Manowar uses a weapon that didn't exist in the world of his birth.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Valiant Comics
First Appeared: 1992
Creators: Jim Shooter and Bob Layton (writers) and Barry Windsor-Smith (artist)
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Comic books already had an ancient warrior, transported to his future to appeal to contemporary superhero fans, by 1992, when Valiant Comics's X-O Manowar first appeared with that premise. In fact, first from Pacific Comics (Captain Victory, The Rocketeer) and then from First Comics (American Flagg, Grimjack), Mike Grell's Starslayer had already …

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… come and gone by that time. The main thing that was missing from the idea's newer incarnation was Grell's affinity for the Celtic culture his hero had originally been born into.

Valiant had already created the core of a superhero universe, by obtaining three characters from Western Printing, Dr. Solar, Magnus and Turok. To them, editor/publisher Jim Shooter, who'd gotten his start in comics by writing The Legion of Super Heroes and had more recently been in charge of Marvel Comics, added such original properties as Harbinger, Ninjak and Psi Lords. X-O Manowar (no relation) was one of the first additions to the line.

Shooter created the character in collaboration with artist Bob Layton, whose credits have included a couple of Hercules mini-series during the '80s. X-O Manowar made his first appearance in his own self-titled comic book, with a cover date of February, 1992. Shooter scripted the first few pages, with Steve Englehart (The Avengers, Batman) taking over for the bulk of the issue. It was pencilled by fan favorite artist Barry Windsor-Smith (Red Sonja, Machine Man), and inked by Layton.

The man in the superhero suit was Aric of Dacia, a nephew of 5th century Visigoth king Alaric I. He was captured by alien "demons" and enslaved for several years while the aliens flitted around interstellar space, carrying him along. Eventually, he got hold of the aliens' greatest weapon, the X-O Manowar armor, which was about as alive and as dominant as The Witchblade. Before long he was free, back on Earth, but due to the time dilations from all that travel at near-light speed, centuries had passed. Adjusting quickly to life in the late 20th century, he took up the superhero trade.

Readers seem to have been taken with him, as he lasted until #68 (September, 1996). When his comic succumbed, it was to corporate reorganization, not lack of reader interest. That year, Acclaim Entertainment, the video game giant that had bought Valiant Comics, re-launched the whole line, with an eye toward adapting its properties to video games.

In the Acclaim version, the X-O Manowar armor was an ancient artifact of unknown origin, which eventually fell into the hands of scientist Donovan Wylie. The armor can't be removed without killing him, but can be disguised so the wearer can lead a normal life. Eventually, to judge by the fates of past wearers, it's expected to suck the life out of him, leaving him nothing but a burned-out husk.

The company was less successful this time around. After 21 issues, dated February, 1997 through June, 1998, it ended. The rest of Acclaim's titles suffered a similar fate. Acclaim declared bankruptcy a few years later.

Eventually, Acclaim's comics properties wound up belonging to a new company, which called itself Valiant Entertainment. In 2008, Valiant issued a hardcover graphic novel, titled X-O Manowar: Birth, collecting the first seven issues of the 1992 comic book. The company has ambitious plans to re-establish its characters in the modern comic book industry.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Andrew Rev.