Originally written by Jim Shooter with art by John Dixon, the first "Eternal Warrior" series launched in 1992 and ran for 50 issues. The series featured the adventures of the Eternal Warrior, Gilad Anni-Padda, one of three immortal brothers including Armstrong (Aram the Other) and Ivar the Timewalker. He serves as the Fist and Steel of the Earth and works closely with the Geomancer to guarantee Earth's protection. The current incarnation of the character made his debut in "Archer & Armstrong" during "The Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" story arc.
CBR News spoke exclusively with Pak and Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons about the series, what led up to its creation, the compelling nature of the Eternal Warrior character and the concept behind his upcoming September ongoing series.
CBR News: Greg, readers have already seen the Eternal Warrior in the pages of "Archer & Armstrong." Where does your series pick up with the character?
Clayton Crain's "Eternal Warrior" teaser (L), Character Design by Lee Bermejo with Mico Suayan
Greg Pak: The Eternal Warrior, Gilad, as his name implies is an immortal. He has been fighting for millennia -- constantly fighting wars at the behest of these wizards known as Geomancers. He fights for the Earth. He's been doing this for millennia, but when we pick up with him, it's at the point when he's been doing this for so long that whenever he fights a battle, it's hard to tell what has changed. Even more to the point, he's an immortal. He has seen civilizations rise and fall, and seen everyone he's ever loved grow old and die. Everyone he's ever called family has vanished, of course with the exception of his immortal brother that we've met in "Archer & Armstrong." He's got a broken heart. His heart's been broken over thousands of years, but we're going to pick up with him at a point where he discovers he actually has living family. He actually has children, believe it or not. The twist is that these kids may be just as dangerous as he is. We're going to find out how he deals with that and how they deal with him. He's in for a pretty crazy ride.
How familiar were you with the character before coming in? Did you check out the series when it was originally published in the '90s?
Pak: No, I actually didn't. I missed it. When Valiant first had its amazing surge, I wasn't actually buying a lot of comics. That was one of the spans of my life when I wasn't buying a ton of comics, so I missed it in the first go-round, but it's a classic trope for a character. It's an amazing thing to be able to delve into. I've read and re-read a bunch of those original stories now, and they're just a kick in the pants. There's a lot you can do with an immortal character in our world, running around. There's just so much implied by that. First off, there's a huge amount of great character stuff you can play with when you've got a character like this -- an immortal character who's also maybe the greatest warrior on the planet. Also, the elements of world-building and adventure that we're going to play with here -- I'm chomping at the bit. It's a really exciting project.
Warren and I worked together on one of my favorite projects of all time: the "X-Men: Magneto Testament" book I did at Marvel and it's just a real pleasure working with him again on a book like this. We're going deep and there's tons of world-building going on. We're looking at stuff that affects the whole Valiant Universe, but at the same time, what makes a story work is whether you care about this character. We're having a lot of fun exploring this character and his relationship with his dangerous progeny.
Warren, why did editorial feel this was the right time to spin Eternal Warrior off into his own series?
Warren Simons: He's one of the characters that I wanted to get to almost since I got here. He's one of the characters we pushed back on the schedule a couple of times because we have a really deep bench here. We wanted to have something that was different than some of the archetypes that came before and we really wanted to take the time to look at what it meant to be the Eternal Warrior and as Greg mentions, what it's like to be this character that's been around for thousands of years.
"A&A" #7 art by Emanuela Lupacchino
As Greg noted, he's almost kind of heartbroken at humanity and towards his fellow man and what a fascinating and interesting archetype that is. We have this character that has a lifespan that far exceeds anything that we deal with. We began to talk about this story and figure out his place in the Valiant Universe. The thing that we're hinting at a little bit is what this character also does is provide us with an opportunity to peel back some of the more enigmatic corners of the Valiant Universe. There are things we're going to be exploring in this book that he's privy to, and he's privy to information no one else is. In addition to building a very compelling character, a very compelling title, simply because of Gilad's concept as a character -- he's been around, he's seen the Valiant Universe develop. He's seen corners of the Valiant Universe that you could only see and understand based on the ability to be immortal. It was a really good time now that we've put the universe on the map and established it with "X-O" and "Harbinger" and "Bloodshot" and "Archer & Armstrong" to really peel back the layers a bit and begin to tap in to the great mythology that Jim Shooter and John Dixon created when they put the characters together back in the early '90s.
Who are the other players involved in the series? Greg, I heard you might have plans for the new Geomancer.
Pak: All that will be revealed in due time. As we begin, we're going to concentrate on Gilad and these kids of his. Fairly soon, we've got some new villains that are going to surface and we're going to discover -- Gilad serves the Earth. He's the fist and the steel, he is the warrior for the Earth. We're going to discover fairly quickly that there are other people serving other entities. There's the House of the Earth, there are other Houses in the Valiant Universe and there are other Swords that serve those houses. Things are going to get pretty crazy and pretty dangerous pretty quickly.
Simons: One of the things that I really love about this particular story is that we know who the Geomancer is, but we've never really understood what it means to be the Speaker of the Earth. We've never really understood what it means to be the Fist and the Steel beyond serving the Speaker of the Earth. What does it mean to be the Speaker of the Earth? What does that role mean within the universe? Beyond just touching on the most superficial level of what that means, we're really delving in deeper to really build the mythology, and Greg's come up with some pretty awesome stuff.
