early nineties.

Let's talk about why I love Jim Shooter.

Jim Shooter writes comic books and was once the editor-in-chief at Marvel. Not unlike Rob Liefeld, many people do not hold a very high opinion of him. In his case, it seems that people don't like him because of his overbearing managerial and editorial style.

But I love Jim Shooter. And here is why: for several years he was the editor-in-chief and a driving creative force of the Valiant Comics superhero universe.

In 1992, just as I was getting into comic books, Valiant published a "crossover event" called Unity, which saw every Valiant superhero fighting in a massive battle to save the universe.

I purchased all 18 issues of Unity in one shot from my local comic book shop. (The Dream Factory, R.I.P.) I can't remember what moved me to buy it, since I hadn't read any Valiant comics before that. It might have been on a friend's recommendation, or possibly due to a positive review in Wizard Magazine, which was a big booster of Valiant at the time.

In any event, Unity blew me away. It was my first introduction to the idea of a "shared" superhero universe, where events in one comic can have effects in another, where characters from one book meet and interact with characters from another, and where all of the books work together to build a complete world. There is something fascinating about reading a comic and knowing that the story is at that moment becoming part of the history of that universe, something that can influence later stories. You get to witness the birth of new heroes and villains, see them rise from lowly beginnings as minor characters to blossom as vital and important pieces of the universe. All of the books set in the universe ultimately end up telling small parts of what becomes one giant story, the story of that universe. Crossover events are the high points of that universe's story, in which everything comes together, the stakes are raised, and big, important things happen.

(Side note: one of the things that gets me psyched about Marvel's recent movies is that they are successfully starting to build a shared universe on the screen. I wonder if people who don't read comics will get the same jolt of excitement when, after seeing the individual exploits of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor, an Avengers movie comes out in which all of the heroes appear together to fight some huge threat. I have to admit that I can't wait for that moment.)

If a shared superhero universe is executed well, it can be an awesome thing to behold. For me, Valiant's universe clicked like that. I loved the characters, the stories, and the interactions between the different books. I immediately began to purchase every Valiant comic that came out, and hunt down the issues that had been published before Unity. (Which was no easy thing, as they had relatively small print runs and demand from readers and collectors quickly began to skyrocket.)

During those first few years, Valiant's superhero universe was a well-oiled machine, and I attribute much of its success to the editorial direction and control of Jim Shooter. Unfortunately, Shooter was eventually booted from the company, and in the mid-90s Valiant over-expanded and diluted its line by publishing more and more mediocre titles, and I lost interest.

Since then, I've never really been able to recapture that magical feeling you can get when you know everything that is going on in a shared superhero universe. Marvel and DC's universes are too big, with too many characters and with histories that are dense and convoluted. I don't have the time, money, or desire to know what is going on in every book from either company.

But for several years in the early 90s, I was lucky enough to read the story of the Valiant universe, and it was great. And that is why I love Jim Shooter.


  1. Happy anniversary Sandy! Here's to many more years of being able to read your excellent insight and commentary on comics. Your voice is a very welcome combination of well thought out criticism and personal insight and experiences.

  2. Completely agree...I loved Unity and all of the Valiant books. There were so many books there...someone needs to buy the rights and start republishing Magnus, Turok, Solar, XO, Rai, Harbinger, etc.

  3. Well, there is a new Valiant company that has the rights to X-O, Harbinger, Rai, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, and Eternal Warrior. They've been putting out collections of the 90's Valiant stuff, but don't seem to plan to create any new stories.

    And Dark Horse recently got the rights to Solar, Turok, and Magnus (the old Gold Key characters) and has announced that Shooter will be writing new stories for those. (I don't know if anybody has the ability to publish collections of the 90's comics of those characters, though.)