INTERVIEW w/Valiant High Freshman, Daniel Kibblesmith

Honestly, I am not sure what to say here. After I got Daniel’s responses to my questions back, he really took the words out of my hands. Just read what he wrote now, and you can find my after thoughts… well… after.

First of all, Daniel, I’d like to thank you for your time. Secondly, I would like to thank you for all of your great work. For those readers who are not familiar, would you mind introducing yourself?

This is the most flattering introduction to an interview I’ve ever seen, so I’m just going to stop here so I don’t mess it up. Kidding — my name is Daniel Kibblesmith, I’m a comedy and comics writer in New York, and a staff writer for the Late Show With Stephen Colbert. I’m the co-author of a humor book called HOW TO WIN AT EVERYTHING, the co-writer of the sci-fi comic THE DOORMAN for Heavy Metal, and the writer of miscellaneous shorts for Valiant Comics, and now VALIANT HIGH.

So you’re doing an exclusive series for comiXology Originals and Valiant Entertainment, called Valiant High. Would you mind telling us a little bit about this project?

If you’re not familiar with the Valiant Superhero Universe, think of it as a funny, teen soap-opera, set in a superhero prep high school. If you ARE a fan of Valiant, it’s a “High School Alternate Universe” re-imagining of those characters as high school archetypes — with as many surprise cameos and Easter eggs as I could fit into four issues.

As a massive fan of the Valiant Universe myself, I have to ask, why did you want to work with them?

The obvious answer is that I was also a fan, and when they pitched the premise to me, it was right up my alley. Something funny and lighthearted, but with a ton of teen drama, plus a chance for me, the editors, and the art team — especially Derek Charm, whose designs were amazing — to reinvent the characters a little outside of continuity.

Is Valiant High a standalone title? Does is connect with the current universe, or is it an alternative reality?

It’s a self-contained universe outside of continuity. Our goal was for people who had never read a Valiant Comic before to be able to pick this up and get sucked into the teen drama effortlessly. But if you ARE a big Valiant Fan, there’s lot of satisfying twists

Who is your favorite Valiant character? Why?

They can’t really be separated: Quantum and Woody. But I obviously have a lot of love for Amanda McKee, aka Livewire, who is the focal character for Valiant High. For one thing, we’re both from Chicago. But she also is someone with a dramatic mentor/mentee relationship (with Toyo Harada in the primary Valiant Universe), which made her core story a perfect transplant into a sub-universe full of literal students and teachers.

What has your experience been like working with your creative team?

Amazing. Derek blows me away every time a page comes in, and his designs were so inspiring that they ended up inspiring a lot of the backstories for the characters, like his smooth-as-silk take on Ninjak, who I’d love to see more of in a Valiant High follow-up. Then I get to be amazed all over again when David Baron’s colors come in and breathe life into the “Animated Series” art style. Also, in a book like this, the timing and inflection of the jokes is really important, and our letterer Simon Bowland really gets what I’m going for every time, you can really hear the dialog in your head. And of course, David Lafuente’s covers, which I’d like to have in frames on a wall someday. Basically everything that rolls in just makes the universe feel more real to me. I want to hang out their way more.

What has been your experience over at Valiant?

Great! I’ve worked with several editors over there now, and the most consistent joy is how big of fans they are of their own universe. They know all the characters inside and out, and really care about staying true to their personalities. It’s one of the things that makes a high school story such a good fit – everyone’s on the same page about who these characters are, so it’s easy to picture them as archetypes in another situation.

Do you think you will work with them again in the future?

Valiant? I definitely hope so.

Switching gears, I’d like to ask some broad questions for all of our followers that are also creators. What was it that first compelled you to the comic book industry?

Like most of your readers, I assume, I grew up a fan. I went to film school, but found that I was spending more time reading comics than watching movies, and felt more naturally attuned to their pacing and storytelling devices. I’m still lucky enough to script comedy performed for an audience every day, so it’s nice to be able to exercise different muscles on nights and weekends, and hit a range of emotional tones, or build an audience surprise that might take months to pay off.

Is there any creator you haven’t had the chance to collaborate with, but would like to? If so, why? 

So, so, so, so many. Off the top of my head, Marguerite Sauvage, who does the fantasy sequences in Valiant’s FAITH series, Kevin Wada, who does — among other things — amazing covers and fashion pin-ups, and Takeshi Miyazawa who is also a master of conveying teen emotions. I’d also really like to work with our artist on THE DOORMAN, Kendall Goode again as soon as possible.

And is there a comic book series that you haven’t had the chance to work on, but would like to?

Basically the same answer. There’s so many characters I grew up with who, like everyone, I would love to jump into the sandbox with and have a turn contributing to their “official” history. There’s a ton of Valiant High characters with smaller roles, like Dr. Mirage, or Quantum & Woody, who I’d love to do more with, high school version or otherwise.

I know each writer is unique in their planning. Some like to map the entire series from beginning to end, some work arc by arc and other just handle things one issue at a time. What is your process?

It depends on the project. I was so excited about this particular idea that the ideas really flowed, and I had the built-in structure of a high school story to bounce the characters off. So this arc was pretty close to outlined, beginning to end, as soon as I sat down to script page one. Other projects, it depends. I just have to trust myself to discover twists and connections along the way.

How do you like to enjoy your day when not writing comics?

Writing full-time for the Late Show With Stephen Colbert! Other than that, playing Scrabble or seeing movies with my lovely fiancée, author Jennifer Wright, or playing Duck Game, maybe the greatest video game ever created.

Are there any books that you are reading at the moment?

YES, I’m just finishing fellow Valiant writer Fred Van Lente’s first novel, “Ten Dead Comedians,” and I really recommend it, for anyone who likes old school mysteries, or has ever worked in comedy (or both). And I’m about to start my friend Matt Wilson’s “Supreme Villainy: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Most (In)Famous Supervillain Memoir Never Published.” Both are available for pre-order now, but free and early for me – one of the benefits of being friends with writers.

And lastly, is there any advice you have for creators looking to join the industry? Pitfalls to avoid, opportunities to take advantage of, etc…

Definitely. Work hard, be respectful, and leave bitterness behind. When people ask me for advice, a lot of it ends up being common sense, but it’s a great era right now for creatives to self-publish and let their work speak for themselves. People are going to be much more interested in looking at someone’s finished work than hearing about their potential. Just be the kind of person you would want to hire, and good gigs can definitely happen.

What a cool guy right?! Daniel, if you are reading this, thank you again; I will definitely check those two books out; Fred is one of my favorite writers, so the first one was an easy sell. So yeah, as you all saw Daniel is working on a limited arc called Valiant High. You can see my review here. It is a great series so far, and I encourage you to read it.

Get your copy of Valiant High via Comixology HERE

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