X-O Manowar #2 hits your local comic book store on November 25, but thanks to Valiant Entertainment, Monkeys Fighting Robots was able to go behind-the-scenes with series editor Heather Antos to discuss team building, the process, and the impact of the pandemic.
X-O Manowar #2 is written by Dennis Hopeless, with art by Emilio Laiso, Ruth Redmond drops the color, and you will read Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s letter work. About the issue: A new threat emerges from the fires of X-O’s latest battle! Can X-O save the day, or does the world need a new kind of hero?
MFR: Heather, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
ANTOS: Of course! Always happy to talk comics!
MFR: How much X-O Manowar did you read when you found out you would be the editor on the series?
ANTOS: Well, I spent the couple weeks before my Valiant start date reading the entirety of the Venditti run — did you know there’s a lot? — and then I think it was my second week on the team when I found out my first job would be to follow up Kindt’s amazing run. So I dove in and read through all of that to get caught up to speed.
MFR: Since Valiant has changed several times since 1992, what do readers need to know going into this new X-O series?
ANTOS: Nothing! Dennis does an excellent job explaining everything a new reader would need to know about Aric (the Visigoth warrior abducted from the 5th century by aliens), Shanhara (the sentient alien turned super-powered battle armor), and how together they make the superhero known as X-O Manowar! One of the biggest shifts from the previous series is — for the time being, at least — X-O is Earthbound. We’ve seen Aric battle Alien battalions on other planets, we’ve seen him protect Earth from Alien invasion in outer space, but now it’s time to see how exactly he deals with the consequences of being a superhero with boots on the ground — both from civilians as well as new villains. Needless to say, it’s a lot more complicated than I think he wants to admit…
MFR: To take our readers behind the scenes of producing a book, what’s the big picture look like when you relaunch a series like X-O Manowar?
ANTOS: There is a LOT that goes into play. From what the needs of the publisher are, the needs of the universe as a whole, as well as the needs of the character and what their next natural story progression looks like, there are a LOT of conversations that are typically had in-house between various team members from editorial, sales, and marketing BEFORE talent is ever approached — not to say this is always the case, though. From there, talent conversations begin — reaching out to a writer to begin the conversation to see if it’s a good fit and beginning to develop a story and a pitch. As X-O Manowar is a flagship character, the pitch will oftentimes need to be reviewed and approved by different people internally before it’s approved to move forward to scripting, selecting the art team, et cetera. Of course, each book has its own process, and not every book is put together the same exact way. Sometimes you’ll have an artist on board first, sometimes a different concept…making comics really is alchemy, when you get down to it!
MFR: I love flipping through a comic book and looking at the color palette used. Did you have conversations with artist Emilio Laiso and colorist Ruth Redmond regarding the colors used on the first two issues?
ANTOS: “Bright, colorful, and superhero!” I believe those were the exact words I gave to Ruth Redmond when she came on board. In order to bring Aric to a modern superhero story, we needed a modern superhero color palette — and Ruth does just that! Emilio was very open and excited to the idea, as well, and the warmth Ruth brings to the story really shines through!
MFR: Since this is a new series, did you have to work with writer Dennis Hopeless on Aric’s voice or tone? What’re conversations like when you feel a writer is veering off course with a character?
ANTOS: Lucky for me, Dennis actually was a Valiant fan and had pitched for Valiant a few times before X-O. Dennis and I had many conversations during the earliest stages of developing the series about what sets Aric, Shanhara, and X-O apart from other superheroes in comics — what are his core tenets? What motivates him? What makes his and Shanhara’s relationship so significant? So special and unique? In my experience, when you have these conversations and get on the same page creatively before any scripting happens, 99% of the time, you won’t have to worry about a writer veering off course with a character and can focus more so at the story at hand.
MFR: The first issue of X-O Manowar came out, and then the world shut down because of COVID. That has to be a huge disappointment. Can you talk about that on an emotional level? Did you think you might not ever publish the second issue?
ANTOS: It was super disheartening, for sure. Dennis, Emilio, Ruth, Hass, and I had been working together on the series for just about a YEAR by the time issue #1 came out. We were so excited to get this series out there and into the hands of the diehard Valiant fans and new readers, so for everything to be built up in anticipation only to come to a screeching halt was…well, it SUCKED. I don’t think anyone was concerned about the rest of the series never coming out; rather I think the biggest question on our minds was WHEN. Luckily…I think we know when that is happening now, ha!
MFR: For the future editors reading this interview, how do you get the most out of your creative team?
ANTOS: Every editor has a different editorial philosophy, but I think there are a couple of key things to always keep on the forefront of their minds: 1) Keep your expectations of your creators’, characters’, and stories’ limitations realistic. 2) Always keep an honest and upfront line of communication open with your teams. 3) Always anticipate something to go wrong. That way, you can be pleasantly surprised when things run smoothly.
MFR: Heather, thank you for your time and best of luck with the series
ANTOS: Thank YOU, and I can’t wait to hear what you (and all of your readers) think of it!
Do you have X-O Manowar on your pull list? Comment below with your thoughts.
X-O Manowar #3 hits your local comic book store on December 23, 2020.