This December, Jeff Lemire joins the Valiant Universe for a four-issue miniseries of epic proportions. Along with Valiant veteran Matt Kindt and “Daredevil” artist Paolo Rivera, Lemire will bring together the Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot and the new Geomancer, Kay McHenry, to combat an ancient universe-threatening evil: the Immortal Enemy. Although “The Valiant” only spans four issues, it promises to have massive fallout on the universe as a whole and affect the direction throughout 2015.
Lemire spoke with CBR News in an exclusive interview about “The Valiant,” becoming the newest writer to join the Valiant Universe, how the trio of the Eternal Warrior, Geomancer and Bloodshot came together for the story, co-writing with his good friend Matt Kindt, redesigning the classic Immortal Enemy for the modern age and more.
CBR News: Jeff, tell us a bit about “The Valiant.” What’s the core concept of the miniseries and how does it build off of what’s happened in the Valiant Universe so far?
Jeff Lemire: Well, I don’t want to give too much away. I’ve been a big fan of what they’ve been doing at Valiant since they relaunched, and a lot of my really good friends have done work at the company — Matt Kindt and Josh Dysart and Rob Venditti — guys that I really like and admire. I’ve been following the books for the last couple years, and when I spoke with Warren [Simons] about the chance to work with Valiant on something, I think it originally started with the possibility of me and Matt working on something together. It grew into this series that became “The Valiant,” which really is a story that encompasses the entire Valiant Universe and its history. It goes way back to the dawns of the universe, to the very seeds of it centuries ago all the way up to the modern day. It really encompasses the entire breadth of the continuity.
You hear it all the time about how these events will change things moving forward, but “The Valiant” really is a story that puts a stake into the ground and really changes the flow of the Valiant Universe moving forward and really shakes up the status quo of a number of character, and sets the stage for the next couple years’ worth of stories. It’s something I’m really honored to be a part of, coming on fresh and working with guys like Matt who have been working in the universe for a while.
At its core, it’s really a story about the — I guess there are three leads in the book: Eternal Warrior, Geomancer — Kay McHenry — and Bloodshot. But it does touch on pretty much everybody in the Valiant Universe.
The Eternal Warrior and Geomancer have joined forces before, but bringing in Bloodshot seems like somewhat of an odd match. What was the challenge in bringing all three of them together and having them interact?
The fact that Bloodshot is such an odd mix with Kay and the Eternal Warrior was the fun of it for Matt and me. Sometimes when you take characters you wouldn’t normally see together and put them together, you get unexpected results. We knew immediately that when we put Kay McHenry and Bloodshot together, we instantly started getting all these idea on how we could evolve each of their characters moving forward when they become a part of one another’s lives. Kay is the Geomancer, someone in control and protector of the natural world. Bloodshot is a living machine. When you put those two together, it creates a really interesting tension — not just with their powers and their superior identities, but also just personally, they’re such opposites. Kay is new to this whole world, she’s coming to terms with her powers and lacking confidence, trying to find her identity. Then, you have Bloodshot, who is a man without identity. He has no tether to humanity at all anymore. When we put those two together, there was this interesting spark to develop the whole story around. Their relationship is the core of the book.
The Eternal Warrior spans history, and his job is to protect the Geomancer. We finally find out what exactly he’s been charged to protect the Geomancer from throughout history: The Immortal Enemy. We’ll see in the first issue that he hasn’t always been successful. The Immortal Enemy will be emerging in this storyline, and I think Paolo and Matt and I have come up with something pretty nasty. He’s a true threat — not just for Kay, but for the entire Valiant Universe. Trying to create a character that can be a threat to all those characters at once is challenging, but I think we have something pretty cool.
With a threat as large as the Immortal Enemy that threatens the entirety of the Valiant Universe, will the Eternal Warrior require other allies beyond the Geomancer and Bloodshot? Since it’s a shared universe, it seems like a threat this large would cause some of the other Valiant characters to make an appearance.
Absolutely, yeah. The Geomancer, Eternal Warrior and Bloodshot are the leads in the story, but all the characters from Valiant will appear and play a part. This ties in directly to what Matt’s doing in “Unity,” and the Eternal Warrior’s a part of the Unity team with Ninjak and X-O and Livewire — so you can expect to see all of them. Archer and Armstrong appear in the first issue, and maybe a few other surprises as well. It really does touch on everybody and how the coming of the Immortal Enemy affects all of them.
At the core of it is this really great character study between Bloodshot and Geomancer and the evolution of their relationship. We’ve grounded it all in this really small story between these two characters, and we have this huge cataclysmic stuff going on around them.
