by Jarrod Jones. “The Future of Valiant” is here! Headline-grabbing books like Faith and Generation Zero have led the charge in this bold new initiative from Valiant, and the best part? There is still so, so much more on the way. Valiant’s eye is fixed on the future, and the publisher’s gaze has inspired in readers a sense of wonder and excitement that is wholly appropriate for such an ambitious launch. The future looks very bright, indeed.
With this much world-building on the docket, a character-focused publisher like Valiant has its work cut out for it. Especially when so many of its heroes are still sifting through the wreckage of past conflicts.
Consider Harbinger Renegades, an all-new series that takes place six months after the earth-shaking Harbinger run from Joshua Dysart and Khari Evans. From A&A: Archer & Armstrong writer Rafer Roberts and Transmetropolitan artist Darick Robertson, Renegades picks up after the disastrous defeat from the Harbinger Foundation and its nefarious founder Toyo Harada. The team that sought to undo the Foundation’s corrupt deeds — Kris Hathaway, John “Torque” Torkelson, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, and Peter Stanchek — are left to contemplate the aftermath of their defeat. What’s more, they have to recognize that they may have done more harm than good.
“Not only did they lose, but they lost spectacularly,” Rafer Roberts told DoomRocket. “Their attack on the Harbinger Foundation led to the death of one of their own and set off a world war. It’s hard to come back from something like that.”
Mr. Roberts took time out of his insane schedule to talk with us about this fascinating new series, his collaboration with Darick Robertson, and how Harbinger Renegades fits in the ever-expanding Valiant universe.
1. ‘Harbinger Renegades’ is the biggest Valiant launch this Fall. How are you holding up?
Rafer Roberts: This might be the most interesting opening question I’ve ever been asked. Yeah, there are a lot of eyes on this project, and we’re following up on Joshua Dysart’s run as writer (which is one of the best super-hero runs I’ve read) so… yeah, no pressure!
Honestly, it’s been great. Everyone on the team from editorial to creative to marketing is putting their all into this book. I think I’m doing some of the best writing of my life on this thing, spurred on by Warren Simons and Darick Robertson and Richard Clark and Diego Rodriguez and on and on. Comics can be stressful, but it’s a stress from doing what you love and wanting to do it better than you’ve ever done before. And, in that regard, I think we are succeeding! Once that finished product hits the shelves, all of that stress is forgotten and there is only the work itself.
But that said, I’m having a lot of fun putting the Renegades through their paces and working with Darick to create a unique brand of superhero comics.
2. With Plastic Farm Press, ‘Nightmare the Rat’ and everything else going on in your life, how are you integrating ‘Renegades’ into your professional day-to-day?
RR: All of my Valiant stuff takes precedence. A&A: The Adventures Of Archer & Armstrong, and now Harbinger Renegades, these are books with actual deadlines and people on the team further down the pipeline that are affected by my actions. So they come first. Nightmare the Rat and Plastic Farm, I’m still doing, but they have to be done in my “spare time.”
Right now, it’s difficult because I have a day job as well. Hopefully, if enough folks buy the Valiant books I’m writing, they’ll let me do it for longer. Then I can quit that day job and the time I was spending on that can be put to use on my self-published stuff.
3. As an illustrator yourself, how do you approach working with ‘Renegades’ artist, Darick Robertson?
RR: As with any artist I work with, I try to turn in the type of script that I would like to get from a writer, and I do my best to listen to their suggestions and concerns. I also try to give him fun things to draw! Really, I think my role as a writer is the same as the pitcher in a Home Run Derby contest. I’m just trying to lob in some good pitches for the artist to be able to knock out of the park. Being able to do that involves communication, and I feel like Darick and I have good communication.
4. Has Darick’s work influenced your writing process?
RR: Not the process itself, and not even really the story that we’re trying to tell. But I do my best to tailor the script and what happens in the story to play on his style and strengths. There’s a scene early on in issue one where we accentuate a certain action that falls dead-center in Darick’s wheelhouse, which I think most folks will pick up on.
Darick’s art captures a textured real-world feel without ever venturing too far into realism. His ability to draw regular environments and give them life, or to draw crazy whacked out characters, is amazing. And I don’t know of too many artists working who utilize character posture in order to convey emotion and personality as well as Darick. I’ve been watching his art come in and I keep getting chills at the amount of sheer emotion pouring out from all of the characters. He can layout and stage longer conversations and never make them feel like talking heads which, as a writer who likes writing conversations, very much appreciates!
All of this is under Richard Clark’s ink lines, which (I feel) bring out the best in Darick’s pencils. Inkers, good inkers, should bring something to the table, and I believe that Richard is doing that. We’ve also got Diego Rodriguez on colors, kicking some serious ass as well.
5. How will ‘Harbinger Renegades’ pick up from Joshua Dysart’s run?
RR: The first series told the story about how these teenagers fought and lost against the Harbinger Foundation, a morally grey group of super human Psiots led by the cunning and powerful Toyo Harada. Not only did they lose, but they lost spectacularly. Their attack on the Harbinger Foundation led to the death of one of their own and set off a world war. It’s hard to come back from something like that, and each went their own way. Kris ended up in prison, Torque got a reality show, and Peter started abusing pharmaceuticals and ran off to god knows where. Only Faith stayed in the fight.
