Mr. Sensitive

August 15, 2011

Valiant Effort

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 16:09

Katie worked hard on her top comic books list yesterday, and in honor of her labor I have decided to out-irrelevant her.  Is that really honoring her?  No, but it sounds better than I’ll show her who knows the most useless crap about comic books, doesn’t it?  Periodically I like to remind myself of how awesome it was to be getting into comic books in the early 1990s, when X-Men #1 sold 8 million copies (print runs on a blockbuster top-selling title top out now at less than 300 thousand) and absolute garbage like Brigade could be wildly over-printed and not only still sell out but then trade in the secondary market at double and then triple the cover price.

What you have to know about the issue pictured here was that it came polybagged with trading cards and on the outside of the bag it read ‘Rub The Blood!’  Because the blood/kool-aid on Supertooth there was printed so that it was textured and felt nothing at all like blood when you rubbed it (on top of the Mirrorkote ™ foil cover).  I think it would have read ‘Rub The Blood, Bitches!’ if had been funny to call your buddies bitches in 1993.  Alas, a great opportunity missed.

Clearly, a lot of the comics, and many of the ones that sold really well and made Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld multi-millionaires, were total garbage, starring Metalface and Nightwatch and Bloodmaster.  (One of those was the star(!) of an actual Marvel comic–do you know which one?)  But some of the comics were really good.  And not just New-York-Times-Bestselling-Author-Neil-Gaiman’s oeuvre, either.  There were great superhero comics, too, and a lot of them were published by Valiant Comics during 1991 and 1992, before the company fired editor-in-chief/genius/asshole Jim Shooter.  Unlike the offerings from Marvel, DC, and the high-profile artists who left Marvel to form Image Comics (the better to rub the blood, I suppose), the comics published by Valiant for the first year or so of its existence were relatively under-ordered.  In the summer of 1992, Valiant staged a universe-defining crossover saga called Unity, and it blew away everyone who’d been reading unsatisfying but unending X-Men crossovers for the last several years.  Thus, when fanboys like me tried to track down the early Valiants after hearing nothing but praise for the stories (if not the art), we found they had long since disappeared from stores.  Soon, prices for the so-called pre-Unity issues soared to surprising, then shocking, then incomprehensible levels.  The most expensive (and the best), Harbinger #1, had a cover price of $1.95, and was published at the beginning of 1992.  By the middle of that year, it was a $15 book if you could find one (you couldn’t).  By the end of 1992, Harbinger #1 was selling for well over $75–which was ridiculous–but if you waited another six months for the price to come back down, you couldn’t find a copy for less than $120.  That was the middle of 1993, and that turned out to be the peak of the asset bubble that had inflated in the comic book market.  I’ve talked about that calamity elsewhere, or else I meant to, and that will have to be good enough for now.  To sum up, at the end of 1994, Harbinger #1 had slumped below $100; at the end of 1995, you couldn’t sell it for $20; sometime in 1996, I remember buying my first copy for $5.  By 1997, Valiant was a cautionary tale, and by 1998, it was a joke.  But for a while there, it was magic.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about Valiant, because its story is the story of the entire comic book business in a nutshell, but mostly because it was, while Shooter was there and for a solid year or more after he was gone, super awesome.  And when I think about something, I think about it hard.  So what follows are the Valiant books that were legends in those early years that I was collecting, before the bubble burst and my Dad died (coincident but certainly unrelated events…or are they?).  I’ve organized them into tiers by importance, as measured by value, scarcity, story/character significance–in other words, arbitrarily.

Tier 1

  • Harbinger #1
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter #12
  • Rai #3 & 4
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #10

Tier 2

  • Harbinger #2-4
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 & 5
  • Rai #1
  • Shadowman #1
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #1
  • X-O Manowar #1 & 4

Tier 3

  • Eternal Warrior #4
  • Harbinger #5-6
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter #2-4
  • Rai #0, 2 & 5
  • Shadowman #2, 3
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #3
  • X-O Manowar #2 & 3

Tier 4 (there are four tiers?!)

  • Archer & Armstrong #0 & 2
  • Eternal Warrior #1 & 5
  • Harbinger #10
  • Shadowman #8
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #2, 5, 11, 14
  • X-O Manowar #5 & 6

Tier 5 (no, there are five tiers!)

  • Archer & Armstrong #1
  • Archer & Armstrong/Eternal Warrior #8 (flipbook)
  • Bloodshot #1 & 6
  • Eternal Warrior #2
  • Harbinger #7
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter #6-11
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #4, 6-9, 15
  • Unity #0 & 1

Tier 6 (last one, I swear)

  • Archer & Armstrong #3
  • Bloodshot #2 & 7
  • H.A.R.D. Corps #1 & 5
  • Harbinger #8, 9, 14, 15
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter #13-16, 21
  • Ninjak #1
  • Rai #6-8
  • Shadowman #4, 5, 16
  • Solar, Man of the Atom #12 & 13
  • X-O Manowar #0, 7, 8, 14

Tier 7

  • Just Kidding

Tiers of a Clown

  • Rai & The Future Force #9
  • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1


  1. Don’t worry – I know you know the most useless crap about comic books.

    Comment by euregirlsandboys — August 15, 2011 @ 16:31 | Reply

    • It’s a badge of honor. Now if only someone would make me an actual badge.

      Comment by lbej — August 15, 2011 @ 16:39 | Reply

      • Maybe that’s what you’ll get for Christmas.

        Comment by euregirlsandboys — August 15, 2011 @ 16:55

  2. I need an annotated version. How am I supposed to understand the 7-Tier system?
    Tiers of a Clown was clear as crystal.

    Comment by Justin — August 16, 2011 @ 22:36 | Reply

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