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AICN COMICS Q&@: The Irish Rican chats with Robert Venditti, writer of Valiant’s XO-MANOWAR!!!

@@@ What the &#$% is AICN COMICS Q&@? @@@

Q’s by The Irish Rican!

@’s by XO-MANOWAR’s Robert Venditti!!!

The Irish Rican here. Valiant Entertainment’s X-O MANOWAR #1 exploded into comic stores last month with the return of the beloved character along with a multitude of praise for the creative team of Robert Venditti and Cary Nord. Venditti, whose comics work includes Top Shelf's THE SURROGATES, was very excited about the title when I sat down with him to talk about his writing the book and where the future may lie for X-O MANOWAR.

IRISH RICAN (IR): At this point X-O MANOWAR #1 has been out for one whole day. Let's start off with your thoughts about the reaction of the comic community about the book.

ROBERT VENDITTI (RV): I was really overwhelmed by the response. I really didn't know what to expect. This is really the first time I've ever done a monthly series and to relaunch a character that already has such a built-in fan base that people are so passionate about; it was a risk. You want to make the original Valiant fans happy but also be able to bring in new readers. I felt that we did a good job on it. I like the story. I like the job that (artist) Cary (Nord), (colorist) Moose (Baumann), (inker) Stefano (Gaudiano), and (letterer) Dave (Lanphear) did. The marketing guys here at Valiant did an amazing job getting the word out. I thought all of that was well done but now it comes down to what people think when they read the book. The response has been so positive. It's very nice and very encouraging. We definitely look forward to showing people more of the story.

IR: How did you come to write X-O? What was your pitch for the series?

RV: I met Warren (Simons - Valiant's Executive Editor) a couple of years ago. He had read THE SURROGATES and knew my work from that. Warren had reached out to me June of last year and he told me that Valiant was planning to relaunch the series. I wasn't overly familiar with Valiant only because I only started reading comics around 2000 so there's a lot of comics that I'm not familiar with. The idea of working on a relaunch of a character was very intriguing to me because I wanted to see if I could do it.

My pitch was basically what I thought the character could be and what my take on him would be while trying to stay true to the core concept. I spent a lot of time revamping The Vine, who were known as the Spider-Aliens in the original series, and fleshed them out a lot more. Defining what their motivations are, what their plan is throughout the universe, why they are on Earth, why they take Aric (X-O Manowar) with them, and why they come back to Earth all those centuries later.

The other part of the appeal was being in this shared universe that Valiant was so well known for. A lot of my pitch was dedicated to ways that other characters could come into X-O, how X-O could go into other books, and how it could work as one big tapestry.

IR: How familiar are you with the original X-O series? Did you delve into them during your research?

RV: I did. I read the whole run.

IR: What were some of the aspects you liked in those older books and what were some of the features that you wanted to change?

RV: I wanted to modernize for today's reader. In terms of things I really like there are so many great moments in the original series aside from the core concept itself, which is great. You have this character who at the same time is the most primitive and the most technologically advanced person on the planet. That's a nice dichotomy. It already lends itself to a ton of storytelling ideas.

I wanted to update the themes and make it more relevant. We're fifteen years later from the last time there was a X-O #1 so I also wanted, in terms of Aric himself, to make him...I felt in the original series he was a little too primitive.

IR: Cavemanish?

RV: There's one part very early in the story where he meets Ken (Clarkson - who would become Aric's business partner) and he's in Ken's apartment. Ken comes out and Aric is hiding behind a plant like he's hiding out in the jungle. Things like that. I didn't want him to be that primitive. In the original take he was the nephew of the king of the Visigoth people. It stands to reason that he would be a sophisticated individual. Many people classify Visigoths as barbarians and that comes with a certain connotation of primitiveness but they actually were a very sophisticated people. They were a nomadic people that travelled with their wives and children with them for decades through the Roman Empire for a place to live. They weren't a primitive people and Aric, as the nephew of the king, he's going to be one of the more sophisticated people. I wanted him to be comprehending but not tempered with the wisdom that comes with age.

IR: So how do you describe X-O? What's your pitch line for this character that you've revamped and now had a runaway success with?

