SDCC ’15: Valiant’s Master Tacticians and Horror Stories: a Conversation with Robert Venditti

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With the immanent release of Valiant’s Book of Death crossover story this week and the announcement of the Wrath of the Eternal Warrior series set for November, author Robert Venditti is one of the busiest writers in comics (not to mention that he’s also cooking multiple titles in the DC Universe). The Eternal Warrior, one of Valiant’s strongest and most weathered characters in the publishing slate is set to star in the latter series. Venditti initially chose between X-O Manowar and The Eternal Warrior to get ready to launch the Valiant Universe way back in 2012’s Summer of Valiant, but now the author has the opportunity to go back and chronicle the ongoing adventures of The Eternal Warrior. The hero is a key piece of Valiant at the center of Unity, the publisher’s premiere superteam, he is also the protector of the Geomancer — another important player in the landscape of the Valiant world. The Beat sat down with Venditti to get briefed on our mission assignment with Wrath of the Eternal Warrior and to congratulate the author on the first completed issue of Book of Death.

How are you feeling now that the first installment of Book of Death is in the can?

The whole thing isn’t done, I’m still working on the last issue of it. The comic has been a lot of fun to work on. It’s definitely unlike any story I have ever done before, not just in terms of characters, but also the content. It has much more of a horror bend to it than anything I have done, which is part of the reason why I wanted take on the project. With everything that I take on, I try and do something different than what I have done before, so hopefully I am always growing and challenging myself. It’s just been a lot of fun because there are a lot of surprises coming up in the story. The nature of the event has allowed me to introduce a lot of concepts into the Valiant Universe and show a lot of characters from the previous Valiant Universe for the first time. You don’t get opportunities to do that kind of stuff too often.

Does it excite you to have the opportunity to reintroduce concepts from the last Valiant incarnation in Book of Death?

To me, the great fun of working in a shared Universe with Valiant or DC is the idea that you can sort of become part of the tapestry because there is a line of writers that will come before you and a line of writers that will come after you. You know the extent to which you could contribute to it — it’s kinda like bringing some toys to the party and leaving some of the toys in the toybox so somebody else can play with them later. No matter what happens, I will have always put those toys in the box, and in some senses you are leaving a legacy behind.

I heard you mention that you initially pitched an Eternal Warrior series to Valiant in 2012. Did you take any sort of plot threads or pieces that you had and weave them back into the new story you were telling?

I didn’t actually pitch Eternal Warrior, what you probably heard is that when Valiant reached out to me about pitching for their characters back in 2011, they sent me Bibles on all the main characters. The two that appealed to me were X-O Manowar and The Eternal Warrior. I could only pitch on one, but have always wanted to pitch on The Eternal Warrior. I never put anything down on paper, but he’s certainly someone that I have thought a lot about. He showed up briefly in X-O Manowar for a couple of issues and I wrote him a little bit in Armor Hunters. This is something that I have been talking to Valiant about for a really long time. A lot of that stuff is definitely making it into Wrath of the Eternal Warrior series.

Can you talk about what the series will be comprised of tonally?

Gilad the Eternal Warrior is immortal. This is going to be a different take on that concept. The series is about what he has to endure and what he has to sacrifice in order to be immortal. I think that we live in what can be a lot of times a really pessimistic world, but I don’t think Gilad would get out of the grave and fight for us if he didn’t believe that we were inherently good and worth fighting for. If he thought that the world was inherently evil, he would just stay dead and let us all fall to our own devices. What appeals to me about him is despite the millennia that he’s been alive, and despite the things that he’s seen, he still remains an eternal optimist in some ways — which I find fascinating.

It’s the romance of the character that you are drawn into in that sense?

That’s certainly one aspect of it. I also love the aspect that because of his age, he hasn’t read about history. He’s lived it…you know. That sets him apart from the rest of the Valiant Universe, just the way that he views the world is different from everybody else. One example of that that I always use is his axe. A lot of people would say he’s supposed to be a master tactician and he’s a great warrior, why would he carry around something primitive like an axe? That’s because to us an axe is just a blade and just a weapon. To him, seeing what the axe is capable of, it’s an extremely versatile tool. He can turn it over and use the heel as a hammer, he can heat the blade in a campfire and fry an egg on it, he can polish it and use it as a signal mirror, he can use it to chop down trees and make shelter. There’s all these uses and even the way he fights with it. He uses not just the blade, but the sharp edge, the curve of the blade and the heel. Whereas today, we think the gun is the more obvious choice because we know that the gun can shoot a bullet, but that’s all it’s gonna do for you — you’re not going to build a shelter with a gun!

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Would you say that with Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, you’re utilizing some of those more wild elements of the character and weaving them back into the hero’s mythos in a more practical way?  Take the axe for example.

Yeah, I would say that there are things we would perceive from our modern view and certainly the rest of the Valiant Universe as something that would be primitive or wild, but for him they are actually extremely cultured. That’s the inversion that makes it so interesting, we might think that he’s primitive, but really that’s because we are too primitive to discover how cultured he actually is.

