Over the past two years, Valiant Comics has been steadily making a name for itself in the world of superhero comics and building its readership thanks to fan favorite titles such as XO Manowar, Unity, Eternal Warrior, Harbinger, and other classics from the company's past. However, this resurgence was founded upon more than just bringing back these twenty-four year old characters to cover the same ground as their predecessors. Instead, Valiant has invested in top industry talent to ensure the best possible chances of putting their comics back into the hands of its longtime fans and new readers, and its efforts have been rewarded with stories and art to which the fans have been enthusiastically responding as evidenced by the number of citations they've received on fan, comics news, and critics' websites.
This summer, Valiant continues the hunt in its pursuit to become readers' "go to" publisher for innovative comic storytelling with its company-wide event, Armor Hunters. This event will kick off June 11, 2014 with the release of Armor Hunters #1 (of 4) and will include two tie-in issues in Unity #8 as well as XO Manowar #28. From there, readers can expect tie-in issues from Armor Hunters: Harbinger as well as Armor Hunters: Bloodshot. While the event won't include every Valiant title, the events from the first issue of the series promise to have wide-reaching effects that will branch out across their shared universe.
In the first of what will be an on-going series of interviews covering Valiant's Armor Hunters event, Newsarama sat down with the series' lead writer, Robert Venditti, to talk about what readers can expect from him, mini-series artist, Doug Braithwaite, and the rest of the creators behind Valiant's first major company-wide crossover.
Newsarama:Where did the idea for the Armor Hunters story come from? What led you to this multi-title, 4-month long event?
Robert Venditti: The determination to make th big, event-styled cross-over came from Valiant. They have to put something like this into their publishing schedule. I would never presume to write a story and say "Hey, everybody let's all jump on to this!" And that's a part of the fun in the challenge when they come and talk to you. They wanted an event mini-series that can stand alone but also tie in multiple other titles and asked, "What do you have in mind for that?" I've never done that kind of story before. I've done a cross-over with Green Lantern with "Lights Out," but that was going from one book to another all within one month. This is a multi-book, four-month storyline, so it's a much larger endeavor.
With everything I take on, I try to get outside of my comfort zone and do something that I haven't done before. I'm always hoping to challenge myself and grow as a writer. This was an opportunity when they came to me about doing it that I was very excited about it and was able to work in some ideas that I had been kicking around since I started on XO but now on a much larger scale.
Nrama: What's the process like for putting this cross-over together? Are you in communication with guys like Josh Dysart, Greg Pak, Matt Kindt, and the other writers whose characters are showing up for this summer event?
Venditti: It all started off with Warren asking me about what sort of ideas I had for this sort of large scale event. And we went over some ideas I had and he had and we got a core concept in place. Then we had a writers' retreat at Valiant back in October of 2013, and we talked about the idea, presented it to the other writers in very broad manner. Instead of saying "Writer X, you have to be involved," and "Writer Y, you have to be involved," it was more of looking at it and asking them how they saw their characters fitting into it or not fitting into it at all. Everybody had an opportunity to be a part of it if they wanted to and stay out of it if they wanted to. We all got to talking, and you've got guys like Dysart, Pak, Kindt, Van Lente, all of these talented writers in the room and the story just grew out of there and became better and better.
Nrama: A follow up to my last question: Given the scope of this series, how have you built in "entry points" for new readers, or readers who may not be following all of the series involved in this cross-over event?
Venditti: That's a huge focus for Valiant for all of their books – not just this but every issue they put out on a month to month basis is always a new entry point for readers. That's something that is a big focus for Warren and for Valiant as a whole. So it's maintaining that and making each individual storyline tie-in – the way Unity ties in and Harbinger ties in or the way Bloodshot ties in – and yet still stand alone and tell a complete story. If you read them in conjunction with the event series, you get this sense of a larger picture in place. So it's something that, with most of us having been Valiant writers for quite a while, we're almost trained to think that way when it comes to these books, and so it's always been a part of the mission statement. We had that in mind from day one.
Nrama:So each series and the mini-series are all stand alone in addition to providing a more epic narrative?
Venditti: Absolutely. The event mini-series, Armor Hunters, is going to tell its own story, Bloodshot is going to tell its own story, Unity its own, Harbinger its own, and again they all are going to tie in to create a larger tapestry when read in conjunction, but neither of them is wholly dependent upon another.
Nrama: Regarding the design for the series, what aspects can readers look forward to most? What can we expect when we open up Armor Hunters #1 on June 11th?
Venditti: Doug Braithwaite has been phenomenal to work with, and while this has been my first time working with him, I've been a huge fan of what he's done on Unity with Matt. So when Warren told me he's going to be drawing the event series, I was really excited about that. The character designs that Clayton Crane turned in – GIN-GR the giant robot or Helix who's a being of sentient data – they all have such neat looks to them. Doug was then able to flesh them out even more, and the way he's communicating the story on the page bringing it up to a level beyond what I would have hoped for. And the same goes for Diego Bernard who's over doing the XO Manowar tie-in title. He's really going outside of the box and stretching himself in terms of the content and the story. I think it will surprise a lot of people how it ties into the event. Both of these guys are turning in great work, and it's one of those things where you get some pages in your inbox and you can't wait to open them up and look at them. Seeing this stuff come across the page is one of the best things about being a writer
Nrama: Last question: Cross-over events - especially during the summer - are pretty common among superhero comic publishers. Why is Armor Hunters the one event readers need to buy in the summer of 2014?
Venditti: What separates Armor Hunters from all of the other event stories coming out this summer is it’s the first big multi-book event of the newly relaunched Valiant universe. There's obviously a huge tradition with those kind of storylines going back to Unity and the original Valiant universe incarnation. So this is a chance to read this story at the beginning of the continuity. Most of the writers who are involved in the story have been with Valiant since day one or for a very long time. We've built this continuity up around itself always with a particular goal in mind. It's a very cohesive universe in the way it's all come together. Armor Hunters provides a chance to get in on the ground floor, see the Valiant universe in its infancy, and the changes that happen and take it in new directions.
Be sure to stay tuned every week for Newsarama's ongoing discussions with Robert Venditti and the rest of the creative team behind this new series. And don't forget: Although fans can purchase Armor Hunters #1 from their local comic shops or online starting June 11, it will be available for an early release at Phoenix Comic Con this weekend.