Harbinger Renegades begins several months after the events of the first series, and is a very good jumping-on point for new readers. All of Harada’s secrets have been made public and there are many organizations (some with altruistic motivations, others not so much) making use of that tech and information for their own goals. One such group is using black-market tech to activate potential Psiots and build an army to take down “the system,” so to speak. So far, all they’ve been able to accomplish is the murder and mutilation of people whose only crime was a desire to be special. They are taken over by a brilliant super-powered maniac, who has his own loftier goals and use for a small army of Psiots.
The Renegades come back together to stop them, but first they need to get their own lives together.
Kris, the non-powered member of the group and former politically-driven instigator, has moved in with her new girlfriend, Tamara, and is trying to put some sort of life together. Going back out into the world and fighting bad guys is not something Kris is interested in doing at all. She can’t keep a job and can only barely go outside. Kris’s journey of recovery, and her relationship with Tamara, is one of my favorite parts of the comic.
Peter, the most powerful superhero on Earth and a guilt-ridden pill-popper. He’s spent some time on the run from his own failures and responsibilities, hitting rock bottom pretty hard. He’s been spending the past few months trying to fix himself, to get himself clean, through self-discipline and meditation.
Faith is still the best of us all. She is optimistic, willing to see the good in everyone, and is the only Renegade who stayed in the superhero business. But, she is tired and could use some help from her old teammates.
Torque has been using his superpowers to make himself a reality TV star. He’s very interesting to me, beyond being a total douche. I feel like he’s becoming aware of the shallowness of his life, but he would never admit that.
6. ‘Faith’ is a bonafide hit for Valiant. How is that book’s breakout success influencing Faith’s status on the team? How will you pay respects to the ‘Faith’ series?
RR: Faith is the best, and I think the best way to respect her solo series is to treat the character with the same respect that Faith writer Jody Houser (and Joshua before her) has been treating her.
Faith will still be living a dual life, working at the news site by day and being a superhero by night, but the ever growing levels of violence in the streets is putting a strain on her. She’s tired and she needs help. It’s her optimism and desire to do good that initiates the gang getting back together, and it’s that same optimism that will act as their emotional glue.
I also think that, as a super-hero fan, she would totally geek out over having a solo and team book. The Renegades are Faith’s Justice League or her Avengers.
7. You described in an interview with CBR that your ‘Harbinger’ pitch was a “street-level exploration of heroism in a world beset by tragedy, pessimism, and cynicism, and the relationships of those who know they are fighting a losing battle yet continue to fight on.” How do you intend to write heroes that can inspire, in a time when Hollywood can scarcely comprehend the concept?
RR: I’m taking my inspiration from those who volunteer at soup kitchens or who risk their lives marching for civil rights. People who are willing to do a small act of kindness and bravery in order to affect widespread change.
The Renegades are coming at things from an interesting headspace. They’ve already taken on the world’s greatest super villain… and failed. In fact, the argument could be made that they actually made the world worse. It would be very easy, and understandable, for them to descend into cynicism and depression… and for a while they do. This first arc of Harbinger Renegades is all about coming out of that funk, licking your wounds and starting again, and learning from your mistakes while making adjustments. Small victories are still victories.
I mean, no one can punch their way to world peace. No one could ever completely eradicate war (for example) but heroes can help those affected by war. Building homes for refugees or rescuing a hundred kidnapped kids from warlords; those are real impactful victories. That’s all the Renegades are doing. They are rescuing those most in need when most other people are too busy or distracted (or scared) to help.
8. On that tack, What are you bringing to ‘Harbinger’ that is new and exciting?
RR: While we’ll have quite a lot of action and adventure, the heart of Harbinger Renegades is with the characters. The battles against external threats will never come before the relationships and internal struggles of the team. With Kris’s PTSD and Peter’s recovery from drug addiction, we’ll be including some pretty heavy stuff. But, we’ll have plenty of humor and romance along the way as well.
The Renegades are willing to face down their own fears and overcome their own issues in order to make the world a slightly better place. Their journey is difficult, they will often question their decisions, and may not always enjoy clear-cut victories, but they will continue to fight for us.
9. Can we expect an ‘A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong’ crossover in the near future?
RR: Faith is currently seeing Archer from A&A — and I have the writer of that series on speed dial — so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show up eventually. I want to make sure it’s the right story first, though. With so many regular characters, I’d like to fully explore each of them first before bringing Archer in to stir things up.
10. You’re a psionically-powered “harbinger.” You can change the course of human history. What stays, what goes?
RR: My day job is working in prepress at a fairly large printing company. I’ve always said that if I ever found a genie lamp my first wish would be to eliminate all alternate versions of the same font. No more different versions of Helvetica Bold. Gone will be the day of having Arial Black loaded only to find that your customer’s file uses a different Arial Black and for some reason yours causes the entire document to reflow. So, that’s day one.
I’d also somehow make it so all road construction happened instantaneously. Want a bridge? Need to widen this highway? No more years long construction sites slowing down traffic! Done! Get to where you’re going, everyone!
Seriously though, I do think superpowers in the hand of single individual are best utilized for helping on an individual level. But, what a hero can also do is inspire others to make the big changes. A superhero can’t single-handedly end childhood poverty (for example), but they can inspire others to band together and work within their own communities to make positive change. Superheroes are best when used as an example for others to follow. Guiding lights leading the way out of darkness.
‘Harbinger Renegades’ #1 hits shelves November 16.