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Sunday, May 17, 2020 

Valiant's Dan Mintz wants their line to serve as diverse material for movies

Deadline Hollywood interviewed one of the current owners of Valiant comics, where they're now turning them into the movie material the revival of the brand was apparently meant to serve as a wellspring for:
Mintz, who served as an executive producer on Iron Man 3 continues, “They do great stuff, but there is a very defined lane. There [are] certain things that Disney won’t do because they’re Disney…and there are some things that Valiant is going to do because it’s authentic to who we are. All the Marvel movies are great, but I’m saying is…if they’re network TV, we’re HBO. If they’re PC we’re Mac.”
I don't see how adult fare, if that's what they're implying, makes for great cinema on its own. It's the merit of the writing and directing that puts it over. Beside, it so happens there are certain things Disney will do lately, if not before, like promote LGBT agendas, as they're going to do in a new take on the Eternals and such. So it's silly to say Disney won't do certain things, when that was more of a past tense.
Last year, fanboys and fangirls put a target on Martin Scorsese’s back when he compared superhero movies to theme parks and claimed that they were “not cinema”. Mintz takes this and leverages it into a challenge Valiant. “If there was a [comic book] movie he was going to direct, it would be a Valiant movie,” he claims, “because the characters relate on that level.”
I also find it offensive how they say not only fanboys but also fangirls were acting vicious towards a veteran filmmaker, all because he voiced an opinion they don't agree with. I may be a fanboy, but I believe anyone who sees it as a positive description should be careful not to tarnish it by giving the impression they're desensitized to violence. Now, this industry trade site is taking a path not all that different from any other that's villified not only comic readers, but also moviegoers watching the films based on the medium. And how interesting that, if the filmmakers and producers matter, they go unmentioned, even though there's plenty among filmmakers involved with Marvel whose feathers were ruffled by Scorsese and Francis Coppola's statements, which stemmed in part from how these tentpole movies were draining resources for their own film projects.
Compared to Marvel and DC, Valiant has a diverse array of complex comic book characters that introduce familiar types of heroes but are presented in a way that’s fresh, subversive and delivers a different kind of hero from classic household names like Captain America and Superman.

There’s Rai, a Japanese cyborg warrior who fights to protect those who can’t defend themselves as well as Mary-Maria a master martial artist of Latinx descent who is also skilled in firearms and weaponry that leads a rogue group of assassin nuns. There’s also Faith, a plus-size hero who has the ability of flight and telekinesis and Livewire, a teletechnopath. In other words, she has the ability to communicate with machines with her mind.
I am of course wondering if Faith's overweight stature is depicted positively, when obesity itself isn't healthy. If you want to cast an overweight character as a star, that's fine in itself, and William Conrad certainly made a great TV series in Cannon during the 1970s, but it's not like obesity was ever depicted as a throughly healthy example even then. Nor should it be.

But regardless of that, Valiant's sales have been declining considerably over the past year or so, ever since Heather Antos was hired by their staff.
DEADLINE: Marvel and DC have been the main players in the superhero cinematic universe game and they have plenty of household names like Batman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Superman and Wonder Woman. How does Valiant beginning navigating waters where it seems like everything is working against you?

DAN MINTZ: There are only three connected universes — that’s it. It’s not like we’re competing necessarily against Hellboy or The Walking Dead. Valiant is defined enough that I think we build on previous work from a character-wise perspective. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.

The advantage we have is that they’ve already built a lot of the visual vocabulary that we understand superheroes to be. We don’t need to talk about that anymore. If somebody’s sitting there in a spandex thing with ray beams coming out, we don’t need to talk. We know what this is. People want more. They want something deeper. They want that pathos that [a character like] Thanos represented. I think that is very much what Valiant leans into.

That first cycle of The Avengers was a very defining time because people are saying, “What’s next? Is it just more of the same?” In the first Avengers, when the sky opened up and the aliens came in, I was like, “Where are you going to go?” Then after a while, it’s just superheroes hurling planets at each other. It becomes so big. There is a point where there’s a reverse of that. Where there’s more human than superhuman and people need to lean into it. This is why you see stuff like The Joker and that’s why it did so well.

Marvel’s first film was Howard the Duck and their second movie was David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury. Around that time, Tim Burton was developing the first cinematic Batman. So if you and I were sitting there back then, I think we would say, “Put a fork in Marvel, they are a joke. DC is the future.” All I’m saying is, don’t put too many nails in that coffin because there’s a lot of things that are happening. It’s about the right time. When you look at it, the turning point for Marvel really was Blade.
Mintz is inaccurate on what Marvel's second movie was. The second one may have been a low budget film based on the Punisher, filmed around 1989. As for Howard the Duck, yes, that was Marvel's first major live action movie, and what a fiasco it was indeed. Their third live action movie was a Captain America film that went straight to video circa 1990. And as for Hasselhoff's Nick Fury film, I think that was a TV movie, a pilot for a proposed series that never went anywhere. Mintz may be right that Blade was Marvel's first major breakthrough in mainstream cinema, but before that, they were leading a desperate campaign to be considered worthy of cinematic material.
DEADLINE: Of the three, Valiant is fairly younger and has grown immensely with its catalog of characters and stories.

MINTZ: The three are really a product of their time. Obviously, DC is from the ’30s, Marvel is from the ’60s and Valiant is from the ’90s. In that respect, when Valiant was started, it’s got more of a worldview. The characters are more diversified just because of that. Their problems are closer to our problems. I think the characters are grayer.
Grayer, maybe, but selling better at this point, no. As noted above, the aforementioned Antos taking up the editing on X-O Manowar must've really crippled their sales. As for Marvel being "from the 60s", I think this is a clue to his lack of clear knowledge of their own history, having begun as they did at the dawn of the 40s with Sub-Mariner and Captain America their most famous creations of the times. I won't be surprised if he doesn't know of the original robotic Human Torch either. Mintz later turns to more hints at social justice catering:
DEADLINE: What are some of the challenges in building the VCU and introducing some of these obscure characters to the masses?

