X-O Manowar #1When the new X-O Manowar series launches in May, it will mix sci-fi with historical fiction while also returning a fan-favorite action hero to comics.
Featuring a story by The Surrogates writer Robert Venditti with illustrations by acclaimed Conan artist Cary Nord, X-O Manowar will resurrect a property originally published by Valiant Comics in 1992. The return is part of several new titles being revived by the publisher.
Described by Venditti as an "epic sci-fi," X-O Manowar follows the story of Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth warrior in ancient Rome, who is captured by aliens and obtains the X-O Manowar armor, the most advanced armor in the universe. He uses it to get home to Earth, but 16 centuries have passed.
This marks the first time Venditti has written a monthly ongoing comic, having previously penned mini-series and graphic novels and also served for years as an executive at Top Shelf Comics. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about X-O Manowar.
Newsarama: Robert, how would you describe X-O Manowar to someone who had never heard of it before, or who was considering checking out the first issue?
Robert Venditti: It's an epic sci-fi, but also there is a lot of subtext and it's a very character-centered story. So even though you have these great battles — whether they be in ancient Rome with the Visigoths and Romans, or in space between our main character, Aric, and The Vine, the alien race that abducts him, or back on earth between Aric after he has the X-O Manowar armor, which is the most powerful armor in the entire universe.So there will be a lot of action, but it's also going to be infused with a lot of subtext and always be focused on that main character throughout the story.
Nrama: How did you get involved in the revival of Valiant Comics? And why was X-O Manowar in particular something that interested you as a writer?
Venditti: I got involved with it through Warren Simons, who's the executive editor over at Valiant. He contacted me in June 2011 and told me Valiant was relaunching. It was an idea that immediately interested me. I hadn't done a monthly comic book series before, so I was intrigued by the challenges that would come with that style of writing, because most of what I've done has been mini-series and stand-alone graphic novels.
He asked me if I wanted to take a look at some of the characters in their library. They had some synopses that they'd put together. They had a lot of characters that I liked, but X-O Manowar stood out to me for several reasons. I like the combination of sci-fi and historical fiction. That's not something that you get a lot in comics. It's not a genre that's put together very often.I also just like the core conflict driving him. You know, he's this Fifth Century Visigoth warrior who gets captured and taken into space, and when he returns to Earth, it feels like only a few years have passed to him, but really it's been 16 centuries, so he's in the modern day.
I thought that was just a great conflict, that he could at the same time be the world's most primitive person, but also the most technologically advanced because of the armor he comes back to earth with.
So that struck me as something that would be open to all kinds of compelling possibilities.
Nrama: Are you revamping it for a more modern audience?
Venditti: We're building on the original foundation. We're staying true to the original concept. But we're definitely expanding on that and introducing new characters and themes, and updating some things so that we feel like it's something modern-day readers will be able to related to.But whether you're a long-time fan or somebody who's never heard of X-O Manowar, we think it's a book that will appeal to you. We keep a lot of the original things that make the character so popular, and there's so much good material there, it would be kind of foolish not to use it.
Nrama: Where does the first issue take off? Do we learn his origin?
Venditti: Yeah, we're going back to the origin. This is truly a #1 issue. It's not the next issue in the series or anything. We're starting over at the beginning again.
So we start off with Aric in the days of ancient Rome with the Visigoth people at a battle. And it's an actual historical battle that took place between the Roman Legions and the Visigoth army in 403 A.D. And so we start off there and ground Aric in that past, because it's such a big part of who he is as a character, having that kind of background. I really wanted to get that on the page and have readers understand what it would be like to live in that time, so that when he comes back to the modern time, they understand how much of a culture shock it would be for him.
Nrama: You've got a great artist in Cary Nord.
Venditti: Oh, he's amazing. I had no idea who the artist was going to be when I pitched the project and started scripting. So I was thrilled when I found out. He's just such a tremendous talent, and to be able to work with somebody like that is a great privilege. His previous work is testament to his ability to do the kind of epic action I was talking about earlier.X-O Manowar #2 But it's a difficult book for an artist, in a lot of ways, because there are so many different settings and time periods and technologies. It amazes me the level to which he can draw all these various eras and characters and bring them all together in a cohesive way so that you can believe that they're all existing in the same space.
Every time he turns in a new page, I want to sit down and write more.
Nrama: Now that you're back on board doing a monthly comics, will we see more stuff from you? You're doing Percy Jackson, aren't you?
Venditti: Yeah, I'm doing graphic novel adaptation of the Percy Jackson series, and I'll have books two and three in that series. Book two will be coming out in January, and book three will be out in 2013 as well. I'm doing other adaptation for Hyperion, adapting a novel called Blue Bloods that will be out in January.
I'm also doing more Surrogates work. This summer, Brett Weldele and I are going to be releasing a series of self-contained stories set in the world of The Surrogates that we'll be releasing through Top Shelf.So I'm going to be doing a lot of different things.
Nrama: It's interesting that you're adapting Percy Jackson, because a lot of fans of those books didn't like the movie's interpretation. Is it tough to do adaptations?
Venditti: Yeah, and I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand the transition for doing something like The Surrogates to going and doing Percy Jackson, but at the time, having just going through the adaptation process with The Surrogates, there were a lot of things about it I had questions about. Because I wasn't really involved in the adaptation, by choice, you know? I wanted to sort of sit back and let the creative people do what they wanted to do. But when the opportunity to do the Percy Jackson graphic novels came along, it really appealed to me, because now I could do the adaptation from the other side of it. I could be the one doing the adapting. I wanted to see what it was like.
I used as my guiding principle to be as absolutely faithful to the source material as I could. And you cannot take a 375-page novel and reduce it to 125 pages of comics and keep it all there. But the film did a lot of things differently that weren't in the books.
Nrama: Do you think X-O Manowar could ever be adapted to a movie? I know John Carter is so big right now, and there are some similar elements there.
Venditti: Yeah, I mean, I'm not a Hollywood studio exec or anything like that. Even though I went through the adaptation with The Surrogates, I wouldn't dare presume that I know the material they pick and why they pick it. But X-O Manowar definitely feels like a storyline that could be adapted to film. There's so much about it that would be exciting to see on the screen, but at the same time, it is character-centered, and that's what I think audiences really respond to. They like action, but they want it to be grounded in really strong characters, and I think X-O Manowar has that.I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I worked for 10 years on the publisher side, working for Top Shelf, in that aspect of the industry. And I understand the risk that people take, whether they're a retailer buying the book and giving up shelf space to put it on the rack, or whether it's a customer going in and deciding to take a chance on an issue and spend their month. So I don't take that lightly.
We're going to do everything we can to make sure we're putting out stories that people enjoy and will keep coming back to.
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