When the Valiant characters needed an update for modern audiences, Executive Editor Warren Simons turned to the creative mind of artist David Aja.
Simons and Aja had worked together on the critical darling comic The Immortal Iron Fist for Marvel Comics, which also brought a fan-favorite character into a more modern setting. So Simons was hoping Aja could bring that same kind creativity to the Valiant characters.
It's all part of Valiant's relaunch of the characters that were once featured in some of the most successful comics in the industry during the 1990s. They're returning this summer in new versions of the original titles: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong.
Aja's designs are also being released around the same time he's getting buzz for another project — the new Hawkeye series he's got coming up in August with his Iron Fist collaborator Matt Fraction.
Newsarama contacted Aja to find out more about his designs for Valiant, his approach to the characters, and why this project interested him.
Nrama: David, were you already familiar with some of the Valiant characters?
Aja: To be honest, no, I was not. When I started this project I wasn't really all that familiar with the Valiant Universe or its characters. I've been a comic book reader almost my entire life, but I stopped buying super-hero stuff during the 1990s. Something to do with growing up as teenager at the time, I suppose, so I really missed out on the rise of Valiant and Image, along with what was going on at Marvel and DC. So I really had to do my homework before redesigning all of these Valiant characters.
How did you incorporate the character's former designs into these new ones?
Aja: Warren Simons and I wanted to really get away from the traditional spandex look that has always marked superhero comics. That being said, the heroes in the Valiant Universe were never really spandex-types anyway. We knew we wanted to keep all of the essential elements of the characters intact, but we also wanted to update their looks with more contemporary elements so that they could exist in the second decade of the 21st century. What was most important was keeping the designs iconic, so that they can work for a comic first, not just for video games or film, and so we would never lose the perspective of what they look like drawn in ink. And no more mullets, ha!
Nrama: Let's walk through some of the designs and your approach to them. Can you start by describing how you designed Bloodshot?Aja: Right away I knew I wanted to keep the iconic paper-white skin. I added cyber scars around the classic red circle on his chest. I also really couldn't resist keeping the white lines through the black hair on his temples. Maybe some red goggles he can wear to hide his red "cyber eyes," as well as a black t-shirt with an irregular red circle (unlike the perfect red on his chest) for a different kind of look. I really wanted to add some military elements to his costume, so I went with military grade boots and a parka. Bloodshot is, after all, a solider first. This stuff would all be sailcloth — leather would really be the wrong way to go with this character. He also keeps a regulation grade knife on his leg, a Beretta M9, an M4 grenade launcher and an MK14 rifle that can take care of anything else. Nrama: Harbinger?
Aja: I wanted to have a basic team uniform, something almost like you would see at a preparatory school, but it was important to me to add an element of individuality to each character's costume design that highlighted different aspects of each of their personalities.
Nrama: Timewalker?Aja: I wanted to combine elements of Dr. Who, Blade Runner, and Harry Angel...or something along those lines. I always liked that he had red hair and it really made me think about whether or not all of the immortal brothers — Ivar (Timewalker), Gilad (Eternal Warrior), and Armstrong (of Archer & Armstrong) - should have red hair or not. Oh, and I obviously had to design a cool sci-fi gun for him to use. Nrama: What about the X-O Wolf Class Armor?
Aja: I thought it might be interesting to have add an organic, extraterrestrial look to the armor itself and to maybe even add a spinal cord to the back. The X-O Wolf Class armor is a complete armor/spacesuit - kind of like an exoskeleton meets a tank - and, under that, is the actual alien itself.
Nrama: Then to finish up, David, what was your favorite thing about doing these designs for the Valiant relaunch?Aja: In a personal way, it has been great working exclusively on character designs for a while. It's a very different way of thinking and working. Designing a character requires a totally different approach and mindset to creating art, so it has been so funny to see what I have been able to come up with. Also, it has been great working with my pal Warren Simons once again. Warren was my first editor when I had just started working in comics and he and the one I have worked with most during my career — Immortal Iron Fist, Daredevil, Wolverine... being a few examples. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!