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The Journal Gazette

Monday, April 16, 2018 1:00 am

Head of Valiant Comics sees success on horizon

David Betancourt | Washington Post

Valiant has been one of the top comics publishers outside the big two of Marvel and DC Comics since its rebirth in 2012. And now Joe Illidge, who just took over as executive editor, thinks it's poised for an even bigger breakout moment – especially as it gears up for this summer's “Harbinger Wars 2” and future entertainment deals with Sony.

After starting his career in comics as an intern at Milestone Media in the early 1990s, Illidge moved to editing “Batman” for DC Comics at the turn of the century. He was most recently a senior editor at Lion Forge imprint Catalyst Prime.

“For me, it was an opportunity to work with a highly respected publisher that has great relationships with creators, fans and the retailers,” Illidge told the Washington Post.

Illidge says his new position will give him a bird's-eye view of the Valiant universe, working with various editorial staff members to outline the future publishing plan of Valiant and create ways to expand its audience. Valiant Comics includes comic book titles “Bloodshot,” “Shadowman” and “X-O Manowar.”

He'll oversee the upcoming “Harbinger Wars 2” crossover event, featuring many Valiant characters – a follow-up to its initial event in 2013. And with a “Bloodshot” movie starring Vin Diesel rumored to start production this year, Illidge is convinced that Valiant's movie deal with Sony will bring new sets of eyes to the publisher in the near future.

“I feel like with the upcoming 'Bloodshot' film ... that is going to allow the larger mass audience to become aware of Valiant,” Illidge said. “It's of crucial importance that the Valiant universe is ready to accommodate all those new potential fans.”

It's not just movie deals that has Illidge excited about coming to work for Valiant. He says that its comics reach across multiple genres and that Valiant can't just be labeled a superhero universe. “Shadowman” is a horror comic. “X-O Manowar” is deep-space science fiction. Popular heroine series “Faith” falls into the young adult category.

“You can tell stories in almost any genre in Valiant,” Illidge said. “I think (that) is a quality that no other multilayered universe in the North American (comic book publishing) space or the global market has.”

A potential gold mine Illidge sees is “Shadowman,” a supernatural series (written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Stephen Segovia) based on a character that debuted in 1992. Illidge says “Shadowman” combines the vibes of “Get Out” and “Black Panther.” A “Shadowman” movie is in development from Sony with Reginald Hudlin attached to direct.

“You're dealing with a male black lead. You're dealing with the legacy of the Shadowman power going back decades and centuries,” Illidge said. “And it's horror, so it connects to personal identity in these ways that are really painfully and humanly true but are also scary and horrifying.”

In his previous position as senior editor of Lion Forge/Catalyst Prime, he was a constant voice for diversity within comic book panels and for the creative talent behind those comics.