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