Matt Kindt on 5 Developments That Will Redefine X-O Manowar in His New SeriesMain Art by Kenneth Rocafort Comics Features Matt Kindt
As Paste announced last month, comic publisher Valiant is gearing up for a new year of shifting creative teams and character reintroductions. That new status quo ignites in March when Matt Kindt takes over flagship character X-O Manowar alongside a rotating cast of artists including Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim and Mico Suayan. But in an industry that has a finger perpetually hovering over the reset button, why should readers tap into this innovative vein of superhero mythology? Ironically, this editorial pivot is committing to these teams and storylines over the course of the next several years, which is fitting for the writer of such long-form gems as Dept. H, Mind MGMT and other Valiant sci-fi indulgences Rai and Ninjak. Kindt was also kind enough to flesh out other reasons why X-O Manowar—a time-displaced fifth-century Visigoth soldier “gifted” with a high-tech alien bodysuit of cosmic destruction—will redefine what the character means to Valiant as a publisher and comics as an industry. Suffice to say, the creator alludes to an epic scale that sees the protagonist ascend from farmer to galactic emperor, while combatting his increasingly self-aware battle garb. Stay tuned for more information on other Valiant character developments.
X-O Manowar #1 Cover Art by Lewis Larosa
Taking X-O Manowar to Alien Worlds and Showing the Psychological Repercussions
What do you get for the man who has everything? Or in this case, where do you go with the man who’s done nearly everything? In this case, we’re throwing Aric, X-O Manowar, onto an alien planet where he’s no longer the big dog, and arguably the most powerful man on the planet.
This opens up a lot of new possibilities. It definitely offers the cosmic angle, but it also gives us a chance to world-build and create an alien civilization—three of them, actually—that feels real and old and inhabited. An entirely new cast of characters will be introduced as well. But what this series really does is get to the heart of what the X-O Manowar series has always been for me. It’s about a man out of time and place, a guy that’s only known Roman times and was thrown into our modern day along with a high-tech alien suit of armor. How does his mind deal with that? What are the psychological repercussions of being rooted and transplanted on a mind that had never seen an airplane or running water?
We’re going to use this alien world to get back to that, to throw Aric into another situation where he doesn’t know the language or the people or the customs or the technology. But by literally putting him into an alien environment, it’s going to allow us as readers to feel what that’s like along with him. Everything we see will be as alien to us as it is to him. It’s really a fun way to live vicariously and get into Aric’s headspace.
The New Friction Between Aric and His Sentient Armor
The armor has been generally passive over the course of X-O Manowar’s history. And that’s been a fun component, to see how Aric uses and responds to this advanced technology. But the armor is and can be so much more than that. It’s evolving just as Aric is and it’s becoming…aware. Without spoiling too much of what the series is going to explore, we’re not only going to see how Aric responds to the armor; the armor is going to begin reacting to Aric as well. A lot of the friction in the series will be from Aric’s fifth-century mind and intelligence butting up against an artificial intelligence that contains most of the known knowledge in the universe. They’re not super compatible, to say the least.
Charting Aric’s Epic Rise From Soldier to Emperor
It’s a real luxury to plan out a series in a long-form way. It’s a process that’s unique only to creator-owned books that I do and to Valiant. There isn’t pressure to keep filling the gaps every month with a title just to have it on the shelf regardless of quality. In that way, there is time and some breathing room to plan a couple years’ worth of story arcs that fit together in a way that builds to a bigger narrative. That said, the structure of X-O Manowar for the first year is following Aric from farmer all the way to emperor and his journey to get there. It’s going to be like nothing that’s been done in comics over this amount of issues and time. Starting with a stripped-down character that is just living the simple life on his alien farm. That’s where we start. And from there, we’ll track his progress and get some hints (for long-time fans) of how he got here and why he’s where he’s at. The last we saw, Aric was on Earth and happily married. But the new debut issue has him on an alien planet, farming and alone. So there’s a lot of backstory and forward progress we’ll be tracking over the next couple of years.
X-O Manowar #1 Interior Art by Tomas Giorello
Working with a Cast of Five Artists Working Across the First Year
This approach is really what sets [Valiant] apart. X-O Manowar is the flagship character and 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] is on the first arc, and then Doug [Braithwaite], Clayton [Crain], Ryan [Bodenheim] and Mico [Suayan] all follow him. They’re all great artists and as a result, I can write in a tailor-made way that feeds to their strengths. In a way, this will give each arc its own unique flavor while feeding the larger storyline.
Celebrating X-O Manowar’s 25th Anniversary by Taking the Character into Uncharted Territory, Not Nostalgia
Nostalgia is a funny thing in comics. I think it’s a motivating factor for a lot of creators. We grew up with these characters and comics and then getting a chance to work on them is childhood wish fulfillment. There’s nothing wrong with that—I’ve certainly checked off a lot of characters on my writing bucket-list. But the problem with big characters and their history is just that: they can’t change. Spider-Man is always going to essentially be the same for the rest of his (and our) lives. He has to be. And that’s the magic that the Valiant Universe has. It’s still relatively new. There is room for these big characters to evolve and change and grow into what they will be, and there’s a chance to populate their worlds with more iconic characters. That’s the attraction to the Valiant U. as a creator. There’s still ground that hasn’t been tread with them. The characters are still alive and growing, and the stories can still have stakes.