Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum Talks About X-O Manowar #1

X-O Manowar #1

Aric of Dacia, a 4th-century Visigoth warrior bonded with a powerful sentient alien armor, is facing a whole new kind of threat in the new series by best-selling writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and amazing artist Emilio Laiso. Can Aric become the hero the world needs today?

X-O Manowar #1 launches on March 25th, 2020, featuring colors by Ruth Redmond, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and covers by Christian WardJeff DekalRod ReisGreg Smallwood, and Raúl Allén. We got a chance to ask Hallum a few questions about the series and Valiant in general.

Graphic Policy: Hey Dennis! How’re you doing?

Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum: I’m exhausted right at the moment but otherwise good. My kids and I have been living through a major house renovation for a few months and we’re all crawling up the walls a bit.

GP: You’re following in the footsteps of Robert Venditti and Matt Kindt’s run on what is arguably Valiant’s flagship character – do you feel any pressure when taking on the character?

DHH: Arguably hell. Aric is the tip-top, no doubt about it.

I’m sure I would feel pressure if I let myself think about it that way. We’re stepping into some hefty shoes and I absolutely love what the previous teams did with the character. Fortunately, our story is totally new direction with a brand-new mission statement for the character. It very much feels like its own fresh thing. That saves me from trying to live up… Also, I’m a fantastic writer.

GP: How do you approach writing a fifth-century man wearing a super-advanced sentient armor?

DHH: With caution, right? 

I think the built-in anachronism there is what makes Aric so fascinating. The juxtaposition of ancient warrior and sci-fi alien technology just works. It’s a constant push and pull, old and new. This badass Visigoth warrior wearing an impossible powerful weapon… That happens to be a brilliant sentient alien who can tell him when he’s screwing up. Aric and Shanhara’s relationship is the heart this comic, and I mean that like 3 different ways.

GP: From what I understand, you’re taking a slightly different approach to the character, focusing more on how he impacts the general public (which I think is going to be awesome). Can you tell us a little about why you wanted to explore that? 

DHH: You have a man from the distant past wearing an alien super suit that is as futuristic as anything in fiction. Showing how the present deals with all that just makes a lot sense. We’ve seen X-O deal with alien invasions and massive military threats. It was big and explosive and awesome. Now we want to show what it’s like when this guy shows up on your block looking to save the day. What do people think of him? How is his presence changing the world… And what will those changes mean to Aric and Shanhara?

GP: Without getting too far into spoiler territory, what can you tell us about where you want to take Aric over the course of your run?

DHH: Full-fledged superhero status. That’s the goal. Aric wants to help people. He wants so save the kitten, save the world, save the day. But he has to do it in a very grounded, realistic universe in which actions have hard consequences. This story is full of repercussions and grassroots world-building. We’re trying to change the whole game for X-O but in a way that makes real sense.

GP: How much guidance has there been from Valiant editorial in regards to hitting certain beats/events in the story you want to tell in the series?

X-O Manowar #1

DHH: Heather Antos is a Godsend. Valiant has a very specific plan for who these characters are and how they need to be presented. That sort of thing can be a nightmare to navigate as a writer, but Heather made everything super clear and easy from the beginning. From pitch to script, she’s helped us thread that needle and we’ve had a ton of creative freedom. The notes we do get make the stories and characters stronger. At this point, I’m just having fun.

GP: If you suddenly found yourself in possession of Shanhara, where would be the first place you would go?

DHH: The moon maybe? Seems like a relatively short trip to a place not many people have been. Also, imagine the TikTok hype you’d get from that video.

GP: Finally, if you had to choose just one; aliens, ninjas, zombies or pirates?

DHH: Choose for what? I feel like all of those things would either immediately try to kill me… Or have zero interest in my company. Aliens, I guess? Nice ones?