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Valiant Comic Book Alphabet of Cool – X

I could be tricky, but why mess with a good thing?

Enjoy!

X-O Manowar

While there perhaps are better high concepts, the idea of a Visigoth barbarian getting stolen by aliens around the year 400 AD, only to escape custody wearing their most innovative piece of technology, the X-O Manowar suit of armor, only to discover that due to time warps, while only a few years have passed for him, 1600 years have passed on Earth!

That’s a golden idea.

Iron Man meets Conan the Barbarian!

It’s a great concept, highlighted even more by the barbarian, Aric Dacia, taking over a corporation, so it’s Wall Street meets Conan the Barbarian meets Iron Man!!

Jim Shooter came up with the concept and Steve Englehart was given the assignment of writing the first arc of X-O Manowar, with Bob Layton taking over from Englehart.

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Eventually, Jorge Gonzalez would settle in for a long run on the title, followed by Ron Marz (who coincided with Bart Sears – who had a notable short run on the title earlier – returning to the title, Sears even wrote an issue or two after Marz left), then Jeff Bailey & Marty Golia, then Keith Giffen and finally Layton would return for the finale.

The most notable aspect of the series was the supporting cast.

I already mentioned Randy Cartier, but as mentioned in Randy’s section, Ken Clarkson was probably the star supporting character. The company Aric took over was run by the spider aliens. Well, Ken worked for the company and he ended up DISCOVERING that evil aliens were running his company. Did he freak out? No, he did not. Instead, Ken decided to cut a deal with the aliens! Later, when they tasked him with luring Aric into a trap, he figured the winds were blowing Aric’s way, so he changed allegiance to Aric!

In the battle, Ken lost his arm – so Aric actually created a new arm using part of the armor! This way, he could track Ken’s every move if need be! Theirs was definitely a dysfunctional relationship.

When Aric’s first armor was destroyed, he needed a new one – but it needed a soul to run it, so a friend of Aric’s sacrificed himself to power the armor. So for awhile, when he wore the armor, this dude would affect the armor.

Anyhow, when Ron Marz took over the book, he had a silly storyline where both Ken AND Randy were killed. It was a total waste.

So when Bob Layton took over the book to finish the series off, he took the time to specifically address their deaths, and came up with some weird time travel idea. Basically, all of what happened was a POSSIBLE future for Aric, but he had not actually left the spider aliens’ ship yet. So all of it was in the future to him – so he could still avoid Ken and Randy’s deaths.

It was a cheesy idea, but I liked it – since Ken and Randy’s deaths were even cheesier.

When Valiant rebooted, X-O Manowar was totally different. It was still a fun book, with work by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn and then Dwayne McDuffie, and art by Sean Chen then Scot Eaton. However, it was not as good as the first series (and the concept wasn’t as good, either).

It DID lead to one of the greatest self-deprecating lines I’ve ever heard from a comic writer. Mark Waid had this great quote (I’m totally paraphrasing here) – “Kurt Busiek did Marvels, and he followed it up with Astro City. I did Kingdom Come, and I followed it up with…X-O Manowar?!?”

Only two more to go! Who will they be?

15 Comments

Thanks to the recent release of the X-O Manowar Birth hardcover, I’ve just discovered what all the buzz was about on this title. By the time I tracked down issues of X-O later in the run, I was lost as to who Aric and Ken were and where they came from; by finally seeing that, I have a new appreciation for the character.

Roquefort Raider

May 15, 2008 at 6:20 am

The first two years of X-O were a lot of fun, before the original armor, then Paul, then Randy and Ken were all killed. Some writers should learn not to break their toys, especially when they didn’t come up with them. It just kills the fun of comics.

I really liked the way Aric didn’t speak English at first; how he interpreted our modern world in his 5th century frame of reference; how time travel was handled (Aric ended up in the XXth century from his native Vth because the alien ship he was one travelled at relativistic speed; he was then sent back to his native era by way of the Lost Land, which connects all times simultaneously; and he finally came back to our time by hibernating in his armor for 1500 years).

I didn’t know about Layton’s final retcon; I usually hate that kind of thing, but given the mess that was the post-Gonzales X-O, maybe it wasn’t unwarranted.

Yeah, he was one of the better “fish-out-of-time” characters. Brian, you could *almost* say it was Wall Street meets Conan the Barbarian meets Iron Man meets Captain America!!

Er, just realized the CA part is redundant when you mention the Conan part lol! Still, a fun title before Marz.

