Valiant Entertainment is known primarily for its heroes such as X-O Manowar, Faith, and Bloodshot, but the company and its creators are now pushing to bolster its rogue's gallery with just as memorable - but menacing - villains.
In December's Bloodshot Salvation #4 and X-O Manowar #10, the publisher is pulling back the curtain on a twisted funhouse mirror version of Bloodshot called Rampage and seven alien bounty hunters inspired by a potent mix of Star Wars and classic Westerns.
Newsarama spoke with Valiant's CEO/CCO Dinesh Shamdasni and Editor-In-Chief Warren Simons about this bold push for new antagonists, what's behind it, and where it's going.
Newsarama: Warren, Dinesh, in December some of Valiant's titles are focusing on some new and recently-new villains. Is it all coincidence, or is Valiant been planning to stack the deck on the antagonist side of things?
Dinesh Shamdasani: This is part of an ongoing effort on our part to expand the universe. We’re very luck in that we’ve had tremendous success and we have a growing shared universe, so we’ve been adding characters like Divinity, Savage, Britannia, Generation Zero, Punk Mambo, and War Mother, as well as a host of villains like the Shadow Seven and, now, these incredible bounty hunters that Kenneth Rocafort designed and Matt Kindt created for X-O Manowar #10 in this awesome arc where they hunt down Aric. And, with Rampage, Jeff Lemire has concocted a heartbreaking and emotional origin story that is one of our favorite upcoming issues. It’s not as much a coincidence as it is a conscientious effort to broaden the universe and put more toys in the toy box.
Warren Simons: It’s not a coincidence! While Valiant has an incredible legacy of antagonists in our universe - like Toyo Harada, Master Darque, and the Vine - we’re always working to introduce new, amazing characters. Jeff Lemire, Lewis LaRosa and Mico Suayan are doing some masterful work with Rampage, Daddy, and the Scarred Man in Bloodshot Salvation. Matt Kindt and Renato Guedes are cooking up a slew of new bounty hunters in X-O Manowar and, beyond that, Christos Gage and Tomas Giorello are killing it with Ninja-K, and Daniel Kibblesmith and Kano are putting together an amazing story with Quantum and Woody. We’re chugging on all cylinders in that regard this December.
Nrama: In Bloodshot Salvation #4, you'll be revealing the origin of Rampage. People might remember the name from the 1990s Valiant, but from what I've read it's all new under the hood. Can you tell us what Jeff has done here with Rampage?
Shamdasani: I wish I could - a lot of it is very secret because Jeff has rebuilt Rampage from the ground up. He was a fascinating character in the 90s and he’s a fascinating character today. There are ties to Bloodshot’s history, Magic’s history, and the history of Project Rising Spirit. Rampage’s origin and journey is a very emotion and heartbreaking one that will put him on a collision course with Bloodshot.
Simons: Jeff’s one of the most talented writers in the medium. From The Valiant to Bloodshot Reborn to Bloodshot Salvation, his architecture on Bloodshot has been a masterclass on story and world-building. But the amazing thing about Jeff’s writing is that he’s always focused on character, and that’s evident with the chilling origin story of Rampage in Bloodshot Salvation #4. This standalone issue, with amazing art from Mico Suayan, is going to be a gem.
Nrama: How close are Bloodshot and Rampage?
Simons: As close as kin, you might say…
Shamdasani: The relationship between Bloodshot and Rampage is a complicated one. But again, as much as I want to reveal them, we’re not doing spoilers just yet – you’re going to have to wait until they unveil themselves in the story itself. Jeff is a master storyteller and he’s done a masterful job laying out the pieces. When you read Bloodshot Salvation #1, then #2, then #3, you’re unknowingly going to start to see some pieces, and you’ll be slowly ingesting components of Rampage’s origin throughout. Then, when you get to #4, it’s going to be a right hook - everything you thought you knew is wrong. But, of course, everything makes total sense because Jeff has been leading you there. It’s an awesome journey.
Nrama: And what's their key differences?
Shamdasani: Bloodshot is a man fighting to be Ray. Rampage is man reveling in being Rampage. They’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. They’re both men who are tragic figures and destiny has put them on a collision course. But they also represent two sides of a philosophical debate that Jeff is exploring exploring through superhero stories with Bloodshot Salvation.
Simons: Jeff’s tapped into a bit of Of Mice and Men here. I don’t want to give too much away before the book is out, but it’s a chilling, heartbreaking issue that reveals the character’s backstory.
Nrama: And over in X-O Manowar, Matt Kindt is introducing a group of bounty hunters coming for Aric now that he's settled into the throne of Gorin. Who are these people – do they have a name?
Shamdasani: I’m super-excited for the bounty hunters! Matt Kindt is a nonstop creation machine. He’s able to channel all the greats in comics to such an extent that we just can’t help but throw him worlds to create. He’s built an entire mythology of different races that have come together to form one team of bounty hunters. It very much comes from our love of westerns and our love of Star Wars.
We’re building a story that reveals these guys as the greatest bounty hunters in this sector of the universe and they’re hunting Aric - the man who wields the most powerful weapon in existence. It’s going to be epic in the tradition of the truly great westerns.
I’m really excited for everyone to take a look at these characters and learn a little bit more about them. They’re completely different from one another… These seven characters could launch their own books – they’re that fascinating and that interesting.
Simons: We’ve seen X-O Manowar go from a soldier to a general and then an emperor over the last ten months, and he’s going to learn very soon that managing an empire from a throne room is much different than dishing out carnage on a battlefield. His actions result in a group of bounty hunters being called in to take him out.
The designs here by Kenneth Rocafort are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. He’s an extraordinary artist, and his work here is incredible. With stories by Renato Guedes (#10) and Ryan Bodenheim (#11 to #13), we’ve got a murderer’s row of artists lined up.
Nrama: Kenneth’s designs on these are great. What was the input in creating them?
Simons: This is Kenneth doing what Kenneth does. He’s an extraordinary artist, and when we reached out to him, we were excited to see what he’d do. He’s turned in a slew of designs, all of which are incredible.
Shamdasani: We’re huge fans of Kenneth Rocafort. He has this incredible series of drawings he does on Twitter in this tiny little notebook where he, like Matt, channels pure creativity and sketches a design a day. We’re all fans of that in the office, so when the chance arose to work with him and these characters needed designing, we immediately went to Kenneth.
Usually, character design is a very involved process that involves editors and artists working alongside and with a writer. Here, we threw Kenneth the prompt of several, cool alien bounty hunters in the proper western/Star Wars tradition and, out of the gate, they were perfect. He’s channeling something from another world - we couldn’t be more excited.
Nrama: Any chance there are bigger plans for these villains beyond these December story arcs?
Simons: The “Visigoth” arc will see Aric come head-to-head with the bounty hunters, beginning in X-O Manowar #11 in January. It’s a killer arc, with Matt and the team doing what they do best - making one of the best comics on the stands month in, month out!
Shamdasani: Absolutely, we built X-O Manowar #10 even before we had launched issue #1 of the series as a milestone in this run. This is going to be their first appearance, but we have large plans for these characters. They’ll have a prominent role in the next arc and then we go to Harbinger Wars 2…and then we’re coming back to the bounty hunters. They’ll have a large impact on the universe going forward.