In a recent issue of "Archer & Armstrong," readers got to see the Eternal Warrior's involvement in attempting to thwart the Kennedy assassination. Considering the Eternal Warrior's lifespan, how much of what you're doing is going to explore the beginnings and the history of the Valiant Universe?
Pak: We definitely have a modern-day story that's going to be happening, but we're definitely going to see key points reaching back through history. That's one of the glories of a character like this. Fred [Van Lente] and I had a ton of fun doing similar types of stuff back when we were doing "Incredible Hercules." That's definitely a cool opportunity to work with multiple layers of a character like this. It's going to be a blast.
Speaking of "Incredible Hercules," "Eternal Warrior" has a huge connection to Fred's "Archer & Armstrong." Has coming on to "Eternal Warrior" given you two the chance to collaborate again?
#1 cover by Clayton Crain (L), Patrick Zircher's Eternal Warrior FCBD piece
Pak: We've talked some about this. Fred and I are actually working on another secret project right now that's totally different from this, so we talk all the time. But it's definitely one of the perks of coming onboard with this project. It's not just working with Warren, who I loved working for, but being in the same universe with Fred Van Lente is never a bad thing.
Readers discovered many of the previous Geomancers in "Archer & Armstrong" -- will you be delving into the past of the Geomancer more thoroughly?
Pak: Yes, all will be revealed in the fullness of time. We definitely have a plan, but I don't want to spoil too much yet.
You've had experience working with incredibly strong and skilled characters before with your take on the Hulk, Skaar and Hercules -- did you find the experience of working with the Hulk family similar to taking on the Eternal Warrior and some of his kids?
Pak: What's interesting is that every character comes from a different place and has different things that they're dealing with. The Hulk's primary thing is he's grappling with his anger. That's the cliche and it's the truth. He is constantly struggling to balance the terrible anger inside of him with his responsibilities toward his family and the world, really. Different characters have different things going on. Certainly, there are similarities between the Eternal Warrior and Skaar that I've worked with, but the Eternal Warrior is his own person. This whole question of immortality and of being the greatest warrior to walk the planet and of serving these mystic masters and figuring out what that's all about -- those are unique elements that make him a really great character. Finally, this element we're bringing in of him encountering these children, there's some really great punchy stuff. It's going to take me down different roads that I haven't been down as a writer and I'm looking forward to that.
Trevor Hairsine is drawing interiors for the first issue. Warren, what made Trevor a good match for the story Greg has coming up?
Simons: I think Trevor's born to draw this book. This is going to be a sprawling action epic. For all the great character stuff we're doing, we also have these extraordinarily beautiful classic battle scenes going on -- Bronze Age stuff, pre-Bronze Age stuff -- great compelling, beautiful action. Trev is a wonderful storyteller. He's an extraordinary artist when it comes to composition, panel layout, expressiveness of his characters, so it's very exciting to see him dig in here and really illustrate some of the scenes we've got coming up, which are absolutely awesome kick-ass battles. Greg has a huge battle in the first issue, which is going to feature Gilad facing off against this army, which is basically on the ancient equivalent of PCP, so they're all crazy. It's just this massive action sequence -- not to give too much away, but Trev's drawing the hell out of it. We're super excited to have him onboard. He's an amazing storyteller and I think his linework and the quality of his work lends itself to this type of story thematically. He's got a really beautiful, dark grainy line and I think that's going to bode well for this particular book.
With two of the brothers on the board in the Valiant Universe, Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior, when can fans expect to see an appearance from the Timewalker in one of these two books?
Simons: That is an excellent question. We'll have news about Timewalker coming up soon, but right now our big push is the Summer of Valiant going on and we're launching "Eternal Warrior," we've got "Bloodshot" #0 coming out, we have to launch "Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps" book, which we're super excited about. We've got "Quantum and Woody" coming down the pipeline with an amazing first issue. We've got a lot of great stuff coming up, so we're super excited. With Timewalker, I've definitely been talking with people about Timewalker, but it's probably premature to announce anything just yet.
Pak: Well, it's a chance to work with an immortal. I am in love with mythology, basically. I'm also in love with ways in which folks take these mythological tropes and work them into stories in ways that deal with the real world. This just gives us that in spades. It also has a central character who has a kind of perspective on the entire world, which is incredibly interesting and a huge challenge to me as a writer. Years ago, I co-created Amadeus Cho with Takeshi Miyazawa for Marvel back in the day. Amadeus is billed as the seventh smartest person in the Marvel Universe. It's kind of ridiculous when you create a character like that, because what, now I have to be that smart to tell this guy's story? But it's a great challenge for yourself. It forces you to try as much as possible to think on a higher level and figure out how somebody's brain would work if they were in different circumstances. How is the brain and heart of an immortal person -- how is that person going to think? How does a person like that feel? How does a person like that function in the world? It affects every action and every decision he's going to make in this book. That's just a whole new way of thinking about a character. That's a new itch and I'm very eager to scratch it.
Is there anybody currently in the Valiant Universe that you'd really like to get your hands on?
Pak: Well, I've kind of got him right now! [Laughs] I'm very thrilled to be running with this dude for a while. I love what Fred's done in "Archer & Armstrong" and I think those characters are a blast. I'm sure in the fullness of time, there will be more encounters between the brothers, so knock on wood that will eventually happen. But for the time being, I'm psyched to be where I am.
"Eternal Warrior" launches in September as part of the Summer of Valiant