Matt Kindt Says Valiant's FCBD X-O Manowar Is Driven By "Real Characters, Thoughtful Stories"
Feb 13, 2017
Valiant is one of the leading publishers in the market, especially when it comes to superhero comics. They provide fresh and new genres of superhero stories that bring fan-favorite characters from the 1990s to the modern era. Several of Valiant's most popular characters and titles include: Harbinger, Rai, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, and--of course--X-O Manowar. We spoke with superstar comics writer Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT) to talk about the upcoming FCBD X-O Manowar comic!
FCBD 2017 X-O MANOWAR SPECIAL
(W) Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire
(A) Doug Brainwaite, Ryan Bodenheim, Mico Suayan
(A/CA) Tomas Giorello
First: The biggest Valiant debut of all time begins with an all-new prelude to X-O Manowar from visionary storyteller Matt Kindt and blockbuster artists Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan! Then, comics superstar Jeff Lemire begins the march toward Bloodshot Salvation with the first appearance of A Major New Character! Plus: Faith, Harbinger Renegade, Ninjak, Psi-Lords, Secret Weapons, Shadowman, and surprise revelations for Harbinger Wars 2! [TEEN]
Free Comic Book Day: How has X-O Manowar changed since his introduction in 1992 and how is this incarnation different?
Matt Kindt: Fundamentally, he hasn’t really changed. He’s a barbarian in an advanced suit of alien armor. That’s the X-O Manowar I remember from the 90s, which I was a fan of. I think his iterations since then have hewn close to that with some interesting variations. I loved what Robert Venditti did with his amazing 56-issue run, really tapping into the idea of X-O Manowar. He really fleshed out the idea of the “barbarian,” tapped into the Visigoth culture, and portrayed Aric as a man out of time and place. That’s the heart of the character really. What Rob was able to do was really unprecedented with the character – getting 50 issues to show Aric’s journey from Visigoth warrior and his assimilation into the 21st century.
In a lot of ways, that made it both harder and easier for me to follow up Rob’s run. Ultimately, I wanted to tear Aric back down to basics. I wanted to really explore Aric and his original culture and his mindset, and portray where his head would be at after going through everything he’s seen. The culture shock alone would be enough to drive most of us to the brink. To a lesser degree, I think a lot of older generations feel that way about culture and technology. It becomes overwhelming. You get a kind of PTSD when it comes to being bombarded with messages and technology and phones and communication. I think Aric is feeling all of that, but times a thousand. And it makes him kind of snap in some ways.
In my run, he’s definitely going to have a contentious love/hate relationship with the armor and what it’s capable of. That’s where a lot of the drama will come from. I’m also dropping him on a completely alien planet that’s rich with very foreign ideas and cultures. He’s not going to have an easy time of it under my watch.
What’s the best part about taking these older characters and putting a modern spin on the story?
I think when I was a younger writer, there was the nostalgia factor of getting to play with the characters that I grew up reading. But what’s funny is, the more you write them and the more you play in these familiar playgrounds, the less you care about the nostalgia. Yeah, I get a kick out of seeing my name on an X-O Manowar cover, but that’s not really the impetus like it might have been a few years ago. Now, I’m more interested in really trying to find the truth in these characters; finding and exposing what makes them tick, then adding a layer to them. Legacy characters like this are interesting from a creative standpoint. They’re the ultimate collaboration that’s unlike any other. I’m collaborating with Rob Venditti and Bob Layton and Jim Shooter and every other artist and writer that’s had a hand on the character over time. It’s like steering a very large ship – the onus is on me to be a responsible steward and captain of the ship – but it’s also my responsibility to steer the ship to some interesting locations. I’m not going to crash the ship, but I’m intent on taking it into some interesting locales that we haven’t seen before.
How does Valiant and X-O Manowar differentiate from other superhero universes and characters?
I think Valiant has the benefit of seeing years of other comics and heroes develop. They’re really the third through the gate of a shared universe and honestly, I think in a lot of ways the door shut after them. Marvel and DC have their own unique flavor, and for Valiant to make it through that door and survive, it needed to find its own flavor and identity. To me, DC has always been a little off and weird – in a good way. Oddball characters. Marvel has always been the bright and colorful, the fun and funny universe. But Valiant, to me, took all of the tropes that we grew up and were familiar with and cast them in a real world. I think the characters are more real. The universe is science-based. That really dovetails into how I approach writing, by taking a crazy idea…like a barbarian in alien armor and not just asking “what happens”…but asking “what would REALLY happen?” There’s a shade of grounded reality that the Valiant Universe adheres to that makes it stand apart. The titles aren’t driven by trends and flashy art. They’re driven by real characters, thoughtful stories, and good visual storytelling.
What got you reading comics? What are some series you’re reading today?
My first comics were G.I. Joe and Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Those were really formative to my early comic fandom. As I got older, I became burned out on superheroes and started wondering if I was going to even keep reading comics. Then I stumbled across Dan Clowes’ Eightball – the first three issues had been released, and I remember reading them on the way home from the Chicago Comic Con. My brother was driving, and I was sitting there reading those issues and realizing that not only could comics do more than superheroes…I was going to spend the rest of my life making them. It was one of the few transformative moments I’ve had where I was really aware of it while it was happening. I was inspired and excited to get to work. There was a way to make comics that weren’t just superheroes but also weren’t just auto-biographical navel gazing. You could combine real characters and ideas with the pulp genre and get something that hadn’t been done before. That was 1990, and I’d given up reading superhero comics.
The funny thing was, my brother, the very next year, handed me Harbinger #1 and told me to read it. I turned my nose up. I was so sick of the superhero tropes – and especially at the time – it was all amazing flashy art but no story. I was bored by the genre. So skeptically, I read Harbinger and then X-O Manowar and Ninjak, and was hooked again. It was refreshing to read some superhero books that were relying on storytelling and characters again. So in that way, Valiant really kept me from turning my back on mainstream comics forever…and they ended up bringing me back in as a writer once I’d gotten to that point in my career.
What books would you recommend to new readers and why?
I think Aama, by Frederik Peters, is some of the most fun and weird sci-fi I’ve read in a while. Two volumes of it are out now. I’m loving what Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston are doing with Black Hammer – it’s a great modern take on superheroes. Then Jason Aaron, Giulia Brusco, and R.M. Guera on The Goddamned is amazing. One of those ideas I’m professionally jealous of having not thought of – and they’re executing it so well.
Why do you think Free Comic Book Day is important to the comic book community?
It raises awareness and gets bodies into local shops. It’s so important, and it’s a really great opportunity for shop owners and creators to get new readers into the shop, especially kids. I think we need to make sure we don’t lose a generation of readers to movies, TV, and video games. Free comics is a step toward that.
Where do you plan to spend Free Comic Book Day 2017?
CHALLENGERS COMICS in Chicago! Hope to see you there!