RV: Many people have used the Conan/Iron Man comparison and I actually don't like that. It's a historical fiction and science fiction put together. It's a story about Aric's journey being a guy who grew up in a time where war meant you killed your opponent one at a time with a sword. You didn't, for the most part, kill them at a distance. You didn't kill more than one guy at a time. What happens when you give a guy like that a weapon that can annihilate an entire city in one moment? Here's a guy that has always wanted a weapon like that to wipe Rome off the map but if you are actually given that power how does he actually wield it? What happens if he does wipe Rome off the map? What's the aftermath? We have the nuclear bomb now but we went through all these phases where we incrementally changed technology to go from musket to bomb. But to pick a guy up who used a sword and drop him into the nuclear bomb and he doesn't have the benefit of all that in-between, what happens in that instance? That's really what the book is about. It's Aric's journey as a man not only out of time in the sense that his people no longer exist because when he returns to Earth they are gone; his culture is gone. He's given this piece of immeasurable technology and how does he wield it? How does he grow with it? How does it help him adjust to the modern day?

IR: It's a bold move to not have Aric receive the X-O armor in the first issue. The original book had him right in the X-O armor but here he's only seen in the armor on the cover. The issue reads amazingly well, but was there any thought that not having Aric in the armor might not work?

RV: I think it could have backfired. I don't feel like I needed to put him in the armor just because that's what someone wanted to see but that's not what the story really needs. I think the story needed the space. It's not like we didn't show the armor at all. There's a really cool scene where you see the armor for five pages and it does some stuff which causes you to say 'I didn't think it was going to do that.' Aric is there in the same room with the armor, he just doesn't put it on yet. I think that's even better because there's that tease there. He knows the armor is there. He knows he is on the ship with this thing. Now he's going to spend the next couple years plotting how to get back to it. I do understand that it is bold to put him on the cover in the armor and not show him wearing it inside the book.

IR: What's coming up for X-O? What can readers expect?

RV: One of the things that excited me most about X-O MANOWAR is the idea that while Aric and Gafti were the only two Visigoths to be taken in the final page of the first issue you see them in this cell with these people that are obviously from different cultures from Aric's day on Earth like a Mayan, a Ghanese African, a Chinese guy from the Dynastic period. It was an opportunity when I sat down and looked at this character to take all these societies that have no knowledge of each other in their day, and put them in a prison cell together. They're all warriors because they are all the people who would have ridden out to confront this bizarre enemy that threatens their people. So you put all these warriors from all these different societies in one prison cell and what you'll see in the next two issues is all of these people working together. I think that's something that is really exciting and visually I've seen the scenes where Cary has drawn this and it comes off so beautifully.

IR: X-O Manowar #2 from Valiant Entertainment is available now!

Ryan 'Irish Rican' McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with GRUNTS: WAR STORIES, Arcana’s PHILLY, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at CLICK HERE to help make ThanksKilling 2 a reality!.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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Readers Talkback
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  • I'm betting they borrowed 'whatever' the armor does from anime/manga.

  • June 14, 2012, 10:45 a.m. CST

    You'd lose that bet.

    by Ambush Bug

    Try reading the book before making assumptions.

  • June 14, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    One of my fav Valiant titles

    by bullitt411

    Big fan of the the original run of X-O, haven't read the new stuff yet though. Shooter and Layton did a great job on this title back in the day. Conan + Iron Man + T-1000 Liquid Armor = genius.

  • June 14, 2012, 12:13 p.m. CST

    @ambush bug

    by CodeName

    Got this from the X-O Wiki site: "The armor attaches itself to the wearer's nervous system and cannot be removed without killing the person wearing it." Umm, can we say Yoshiki Takaya's Guyver?

  • June 14, 2012, 2:37 p.m. CST

    You could say the same thing about

    by Ambush Bug

    Venom, Iron Man's Extremis, and a myriad of other concepts. I'm not saying that it's not derivative, but I am saying that XO-MANOWAR is a great concept about a Visigoth barbarian who wears alien armor. Very different from THE GUYVER, also about armor, but that's where the similarities end.

  • June 14, 2012, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Ho, Goodskin

    by Raymar

  • June 14, 2012, 7:07 p.m. CST

    @ambush bug

    by CodeName

    Whatever, bro. You lost. I'll check Manowar out, though. Better blow my mind.

  • June 14, 2012, 9:51 p.m. CST

    So happy with Valiant

    by TheDean

    Ive really loved this relaunch so far, especially losing the primitive aspect of Aric. The original run was fun, but Aric came off borderline mentally challenged too often, especially in the early issues. I'm also glad we didn't have to read about "juice" and "juices" like 100 times in these first two. Really grossed/weirded me out in the originals when I read them again Anyone else a little disappointed they didn't take any risks with the armor design? I was never too thrilled with his look

  • June 15, 2012, 6:45 a.m. CST

    @ambush bug

    by CodeName

    Was just trolling you with that last comment. I actually want to check this out. Will probably hit my local comic store this weekend.