With the squillions of dollars made from the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe, it isn't hard to understand the calculus behind multiple studios' years-long attempts at turning characters from other comic book companies into the next big-screen draw.
Valiant Comics has a much smaller profile compared to comics empires like Marvel and DC. Formed in 1989 by ex-Marvel editor Jim Shooter and attorney/businessman Steven Massarsky, Valiant established itself during the early '90s comic book boom through titles like 'Rai', 'Harbinger', 'X-O Manowar', 'The Second Life of Dr Mirage', 'Ninjak', and of course, 'Bloodshot'.
One of the biggest innovations Valiant introduced to the comic book industry were "Issue #0" comics, a nerd-centric idea that contained a prologue or origin that set up a story's events before the "real" beginning of the title. Today, issue #0 comics can be found from all the major publishers including Marvel and DC. Valiant was also obsessed with releasing collectable chromium covers, and today the company remains synonymous with the gimmick.
Valiant was sold to Acclaim in 1994 but went bankrupt and out of print in 2004. Valiant returned in a big way in 2012 with a massive relaunch of some of its most popular titles and introduced some new ones along the way. Valiant was later acquired by Chinese company DMG Entertainment in 2018 with the intent of adapting Valiant's library into a new media franchise.
When Sony lost the film rights to Valiant's 'Harbinger' series last year, the studio chose to pivot away from its initial plans to build out an interconnected cinematic universe in favour of a film based on the Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated comic book series 'Bloodshot', starring action movie star and "I am Groot" guy Vin Diesel ('The Fast and the Furious' franchise) with Guy Pearce ('The Hurt Locker'), Eiza Gonzalez ('Baby Driver'), Sam Heughan (TV's 'Outlander'), Lamorne Morris (TV's 'New Girl'), Toby Kebbell ('Kong: Skull Island'), and Talulah Riley (TV's 'Westworld').
The original Bloodshot comics by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin, Chris Ivy, and Jade Moede frequently read like over-the-top action movies, drawing easy comparisons to 'Terminator', 'Mad Max', or 'RoboCop'. After he and his wife are suddenly assassinated, Marine Ray Garrison (the character played by Vin Diesel) is brought back to life by a team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he's transformed into a high-tech killing machine after undergoing experiments that flood his blood with microscopic nanites.
Though the experiments rob Bloodshot of his memories and leave him with unsightly snow-white skin, they also imbue him with a bevvy of superpowers like increased strength, a healing factor, and the ability to interface with technology. When his memories flood back and he remembers the man that killed both him and his wife, he breaks out of the facility hellbent on revenge, only to discover that there's a conspiracy afoot. It's your basic formula for a blood-soaked action comic straight out of the 1990s.
The original Bloodshot comics by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin, Chris Ivy, and Jade Moede frequently read like over-the-top action movies, drawing easy comparisons to 'Terminator', 'Mad Max', or 'RoboCop'.
In 2020, it's somewhat difficult to imagine how a character like Bloodshot could successfully make the leap to the big screen. Everything about Bloodshot, from his superpowers to his personality to his central motivation, come across like things you've probably seen before in the context of other characters. Bloodshot isn't a cross between Deathstroke, Deadshot, Deadpool, and Wolverine (who are all highly derivative of each other anyway) but he could easily be mistaken for one, especially given that all of these similarly-named dudes have already made their big-screen debuts.
Co-writers Jeff Wadlow ('Kick-Ass 2', 'Truth or Dare', 'Fantasy Island') and Eric Heisserer ('Bird Box' and, incredibly, an Academy Award-winner for 'Arrival') and first-time director David S. F. Wilson could have a completely different vision in mind. In 2017, Deadline reported that Jared Leto was in early negotiations to star in 'Bloodshot' as Angelo Mortalli, the original identity of Bloodshot/Ray Garrison from the 90s (the characters identity is ... complicated). Obviously, the deal did not materialise. Leto will instead star in 'Morbius', an upcoming superhero movie from Sony about another guy with a funky blood disease that will feature ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, presenting the public with another movie featuring Diesel playing to type (i.e. macho, bald, wearing a white singlet and barely articulate) might be the safer bet. Hey, people really like safe bets when they go to the cinema. But if Sony and the other studios hope to eventually launch a cinematic universe (read: a shitload of movies) with Valiant Comics, they need to leave audiences with the impression that these films have something interesting to bring to the table and find compelling ways to make these characters feel like breaths of fresh air - not like clutter in an already crowded space.
'Bloodshot' opens in Australia on Thursday, 12th March via Sony Pictures Releasing.