Since its relaunch in in 2012, Valiant Entertainment has built one hell of a bullpen. Robert Venditti was one of the small handful of writers tasked with relaunching the Valiant universe after Dinesh Shamdasani brought it back from the void. As of this writing, Venditti has written 46 issues of X-O Manowar (plus several other issues centered on the X-Overse), which is coming to a close with the 50th issue. He also wrote last years incredibly popular BOOK OF DEATH crossover event, and has recently taken the reins of my personal favorite character with WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a Robert Venditti fanboy. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Mr. Venditti about life, the universe, and everything – or at least about his work with Valiant. Enjoy!
4LN – Now that X-O MANOWAR is coming to an end, what’s it like reflecting back on the series that broke ground for the relaunch of Valiant Entertainment and became its flagship title?
Robert Venditti – It was the first title when Valiant launched, but there were really four books that were in the first Summer of Valiant. I don’t want to say that this one book launched the Valiant Universe, because the Summer of Valiant was much bigger than that. Looking back on it, I’m really happy with it. I feel fortunate to have been able to stay with one character for this long; that’s not a common thing in any case, but even less so in the modern comics market. The opportunity to do one long-form arc of development that spans over four years is something I’m really happy with.
4LN – Looking back, are there any particular moments writing X-O that stand out in your mind as being particularly special (example: favorite kill, favorite panel, favorite issue, etc.)?
RV – There’s a variety of those things. If you’re talking favorite kill, the one that certainly became well known with Valiant fans was in issue #5 when Aric punches a grenade into a mercenary’s chest and blows him apart from the inside. I remember writing it and laughing about how crazy it was to be typing things like that into a panel description. People still come up and talk to me about to this day. But the stuff that I enjoy the most, as a writer, are the quieter moments. I really like what we were able to do with the flashback scenes of Aric, showing him as a child with his family. I’m very proud of issue #0, which I think put a different spin on his background than readers were probably expecting. There are others things I’m proud of as well.
4LN – You are also currently writing WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR – what are some major differences and/or similarities between Gilad and Aric?
RV – I think people commonly correlate Aric to Gilad. They’re both characters that are sort of men out of time, if you want to put it that way. But I see them as exact opposites. Aric is a character who was abducted by aliens in the 5th Century and transported to the modern day, so he didn’t have the benefit of living all the days and years between. Gilad, however, is somebody who has lived every single one of those days and years. It informs them very differently in terms of worldview.
If you look the “Homeland” storyline in X-O Manowar, when Aric first comes back to Earth with the freed Visigoths and tries to conquer Romania. I think that’s a classic case of how different these two individuals are, and the difference in way in which they approach things. Gilad would have understood the modern geo-political landscape and that you can’t just plop down in a country and take it over, especially not when it’s on Russia’s doorstep. But Aric has no knowledge of those things, because he just leapt over all of that and found himself in the modern day.
4LN – In the first arc of WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR, Gilad fights through some sort of afterlife to return to the present. Is there a difference between this place and the Deadside?
RV – To be revealed! I think we’ve seen various aspects of the afterlife—or the Deadside, or whatever you want to call it—in the Valiant Universe. Whether it was in Shadowman, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, Dr. Mirage, or various other places, there is a larger plan in place linking these things together. But it isn’t anything that I’m able to talk about.
4LN – We just finished the “Prelude to the Labyrinth” where you worked with Juan José Ryp, and next you jump in the Labyrinth story and are back with your regular Wrath partner Raul Allen. What’s in been like working with these two incredible talented artists?
RV – It has been a real highlight of my career. They’re both phenomenally talented, but very different stylistically. Juan is more detailed and use larger images. Raul is more into paneling, page breakdowns, and has a different kind of approach to the way the story gets told. Both are extremely talented guys, and I really tried to write for them specifically with the storylines that they were going to be on. To have #5 and #6 be a really huge, widescreen action set of issues that dealt with Gilad storming an entire city by himself, it seemed uniquely suited for what Juan does. On the other side of the coin, to do a story like we are doing now, where the whole thing is set in a labyrinth, seems uniquely suited to Raul’s style. I couldn’t be happier than working with those two guys, and I certainly hope I get to cross paths with them again.
4LN – Lastly, can you give us any clues about what we can expect to see in the upcoming “Labyrinth” story?
RV – We’re going to put a new spin on a classic Valiant antagonist, somebody who was key to Gilad’s history in the original Valiant Universe. Not just update it and modernize it, but put some twists in there that the readers won’t necessarily expect. At the same time, we’re going to have some big reveals for Gilad in terms of his estranged relationship with his first-born son Kalam. What he learns in the labyrinth is going to propel us into the series’ next arc. These fourteen issues are meant to be a long-form arc about a father and a son, how they became estranged, and whether or not they can reconcile. Gilad is about to take a big step in that journey.
I would like to thank Robert for taking time out of his day to chat comics with us. WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #7, which kicks off a brand new story-arc, and X-O MANOWAR ANNUAL #1 are out this coming Wednesday so plan to head out to your local comic shops to get them, and make sure you check out the finale to X-O Manowar this fall!