Joshua Dysart, whose major crossover Harbinger Wars just wrapped and is having ripple effects through the Valiant Universe, will soon be taking over co-writing duties on Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps in addition to his ongoing gig as the (sole) writer of Harbinger, one of the publisher’s flagship titles and one of the best-reviewed books in comics.
Dysart joined ComicBook.com to talk about his two series for Valiant, as well as what we might expect in the run-up to the company’s big winter event series Unity and the unique pressures of taking over a title that’s only ever been written by one other writer.
ComicBook.com: When you guys launched, it was to good reviews but that doesn’t necessarily mean much for sales. Is it nice working with a company that’s a bit smaller, where maybe expectations aren’t as high and you can focus on story rather than your time at DC when you were often dogged by sales issues?
Joshua Dysart: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s all kinds of benefits to being at a smaller but ambitious company. That’s one of them is that we can justify and sustain our existence at smaller numbers for now–but also it means that they invest a lot more in each book, for lack of a better term, emotionally. They stick with a book, so that’s all part of it.
There’s a whole list of reasons why being at a small company that’s growing fast is great. I know all the employees, I’m close with marketing, we all work together, we move on a dime, we have big meetings in which everyone’s involved so there’s a feeling that you’re part of a community and that’s exciting for me. I’ve never been one of those writers that has a character he has to work on. I have other human beings I want to work with.
ComicBook.com: Your book has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger–until Harbinger Wars kind of ate the Valiant Universe for a few months. Now that you’ve kind of leveled off a bit, how do you move forward without feeling like you’ve lost momentum?
Dysart: You know, that’s interesting. Even when Harbinger Wars was sort of blowing our book out, Harbinger itself was sort of about the emotional impact of the events in Harbinger Wars. So on the one hand, the book did get bigger in scope but on the other hand it continued to do what it’s always done, which is be about human beings in the midst of conflict and struggling with conflict and how friendship can help you get through this conflict.
So that’s what the book’s about and as long as we maintain that, I think we’re okay. I doni’t really think we need to go epic all the time.
Having said that, quite honestly, the constant expansion of other properties often leads to their downfall. Things must expand, they must contract. You have to see all of the facets of what’s good about your book and explore each one independently. So sometimes the book is going to get smaller again and be focused on very, very personal things and I think that will be good.
I will say that the events of Harbinger Wars has deeply affected permanently both Bloodshot and Harbinger as books. Now, Bloodshot it’s obvious to see how–their title change lets you know what’s coming. Harbinger, it’s less obvious to see, but I guarantee that over time, you’ll see that the repercussions of this event are interesting.
ComicBook.com: Is it nice to have something like Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps, where almost by its nature it asks to be an action movie and so you’re allowed to be introspective and character-driven in Harbinger because you’ve always got something to blow up elsewhere?
Dysart: Precisely, yeah. That was the beauty of working on Harbinger Wars, too. That was precisely it. I’ve never written a book where you sort of turn everything up as loud as you possibly can and I think I was happy doing it because of precisely what you said, because I was still anchored in the thing that I love most, which is telling the character, human stories. So it’s super-satisfying to be able to throw my hat in the ring with Bloodshot. It is mostly Christos [Gage]‘s book and I’m just sort of massaging it, keeping it in line with everything, but yeah–totally. I think that Harbinger has carved a niche out for itself in the Valiant Universe and there’s a dichotomy here–it’s both a small character book and also the story expands naturally. We have so many characters to explore so I think it’s a little bit of both; it can be both a small, character book and an expansive universe.
ComicBook.com: Are you, in the limited degree to which you can say it, building to Unity over the next six months?
Dysart: I think there will be very little that won’t be touched by Unity in the Valiant Universe, and that’s probably the best thing and all I can say at this time.
ComicBook.com: Everything right now is the first–so you guys are the first major creative change, going forward on Bloodshot. Do you feel there’s almost as much pressure in that–in trying not to screw up what Duane did–as there was in the relaunch itself?
Dysart: Oh, absolutely. You know, it’s very much a part of our job. You can be the next writer on Superman or Avengers and you’ve got a lot more freedom to go with your own take. It is part of our responsibility to take some of the energy, the dynamic and particularly the themes that Duane Swierczynski laid down and run with those.
That is the energy that I think you feel when you read Valiant Comics. You feel the energy of all of us doing something for the first time, all of us trying to figure it out. Harbinger Wars was the first time that myself or Warren Simons had done a big crossover so while I’m sure there are things we would do differently now, I think there’s an energy and a freshness happening there simply because we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. “Hey, kids, we have a barn. Let’s put on a show.” So yes, obviously there’s a great responsibility. This is the first creative changeover in a Valiant book–but I do believe that these challenges create energy inside the book and I do believe that’s why our books have something going on in them that maybe a larger company has a more difficult time capturing.