The world of live action super hero media just got even bigger. Valiant Entertainment just announced a new live action series called Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe. According to Valiant, this new live action, high adventure series “follows Colin King/Ninjak—MI-6’s top superspy and assassin—going head-to-head with Valiant’s biggest characters including Bloodshot, Livewire, X-O Manowar, and Archer & Armstrong in a bone-breaking adventure.”
And get this comic fans, Ninjak will be played by the very same badass who played Deadshot on CW’s Arrow, Michael Rowe. In addition, the series will also feature Jason David Frank (Power Rangers) Kevin Porter (Dodgeball), actress/model Ciera Foster (Two and a Half Men), John Morrison (WWE, El Rey’s Lucha Underground), Derek Theler (ABC’s Baby Daddy), and Chantelle Barry (90210, Entourage) and will be directed by “Aaron and Sean Schoenke, co-founders of Bat in the Sun Productions, which is well-known for the immensely popular Super Power Beat Down Videos that have accrued more than 18 million views on YouTube.”
Valiant wants fans to know that, “this series aims to redefine people’s expectations for digital-first content, and is focused on brining high production value with cinematic direction and photography. For example, the pilot episode filmed in over 15 different locations.”
“This new series will be launched under a new division called Valiant Digital. With Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe as the first of several new series under this division, Valiant Digital will expose Valiant’s characters to new audiences with live action, animation, and beyond.”
Watch the teaser here:
Man, does all this sound ambitious or whatAt New York Comic Con we sat down with Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani to get the details on this series and also find out what is going on with the announced slate of Valiant films as well as the philosophy behind the company’s growing success.
Den of Geek: Tell us a little about Ninjak Vs the Valiant Universe, will the characters introduced on this new series be the same versions from the upcoming Valiant Cinematic Universe?
Shamdasani: It’s a live action show, obviously. We’re going to touch a number of corners of the universe. The basic premise is that Ninjak…is in opposition to many of his allies he has been aligned with the in the Valiant Universe. Now, he finds himself up against them one on one. It’s going to be a lot of fun. As for the Cinematic Universe, we’re looking to make Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe everything it can be. On the cinematic side, we’re focusing on making that everything it can be. We’re not shutting any doors, we’re leaving them open, but we don’t want to approach it the way some others have approached it. It’s hard enough to make things good. We’re focusing on each story and build out from that.
That’s what the new Valiant has done so well, it started so small and when you had that initial success, you didn’t try and make hundreds of new titles. How did this new live action project come about?
Shamdasani: We’re very analytical in our approach to building the business, and we feel a great sense of responsibility in managing the IP… we approached the expansion of the audience for the characters in the same way we did for publishing. In publishing, we looked at every publisher that ever existed, the good ones and the bad ones, the ones that are still around and the ones that failed, we had giant spreadsheets of everything they’ve done, to figure what works and learn lessons. We found that there’s a commonality between the core product and the global exposure to their product and that was Saturday morning cartoons.
Yeah, I got into superheroes because of Super Friends.
Exactly, I got in because of X-Men Adventures, and then the movies and then I’m reading comics. There was a direct trajectory between Batman: The Animated Series and the X-Men animated show to reading comic books. Today, Saturday morning cartoons still exist but they’re consumed in a different by the demographic in a different way…the demographic is online. About two years ago, we became very aggressive and researched that space. Every other company was running away from it but we made our plan to become a first mover. We are building something that I feel has the most ambition than anything that has been done in this space.
How will Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe be delivered to fans? Do you have network or streaming partner?
We haven’t announced or decided who our distribution partner will be. Our number one goal is to get many people to see it. We have the benefit of not worrying about it right now. We only have the cooks in the kitchen that are necessary.
So why start off with Ninjak?
It’s an easy decision. You’d think it would have been hard because Valiant is such a big universe. But we knew we wanted to touch upon as many Valiant characters as possible. We wanted a tour of the Valiant Universe. Ninjak was uniquely qualified to do that because, not only is he an everyday person, people could identify with him, he allows us the espionage world, he has a connection to Shadowman so we can organically connect that, he’s part of the Unity team so we can connect him to Harada, Livewire, X-O Manowar, Eternal Warrior, and he’s awesome.