One other thing, the reason it was called Manowar was because there were different levels of armors, and the Manowar class was the most powerful. One of his enemies, a guy called Ax (who was also a Harbinger character) also had his own suit, but it was a lot less powerful…I’ll never forget when Randy had the Manowar armor, she formed her fist into a mace and bashed Ax in the face pretty hard with it. Sigh, strong female characters are never allowed to last, are they?

Ok, enough rambling.

if we ever do a ‘Top Worst Cover’ list I’m nominating X-O #1…ugh…talk about mediocre and undynamic…

I really enjoyed Bart Sears’ work on this title…its a shame he had such an allergic reaction to the graphite and ink like that…:-)

I’m gonna plant the flag for the VH2 XO which I liked way better than the VH-1.

If we ever do a ‘Top Worst Cover’ list I’m nominating X-O #1…ugh…talk about mediocre and undynamic…

Yeah, it IS pretty weird how bad the cover of X-O #1 is.

It’s a fine drawing, but, like you said, totally undynamic.

Strange.

Roquefort Raider

May 15, 2008 at 2:00 pm

That cover was slightly re-interpreted for X-O #11 (the introduction of the upgraded armor).

It still wasn’t very good, alas…

I picked up almost the entire X-O (Volume 1) through quarter bins (and one fortuitous TPB collection of the first six issues in a $1 bin!). I was always amazed at how much the character changed (and not for the better!) in the last 25 issues or so. I finally stumbled on issue 68 at a friend’s house. I didn’t know how the series ended and was pleasantly surprised. I,too, hate the it-never-happened type cop-outs, but this one seemed to work. IT made me feel a lot better about the series as a whole. It also left the character wide-open for a brand new set of adventures. Hopefully this new reboot of Valiant will lead to some sort of new X-O stories

One stupid little nit I must pick. Putting him in charge of a corporation doesn’t add a third major aspect. Since Iron Man is also in charge of a corporation it’s still Conan meets Iron Man. Other than that it’s a great write-up. Reading these has made me really want to track down some Valiant backissues.

“he was then sent back to his native era by way of the Lost Land, which connects all times simultaneously”

Hey

Actually, Aric went back to his era because of Solar, who whisked everyone out of the Lost Land before Erica’s reactor destroyed it.

Basically, Solar infused people with his energy to send them to where they wished to go, or where their subconcious minds would send them (which is why most people ended up in 1992 while Aric ended up in 408 and Turok and the Skarmms arrived in 1987 – in the latter’s case, it was their interaction with future technology that influenced their subconciouss and caused them to end in 1987 instead of their times of origin).

On the page, Aric’s trip was a result of his wondering what he could have done with the X-O Manowar in 408 AD, but if we were to analyze it further, it could be said that the real reason he went back was because he still hadn’t found his place in the 20th Century and still considered 408 his true era.

Re: X-O Manowar #68

I’ve asked Layton about it many times and he told me that the reason he went with that ending was to set up Fabian Nicieza’s then-upcoming VH 2 line of titles.

Apparently, when Layton wrote the story the reboot still hadn’t been decided on or something (which is weird since X-0 68 contained an editorial written by Nicieza that had images of the VH 2 characters and his comments on the premise).

No, my bad. Ignore the previous post. This was the actual exchange.

Bob,

I had a question about X-O Manowar #68 and the new VALIANT owners. I read once that the reason this story was done was to set up the VALIANT universe for Nicieza’s re-launch (I’m assuming at the time the idea of a reboot hadn’t been discussed). Clearly it wasn’t used as such. I was wondering, if the new owners gave you the chance to pick up from where you left off and you accepted, what kind of follow up could we expect?

A resolution to the idea that everything after X-O Manowar #1 was a dream, a confirmation of it, or something else altogether?

Thanks!

Mike Sacal

Mike,

I have said, on more than one occasion, that I would definitely be interested in re-addressing X-O Manowar in some capacity.

For the record, let me make one thing clear: I have NOT committed to ANYTHING with the new owners. Nor, have I been approached by them.

If I were to go back to doing X-O, I would hope that it would be scripted by me, if nothing else. I wrote the majority of that character’s early (and most popular) adventures.

I’d rather not discuss what I would do at this particular moment. However, I assure you that I would stay as true as possible to the character’s origins and root concept.

I have also stated in the past that my story for X-O Manowar #68 was a HUGE mistake. I was upset by the plans that the company had to revamp the character, so I concocted that dumbass story that negated my contributions to the legacy of X-O–more or less returning it to a blank slate.

I know it was stupid–but I had had enough of Acclaim and their petty meddling. I apologize to all X-O fans for that unfortunate storyline.

Bob Layton

http://www.boblayton.com/Archive/August%2006/aug06letterspage.htm

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