Valiant's 4001 AD Chronicles: RAI Assumes The Mantle & NEW JAPAN Comes Crashing Down

Valiant Entertainment August 2016 cover
Credit: Valiant Entertainment
Credit: Clayton Crain (Valiant Entertainment)

4001 A.D.'s main antagonist Father has been taken down - but he's bringing New Japan crashing back down on Earth with him. How did all of this happen?

In the previous issue of 4001 A.D., readers saw Rai take down Father – the artificial intelligence, which had not only served as the support for New Japan and its people, but had also become its despotic ruler. With the orbital country left crashing back down to Earth, reader have only a few short weeks to wait until they discover all that Matt Kindt and Clayton Cowles have in store for the denizens of the 41st Century.

While we have traditionally spoken with members of the creative team before the release of the issue, we opted to spend this installment of the 4001 A.D. Chronicles looking at what’s transpired in issue #3 with showrunner, Matt Kindt, and look ahead at what this will mean as we approach the grand finale for Valiant’s annual summer event.

Newsarama: Matt, I know for our previous interviews, we’ve looked ahead to what’s coming in the next issue of 4001 A.D. but this week, I thought we might take a look back on the series as a whole. To begin with, let’s talk about the supplemental issues.

I know the standard operating procedure for Valiant, when it comes to these types of events, centers on accessibility, but it seems many of these issues don’t really feed much into your storyline. They generally tend to have their own agenda and follow that as opposed to directly supplementing the narrative you’re crafting. In what ways do you think this helps you as the head writer, as well as readers with their experience of the story? 

Credit: Clayton Crain (Valiant Entertainment)

Matt Kindt: I really wanted to do something that would interest me as a consumer of comics, you know? I've been a part of a lot of events. Some were great (Armor Hunters), but there were others that really didn't work. The beauty of going into this with Valiant was being able to structure the event in a way where the thing that links the books together is theme and tone and setting, but not necessarily the plot. I think the danger with an event is that the story can suffer at the expense of the event’s bigger picture.

So doing it this way, you know that every tie-in book is going to have a great solid story that can stand on its own legs, but can also be a piece in this larger tapestry that is 4001 A.D. That's the kind of thing I'm interested in reading. I think it's more interesting for the writers that I'm collaborating with and the end product actually feels more unique rather than just being the standard summer event that gets rolled out every year. It makes it something special. And I love the idea that you're buying all the 4001 A.D. books—not because you're a completest and have to have all of them—but because you've read a couple stories and you're hooked on this good story.

Newsarama: Do you find it challenging in any way? How so? 

Kindt: I don't think it's any more challenging than writing anything else. To me, it's just more excitement. I love having guys like Fred Van Lente, Jeff Lemire, Jody Houser, and Rafer Roberts sending in these crazy ideas, these great takes on the 4001 A.D. stuff, and getting their voices into the mix. I hear my own voice all the time, but when they start sending in scripts, part of me gets to be a fan again. I love this stuff. I love what I'm doing, and I love what they're doing. 

Nrama: I shouldn’t ask about favorites, but I will: Is there anything in particular from the supplemental issues that really stand out to you? 

Credit: Clayton Crain (Valiant Entertainment)

Kindt: I don't think I have a favorite, but 4001 A.D.: War Mother is pretty amazing—I was sold just from the title. Jeff did something crazy cool with Bloodshot. I had this super basic seed of an idea for an X-O Manowar story, and Rob Venditti just took the ball and made it into something amazing and unexpected—which is what collaboration is all about. It’s about getting to a final idea that's greater than the sum of the parts. And Rafer and Jody—I was in the room when they were hatching their plan for 4001 A.D.: Shadowman—and it was fun to watch them get excited about this crazy, crazy story they told. It's honestly a privilege to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of these guys and have each of us put a stone into this bigger monument.

Nrama: Now, looking at issue #3 that recently came out, we see Rai emerge successfully over Father. Was this conclusion ever really in doubt for you? Were there any other outcomes you played around with (if so, what were they)? 

Kindt: Well, I'm honestly not sure how you measure success, but I think issue #4 is really going to show that Rai's success was mixed at best. I think he made a tough choice and I'm not really sure that I'm in agreement with what he ended up doing. It's like war, you know? It's been necessary coupled with some circumstances, but I feel like that necessity was brought about by a multitude of smaller mistakes and wrong decisions that were made before. I really think there might have been a better way to go about things. Maybe that way takes a little longer and isn't as action packed, but I wish Rai could've found a more clever way to a better result...(laughing). I'm talking about it like I didn't write this—I did—but Rai is his own guy, and I think he's flawed and did some stuff I don't always agree with.