There’s so much super hero content, if the TV and the films move forward for Valiant, you’re going to be the fourth. There’s Marvel, there’s Fox Marvel, and there’s DC. I don’t believe in superhero fatigue, but you can you address it and are you concerned by it?
I don’t believe in superhero fatigue. This is something that Jim Shooter walked us though when he worked for us, because the same question came up for decades. You would see an increase in superhero sales and a decrease in superhero sales. Jim would tell us that since he started in the superhero business when he was 13 years old people thought that superhero comics were going to die. He found that when books were good, they would grow.
When people started talking about fatigue, things were bad. We’re lucky that right now, Marvel is killing it. Fox is killing it with X-Men. DC has potential on the horizon, I’m not a fan of what they’ve put out other than the first two Nolan films.
TV, they’re killing it.
Yes, TV they’re killing it! We’re very lucky that the content is good and there’s innovation, so I don’t think there’s superhero fatigue.
The great thing about Valiant is that you have multiple genres. Ninjak is espionage. X-O Manowar has a toe in Game of Thrones, Harbinger is almost like a CW teen drama…
100%. All of our films are not built as super hero films, they’re built out of different genres with superheroes in the middle of it. Our books work that way too.
Tell us about the showrunners, what do they bring to the project?
Bat in the Sun? They’re incredibly prolific, talented filmmakers that work on a show called Super Power Beat Down that’s incredibly powerful. They create live action versions of characters and have fans vote on who’d win. What’s amazing about them, they do a tremendous job with the costuming, they do a tremendous job with fights, they do a tremendous job with bringing their characterization out through the fighting. We wanted them to build the next level of that. We wanted them to bring narrative storytelling, an amalgamation of our narrative storytelling approach to their fighting, costumes, and style.
How long is each episode?
In comic terms, the first episode is double sized. It’s fifteen minutes with each future episode at about seven minutes. The finale will be longer. We’re in the middle of the show, we’re emboldened by what we’ve filmed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of episodes increases in length and size and scale.
So every episode you have Ninjak versus a Valiant character…
No, at the beginning, we hoped that would be the assumption, because that’s what Super Power Beat Down is. We wanted something that started there but evolved into something much more exciting.
You have to tell me who John Morrison is playing.
I will tell you. John Morrison is playing Eternal Warrior. But I won’t tell you who’s playing Quantum and Woody. That’s my favorite bit of casting.
Will we have goat?
The goat is there, 100%. We’ve only scratched the surface with what the show will involve.
Can you talk about the next few years at Valiant? Is there a film schedule?
There’s no film schedule and here’s why. Again, everything comes back to our approach to publishing. We may never do a movie, if they’re all terrible. Our approach is not to rush it. We don’t really care when they come out, we care that they’re good.
We could have launched the comics in 2011 or 2010, but we waited for the right point of view, the right take. So we came out of the gate with X-O Manowar followed by Harbinger followed by Bloodshot. I’m very proud to say that our four launch books all finished when we planned in the form of story and the form of narrative. That is almost unheard of. They are some of the best reviewed, best received books out there, especially from an independent publisher. Even outside of independent publishing, many of these books sold better than many Marvel and DC books. We think it’s because of our approach, because of our dedication to not rush things.
It’s the same thing on the film side, the movies may not come out as quickly as we want them to, but I can guarantee that when they do come out, they will be fantastic.
Due to the fragmentary nature of the way people watch genre media, how are you going to grab attention?
We’ll grab attention by making content that is better than other people’s content. At the original Valiant, they talked about how all they did was out write the completion. We’ve taken that same approach. We want to build better comic books, build better stories, build better moves than anyone else. Now that’s a huge statement because there’s some great movies. Our ambition is to build better.
What would your Valiant dream be? If you can take any character on any platform with an unlimited budget, what would it be?
It’s evolving. It’s an evolving horizon. If you asked me five years ago, I’d say Cary Nord’s X-O Manowar. If you asked me today, I’d say Josh Dysart’s Harbinger. But, the thing I’m so excited about going forward, is that X-O just hit issue 50. I didn’t even know we’d get there, but now that we have we are, we are ready to lay the foundation for what X-O Manowar is, the full potential. We couldn’t get there, we couldn’t go cosmic with X-O until we laid the foundation. Now, the next series will be the best thing we’ve done.