Robert Venditti is a name you may not known, but you’ve definitely seen his work. His graphic novel was the inspiration for “Surrogates”, an underrated Bruce Willis movie with underlying themes about how we use the Internet and identity in an age when anonymity is simple and easy.
Since then, he’s taken on John Constantine in the soon-to-finish Hellblazer, and now is writing the adventures of a Visigoth who steals a set of alien armor and then finds himself in the twenty-first century.
We sat down with Venditti to find out just what it takes to write a book that mixes a fish-out-of-water concept with blasters…
Man Cave Daily: How did you first get into comics professionally?
ROBERT VENDITTI: I started out working in the mail room for Top Shelf Productions, publisher of indie comics classics like From Hell, Essex County, and Blankets. While I was an employee there, I gave editor Chris Staros my script for The Surrogates, and he liked it enough to publish it, even though it wasn’t typically the kind of story Top Shelf was known for. It took a few years for The Surrogates to get to the shelves, but when it did, things just kind of snowballed. The success of that book really opened up a lot of doors for me.
MCD: How did you first decide to get involved with Valiant? Had you been a fan of the publisher before?
VENDITTI: Because I didn’t start reading comics until relatively late in life, I wasn’t overly familiar with their characters. The same is true for most Marvel and DC characters as well. So when Executive Editor Warren Simons reached out to me last year about the possibility of pitching for Valiant, I told him I didn’t know a lot about their line. Luckily, he saw that as more of an asset than a detriment, because maybe it meant I could bring a fresh perspective to things.
I could tell right away I was going to enjoy working for Warren, so then it was just a matter finding a character in the Valiant library that I thought was a good fit. X-O Manowar had everything I wanted: a strong high concept, a unique blend of historical and science fiction, and an opportunity to do something truly epic in scale. I was hooked.
MCD: X-O Manowar is a bit different from your previous work. Did you find you had to change your approach?
VENDITTI: Very much so. Not just in terms of content, but in format as well. Most of the comics I’ve written up to this point have been standalone graphic novels, and writing for a monthly series is much different in terms of structure and pacing. But I knew going in these things were going to be new to me, and that was part of the reason I wanted the job. With each new project I take on, I try to challenge myself with things that take me outside my comfort zone. Hopefully, it helps me grow and improve as a writer.
MCD: What are some of the challenges writing a character who is essentially centuries removed from the modern day?
VENDITTI: Really it comes down to finding people for him to talk to and interact with, which isn’t always easy when your main characters is a man out of time who’s wearing a sentient suit of armor that just so happens to be the most powerful weapon in the universe. We’ve introduced some new characters, and we’ll continue to do that moving forward into the series’ next big arc, ominously titled “Planet Death.” Aric will take the armor away from Earth and confront the alien menace that has been hounding him since the first issue.
MCD: How much of the previous comics did you read to prepare? Did you do any other research?
VENDITTI: I read the entire initial run of X-O Manowar, but I didn’t venture much further into the Valiant Universe than that. As I’ve worked other Valiant characters into the series, though, I’ve gone and read up on them. It’s all about building on what came before, reworking those concepts and updating them for a modern audience.
I also spent a good amount of time researching Visigoth culture, since it’s such an integral part of who Aric is. It isn’t a culture that’s immediately familiar the way Roman or Greek culture is, and I wanted to do my best to get it right.
MCD:Walk us a bit through your process working with your art team? (How much of the script you write beforehand, layouts, things of that nature)?
VENDITTI: I write full script, and I also try to include reference in the text to save the artist time researching things on their own. I tend to do a lot of revising in the lettering stage as well, basically trying my best to keep the word balloons from crowding the art. I also want the artist to know they have the freedom to make their own choices, regardless of how detailed the description for a certain panel might be. It’s a collaborative medium, and the more everyone enjoys the creative process, the better the finished product will be.
MCD: What are some of your favorite books on the stands right now?
VENDITTI: I’m really enjoying Animal Man, Sixth Gun, and Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT. Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins’s Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer series is really well done, too. There so much great stuff out there. It’s hard to keep up with it all.
Dan mapped the blurry line between Beanie Baby or Stripper? and taught you How To Decorate Your Apartment Like the Alleged Adult You Are.