Cosmic Powers On The Loose: Tini Howard Introduces Us To The Forgotten Queen

by Hannah Means Shannon

Created by Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera in Valiant’s Unity title in 2015, War-Monger is a character that the Unity team went to great lengths—and depths—to restrain in order to prevent her chaos-inducing abilities and lust for battle from leaving a wrecked Earth in its wake.

But all secure prisons seem to crumble eventually, and with The Forgotten Queen, this force of nature returns, and she’s just maybe a little annoyed to have had her personal liberty curtailed for so long. Writer Tini Howard and artist Amilcar Pinna bring us the mini-series bound to rock the Valiant Universe, and issue #1 has variant covers by Kano, Viktor Kalvachev, and Veronica Fish. Valiant also created a special exclusive poster to debut the return of the character at North Carolina Comic Con, which you’ll see below.

We’re delighted to say that writer Tini Howard joins us on site today to give us some insider tips on what we’ve got to look forward to in The Forgotten Queen.

Hannah Means-Shannon: You’re working with a character who has a long fictional history (that’s an understatement) but not a ton of publication history, having been created in 2015. How do you give that feel of age while taking advantage of the open field for developing a character like this?

Tini Howard: For me, it’s a lot of research. I love history, so I’m trying to make her a living, organic part of events that feel real. You’ll never see her take the lead and win a battle that we know was won by someone else – changing history is no fun; I like having her slip in alongside it. Additionally, War-Monger is the reader’s link to these eras, too. Though she understands change, she can’t predict it. She’s as intrigued and baffled by new things as anyone else. For me, I see and feel her understanding each era as it changes, and hope the reader is having a similar experience.

HMS: There is an old trope that female characters have fallen into in fiction up until the 20th century at least, where they are often portrayed either as a saint or a devil, meaning they don’t get a chance to be fully realized characters. Are there things about her that you incorporated to pull her back from that easy categorization?

TW: Oh, yeah. I mean, ultimately, cosmic powers don’t come with an instruction manual. And when you’re immortal and no one else you know is, you’re not really sure who to ask about it. There’s no option to tap out, to call home, to go back to where you’re from and get answers. So you keep walking forward, I guess. To me, she doesn’t fall into that female character trap because there’s no one for her to be second banana to. She’s, you know, independent. Like the pop songs say.

HMS: Vexana is often classified as a “villain” and it would be hard not to classify an agent of chaos as such, but this story has been described as a love story, too. Are there ways in which the reader may find themselves rooting for her?

TW: Ooh, are we using her name now? This might be the first time I’ve seen it in the press. Exciting.

I think anyone who has ever felt like they were carrying some sort of storm inside them, some awful wind that just seemed to blow away anyone who tried to get closer to you… I think people who have felt that way will relate to her. I’ve felt that way.

HMS: It seems like Vexana is a character who has two very riveting ways of expressing herself—firstly in what she does, and we see her in motion a lot as a decisive, active person. But the other is in her words, actually, through captions and speech. How would you describe her “voice” and the way she communicates?

TH: Hah! So one thing that’s fun about her is that Matt Kindt, her creator, gave her a filthy mouth. I have fun making her super quippy, flippant, clever. She’s kind of like a trickster figure. After all, her job is to incite anger and emotion and all those things – what better way than by making someone feel stupid?

HMS: How difficult is it to work with historical elements, and also “let go” of trying to cram in historical detail to the point that it might overload the comic? I can imagine working with the lore and cultural context of Genghis Khan could’ve made it hard to choose what to include.

TH: I always struggle with that, honestly! I just try and approach it like a storyteller. I love podcasts and nonfiction books and documentaries – that’s how I learn so much about history. So I try to think of the things about the stories that compelled me. I try to use the appropriate details to share with the reader what makes that time and place fascinating and real.

HMS: Can you tell us a little bit about working with Amilcar Pinna and the ways in which the artwork adds to your perspective on the character? Did anything about Vexana surprise you when the pages started coming in?

TH: Oh, I mean, Amilcar’s art has a kinetic energy to it that I couldn’t possibly have expected. Some of his pages are so dynamic it feels like they’re moving, and yet…There’s a page in issue #1 that might be my favorite. She’s almost motionless save for one tiny twitch to her face and it changes everything. It’s the kind of storytelling you can only do in comics, and I’m grateful to have a collaborator like Amilcar!

HMS: Well, it’s no real spoiler that Vexana is going to be interacting with the “present day” of the Valiant Universe in this mini-series. What are her goals likely to be these days? How angry is she to have been imprisoned at the bottom of the ocean for a while?

TH: You know how sometimes something upsets you, and you have like a whole car ride home by yourself to get really heated about it? Like that.

I won’t say too much about her goals yet – that’s all in the book!

HMS: What are some of the things that you have enjoyed the most working on this story?

TH: Making Amilcar draw horses. It gives me a rush of power.

No, really, I think it’s just watching Vexana come alive. We’ve been at this for months and we still just discover new things about her. It’s very cool.

Thanks so much to Tini Howard for her candid answers to our nosy questions!

The Forgotten Queen #1 kicks off the return of War-Monger from Valiant Entertainment on February 27th, 2019! It’s available for pre-order now in the Diamond catalog.

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