An X-O Manowar Interview: Matt Kindt On Upcoming Arc “Hero” And His Journey So Far

by Hannah Means Shannon

Valiant have announced that their flagship title X-O Manowar is getting a new story arc starting in January that explores Aric of Dacia’s role as “Hero”, and the even bigger news is that this arc will see the reunion of the team responsible for the re-launch of the character in 2017—Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello!
With issue #23 we’ll see the return of Aric, and the book will feature colors by Diego Rodriguez, letters by Dave Sharpe, and covers by Kenneth Rocafort, Diego Yapur, Michael Manomivibul, and Francis Portella.

Valiant explains:

Aric of Dacia may have left Planet Gorin behind, but its people still remember the ruin they felt in his wake…and so do the bounty hunters who sought to end his barbaric reign! Enraged by the blight on their perfect record, they’ve arrived on our world to finish the job they started – and this time, they don’t plan on taking X-O Manowar alive!

For those who have been following the series since its relaunch, this is a time to touch base with the character again and all the things we’ve learned about him through his rise to power on an alien world. But now he’s home again, and finds he must face the foes he thought he’d left behind. For those who might be new to the series, this also makes a great jumping-on point to meet Aric on his home turf once more.
Matt Kindt joins us here today to talk about his journey on X-O Manowar so far, and where “Hero” is headed!

Hannah Means-Shannon: The team-up between yourself and Tomás Giorello to bring us Aric of Dacia’s far-flung space adventures has now entered into the annals of Valiant and comics history due to high sales and character recognition. What made that first arc special for you, and how do you think of it these days?
Matt Kindt: It all happened so quickly, really. And now it seems like so much time has passed! The character has been through a lot. I was pretty apprehensive diving into X-O and the relaunch. I have so much respect for Rob [Venditti]’s run and the amazing work he did, so it’s always kind of hard to follow a great run like that. I think the key was to make it very different. To try to get at the character from a completely different angle – and really show him in a new light. Starting on an alien planet and a year later was the key. It gave us some distance and allowed for a really fresh start. It was probably the most world-building I’ve done to date as well. We set up a bunch of different alien cultures, and races, and politics – all from scratch. It was a LOT of work…but I think it’s ended up being one of those things that can be revisited now – not just by me but by other creators in the Valiant Universe – which is the beauty of the shared universe. It allows for collaborations that will span time and space in real life.

HMS: Aric has always been a fascinating character, but I feel like by putting him in almost every “level” of social status and influence, you really examined his personality under a microscope. Can you tell us about a few of the things you felt you “learned” or revealed about him over the course of the series so far?
MK: I think one of those things I learned was that cliché of “where you go, there you are.” You can’t escape yourself. Money or status – you can’t run from who you are. For better or worse. I think circumstance can change how your self manifests…but a hothead is always going to lose his temper. A warrior is always going to want to fight. And a coward is always going to be afraid…it just expresses itself in different ways. I also think it’s fun to push a character into a situation that is out of the depth they normally find themselves in. A barbarian in a high-tech sentient suit of armor is a great conceit – but then putting that guy into a leadership position over an entire planet – that was really fun (and torturous for the character.) But fun for me – ha ha!

HMS: How will the “Hero” storyline kicking off with issue #23 be affected or influenced by the events of Harbinger Wars 2? Are there things that have changed Aric’s perspective going into “Hero”?
MK: Yeah – he’s kind of become this “agent of G.A.T.E.” Not necessarily consciously – but it’s a role he’s fallen into. His fate has become linked to Colonel Capshaw. Capshaw is another one of those supporting characters that kind of float around the stories – but she hasn’t gotten too much depth. So, I really wanted to pair her with Aric to give her a little more dimension. She’s a great, interesting personality just waiting to be explored. She’s had a kind of co-dependent relationship with Aric in the past and so this relationship is going to be highlighted going forward. I think Capshaw ends up being a kind of exposition tool – which I hate! There’s a real character in there and she’s pissed that she hasn’t gotten some spotlight – so we’re giving it to her! She demands it!

HMS: How do you see Aric in the context of the other Valiant “heroes”? What makes him similar or different, and what do you think is integral about the role he continues to play in the Valiant Universe?
MK: I think he really has an ancient view of the world and history. He has a really unique relationship with politics and the loss of his culture and people to the Romans. They’re a footnote in history. I think that’s something he has in common with some cultures that are barely hanging on today. I think that puts a kind of anger in him that is like a little burning coal that motivates him. It’s a unique kind of loss of self that most of the other characters in the Valiant Universe will never have to face.

HMS: What are some of the (non-spoilery) things that you still want to do with Aric’s character arc and are bringing to bear on “Hero”?
MK: He needs to find a way to re-engage with Earth and to find his place and role on it. Also – there is a big dangerous loose end that he left on the planet Gorin that is going to come back and get him. It’s the thing I’m most excited about. Basically, a big brutal fight that’s looming on the horizon. It’s someone, or someones, or something that we’ve seen before. And they are very angry. Hopefully, that’s vague enough!
HMS: What’s it like working with Tomás again on “Hero”? Do you think that you’ve changed at all as creators in the intervening period, or does it feel like old times again?
MK: We’re really just picking up where we left off. Tomás is such a professional. He elevates everything you give him. It really is like old times. The pages he’s turning in are just amazing. I missed him!

HMS: Do you have a favorite scene, image, or moment in the X-O storyline that you’ve worked on so far? What made that rewarding for you?
MK: I think that opening battle scene with XO in the first arc was really the best. Tomás took some doodles for some alien weapons and tech and literally made it seem real. Specifically, the scene where Aric is climbing up the vertical cliff face and there are soldiers fighting and dying all around him. My absolute favorite! It was so exciting to see that stuff come to life – and the epic scope he gave to it all. It really just set the scene and made the entire world believable. It was the foundation that we were able to build everything else onto.

Big thanks to Matt Kindt for his insights into X-O Manowar as a character and into the upcoming story arc “Hero” landing with issue #23 on January 23rd, 2019!

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