Earlier this week, Valiant Comics announced the creative team of their launch title, X-O Manowar. Artist Cary Nord will be joined by writer Robert Venditti on the title. We’ve been big fans of Venditti going back to his work at Top Shelf on The Surrogates and most recently, The Homeland Directive. Coming off of the news, we chatted with Venditti to get the inside scoop as to what we can expect from the upcoming X-O Manowar in May.
iFanboy: What can fans expect from your approach to X-O Manowar? Will there be any ties to the old continuity of the character and ties back to the old Valiant Universe or are you taking this as an opportunity to start from scratch & reboot the character/universe?
Robert Venditti: While this is a reboot, there will absolutely be ties connecting the relaunch with the original Valiant run. Why start from scratch when there is already so much good material to work with? What we’re doing is building on the foundation that has already been laid and expanding on preexisting elements. That doesn’t mean there won’t be new characters and plots introduced. There will be plenty of that throughout. But longtime X-O Manowar fans will hopefully always be able to find the things that made them fans in the first place.
For the overall approach, we’re keeping Aric of Dacia true to his roots as a 5th-century Visigoth, but digging deeper into what that really means. What was it like for Aric and the Visigoth people, who were basically homeless and roaming throughout the Roman Empire? Visigoths are often thought of as barbarians, but they were a sophisticated people. As the nephew of King Alaric—the Visigoth leader who would eventually go on to sack Rome—it stands to reason that Aric would be even more sophisticated. He would be not just a fierce warrior, but also a respected leader. He would be the sort of fighter that never backed down and always inspired those around him to action. And when you handed him something as powerful as the Manowar armor, you can be sure he’d understand its value.
Likewise, we’ll be delving deeper into the alien race that serves as Aric’s main antagonist during the series’ early arcs. Who are The Vine, and why are they traveling throughout the universe? Readers will see what drives them as a culture, what brought them to Earth in Aric’s day, and what causes them to return.
iF: You’ve seen success with graphic novels like The Surrogates and The Homeland Directive, but this is a monthly, serialized series, how has your approach changed to plotting and planning the series?
RV: With creator-owned work, you have as much time as you need to write it. There isn’t really a deadline. With a monthly book, though, you have to keep a schedule—if you don’t turn in the script on time, a whole bunch of people end up waiting on you. That’s something that I just can’t let happen.
I remember one of my early conversations with Valiant executive editor Warren Simons. He said he’d like to have the first issue written by November, if at all possible. This would’ve been right after I’d been hired, so sometime in late September. I said no problem, I’d have the first five issues to him by the end of the year. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking, but I turned in issue five in December. So as far as planning goes, my goal will be to stay way ahead of schedule.
When it comes to plotting, this isn’t a standalone series, but part of a larger universe. I kept that in mind in my initial pitch, and I continue to do so. There are so many great characters—both heroes and villains—in the Valiant stable, so I’m always looking for ways to connect them to X-O. Some very familiar faces will be showing up in this series.
RV: Cary is hands down one of the most talented people in comics. I had no idea who the artist was going to be when Valiant hired me, and when Warren called to tell me that Cary was on board, I was stunned. It’s just huge. There’s no other way to describe it.
In terms of the vision, I want to keep the pages as open as possible. Readers familiar with my previous work will know that I tend to script between six and seven panels per page. Rarely do I ever have a full-page panel or a double-page spread. With this book, I’m going in a different direction. X-O Manowar is all about epic action, and I want to give Cary as much room to work with as I can.
iF: What’s your favorite aspect of X-O Manowar as a concept? What attracted you to the character as well as the Valiant universe as a whole?
RV: Definitely the core conflict of the character. Aric is a Visigoth warrior who’s captured and taken into space, where he comes into possession of the universe’s most powerful weapon. When he returns to Earth, he finds himself in the modern day. There is so much fertile storytelling ground there. Plus, built into that concept is a combination of historical fiction and science fiction, two of my favorite genres. How could I pass that up?
As for Valiant as a whole, this is an opportunity for me to relaunch not just a character, but help shape an entire universe. Opportunities like that don’t come along every day. It’s an enormous challenge—and it’s sometimes a little intimidating—but challenges are what make the experience of writing fun.
Here are the covers and preview pages of X-O Manowar #1: