We recently had the exciting opportunity to catch up with Matthew Klein, the V.P of Sales & Marketing at Valiant Entertainment, to talk about all the latest at Valiant including the new office restructuring, publishing strategy and what the future holds, plus so much more!
Comic Watch: First off, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us here at Comic Watch about everything Valiant! Can you tell us a little about how you got started at Valiant and your role now as the V.P of Sales and Marketing?
MATTHEW KLEIN: So my comic book origin is I was working at a comic book shop called Forbidden Planet in New York. A friend of mine was approached when Valiant was set to expand their sales team, and my buddy told them, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to be a writer. But there’s a guy I work with you should talk to.” Fortunately, despite New York Comic Con getting between my first and second interviews, Valiant figured I had the right stuff and I’ve been working here now, in some form or fashion, for almost six years! (That friend was Matthew Rosenberg, of Punisher, Astonishing X-Men, and Hawkeye: Freefall fame. Not saying he made the wrong choice.)
As V.P. of Sales and Marketing it’s my job to look at the long and short-term sales strategy and messaging for the books and the company. I get to help plan out what goes where, talk to comic shops about their needs, their customers, and awesome places like you at Comic Watch so that everyone knows what’s coming from Valiant and why we’re excited about the books (which hopefully gets old and new fans talking, too).
CW: We recently received some more information about the restructuring of Valiant headquarters with the office relocation and transition of new roles internally. Can you give some insight into this new landscape for Valiant and some of the impacts of these changes?
MK: The landscape changed as soon as New York and New Jersey were shut down due to COVID. The entire company’s been working from home since March. Everyone staying safe and comfortable throughout the pandemic is the highest priority. We’re not asking anyone to come work in an office. Since this is the way things are going to be for many months still, we’re taking the opportunity to evolve. We have a new office space being built to our needs right around the corner from our current one. We’ll be all set to have that up and running so that it’s a seamless transition from one place to the next. Any company that isn’t reexamining its office needs during all of this isn’t being responsible to their bottom line and their employees. Work from home’s not going anywhere. We’ve found we are just as, if not more, effective being remote. While we’ll still have a place to hang our hats, as my publisher Fred Pierce would say, we’re not standing still. The where and what we need is changing. As is the case with so many companies in comics, publishing, and beyond.
Valiant’s always been a place where every person wears several different hats. And that hasn’t changed. Have we restructured and made some tough calls about staffing? Yes. Everyone has, unfortunately. The reality every business has been facing for five months makes all of us have to make those difficult calls. The entire team at Valiant has been putting their heads down and working throughout this unprecedented time the country and the comic book industry has been enduring. I’m so proud to be working with these amazing folks every day and we’re all looking toward the future of Valiant. That is the headspace you want to be in, and we’ve worked very hard to get in this position.
CW: Obviously with the delays spurred by the global pandemic, many publishers have had to alter their business models. As we move forward, what would an ideal publishing slate at Valiant look like [ie. books per month, mini-series or ongoing titles, etc] in your opinion?
MK: Ideally you want a good balance of minis and ongoing titles. Fifty-fifty split if you’re staying under ten titles per month. Right now every publisher is still reemerging from Diamond Comics shutting down for two months. One of the things we pride ourselves on at Valiant is finding ways to keep the lines of communications with the comic shop owners. They’re the folks who ultimately decide how many titles per month a publisher puts out because it all depends on how many they order. Which in turn is predicated on how many pre-orders they get from customers (that process is a whole separate article). To that end as to how many books per month and the balance, it’s a question with a constantly evolving answer as the effects of the economy are playing out in every industry. It’s a question I reexamine every day, in all candor.
CW: There were quite a few titles announced earlier this year with no release dates attached. We’ve gotten some great looks at the new Ninjak series recently, but can you tell us when we might expect more details on some of the others such as Final Witness, The Visitor and that elusive Harbinger tease we saw?
MK: How amazing is Javier Pulido’s art for Ninjak? It’s a completely fresh take on the superspy world that we’re so incredibly excited for. It has this international vibe to it that we haven’t seen yet. This is truly a new launching point for Colin King and to have one of the most acclaimed artists on that character is so exciting. Javier and Jeff Parker, who I’m also a big fan of, are bringing this insane pace and energy to the character that’s going to have you ready to scale skyscrapers when you finish an issue. As far as Final Witness, Savage, Shadowman, and The Visitor, stay tuned, we’re in the midst of planning out when we make those return announcements. As far as Harbinger is concerned? It’ll be better to just show you. And y’all ain’t ready for what’s coming. You’ll see much more in just a couple months…
CW: It’s no secret that Valiant is bringing back many of the flagship characters fans care so deeply about, such as X-O Manowar and Ninjak, but can you talk a little about how the importance of this strategy may be emphasized in the current comics industry?
MK: We have these incredible and iconic characters. And we’ve been putting in a lot of time to come back with fresh and exciting life to them. X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, these are characters that have years of publishing history and built up a great following. The key right now is that we’ve been working on getting a lot of them back into the hands of readers for a while now. With the way of the world and the industry you don’t want to overwhelm the marketplace. Too much, too soon, is a killer right now. So, we’re playing the long game. We’re taking our time and positioning these titles so that they have the best chance for success. And that’s part of the earlier question, how many books per month, what’s the right balance, and this plays into that. Every decision we’re making is made after hearing from the comic shop owners. Publishers and shops have to lean on each other now more than ever as we find our way forward through this extraordinary time.
CW: Without spoiling anything, as both the V.P of Sales and Marketing at Valiant and as a fan of the Universe, what are some of the things you are most excited for in the near future that you can tell us about?
MK: From the publishing side I’ve touched on a lot already. I’m probably more excited about the books we have coming up than any I’ve seen with this company in the nearly six years I’ve been here. The depth of our creative roster is so deep and we’re swinging for the fences. Outside of Ninjak, X-O Manowar, Shadowman, Savage, Final Witness and the stuff we haven’t announced yet, I’m super excited for the console game we’re working on with Blowfish Studios. I think fans are going to be in Valiant heaven when they see what the teams on both sides have in store for them. And for fans of things like, oh, I don’t know, statues and action figures, I think their patience could very well be rewarded sooner than later.
CW: As we look to the future of Valiant, sometimes we can help but reminisce about the past. So what are some of your favorite Valiant Classic characters and are there any you would be particularly excited to see join the new lineup?
MK: Classic? Mothergod. Hands down. No argument. I think she was a bit ahead of her time. That character would be awesome in the Valiant Universe as we know it now. I think she was in a wormhole last anyone saw her, I could see Ivar or Divinity bringing her back into the fold! The beauty of these stories is that they’re potentially infinite. Possibilities are limited only by the expanse of our imaginations and the convictions of our storytelling. So, someday, could Mothergod make her way into the fray? I hope so. It’s just a story that hasn’t been written…yet.
There you have it! Be sure to follow Valiant on social media and stay tuned to Comic Watch to stay up to date on all the latest in the Valiant Universe. Also, check out our Valiant Watch webshow and podcast on Twitter @ValiantWatch!
Convictions of our Storytelling: An Exclusive Interview with Valiant’s V.P of Sales & Marketing Matthew Klein
User Review( votes)