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You’re co-writing the series with Matt, who has a fair amount of experience writing both the Eternal Warrior and Bloodshot. How valuable was his experience with these characters and this universe during the development of the series? What was your collaborative process like?
Well, it’s still ongoing — we’re still very much in the process of writing the series. It’s not written yet. There were certain characters I had an interest in, and there were certain characters [Matt] had interest in. We originally split the plotting up that way, but it’s become much more organic where we’re both working together at this point. Matt’s probably one of my best friends in the world outside of comics, plus one of my favorite creators. So it’s not hard to let things go and let him handle certain aspects of it. He comes up with an idea and I try to top it, then he tries to top that. It’s a great way to work. We really get along, and the book really is a combination of both our aesthetics as writers and creators.
Then, you bring in Paolo who is — in my mind — one of the most gifted artists in comics today. He takes our silly story and makes it look amazing. It’s been pretty cool working with both those guys. Like I said, I’m still very much in the process of writing the book. Sometimes, when you’re working on something in the trenches, you don’t have the chance to really step back and analyze so much. You’re just trying to get it done. Maybe a year from now, I’ll be able to realize what Matt brought and what I brought a little more clearly.
As you mentioned, Paolo Rivera’s on art for the series. Both you and Matt are accomplished artists in your own right — what was the experience like in crafting the story and script to help highlight Paolo’s strengths?
Obviously, Matt and I both came into comics through independent comics and self-publishing — writing and drawing our own things. More recently, we’ve been writing for other artists as well. For me, all the work I did at DC as a writer was a real learning process in how to write for different artists. I think the thing I learned the most, from my early days at DC to the more recent stuff was the more freedom you give the artist, the better the results. Being an artist myself, it’s tempting sometimes to tray nd control the visual aspect of the book as well — try to do thumbnails or layout suggestions the way I would do them. I found early on that you often don’t get the best result because the artist is more concerned with doing what you want rather than doing what they normally would do on their own, and having the freedom to do it their own way.
So, when you have an artist like Paolo, who we have complete faith in — we just know he’s one of the most gifted storytellers working in comics — it’s really a hands-off approach at that point. Matt and I just step away from the visual aspect of the book and really focus on character and plot, and leave all of that up to Paolo. He’s someone who appreciates the freedom to make it his own visually as well.
You mentioned earlier that you’d been a fan of the new Valiant since its launch. Were there any characters you were really looking forward to get your hands on?
Yeah, Bloodshot was really what I wanted to work on. I have no idea why I like Bloodshot, but I really do. I’ve always had this weird thing for him. It seems like an odd fit to have Bloodshot in there, but I really wanted to do some stuff with him. I think Matt wanted to work with Gilad a little more, and the story just developed out of that. Geomancer was this part of the Valiant mythology that seemed so rich and rife with potential. It all came together.
I always felt that Bloodshot had a lot of potential, and I’m really getting to dig in with him on the series and do some interesting things with that character.
It’s interesting that you would pick Bloodshot, as Matt Kindt was a fan of the character as well before writing “Bloodshot” #0. Were the two of you able to share any insights on him together?
We both had a really clear idea, I think a pretty similar idea, of what we thought could make a really good Bloodshot story. Unfortunately, I can’t get into any detail or it’s going to spoil what we’re doing with him in the book, but we both thought there was room for the character to evolve, bring a bit more humanity to him. He’s not just a cold, lifeless killing machine; we thought there was something more there. That’s really what we’re trying to do with this series. Amongst other things, the series is the evolution of Bloodshot.
“The Valiant” isn’t an “event series” in the traditional sense of the word in that there are no tie-ins or ancillary issues — everything is actually contained within the four-issue mini. What was the challenge for you and Matt in approaching “The Valiant” as a self-contained story that would still have an effect on the Valiant Universe after it finished?
Doing an event like this where it doesn’t have a lot of tie-ins and spinoffs is actually a lot easier. It allows us to craft a story with a beginning, middle and end, and craft it all ourselves. We can really keep it self-contained and focused. In terms of stuff spinning out of it, that’s in control, too, because Matt’s writing “Rai” and “Unity,” which touches on a lot of the universe right there. To have things spin out of the series to what he’s doing is fairly natural as well. It didn’t involve us stepping on any of the other writers’ toes or forcing things on some of the other characters that Matt wasn’t writing. It all felt very natural and self-contained. So far, it seems like everything’s really focused, and feeling like a really strong story.
I think a lot of the time with the big events that companies do, the trouble they get into is all the spinoffs and crossovers — the story gets watered down and spread out. It can get confused when a lot of writers get involved, so it helps to just have me and Matt focus on this one story.
“The Valiant” by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera begins in December.
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