The modern-day Valiant Entertainment was revived with the launch of X-O Manowar in 2012, and now five years later it is being renewed with a new #1, but according to writer Matt Kindt you shouldn't call it a 'relaunch.'
Kindt, who began writing for Valiant in 2013, takes the baton from previous X-O Manowar writer Robert Venditti for Aric of Dacia's next chapter in life - and being bonded to the X-O armor.
With the new X-O Manowar #1 coming March 22, Kindt spoke with Newsarama about taking over Valiant's flagship title, working with artist Tomas Giorello,and taking over from Venditti.
Newsarama: Matt, Aric and the X-O armor was last seen in the special-sized 50th anniversary issue of X-O Manowar, the conclusion to Rob Venditti’s historic run on the series. Can you share a little bit about the process that took place in terms of Rob’s passing of the blue-and-gold torch to you? What’s your history together in and out of the armor, so to speak?
Matt Kindt: Rob and I have been friends since I first broke in to comics. He always tells his “making it in comics” story, and it involves him working in the Top Shelf warehouse and packing and shipping my first graphic novel. That was his introduction to me - and he’d been writing all that time and getting his first books off the ground, and we would always be working side by side at conventions at the table. And it was really fantastic. You know every once in a while you run into a person that is just a “good” person. All around. Someone who goes out of their way to help - and would do anything if you were in need – no hesitation. He’s one of those. So to see him go from packing books and then launching his first series to then bumping into him on tour in Italy, I’m both proud of and happy for him in a way that is really unique.
I think a lot of us sort of grew up and broke in at the same time and together - me, and Rob, Andy Runton, and Jeff Lemire. We all sort of started out in the fertile earth that Top Shelf provided and we just grew up and out together. There’s a bond there that is unique in my life. We all know who we are and where we came from and how much work it is. Even if we don’t see each other in the off-season of cons - we’re friends for life (which is strange) - you don’t realize those friendships have formed until you’ve had them for years and then you look back and realize. Oh. Yeah. These are the people I love and care about.
So that’s the longer history that I share with Rob. I couldn’t be prouder of him and the run he did on X-O Manowar.
Nrama: Which brings us to the present day and you taking the reins of Valiant's flagship title...
Kindt: I love the character and I’m a fan of the title and of Rob’s work, so it was really fun to read it as a fan and friend. That’s how the transition really happened. Warren Simons and the crew at Valiant asked me if I wanted to take over, and I’d be crazy not to want to write the character. It’s the flagship. He’s the anchor of the Valiant Universe. So, Rob basically handed me the keys to the Ferrari, but he left it with the tank on “E” [laughs]. That was the challenge then. How do you follow up an epic 50-issue run that seemed to cover everything and do it so well?
Nrama: And you both have somewhat different styles of writing, too, which I’m sure adds to the challenge.
Kindt: Rob and I have really two different flavors of storytelling though - which I think makes the transition interesting. My focus and the next couple years of X-O Manowar are a little easier in some ways in that I don’t have to relaunch and establish who this character is. There are 50 issues of history that have built him up. I get to push him forward and really respond to and have a kind of virtual conversation with what Rob has done. And that’s what I love about following Rob - we’ve never really collaborated directly too much, so in a way now, we’re finally getting to collaborate.
Nrama: You touched on this a bit already, but with the “All-New” Marvel and DC’s “Rebirth,” will your tenure serve as a soft reboot of Rob’s take on the character or will this be more of a continuation of his run?
Kindt: It’s definitely a continuation. I’m not a huge fan of rebooting everything honestly. I think there’s a little bit of market-driven dishonesty to it. The truth of comics and characters that have been around for 50 years is that you can’t reboot them. You can start over with issue #1, but that’s not a reboot. The Valiant Universe is still so fresh and unexplored that there’s no need for a reboot - we’ve built the world, so lets explore it. That’s the kind of fun sense I get as a writer. It’s what I love about the Valiant U. It’s virgin territory in many ways. We’re still able to create new iconic characters that can stand on their own and be supporting roles for the others that we already have. I always think of the “new” X-Men when Dave Cockrum drew that cover and they’re running toward you - look at that now…! Those characters were so new when that issue came out. That’s the stage we’re at now…I love being able to make those moments happen.
Nrama: Now, this isn’t the first time you’ve written Aric of Dacia, whether it was in Unity or in one of the various crossovers that you’ve been involved with in your time at Valiant. What was it about tackling this particular character that called out to you?
Kindt: I’ve never really had enough room to do a deep-dive into his character. The best way to do that? Just take over the series! The key to writing his character is that you have to be careful not to put a 21st century viewpoint on Aric. He has a 5th century view of violence and culture. I had a lot of fun doing research to get into his head. I read a lot of Visigoth law in preparation. I really felt like the way into his head and his culture was to read the actual recorded Visigoth laws and how they viewed human rights. Sounds slightly boring - but it was actually really fascinating. Not as barbaric as you’d imagine, honestly. Pretty advanced for their time especially in regards to women’s rights.