Credit: Clayton Crain (Valiant Entertainment)

Nrama: With New Japan crashing to the Earth, are we looking at a significant shift in the status quo for Rai moving forward? 

Kindt: Definitely. The entire series I pitched was always heading to this. Nothing is going to be the same. There's no way it can be. Rai is a different person, and the very concept of New Japan is scattered across the Earth. Rai’s relationship with Lula and his other friends—all of that is evolving. I love the idea, especially in serialized comics, of a character that can evolve and change over the course of years in a series. It just doesn't happen. Everything is always built to keep this status quo and resetting it. And Rai doesn't do that. I think that's the difference between serialized throwaway comics that you read over breakfast cereal and get comfort from (nothing wrong with that) and comics as a true storytelling medium. We were lucky to be able to do that with Rai.

Nrama: It seems that in bringing Rai out from space and grounding him on Earth, it frees you to explore different types of sci-fi stories. Were you feeling confined with having Rai set in space? Was there an interest in getting him somewhere else? 

Kindt: It was never about confinement. Honestly, with the way that New Japan was built, we could have a western story, or something in the jungle. New Japan had everything! It was always story-driven and character driven. Rai starts this series as a puppet of a despot, eventually comes to this realization, and then does something about it. That was always the story, and it always ended like this. From the beginning, I had a vision of what New Japan would be after Father...so it was always about the characters and the story pushing it to that point.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Nrama: You’ve also set the stage for reconnecting The Eternal Warrior to the latest iteration of the Geomancer. Are we seeing you set the stage for a new cast of Valiant heroes in the 41st Century? Will we get hints to other characters in Issue #4? 

Kindt: For sure. The 4001 A.D. world is wide open now. Earth was always this kind of forbidden place which really kept the rest of the Valiant universe in this sort of secret shell that was hidden from Rai...but that shell’s cracked wide open now... which is going to allow for a lot of other characters to start creeping into the mix.

Nrama: You’re working your way towards the completion of your second year writing Rai and 4001 A.D. now closes in on its finale. With this character, what challenges are you facing? What nuts are you still trying to crack when it comes to Rai? How does this mini-series factor into this challenge? 

Kindt: The issue for Rai going forward is dealing with the consequences of his heroic actions. I kind of think of it like the movie The Graduate, where there's this struggle and conflict, but they get married at the end, and they're super happy. A normal movie would cut and roll credits, but the camera lingers on that couple at the end as they're driving off—and we see them happy—but then the smiles fade...and you realize they still have the rest of their lives to live together. That's what is next for Rai. He had this moment of triumph, but that's just one big moment in the life of this character. Now he has to live the rest of his life dealing with the consequences.

Nrama: As we move towards the end, I’m equally curious about the lessons you’ve learned so far about spearheading a summer event series for Valiant. What are they?

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Kindt: It's all about casting. I put all the credit on all the guys in the Valiant office—you pick good people to work with and trust them to do their best. You pick good personalities—smart writers and artists—and everything clicks. If you love the guys you're working with and trust them, then an event becomes fun instead of a run-away train that you're struggling to keep on the tracks. When you get a bunch of great creators together, it's a run-away train...but it's a party train.

Nrama: As a final question, I’m curious how you see Issue #4, which comes out later this month, as a chapter that will not only wrap up the story you’ve been telling all summer long, but also act as an agent to “set the table” for what will come? 

Kindt: It's bittersweet in a lot of ways. There are a lot of big pages in there that I've waited two years to see Clayton draw. These are images I've been carrying around in my head, and have talked about with Clayton and Valiant Editor-In-Chief Warren Simons...these really big, surreal moments. So, finally getting to see that stuff realized and in print, it's going to be great. It’s super satisfying and then also kind of bittersweet. We spent two years building a world that we just brought crashing to Earth.

But Rai is kind of a coming of age story. And he's come of age. You can't perpetually be a teenager, you know. At some point you have to take on adult responsibilities. So it's going to be fun seeing what Rai does next. How does he handle being a "father" to the remnants of New Japan, and to Lula? There is a lot of territory there that will be fun to explore.

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