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Exploring the Best of the Valiant Universe: Who Is X-O Manowar?

If you visited an alien world, what kind of souvenir would you bring back to Earth?

If it were me, I’d probably grab a rock or an extraterrestrial flower or maybe just some epic selfies (basically, anything that wouldn’t get me thrown in alien prison), but if you’re Aric of Dacia, 5th century warrior prince, you’d obviously choose the aliens’ most powerful weapon, which also happens to double as their most esteemed relic. In his defense, Aric was already imprisoned, and all he wanted was to go back home, kick some Roman butt, and chill out with a goblet of wine.

Unsurprisingly, his alien abductors had other plans for Aric and his fellow human captives (likely enslavement and experimentation), prompting him to lead an uprising which culminated in his fateful acquisition of the X-O Manowar armor. Needless to say, a weaponized suit of sentient armor pretty much trumps any souvenir you can buy at the airport, but unfortunately, ol’ Aric didn’t get to show it off to his buds when he returned to Earth.

See, even though he’d only been gone for a few years, that whole “theory of relativity” thing meant that Aric showed back up on Earth a bit later than when he’d been abducted…like 16 centuries later. In the short version of the long run, Aric was a bit ticked about the whole situation, but made the best out of it by saving the rest of the world from the alien race that captured him in the first place.

Cool Premise, but Who the Heck is X-O Manowar in the Real World?

Aric of Dacia a.k.a. X-O Manowar was created for Valiant Comics by Jim Shooter and Bob Layton, and made his first appearance in 1992 on the way to becoming one of the most popular characters in the Valiant Universe. In 1997, X-O got a reboot thanks to Acclaim Entertainment’s buyout of Valiant the year before. In the new series, the armor’s owner is one Donovan Wylie. This version of X-O Manowar briefly made it into the realm of more familiar comics territory when he fought alongside Tony Stark in Acclaim’s video game Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal, which was produced for Playstation, Game Boy, Sega, and PC.

Then, in typical superhero fashion, the character was rebooted a third time in 2012, after the rights to the Valiant Comics universe of characters was acquired by a new company, Valiant Entertainment. The X-O Manowar armor once again belonged to Aric of Dacia, but at least at this point he had probably gotten used to being time-displaced. The new series ran all the way to 50 issues before recently ending, but Aric and the X-O armor will be returning next year. This time, he’ll be portrayed by Derek Theler in the live action web series Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe.

Since Valiant Entertainment signed up for nine figures worth of film financing from Beijing-based media group DMG last year, and now has a 5 picture deal with Sony, we can also assume that X-O Manowar will make it onto the big screen in the near future as well.

X-O Manowar: Savior of Humanity, or Iron Man Copycat?

Um, both, actually. Just last month, I wrote about another character from the Valiant universe, Bloodshot, and how he shares more than a few remarkable characteristics with our favorite fourth wall-breaking merc with a mouth (however, Bloodshot creator Kevin VanHook took to the comments to clarify that the similarities were, indeed, just coincidence). Similarly, X-O Manowar is highly reminiscent of Marvel’s Iron Man. The big difference in these comparisons is Bloodshot and Deadpool debuted around the same time, while Iron Man preceded X-O Manowar by nearly three full decades.

And yeah, one is a billionaire playboy and the other is a time-displaced warrior, so there’s that. Regardless, the commonalities are pretty overwhelming. When Tony Stark and Aric of Dacia don their respective suits of armor, both men gain an incredible range of superhuman abilities, including flight, augmented strength, invisibility, enhanced intelligence and powers of observation, energy projection, and more.

So X-O Manowar is like Valiant’s version of Iron Man, Bloodshot is their Deadpool, and one of their other hugely popular characters, Ninjak, is basically a reimagining of Batman as a British spy. Could it have anything to do with the fact that Jim Shooter, co-creator of all three characters, was formerly the editor-in-chief over at Marvel Comics? Nah…surely not.

There’s no getting around the similarities that Bloodshot shares with Deadpool. If un-killable mercenaries were vegetables, these would be two peas in a pod. The latter first graced the pages of a comic book in early 1991, with the former not following suit until nearly two years later, so it’s fair to speculate that Bloodshot’s creators, Kevin VanHook and Yvel Guichet, drew some serious inspiration from Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s Deadpool character.

Bloodshot is also very much like Robert Ludlum’s fictional assassin Jason Bourne [Click here to read more…]


Check out X-O Manowar on Valiant’s Site, or on Amazon

Wrap Up

I’m poking fun, but not at X-O Manowar himself. After all, it’s not his fault, and his original series is still a damn good read. At the end of the day, X-O is more than a superhero story – it’s about our very normal, very human quest for self-knowledge in a confusing world. Better yet, it’s a story tailor-made for lovers of science fiction; we’re talking sentient technology, UFOs and abduction, hostile invasions of Earth, top-level government conspiracy involving aliens pretending to be humans, time displacement, and more, all rolled into one.

Meanwhile, if you’re already a fan of the X-O armor and can’t wait for the Ninjak web series, you might want to check out Kindle Worlds, where you’ll find some fan fiction stories about Aric and his badass armor.

Featured Image: Valiant Entertainment / Bob Layton

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