Monday morning, Valiant Comics announced the return of Peter Stanchek — the strongest psiot in the entire Valiant catalog. The new series is a self-titled book The Harbinger by writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with art by Robbi Rodriguez of Spider-Gwen fame, and ComicBook.com caught up with both Lanzing and Kelly to get the behind-the-scenes information on bringing Stanchek back to life after a brief hiatus, the future of the title, and a whole lot more.
"So why bring HARBINGER back now? Because it’s time that promise came true," Lanzing tells us of the revival. "Because after 2020, we all need to believe there’s hope on the other side of our struggles. We need stories that acknowledge the systemic challenges that face us - and the introspection and change inside ourselves that’s needed to face them. Peter’s done being a renegade. He’s going to learn to fight for something bigger than himself."
Keep scrolling to see our full chat with Lanzing and Kelly, and be sure to stick around until the end — an exclusive page reveal is below!
Bringing Back Harbinger
ComicBook.com: It's been a minute since we've seen any Harbinger in action. Why now? What makes 2021 the time to introduce this particular story?
Jackson Lanzing: Harbinger was designed from the start to be a superhero story that reflected the modern. The original Shooter / Lapham run felt real and relevant because it broke down the barriers of suburbia, looked critically at capitalism, and imagined a teenage superteam rooted in Reagan-era anti-authoritarian. Hell, the book was called Harbinger, but the heroes were the Renegades - it broke all the rules. Plus, it brought us Faith, one of the great modern superheroes.
When Valiant relaunched, Joshua Dysart, who absolutely rocks, reinvented the Renegades as modern punk-rock outsiders. But Josh also did something dangerous and awesome: he put the focus squarely on Peter Stanchek - and gave Peter an honest, difficult, and very relevant struggle with his own mind. This psychic powerhouse of unlimited godlike potential became a young man with drug addiction fueled by mental illness, caught in the all-too real cycle of falling through the cracks in the social safety net. Peter wasn’t a superhero, he’s a messed up kid who betrayed his friends on more than one occasion… and used his power for really terrible things. He lost more psiots than he saved. He mentally-assaulted his best friend. He ran so far from his responsibility that he ended up on Jupiter.
And yet, over and over, missives from the future told us that someday, Peter Stanchek would become a revolutionary leader and iconic hero. We were promised that a brighter tomorrow existed on the other side of Peter’s struggle.
So why bring HARBINGER back now? Because it’s time that promise came true. Because after 2020, we all need to believe there’s hope on the other side of our struggles. We need stories that acknowledge the systemic challenges that face us - and the introspection and change inside ourselves that’s needed to face them. Peter’s done being a renegade. He’s going to learn to fight for something bigger than himself.
He’s going to learn to become the Harbinger.
Collin Kelly: Our story picks up in Chicago, in the aftermath of the Harbinger Foundation’s collapse. Toyo Harada is out, and the world is still reeling. That’s the world that Peter wakes up to… because we’re starting Peter with a clean slate. With no memory of who he is, what he can do… and most importantly, what he has done. This isn’t to forgive him or white-wash those tragedies; as Peter discovers these truths, he’ll see everything about who he was, and have to wrestle with what kind of man - what kind of hero - that means he can be. And emblazoned on the ceiling above him are going to be two words that will become the rallying cry for the entire series: Be Better.
The Chicago that Peter is going to discover is one that holds up a mirror to our world: the citizens are angry, and the marginalized - including the psiots and potential psiots that Harada was keeping as Eggbreakers-in-waiting - have been pushed into a place we call “Psiot City”, effectively a ghetto. The police treat them like criminals, even though their only crime is living. Things are at a breaking point. It’s our world, with all the danger and pain that entails. And in walks Peter Stanchek. The most dangerous - and well known - Psiot on the planet.
What could go wrong?prevnext
How'd you two get attached to the project?
CK: That’s a bit of a funny story, if only because it was a journey. We started our relationship with Valiant years ago, when we were asked to pitch on a project or two. And of course, being us, we wanted to be fully engaged on the world, so that we could pitch the most vibrant stories possible. With Valiant’s interconnected publishing schedule, that web of stories was - and is - one of the most exciting parts of the line.
So Jackson - and I have no problem calling him out on this - starts building a spreadsheet. He loves spreadsheets, and I’ve learned well enough at this point to let him run. He builds what effectively becomes a one man wiki, an absolute, definitive list of every character, their appearances, and their emotional arcs, for the entire Valiant universe.
Now, at the time… we didn’t land the gig. But I know for a fact that it impressed the hell out of the entire Valiant team. So when we were lucky enough to meet with super-star editor Heather Antos, our general conversation went from topic to topic… and then turned towards Harbinger. We have always loved Peter, and because of that spreadsheet, we know him deeply, flaws and all. And our passion came through. Soon enough, Heather asked us to start putting that passion down on paper… and here we are.
