EXCLUSIVE: Details from Howard & Pinna’s Forgotten Queen (2019)

Amilcar Pinna's cover for The Forgotten Queen #1, Valiant, Februaty 2019

On November the fifth Tini Howard, fresh off Captain America and her Black Crown collaboration with Gilbert Hernandez, announced another collab: with Amilcar Pinna drawing, she’ll be writing a forthcoming Valiant miniseries spotlighting established villain War-Monger. War-Monger has been around in the Valiant U since May 2015—she debuted in Unity #18, calling a bunch of large men in a pub “bitches.” (War-Monger loves to swear.) From there she battered another man’s head in.

War-Monger in Unity #19, Matt Kindt, Jose Luis, Sandro Ribiero, Alisson Rodrigues, Jefte Palo, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe

War-Monger in Unity #19, Matt Kindt, Jose Luis, Sandro Ribiero, Alisson Rodrigues, Jefte Palo, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe
Both images from Unity #19, June 2015, by Matt Kindt, Jose Luis, Sandro Ribiero, Alisson Rodrigues, Jefte Palo, Andrew Dalhouse and Dave Sharpe

In the next issue Pinna and Howard’s heroine, then written by Matt Kindt and drawn by Jose Luis and team, was quickly revealed to be an immortal opponent of the many incarnations of Valiant’s heroic supergroup Unity. Over the centuries, the world’s heroes have gathered to team up against evil, and over the centuries evil has come to play knock and run with them in the form of the woman called War-Monger.

Valiant got in touch to offer WWAC the exclusive release of series artist Amilcar Pinna’s character designs and a question-answer session with Howard. If there’s anything that’s worth having it’s detail, so: here it is. All the chat that’s good to have on historical settings, fun ultraviolence, women with weapons… and steamy makeouts. Scroll to the bottom for the exclusive pics if you just can’t wait, but make sure to scroll back up and get the deets as well!

Valiant has a lot of immortals. How does that colour the Valiant universe, in your opinion?

Maybe it’s because I’m a massive nerd for vampires, so I love stories where characters live for many lifetimes, but the immortals are my favorite thing about the Valiant Universe. And I love how different they are—there are bon vivants like Armstrong and good guys like Eternal Warrior, and then…villains. Like our girl, the War-Monger. I spend a lot of time with her in this book where we talk about how being immortal makes you different from mortals, how it makes you an outsider. And how your whims can literally shape history.

There are easy comparisons to draw between your heroine and Gaiman & Pratchett’s anthropomorphification of War. How do their presentations differ — what can a reader (or fan) get here that they didn’t get there?

Oh, you know, I didn’t consider that until just now, but that’s a lovely parallel. I think the biggest difference is that I don’t find it all that interesting when villains just like killing and mayhem and we don’t see why or how. It’s very easy to lean on that Scorpion and the Frog mentality when writing villains—that it’s simply in their nature—but that’s not really the War-Monger. She doesn’t necessarily love what she does—she’s unsuccessfully coping with the natural beauty of it. There’s a sympathy in her. There’s a lot of pain and confusion.

Amilcar Pinna & Tini Howard's The Forgotten Queen, Valiant, 2019
A preview of the book’s first page

You begin with a research trip on a boat in the sea, similar to an important scene in Jen Van Meter’s first Doctor Mirage mini. Is this a conscious callback to another woman of Valiant? Creative control of the Valiant U has been heavily male and masculine so far; how does it feel to be fleshing out a woman established as a side-character?

Again, an unintentional reference to a book I love! You’re really cleaning out my mental closet here with these questions… Honestly, it was a callback to another creator in another medium entirely: James Cameron. James Cameron directs my favorite kind of action movies: shiny, sharp, led by great women, but with passionate hearts. And I often describe the Valiant Universe to people that way: “It feels like a James Cameron movie with superpowers,” so starting on a ship at sea felt natural. I also live at the beach, I’ve spent time on ships, I’m a huge marine nerd—I’ve written a few at-sea stories already. It’s something I like doing, it feels very alien, I think!

I was very excited to flesh out a big, bad villain woman. I wanted to play with tropes: give her heartbreak without giving her “a-boy-broke-her-heart” heartbreak, give her sadness without “my parents are deaaad.” I’ve described her as “Randall Flagg as a Wasteland Weekend lesbian” if that helps.

Similar to the last question, I find it hard to name any canon queers in Valiant’s current iteration, especially if the question is “are they doing stuff in comics right now.” [Valiant High is a notable exception, released in trade last month.] Did you pitch the love story in this mini, or was it something editorial invited?

I’m so glad you asked. I pitched it very hopefully and it was accepted with open arms. I’ve never had a second of any pushback on it. It’s been one of the nicest parts of my time at Valiant so far, just feeling like they were eager to have this love story. I think it’s the right thing to do—as a bisexual woman I think it helps me to feel normal, you know? It’s really nice to write your truth and not feel like it’s politicized, sometimes.

Absolutely. You’ve chosen to associate your heroine with real historical giants instead of inventing Valiant-only figures. Why is that?

Because I’m a history nerd! I really am. Part of the fun of this is getting to do research and tell some of my favorite stories in history alongside a supercool character.

The sense of cosmic balance that you establish within this mini is the kind of thing that’s gonna read both ways: optimistic or dreadfully doomladen. Which is it to you?

Oh gosh, it’s both. I think all my books do that, and I think it’s because that’s just who I am. I’m either catastrophizing or preaching the great word of hope at any given moment. I think the Valiant Universe is a generally hopeful place, though.

The Forgotten Queen cover #1, Valiant, February 2019

Amilcar is so good at drawing hair and creating cohesive fashion concepts for characters. Do you feel like you gave him enough to work with on this book?

Isn’t he INCREDIBLE? I actually made a Pinterest of fashion ideas that I sent to him, really early on, but he has incredible sensibilities all his own. I’m always blown away by how he can go from brutal battles and armor to our main character’s beautiful hair and eyes.

As for the designs, I added a lot of indie designers and small fashion houses to that Pinterest, all with that sort of wasteland aesthetic. What Amilcar delivered is something that 1) I personally love and 2) I think people would want to cosplay! As a former cosplayer, I’m ALWAYS thinking of what I’d want to wear, and my favorite designs are the ones that I’d wear myself.

I’d cosplay her in a second, honestly!

Thanks, Tini! And here’s why: Mad Max meets Bowie with a little renaissance flair in there for good measure.

Amilcar Pinna's character designs for War-MOnger in Valiant's THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN
Amilcar Pinna's character designs for War-MOnger in Valiant's THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN

Amilcar Pinna's character designs for War-MOnger in Valiant's THE FORGOTTEN QUEENThat armour you see above will be very important to the story as it unfolds (and gives a clue to the identity of one or two of the historical figures in play). If you’re excited for this mini, and why wouldn’t you be, Tini will be making an appearance at the Valiant booth at NC Comic Con this weekend, to sign copies of a promotional poster. Get on down! The Forgotten Queen will be in shops in February 2019.

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money