Nrama: Why was it you felt you needed to remove not only Aric from his X-O Armor but also from Earth?
Kindt: Well, there’s really a hundred ways I could have gone with the character. But the thing that is most interesting about the character is this idea that he’s a “barbarian” in a high-tech suit of armor. That’s such a great premise. And I really wanted to explore that - and get back to his basics in some way.
We’re going to see Aric stripped down to his basics again. And over the course of the next year, we’re going to watch him revert to the kind of person he truly is. He wants to be a farmer - he wants the “simple” life. But there’s a reason he never gets that. Part of that reason is inside him - his nature - but the other element that keeps him from finding peace 0 is actually his armor. The X-O Manowar suit is a factor in his ultimate fate and happiness or lack thereof.
We’ll see Aric progress from farmer - to emperor and beyond - but he’s not the only one that’s evolving and growing. The armor is taking on a more…s entient role. It will be an active participant and a lot of the friction will come from Aric’s relationship with the armor - both literally and figuratively.
By putting him on an alien planet - it will gives the reader a way to feel vicariously what Aric is feeling – we will feel as out of place as he does - as he would feel as a man from Roman times getting transplanted into the 21st century.
Nrama: And given this gradual progression, you seem to have a pretty long game planned out for Aric?
Kindt: Being able to plan this far in advance and to schedule the story and the artists - is the luxury here. It’s really what sets them apart. Having the ability to give him some time off to reload a new series and direction with him is really unprecedented. The amazing byproduct of this scheduling and planning is that we can line up some of the best artists and give them a schedule and timeline that allows them to take their time and pump out the best art imaginable. Tomas Giorello on the first arc, and then Mico Suayan, Clayton Crain, and Doug Braithwaite all following him - they’re all great artists that I’ve worked with before, and as a result, I can write in tailor-made way that feeds to their strengths and in a way that will give each arc it’s own unique flavor while feeding the larger storyline.
Valiant has given me a lot of time to develop the series, so it’s not the usual tight-rope walk of a monthly series with arcs that chain off from one to the next - which is its own kind of insane fun - but what we’re able to do with X-O Manowar here is build what’s essentially a series of really long-form stories. Readable in monthly chunks, but will really hold together as a large body of work telling one long story rather than a big book collecting a series of shorts.
Nrama: In looking at you as a writer, however, I’m equally curious how this series serves as the next natural progression for you as a creator and comic storyteller?
Kindt: This series has more world-building in it than I’ve ever had to - or been able to - do before. It’s building an entire alien planet from scratch with multiple alien races and histories and political structures. It was a lot of work. I literally filled a sketchbook with ideas and weapons and animals and vehicles along with the characters. It’s something I’ve grown up loving and appreciating - the thing that something like Star Wars does so well - giving the universe an alien, but lived-in feel to it.
Nrama: You mentioned you’ll be working alongside Tomas Giorello, who will be handling the line work for this series. With his memorable work with Conan, was there any thought to hearkening back to that most famous of all literary barbarians when crafting your dark ages-infused warrior?
Kindt: For sure. Tomas’ art is so great. It really harkens back to some of the all-time greats and my favorites - Mark Schultz and Al Williamson and the like. Really classic sci-fi and fantasy stuff, but he’s really transcending all of that. I’m so lucky to have him on this title - it’s one thing to describe some of these crazy beasts and aliens and weapons and vehicles in a script. But it’s quite another thing to render those in a way that looks believable and makes sense. His stuff really transports you to this planet and really puts you in the middle of it. Some of the most beautiful pages I’ve ever seen. He’s the kind of artist where you go back and cut some of the stupid words out of the script so it doesn’t cover up his art as much.
Also, I’m a huge Conan fan. It’s one of those things in my life that doesn’t really dovetail with anything else I like or create. I’m not a huge fantasy fan or a fan of magic. But for some reason I always loved Conan. I just loved the idea of this freelancer wandering the earth with a sword and having adventures. Like a really cool version of what a freelance artist is - instead of drawing and writing, he’s slaying and pillaging. Maybe? I don’t know - just trying to guess why I like it. But yeah - X-O Manowar has the barbarian thing going for him with this amazing wrinkle that he has a “magic” suit of armor. Which is another sort of surprise aspect that we’re exploring with this series - Aric’s relationship with the armor is going to be… multi-faceted - without spoiling it too much. The suit is going to emerge as a character as much as Aric is.
Nrama: With X-O Manowar being situated far away from Earth, and the next big Valiant crossover due to be announced only a few months from now I presume, I’d like to close things out with looking at what role you see Aric playing in the Valiant Universe in 2017.
Kindt: His absence leaves a huge vacuum in the rest of the Valiant U. that no one can really fill. He’s going to be sorely missed, which will make his return (if he ever does!) that much sweeter… but… maybe he’ll never be back…! I think that’s an interesting aspect to Aric’s absence… while he won’t have a direct effect on Earth while he’s gone… his absence will impact the Valiant Universe in some big ways and also force a few of the other characters to up their game - out of necessity!