Did you two and Robbi board the project at the same time or did you have a say in his hiring?
JL: It’s actually neither - Robbi joined the team a few months after we’d gotten the pitch approved. Heather Antos, the mastermind behind this whole wild ride, pulled him into the band. Of course, it became apparent very quickly how brilliant a move that was. Robbi showed up to completely reinvent the look of Harbinger - this book is like high-fashion pop-punk Akira. The creative synergy is completely incredible and we can’t wait for people to see what he’s creating.
CK: One of the most things for us was to use this story to have Peter face his incredible privilege. And part of that is to put away his dirty hoodie, and start acting - and looking - like the powerhouse that he is. Which means a costume design… which is where Robbi gets to unleash. As soon as his designs started coming in, we started to realize what a rocketship this book could be. And then, with Rico’s colors… I think we can all see the magic in that promo image. And when everyone sees the full suit, and not just the back… it’s the kind of look that makes you say “hell yes”.prevnext
Why Not Bloodshot?
Why Harbinger? What attracts you to these characters over anyone else in the Valiant catalog?
CK: In the entire catalogue of comics, across every publisher, Peter Stanchek is unique. He is not only the most powerful psiot on the planet - he’s also the only one on the planet who can activate others to become like him. He has apex responsibility on two fronts, a grand destiny, and he is… just a man. He didn’t have a bald professor to raise him; he didn’t have a loving family of famers to teach him how to do right; he didn’t have a superheroic role-model. He’s damaged, he’s scared…. he’s human. And yes, he makes mistakes… and when we told Valiant that we wanted to face those mistakes, and not run from them, they gave us all the support in the world.
JL: And beyond Peter, HARBINGER has always cast the widest net in the Valiant Universe when it comes to representation and diversity - which is a priority in our work generally from Joyride to Gotham City Garage to Star Trek. But Peter’s old friends aren’t big fans of him anymore, so in building a new era around Peter, we saw a chance to introduce a brand new supporting cast that showed us the next generation of psiots. A group of people young and old who’ve seen Generation Zero slaughtered, who’ve seen the Renegades fail, who’ve watched Toyo Harada’s Foundation Zone get stamped out by the powers that be. They’re radicalizing, they’re reconsidering how the fight is fought, and more than anything, they’re critical of someone like Peter stepping in to speak for all of them.
And suffice to say, we’re absolutely waiting for the opportunity to bring in some of our favorite characters from the Dysart era… though they may not be the ones you think.prevnext
Future of Franchise
How long of a story do you have planned on this title?
JL: Hah, we’ve got years of Harbinger stories in us. But the first year, which we see as a total retooling of the franchise and a turn into a new day for Peter, is built for twelve issues. As verboten as it might be to say considering how much Harbinger owes X-Men, we take some inspiration from what Hickman and company did with House/Powers of X; we’re gonna take a full year to really unpack the mysteries of our story and let Peter adjust to his new reality. Then, on the other side of THE HARBINGER: Year One, a whole new world of psiots, social drama, and science-fiction awaits.
CK: What else can we say? Anything else would be #spoilers.
There's no secret Paramount is actively developing a feature with these characters. Did you have any communication with that team while developing your take on the series?
CK: We haven’t heard from them, but that just means we’re as excited as the fans to see what they’re planning with the character! Our take is unique to the comics, building on the rich history, and telling a story that can only be told here and now - but luckily Peter is a deep enough character that more than one interpretation can exist at the same time, and everyone can win. It’s a damn good time to be a Harbinger fan.
Where's it go from here? Any other teases you can drop? Valiant or otherwise?
JL: For now, THE HARBINGER is going to be focused squarely on Peter Stanchek, the mysterious circumstances that bring about his return, the new family he builds in Chicago’s “Psiot City”, and his rise to the mantle of superhero and revolutionary. With Toyo Harada gone, we’ve got a brand new archnemesis stepping into Peter’s life and wearing a very familiar face. We’re also introducing new psiots - not as members of a new team, but as counterpoints and foils to Peter, who has grown up a bit since his days as a teenage renegade. And you know that we’re counting down the days until we can bring Faith - and eventually, Kris - back into the fold to reckon with what Peter’s becoming.
This is a brand new day for the HARBINGER saga - and as longtime fans, we take that responsibility very seriously. We’re going to be walking a real tight wire, but it’s one Collin and I have become pretty comfortable walking together. Mind-blowingly unreal action with heart-wrenchingly real characters - that’s THE HARBINGER.prevnext
Exclusive Page Reveal0comments
Harbinger is currently on the schedule for a 2021 release.prev