The New ARCHER & ARMSTRONG: Faithful, Completely Different
Newsarama: Fred, how familiar were you with the original version of Archer & Armstrong going into this series?
Fred Van Lente: I didn't really know anything about it at all. I kind of missed Valiant entirely, being in college in the early '90s and kind of being harried and running around. I missed a lot of early '90s stuff — I didn't get into The Simpsons until I graduated.
Nrama: Had you worked with Simons at all during his time at Marvel?
Van Lente: I talked to him a couple of times at the Christmas party, but I never actually directly worked with him before, so this is all brand new, but it's been a great relationship so far.
Van Lente: It's been really cool. It's certainly a very inspirational story about how a couple of Valiant fans bought the company and revived it, after a couple of attempts at reviving it haven't necessarily gone very well. It's just been very exciting. Everyone there is very much committed to these characters, and committed to making the whole thing work, and really making Valiant if not exactly where it was in the early '90s, a company that can stand on its own in the shadow of DC and Marvel.
Nrama: Based on what's been revealed at this point, it appears that, as far as relaunches go, your book is relatively faithful to the original Archer & Armstrong.
Armstrong, on the other hand, is thousands of years old. He's apparently invulnerable and immortal, and super-strong. He's a warrior from the ancient city-state of Ur; he has two very special brothers as well, who also havehad their own Valiant books. He's always looking for a good time, but what he lacks is Archer's innocence. I wouldn't say he's not heroic, but he's definitely very cynical, so he needs the heart that Archer provides. Armstrong guides Archer with his experience, Archer guides Armstrong with his nobility, and that's really the heart of the series.
Nrama: The original series also had a comedic edge to it, which is certainly territory you're familiar with. Will that be present in the new book?
That's the part that I'm very much attracted to. We live in such a polarized country where everything is divvied up and balkanized into these little-bitty information nuggets, and we never have to go outside our own belief system, and we never have to confront anything that might offend or disturb us. We have two people whose worldviews are fundamentally at odds with each other and have to achieve this common goal, and in the process become extremely close friends and one of the greatest buddy teams in comic history. How that relationship evolves is what I'm interesting in exploring.
Van Lente: They've really been terrific. Some of the stuff has made them nervous, I'm not going to lie. Armstrong has very unique way to take out one of their enemies in the first issue, which I hope will be an Internet meme. It will disgust and amaze everyone. I'm happy to report that for the most part they've unhooked my leash, and I've run off into the woods of comedy, and to just find the craziest, nuttiest stuff I can come up with. I was largely hired on this job because of the work I did on Incredible Hercules with Greg Pak, in fact I'm reunited with one of my all-time favorite Incredible Hercules artists, Clayton Henry. What Warren was really taken with a book I did with Taskmaster a year or two back that had a lot of crazy concepts, like a town full of Hitlers, and a Day of the Dead-inspired drug smuggler called Don of the Dead. If you liked all of that stuff, Archer & Armstrong is that turned to 11.
Van Lente: It's looking at everything through fresh eyes. Everything's very current. There are some crazy concepts I'm bringing in from Barry Windsor-Smith's run, like the ninja nuns are back. But we also have new concepts. The Sect is formed by many different factions — one of which us in fact Archer's parents. Archer has been given the assignment to kill the unkillable Armstrong, but he's been raised in this fundamentalist, Creationist theme park, and has never been to the outside world, so he's completely ignorant of what's going on. And then he's immediately sent into the Meatpacking District of New York City to find this guy.
There are crazy enemies like the demon-worshipping cultists of Wall Street who run the financial districts. One of the main, basic premises of this book is that every conspiracy theory you've ever heard is true. Including the ones that contradict each other.
Nrama: It certainly sounds like you already have a lot of ideas for the series — do you have a long-term plan for the book?
Van Lente: One of the great things about the Valiant Universe is that there are all these connections to history. Because X-O [Manowar] is a Visigoth, there are a couple of immortals running around who may be involved with him. So we're definitely going to explore some of those connections as the series goes along.More from Newsarama:
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