Valiant became a phenomenon, selling nearly two million copies of premiere issues, and climbing to the third largest comics publisher in the U.S. behind the long-time industry leaders Marvel and DC. This success was due to in part to their innovative marketing, which took full advantage of the peaking of the 1990s speculator boom in comics by boosting sales with gimmicks like giveaways and multiple variant and chromium covers.


BWS was offered the presidency of Valiant in 1992, after publisher Steve Massarsky and senior vice president Bob Layton fired company founder and editor in chief Jim Shooter, an action which Windsor-Smith did not endorse. Says BWS, “They needed me as a figurehead just as much as a creator.”

When Massarsky planned to adapt Marvel's onerous work made-for-hire terms to Valiant contracts, Windsor-Smith made it plain that he would never support such pillaging of creators’ rights. “If I took their offer of an executive position, I would’ve been in constant conflict with Massarsky. I would never let an artist sign away his rights forever. I needed my integrity more than their money.” Lacking the conspicuous cynicism of Valiant’s executives, Windsor-Smith grew increasingly disillusioned. “When I saw Massarsky courting Joe Quesada, it seemed like [Joe] was to take my place. Then I’d’ve been fired with no parachute and no severance package.” Massarsky and Layton had shown little compunction in removing Jim Shooter to suit their purposes. Windsor-Smith believed that he could be treated the same way when, inevitably, his unyielding conscience clashed with Valiant’s business tactics.

In 1993, Barry Windsor-Smith abruptly walked away from Valiant. Shortly afterward, his much admired series Archer & Armstrong was the first Valiant title to lose its following. Without BWS sales plummeted and the book was canceled. Just prior to the collapse of the speculator boom, when all comics sales were beginning to decline, the company was profitably sold to Acclaim Entertainment, who neglected the publication of comics in favor of exploiting the characters for video games.


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Above: Page 10 of Archer & Armstrong #5 (1992)