Writer Genevieve Valentine talks Xena: Warrior Princess #2, on sale in May from Dynamite. Covers are by Jenny Frison and Tony Fleecs.
BYRON BREWER: Genevieve, just one issue in and as #2 approaches in May, this magazine certainly seems to be capturing the flavor of the TV show. Is this your first adaptation of a well-known TV property? What challenges does that present the writer?
GENEVIEVE VALENTINE: It is! I think the biggest challenge is always going to be striking a balance between honoring the world of the show and telling a new story that's compelling for its own reasons. Some elements of the canon – the dynamic between Xena and Gabrielle, that blend of tongue-in-cheek and high drama – are so important to bring with you into any adaptation, but at the same time you want to make sure your own world feels lived-in, so your story has its own weight.
BB: Do you see your Xena as the warrior princess of the series, or is this a different iteration, in your mind?
GV: This arc is occupying some shadows of the show canon between one big event and another, so I definitely wanted to have a lot of her characterization come through from the show itself; she's feeling at a bit of a loss after the Twilight of the Gods, and Rome is…well, Rome, and there's a feeling for both Xena and Gabrielle that they've been gone long enough that the world has moved on without them. It definitely speaks to who they are in the show at this moment in time. But I also like that the secret-history nature of things means we can play around a little with some of the grace notes, and explore some of the things the show couldn't spend quite as much time on – things like Xena and Gabrielle's very complicated feelings about this new Caesar, and the ways that their absence has had repercussions beyond the more personal stakes we saw in the show.
BB: How important is Xena's relationship with Gabrielle?
GV: Cornerstone. Their love for each other was a defining part of their characters – it was an incredible arc about the power of a relationship on both a personal and an epic scale – and I absolutely love having a chance to write them at this point in their relationship, when they've been through so much and are so certain of each other. (Sometimes my panel description of a reaction beat is just "Old-marrieds look," which Ariel nails; you really get the sense of two people looking to each other for counsel and support…or snark, whichever!) Of course, because this is Xena, we immediately run into some obstacles to their happiness – that happens when you've dedicated yourself to fighting evil – but them loving each other is never in doubt.
BB: Artist Ariel Medel seems to have a certain hold on these characters and the atmosphere of the book, from what I have heard. Can you tell me the process you and he go through to create this great series?
GV: So much of Xena is conveyed visually – both because of the show we're drawing from (literally) and because of the story we're telling – and Ariel is invaluable to conveying the kinetic world. For instance, this issue has a giant spread of nine new characters who instantly launch into a melee against Xena and Gabrielle. (I gave fair warning, I promise.) But small stuff always ends up being so important to a story; expressive beats that sell mood, that give you insight into someone's thoughts or make you realize someone's withholding something. Two of my favorite beats in this issue happen during conversations – there's so much momentum in the right facial expression.
BB: Can you hint at the secret of the Harpies at all, without spoilers? They certainly seem to be more than one would expect. Hmm …
GV: We meet the original Harpies in the first issue as Xena remembers them from years ago, and then we get a glimpse of the current roster at the very end, but issue #2 [in May] really gives us a proper introduction to them and what they mean for the story ahead. In some ways, the Harpies continue one of the things I always loved about Xena, which was mentorship; Xena learned from other women and taught women in her turn, and I wanted to echo that with this group of women who Xena – when she first met them – wasn't quite in a position to understand the same way she understands them now. Of course, for the Harpies, Xena and Gabrielle were gone for years, and came back just in time to throw the world into chaos, so they don't feel quite as warmly toward Xena as she feels toward them. And one or two of them might even be bearing grudges, for spoilery reasons.