We recently got a chance to chat with one of Valiant‘s Senior Editors Heather Antos about the upcoming X-O Manowar #2 and how COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the publisher’s planned timeline.
Graphic Policy: To get the COVID shaped elephant out of the way, obviously, you were never planning on having months between the first and second issues of X-O Manowar. Did you need to adjust the second issue prior to its new release date, or had it already been printed?
Heather Antos: You know, it’s funny. We had just wrapped interiors for X-O #2 when the pandemic hit. So though the issue hadn’t gone to print at the time, it could have! Since we had the time, the creative team did have another pass at dialogue, etc, for any other tweaks, but mainly our focus has been on the rest of the story.
GP: Valiant has been on a relatively slower schedule since publishing has resumed; what kind of challenges and opportunities has that provided you from an editorial perspective with X-O?
HA: I think the biggest challenge has been not being able to release all of the amazing titles that we had originally planned for 2020. But that means that 2021 is going to be off to an A+ start, you know? If anything this has given us amazing lead time for development and creative on projects that just don’t normally get half a year in advance on normal comics schedules.
GP: I’ve really enjoyed the issue(s) I’ve read so far, especially the new dynamic between Aric and Shanhara; can you tell us more about how Shanhara’s acting as Aric’s guide to a modern world we haven’t seen him experience before?
HA: What I think really sets X-O Manowar apart from his comic book hero comparison of Conan in Iron Man’s suit is the fact that X-O Manowar isn’t just Aric of Dacia — it’s Aric of Dacia partnered with Shanhara — an ancient sentient alien. So there’s been so much to explore there in terms of their relationship with one another and the world in which they now reside. One of the most fun things is exploring how Shanhara has taken to the modern world — in part because she can quite literally access the internet — and how Aric wants nothing to do with it.
GP: Based entirely on the two issues I’ve read so far, Aric’s much more Earthbound with this volume. Was there a conscious decision to move Aric away from the more space-oriented stories we’ve seen him in previously and explore how his actions impact modern people?
HA: Absolutely — not there’s anything wrong with a spacebound Aric! We’ve yet to see a series, though, in modern Valiant with Aric’s ongoing Earthbound story — both revolving around how he and Shanhara are dealing with their present day situtation, but also how the present day is dealing with them!
GP: With Aric being a “barbarian” he’s able to offer a unique perspective on our civilization, as we’ve seen with his attitude to food and his confrontation with the police; will that be a theme running in the series going forward?
HA: Most definitely — Aric confronts a lot of the daily minutae by simply…barrelling right past it. He doesn’t have time for modern day “politics” when he sees someone in need…even when said bureaucratic entanglements might make things worse for him in the long run.
GP: Your love of penguins isn’t a secret… have you ever tried to get one or two into the comics? Penguin variant covers, maybe?
HA: Penguins have waddled their way into comics on my behalf once or twice, this is known to be true. If one were to flip back to last year’s Livewire #12, they might even find the first penguin cameo an artist dedicated to yours truly, haha! Will there be more in Valiant’s future? Only one way for you readers to find out…
GP: I tend to always have music when reading comics, which got me thinking; if you had to recommend a soundtrack to the series, what would it be?
HA: Fun fact! We actually have an OFFICIAL soundtrack to the series. You can find it here featuring tracks from Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, ZZ Top, and more!
GP: When you’re overseeing multiple titles, how tempted are you to have the characters featured in one series appear in another?
HA: I would say it’s not an outright temptation right from the get-go — and I certainly am not going to force any characters into another writer’s book unnecessarily. I love crossover issues and scenes and worldbuilding opportunities they provide — but it’s SUPER important that these things happen organically and feel necessary to the story.
GP: Are you able to give us any teasers around Shadowman…?
HA: Teasers like how it’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on in my entire career? Like how Cullen Bunn and Jon Davis-Hunt, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles are a horror comic’s dream team? Or how about how I CANNOT wait to be able to talk more? I don’t mean to be too in the shadows and I wish I could say more, but maybe in few weeks I’ll be able to bring more information to light…
GP: So… I hear you maaaay be working on a project that may, or may not have something to do with Psiots… is there anything you can share about that?
HA: Not unless you have psionic abilities and can read my mind! A little blue harbinger bird told me that The Hollywood Reporter might have something to say about it next week though….
GP: Well that’s certainly something to look forward to! Thanks for your time!
X-O Manowar #2 will be released November 25th.