This might be a sort of heady question, but in a lot of ways, The Eternal Warrior is in the middle of the Valiant Universe whether it be Unity, that tie to X-O (Manowar) and the role in protecting the Geomancer. I was wondering how you balanced this really connected character of the Valiant Universe within your series that is also nestled in the scope of a shared Universe?

Yeah, I think that those are different books and that those are different roles. I don’t know…in a way it would just make sense in whom it would be. It’s his mission to be at the center of everything, and that’s why he gets down out of the grave and he keeps doing what he does, because he’s at the center of things. It would be a harder book to write convincingly to have him be someone who wasn’t in the middle of everything, because why else would he do what he does? It’s just part of his DNA.

We saw The Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel mini, and we saw the Greg Pak (The Eternal Warrior) series. Have you sort of studied those elements and took the lens of that and apply it to your upcoming book?

I have certainly read all that stuff, as well as the original Valiant run on the character as well. Much like X-O, we are really building on those things, trying to do it in a way that’s really different for the reader so it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that they haven’t seen before. He’s still gonna stay true to who his roots are as a concept — it’s going be a completely different take on those things.

Can you tease some thematic elements of how Book of Death is going to segue into the series?

That’s a tough one, that gets a little spoilery. Book of Death definitely sets up a lot of what we are going to be doing in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, but Book of Death is completely self contained. If you pick up Wrath of the Eternal Warrior you can see how the foundation was laid in Book of Death, but it’s not going be a requirement to read Wrath of the Eternal Warrior.

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Raul Allen has been making a splash in the Valiant world. What is it like for you to have the opportunity to work with him on Wrath of the Eternal Warrior?

Is there a way for you to communicate my smile? (Robert Venditti smiles.) I am super excited about it, he is a really talented guy. My first interaction with his work was when he was doing the covers for X-O Manowar, you just immediately see how he’s such an outside the box thinker. Not in a way that’s complex or alienating, but in a way that’s wholly unique.

Aric and Gilad had a really interesting relationship stemming out of the fight between the two characters in the pages of X-O Manowar. I really thought that in Unity, we saw the relationship go full circle, I don’t know if you are writing the two heroes in Book of Death, or if you are covering how the relationship has changed overtime?

They have a long history with each other. Aric didn’t know Gilad was The Eternal Warrior. Gilad was his mentor in a lot of ways when he was a child. He taught him how to fight with a sword, and was sort of a male role model for him as a Visigoth. At the surface, I think what people will find similar with them is that they have a man out of time aspect. They are actually polar opposites. Aric was actually someone who freed himself from the captivity of the Vine, the alien race that took him, then he came back to Earth from the modern day. Gilad has lived every single day. Aric has no constant in ethics and culture, while Gilad has witnessed all of that. So that’s obviously a big strain on their relationship in the modern day. There’s also a deep bond between them– a mentor and student bond. They have known each other and can relate to each other in ways that nobody on else can. They can become very antagonistic with each other as well — which I think is true of a lot of really deep friendships or brotherly bonds or things like that. They are inextricably bound to each other.

Correct me if I am wrong, but these are all thematic elements that are going to be covered in Book of Death?

Yes, a lot of what I was just discussing is going to be in the second issue in Book of Death #2. They are also things covered in X-O Manowar and in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior as well.

Book of Death #1 is on sale this Wednesday and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1 is launching in November at your local comic book shop.

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BOOK OF DEATH #1 (of 4)
Written by ROBERT VENDITTI
Art by ROBERT GILL & DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Cover A by ROBERT GILL (MAY151586)
Cover B by CARY NORD (MAY151587)
Cover C by CLAYTON CRAIN (MAY151588)
Cover D by JELENA KEVIC-DJURDJEVIC (MAY151589)
Character Design Variant by PAOLO RIVERA (MAY151591)
Valiant Icons Variant by PERE PEREZ (MAY151592)
Artist Variant by PAOLO RIVERA (MAY151593)
Blank Cover also available (MAY151590)

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”

The Valiant heroes. X-O Manowar. Bloodshot. Ninjak. The Harbinger Renegades. Unity. This is how they lived. This is how they died.

Now we know. The Book of the Geomancer has recorded it all. But only a young girl – the last in a line of the enigmatic mystics who protect the Earth known as Geomancers – has seen this future come to pass, from the coming cataclysm to the dawn of the 41st century. Alone with her sworn protector, the Eternal Warrior – a soldier battle-forged across five thousand years of combat – the duo must defy their allies to stop the Dark Age that now threatens to eclipse our world.

Together, they are the number one target of every hero and villain on Earth. Either the Eternal Warrior hands her over…or they take him down. But can even he single-handedly protect one child when the entire Valiant Universe wages war against him?

The blockbuster Valiant event of 2015 starts here as New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (X-O MANOWAR) joins superstar-in-the-making Robert Gill (ARMOR HUNTERS: HARBINGER) and visionary artist Doug Braithwaite (ARMOR HUNTERS) to begin a thousand-year journey into the future of the Valiant Universe…and rain, fire, blood and war on the heroes of today.

$3.99 | 40 pages | T+ | On sale JULY 15

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WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1
Written by ROBERT VENDITTI
Art by RAUL ALLEN
Wraparound Cover by DAVID LAFUENTE
$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | ONGOING SERIES | ON SALE IN NOVEMBER!