MINTZ: That’s a question we deal with internally all the time. It always comes back to what’s authentic to who you are. Again, Valiant is a product of this time. So Faith, for instance, is a plus-size, superhero woman. It sometimes takes 30 years sometimes to get up to a certain level. That character has been around for over 25 years. Only now, with the movements that are happening is that character relevant. 20 years ago, Marvel and DC wouldn’t have touched something like that. So it’s an interesting cycle number one.
And is that meant to imply he's in favor of obesity acceptance, no matter how unhealthy it really is? I'm not impressed, mainly because my family has at least a few people who've suffered overweight issues like heart disease, and it didn't help their health either. For example, my own father, who nearly died of a heart attack over a quarter century ago, and today has to refrain from too many oily foods. Did that kind of subject ever occur to men of Mintz's standing?
DEADLINE: Like Faith, you mentioned characters like Rai, Mary-Maria as well as many female characters and people of color which certainly speaks to this time of inclusion. We have seen different iterations of traditionally white superheroes where they are people of color or women.

MINTZ: I think there’s a couple of things. If you take a character that was traditionally “this” and then all of a sudden it’s going to be a person of color, transsexual or Muslim, it’s either authentic to who they are or not. When Valiant was incepted, they had Japanese, Latin American and all kinds of characters where you didn’t really have that before — from the beginning anyway. It’s sense of, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw this story through these people’s eyes?”
Wouldn't it be madness incarnate if we were told Islam and transexuality were throughly normal belief systems and mentalities, all the while not being told the former is hostile to LGBT beliefs? And he's not very convincing on whether he recognizes that transforming a character established as one thing into something totally different is a forced and contrived approach either. All he's doing is spouting liberal cliches.
DEADLINE: What is the strategy to use these characters to build a universe?

MINTZ: One of my jobs is to take what took Marvel 20 years and compress that down. That’s in defining who you are — more importantly who you’re not — and really, really hammering on that differentiation. I see Bloodshot as our Blade. It certainly isn’t Iron Man — [Kevin] Feige got in there and connected it [to a universe] and that really delivered that value to the fans.

I remember one of the films I worked on was Iron Man 3. This was when [Marvel was still saying], “I hope this works.” At that time, normally, the third installment is the one that kills the franchise. So the beauty of what we have in a connected universe is that we can still see our favorite characters in our movies long after they can handle their own or support their own film. So even after Iron Man 3 you can still see Robert Downey Jr. flying around and saying snarky things in other Marvel films — and basically, every time that comes out, it’s really great.

I think we’re able to develop and bring that next level of character that people really want now. I think Hollywood really gets comic books wrong. I think perhaps they get fooled by the format. They look at it and they say it’s a bunch of drawings with some little people talking in bubbles. What they don’t realize is that comic books are the serials of our time. They are the gangster films and westerns, but with one defining difference. They are the anchor of pop culture. So the stories are as diverse and as layered as any group of stories. It’s not the format, it is the evolution of story, and I believe that Valiant is an evolution of storytelling in a comic book.
Here, he does come close to speaking sense. I have on occasion noticed a few arguments here and there that the Marvel movies don't have re-watch value. But I suspect he's the kind of guy who wants to think he can do infinitely better than everyone else, even though there's no perfect way to do anything. In fact, surely his statement risks putting him at odds with other filmmakers who'd find them irksome?
DEADLINE: You say that if Martin Scorsese — who was very honest about his opinion about comic book movies — would make one, it would be something from Valiant. Why do you think that?

MINTZ: You watch one of his movies like Goodfellas or Casino, you feel like you’ve lived a lifetime. You can see why these characters make the decision there because you’re seeing them in that environment. They’re not good or bad or right or wrong. They just are. You almost suspend judgment at a certain time and I think it’s very real. I think there’s something about that, that we can relate to. It hits a different timbre in you and attracts you in a different way. I believe it’s in a time right now when everything’s so big and over the top in a certain respect.

You still need that big, epic adventure, but you need grounding too. I think that’s what a lot of people were reacting to when they see the old school filmmakers. Maybe they might look at it and go, “Oh, a bunch of things blowing up and people flying around and whatever.” But again, it’s the format that they’re reacting to or seeing in a way. What it really comes down to is the story and the characters, obviously. That is something that I think Valiant will show on a next, deeper level.
If he's saying the films they have planned are more like dramas, that's taking a pretty big risk suggesting they won't be the action-adventure fare we'd expect them to be. And if there's no clear distinction between good and bad, surely that wouldn't be a flaw?

Above all, however, the likelihood Valiant was revived simply as a film wellspring does not do it favors. If you're going to launch a line of comics, shared universe or not, it has to be foremost for the sake of the one medium, not another. Besides, it's clear that, not only won't many moviegoers bother to read the original comics, Valiant's staff are unlikely to succeed in appealing to them to try out their stories either, assuming they even try.

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"He's not very convincing on whether he recognizes that transforming a character established as one thing into something totally different is a forced and contrived approach either."

You mean like taking the Human Torch and changing him from an adult seeming android into a hotheaded teenager? Or changing Hawkman from the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince into a policeman from outer space? Or the Atom from a short scrappy guy with no powers to someone who shrinks into nothingness?

So machine to human, human to outer space alien, no problem. White guy to black guy as a path to a spin off, woman doctor instead of man doctor picking up the hammer for a while, instant outrage.

Using a vague term like 'something totally different' seems like a euphemistic way of hiding an ugly agenda.

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