Valiant's flagship title X-O Manowar is being relaunched in a big way, and its the first of what the publisher describes as a "dramatic shift" for the company as a whole.
Frequent Valiant writer Matt Kindt is taking over X-O Manowar for an ambitious year-long run made up of tight three-issue arcs. This year-long saga is already mapped out by the publisher, with story-arc titles - "Soldier," "General," "Emperor," and "Visigoth" - as well as artists: Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan.
But with all those plans, the one thing Aric won't have at the beginning of this bold new era is the X-O armor: Aric has begun a new life as a farmer on a far-away world.
With X-O Manowar #1 due out March 22, Newsarama talked with Valiant's Editor-In-Chief Warren Simons about this ambitious story and publishing plan, what it means for Aric, and what this means for Valiant as a whole.
Newsarama: Warren, Valiant's publicized the new X-O Manowar series as its biggest announcement of 2017 - and the year hasn't begun yet. A new volume is big, but tell us how it’s even bigger than that.
Warren Simons: X-O Manowar is one of Valiant's most iconic characters, and a lot of our fans view him as our flagship. When the modern Valiant Universe began publishing in 2012, we launched with X-O Manowar #1 by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord, and that series, arguably, served as the spine to our publishing line. A ton of new ideas and concepts were either introduced or came out of X-O Manowar, including Armor Hunters, Planet Death, and Unity, to name a few.
With X-O Manowar #1 written by Matt Kindt with art by Tomas Giorello, we've got two visionary creators putting together an extraordinary new story that will place X-O Manowar at the forefront of the Valiant Universe once again.
Newsarama: Take us back to when talk of a new #1 first began. What did you look for in a story and creative team for a follow-up to Robert Venditti's X-O Manowar?
Simons: Well, first let me give props to Rob, a good friend who put together a masterful 56-issue run in a marketplace where that's a real rarity. I had a real blast working with Rob and a host of amazing artists, including Cary Nord, Trevor Hairsine, Lee Garbett, Doug Braithwaite, and others. As with everything we do at Valiant, rather than lean back in to the nostalgia of that run, we’re trying to innovate and move into the next phase of X-O Manowar’s evolution.
This series is going to strip Aric down to his basics in a way that I don't think most fans will see coming. Matt's come up with some pretty killer ideas that will send him into new and uncharted territories and will reshape him in unexpected and exciting ways, and I can't wait to share the stunning art Tomas has put together.
Nrama: So how did Matt Kindt land the job then?
Simons: Matt's a real gem to work with, a fantastic collaborator, and seems to be an endless source of amazing ideas. Since he joined the Valiant family, he's helped helm a number of successful launches, including Rai, Ninjak, 4001 A.D., Divinity, and Unity, not to mention his library’s worth of seminal creator-owned books like Mind MGMT, Dept. H, and Ether. Matt never had a shot at X-O Manowar, so this is his chance to put his particular spin on the character and explore some avenues in Aric’s psyche that we haven’t really examined yet. As any Divinity fan knows, he's very much at home in the sci-fi genre, so I'm really stoked for the launch.
Nrama: And for artists, you have a rotating crew of Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan. Books have rotating artists, but not many publishers will say that from the get-go. Why five artists?
Simons: Well, as with Jeff Lemire's fantastic job on Bloodshot Reborn, we've got at least a year's worth of stories in the pipeline. I'm very lucky to have an incredibly formidable roster of artists at Valiant, and it just made sense to execute Matt's vision for X-O Manowar with some of the best artists in the industry today.
Nrama: I'm told that this new series will have Aric without his armor - the namesake of the series title, X-O Manowar. What's going on?
Simons: Since he obtained the armor, death, destruction, warfare, and loss have followed Aric at seemingly every step. A major city on Earth was annihilated as a warning to him. As we'll see, Aric thinks that the armor is responsible for much of this, and he begins to see the armor more as a curse than a gift. But when the drums of war come marching again... he'll need to decide just how far he can go without it.
Nrama: So Aric and the armor are away from Earth - what do his wife, kids, and other Valiant heroes think/know about his absence?
Simons: Over the next year, “Where is X-O Manowar?” will be one of the central questions running through every Valiant title. Aric’s absence will be felt - and explored - while he’s off-planet. We're already seeing it in Bloodshot U.S.A. #2.
Nrama: This is scheduled to coincide with X-O Manowar's 25th anniversary, but he launched alongside several other characters in 1992 - Bloodshot, Rai, Shadowman, Archer & Armstong, and Eternal Warrior. Will they be getting similar revamps/restarts like this?
Simons: Story dictates everything here at Valiant, and in the case of X-O Manowar, the right pitch came in from Matt Kindt at the right time. When the pitch is right, everything else falls into place. What Matt was able to organically build with a truly stellar line-up of artists including Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan is a wonderful tribute to X-O Manowar’s anniversary, but it certainly wasn’t predicated by it.
That said, you should stay tuned for some pretty big announcements. Several of Valiant’s most popular characters - including some of the more recent additions - will be returning to the forefront of universe very soon.
Nrama: One concept that isn't having a 25th anniversary anytime soon but I want to ask about is the Psi-Lords; they were teased in last year's Free Comic Book Day title, but we haven't seen much of them since. What's going on, Warren?
Simons: These Psi-Lords you speak of...interesting...are they cosmic characters as well?
Nrama: I’ll let you play coy for now, but this won’t be the last time we ask about them.
Going big picture, is this X-O Manowar relaunch part of a larger publishing change at Valiant?
Simons: 2016 has been a hugely successful year for us. From the breakout hit of Faith, through the critical acclaim of Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong, 4001 A.D., and more, and to the recent year-end success of Harbinger Renegade, Savage, and Britannia, this year has easily been our biggest, most inspired, and most successful one to date.
We couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished in the last 12 months, but X-O Manowar will mark a dramatic shift in our progression as a comic book publisher and superhero universe. X-O Manowar will serve as a template of sorts for our other books with a vastly extended timeline and direction mapped out, that’s then broken down into tight three-issue arcs. Matt has enormous plans for X-O Manowar, and we want fans to come on board for the long - and terrifically exciting - haul.
We’ll have several more announcement to make in the coming weeks, where you’ll hear more about what’s in store for our most prominent characters in a major way. 2017 won’t just be the year of X-O Manowar... it’s going to be the year of Valiant.