Valiant Entertainment announced this week that it had signed artist Cary Nord as the company’s first exclusive creator.  Nord is providing the art for Valiant’s first book X-O Manowar, which is written by Robert Venditti (see "Valiant Reveals Creative Teams").  
We talked to Valiant Publisher Fred Pierce about the deal with Nord and plans for the launch of the line. 
Why did you want to sign Cary Nord to an exclusive?
The work Cary’s been doing is great, and one of the reasons that we’re getting the kind of attention we’re getting is because of the work that Cary’s doing.  We think it’s the work of his career; he’s putting his heart and soul into it.  Everyone knows that it’s a very competitive industry, so we wanted to make sure that we’re giving our creators support and they’re supporting us.
We want to make sure that over the course of the next bit of time we have our properties, and we have our artists, and we have everything in place.  The properties we own; the artists are free agents. We wanted to make sure that we maintain the quality, and Cary maintains the quality of everything we do.
Cary Nord cover
What’s Cary doing for you now?
Cary’s doing mainly X-O Manowar.  He’s involved in some of aesthetic of the other parts of the universe, and we have a number of artists who are involved in the aesthetic.  David Aja Is involved in some of the other aesthetics.  90% of Cary’s work is in X-O, and another 5-10% is really going through what is the aesthetic of the universe.
Is the plan that he’ll keep doing that one book and that’ll be the extent of his art for Valiant?
He’ll keep doing X-O as long as his schedule permits.  I’m not saying that down the road when we launch another character than suits his art style we won’t use him, maybe on one of our other characters.  He would be perfect for a number of other characters.  He would be perfect for Eternal Warrior.  For now, as long as his schedule permits, we’re going to keep him on X-O.
We understand that it’s part of Valiant’s goal to become the #3 comic publisher.
We’re trying to put the pieces of a team together to be a serious competitor down the road. Everybody does great work.  I love Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Dynamite, BOOM!.  Everybody’s doing great work, and I find, and I think everybody is finding, that when one of the companies is successful, all of the companies are successful.  We’ve been speaking with retailers up and down the country and to a man or woman, they were all saying to us that the success of DC’s New 52 has allowed them to take more of a chance on us.  We’re hoping we can make it a bigger pie for everybody.
Valiant was the #3 company.  Strangely enough, 15-20 years ago, when Valiant was the #3 company, I was the VP of Manufacturing and Operations.  And I remember how everyone felt about the characters.  And in all of my time in the industry, even though Valiant was so long ago, people always asked me about my time at Valiant.  We have fans that are addicted to Valiant. Like certain fans are addicted to Marvel and other fans are addicted to DC.  That’s the hope.
Most of the publishers below #2 in the next range of publishers aren’t publishing exclusively house intellectual property.  They mostly do some licensing; Dark Horse, Dynamite and IDW all have a lot of licenses.  Are you looking to do just house IP or are you looking for outside properties as well?
For the near term, the next two or three years, I believe we’ll be expanding and exploring and refurbishing the Valiant universe.  The way we look at it, we have 30 properties.  Probably six to ten of them, without major revamping, can be serious properties. Inside the properties, there are a lot of characters.  If you look at the IP we have (I think it makes sense), I believe one of the reasons people are excited about what we’re doing is because we are a universe.  Marvel is a universe; DC is a universe.  I love the stuff that Image does, but Image is not a universe.  Dark Horse, at this point in time, is not a universe.  We’re looking to do the next cohesive universe, and “the Valiant Universe” goes trippingly off everybody’s tongue.  When people talked about Valiant 15 years ago, it was rarely “Valiant,” it was “the Valiant Universe.”
You’ve done several promotions for this launch.  What was most successful?
I think between the QR poster and the Pullbox variant, I couldn’t tell you which was the most successful.  For the QR poster, we probably had 15,000 downloads.  We weren’t quite sure how it would be taken in the industry, but I think everyone in the industry thought it was cool.  We had a lot of arguments about how it would be accepted, and I think it was accepted really well.
On the pullbox variant, the thought was that there are a lot of lapsed Valiant fans.  There are a lot of Valiant fans that don’t make it into the comic book stores or stopped going to the comic book stores, but they’re still comic book fans.  The pullbox variant was for the retailers to promote to these Valiant fans—sign up and come in. It was another reason to say to their customers, here’s something else that we’re doing. We know that today, it’s all about the retailer.  No matter what somebody says is going on with an industry, if a retailer is promoting you, you’ll be successful and if a retailer is not promoting you, it’ll be much more difficult to be successful.
The other thing that we’ve done with X-O [is] expanded it to 29 pages [from] 22 to 24 pages. So we’re making X-O #1 a 40-page book plus cover.
What’s your digital strategy at launch?
Right now we’re saying eventually we’re going to go day and date digital, but we really want to see how it’s absorbed in the comic book market before we make that leap.  When we were originally talking about it six months ago, it was a real leap.  I think today it’s not as much of a leap. We were up at the New England Comic Retailer Association (NECRA), and strangely enough the retailers were telling us “Don’t worry about us anymore.  We sell better when we’re day and date digital” just because of all the promotion.  We’ve been laying back on digital only because we want to make sure the comics in the stores are well received, but at this point I actually think it’s a non issue.
Have you made any decision on how you’re going to price digital?
At the beginning our plan is to charge the same for day and date as for ink on paper.  Once you’re printing tens of thousands of books, the extra few books are not that expensive at that point.  The real expense is paying the talented artists [and] writers. And that’s the same digital or print.
Esad Ribic cover
Are you seeing numbers on X-O Manowar #1 yet?
We could be seeing numbers, but we’re specifically not asking Diamond for numbers just yet.  I have to go to press next week, so we’ll ask for numbers next week. We’re extrapolating. We’re hopefully optimistic.  Every time a retailer calls us to tell us how much they’re supporting us, we do an extrapolation and we say “this is what you’re ordering vs. this book.”  They usually call Adam our sales guy or Hunter our marketing guy.  They’ll say “this is what we’ll order” and Hunter or Adam will ask, “What do you order of this other book?” and we can figure it out. Our goal is to launch heavy.  It could be one of the top books, other than a Marvel or DC book, in the industry.  And that’s really what we’ve been pushing for in the last few months.

Anything else you'd like our audience to know about your launch?
Basically everyone should know [that] we wanted to have four books in the market as quickly as possible because, on some level, until you’re four books you’re not as serious in the industry.  So everyone should know we have one ongoing series launching in May, one in June and one in August, so that by the end of the summer, we’ll have four books.  Then, over the next eight months we’ll launch two new books.  The first book we’re launching in May is X-O, in June we’re launching Harbinger, in July we’ll be launching Bloodshot, and in August, we’ll be launching Archer and Armstrong.  They’re all different types of book and will give a good range of the breadth of the Valiant universe.  None of them are future books and none of them are past books.  They’re set in the present day.  Actually X-O takes place in the past but quickly takes place in the present day.  That’s the plan.

We want the industry have time to absorb it. I’ve seen guys try to put four books out and it’s very hard for a retailer to know what to order on one book much less four books.  Sometime before Christmas, I want to launch another book and sometime in the spring.  The trades won’t follow on the heels of the floppies, because I want the retailer to have time to sell out the trades and I don’t want someone to say “Why should I bother buying issue #4 when the trade is coming out the same month or the next month?"

So the first trade won't come out until next year some time?
It’ll be before next year because the way the system works and the way we’re doing it.  X-O #4 is the end of an arc. X-O #5 in September is the beginning of an arc.  So we can probably get an X-O trade in and maybe even a Harbinger trade in before the holidays, even with the delay.