Valiant’s relaunch has been one of the stories of 2012, and their ability to simultaneously be critically and commercially viable within months of launch has been nothing short of uncanny. One of the good reasons? A stable of superb writers who capture the spirit of the original stories but with a modern tilt. One of the best books so far has been Archer & Armstrong, and writer Fred Van Lente has managed to bring a lot of what we loved about Incredible Hercules to the table: great banter between two odd couple leads; action packed sequences; and awesome, adventurous stories.
Today on Valiant (Re)visions, we talked to Van Lente about the book, the arrival of Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, and much, much more. Thanks to Fred for chatting with us, and look for a new issue in a few weeks.
This is the second iteration of Archer & Armstrong at Valiant.
FVL: I think technically it’s the third, as there was an “ETERNAL WARRIORS” series in the Acclaim relaunch that starred Obie & Aram, but I couldn’t tell you anything about it.
Had you read the previous version before you picked up this project, and what have you looked to adopt from that series into this one?
FVL: I had not. I completely missed Valiant (and for that matter, Image) in its original incarnation. I had just started college, and concentrating on getting laid and being terrified, not in that order. I followed very few comics at that point, but mostly they were in the DC/Vertigo/Grant Morrison DOOM PATROL vein.
With any preexisting franchise, you try to keep what works and jettison what doesn’t — pure original brilliance I know, but I think the key is to not overwhelm the material with your own perspective and instead wait until you see stuff you see as lacking … then you move in. The original BWS run was brilliant in its tone and humor and, of course, artwork, but it was a bit rambling and incoherent. I tried to give the property more of a structure and a thruline, which ultimately brought to the fore a lot of stuff Barry set up but then ignored — I’d say a great many of the ideas in the book are Barry’s.
But the execution is Pure Van Lente. Accept no substitutes!!!
FVL: Their asking me to do it. (laughs) When they asked me if I’d be interested in doing the book I had to Google it to see what the hell it was because I had no idea. I read the description and I was like, “OK, I can see why they wanted me to do this…”
Honestly, I was skeptical until Warren gave me the BWS run. Then it’s been a case of me throwing the craziest ideas at Valiant and seeing which ones they love and which ones make their heads explode. They’ve done a great job helping me shape the material in a way the readership really seems to be digging.
The first run had a lot of very…dark themes to it, especially in Archer’s origin. Was it your
idea to give him a new variation on that old formula?
FVL: My original outline of our #1 was pretty much a straight-up remake of the original Valiant ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #1, with a few updates here and there, with his parents running a megachurch and a child molestation ring (because, why wouldn’t you) and him training in Tibet. But Executive Editor Warren Simons asked me to streamline Archer’s background. The Creationist theme park was his idea. I’m not sure he 100% knew what he was asking for by making right-wing evangelicals our main bad guys, but I certainly did my best to give it to him in spades. (laughs)
The initial arc so far has a great, Indiana Jones style adventure vibe with a lot of comedy thrown in, and we’re really digging it. How has the response to the book been so far from fans both online and at cons like NYCC?
FVL: The reaction’s been incredible. I’d say it’s the title I’ve done that’s received the widest acclaim since TASKMASTER, but that’s not really fair because A&A is way more successful than TASKMASTER. It’s definitely been the best-received thing I’ve done since I got on the mainstream map with INCREDIBLE HERCULES.Continued below
FVL: I’ve given this question a lot of thought, and I think I ultimately have to give it to Herc. Armstrong has a healing factor (spoilers! Read #4) that makes him nigh-immortal, but Hercules is still divine. Armstrong would hit a limit at some point, and I just don’t think Hercules would.
Power Man & Iron Fist. Blue Beetle & Booster Gold. Every comics universe needs a good buddy book, right? But from your perspective, what makes Archer & Armstrong unique and the prefect buddy book for the Valiant Universe?
FVL: It’s funny, in the recent BWS hardback, Jim Shooter said they created A&A simply because they felt it necessary for a “superhero” universe to have a buddy book, which is a sentiment I’m not sure I agree with … unless Batman & Robin count.
I think throwing extremes together is what makes drama, whether you’re talking about a character and a circumstance, or a protagonist and an antagonist, or in this case, two protagonist. People love reading about opposite polarities attracting (or not), and I certainly have a blast writing it.
Armstrong is a man who’s done everything but learned nothing and Archer is a kid who’s seen nothing but can do anything, and they compliment each other nicely in that way.
Clayton Henry is a champ, and his ability to effectively choreograph stories and craft very emotive faces makes him an ideal fit for this book in our minds. Why did he seem like a good fit for this book to you, and is he on the book for the foreseeable future?
FVL: I was thrilled Warren reached out to Clayton. He does action and acting in equal measures, and has a great comedic instinct — as can be seen by the Herc “Cool Story Bro” meme.
Scheduling complications have forced him to skip the Eternal Warrior arc, but Emanuela Lupacchino’s filling in quite ably for him.
The villains of the story, at least initially, are represented by a group called “The One Percent.” Playful topicality or making a statement?
FVL: Playful topicality. If I wanted to make a statement about how the shortsighted greed
and stupidity of Wall Street constantly flirts with worldwide calamity, I’d bring charts.
The Ani Pada Brothers have traditionally been big players, but just how big of a role will
A&A play in the greater Valiant Universe?
FVL: Super huge. All three brothers, in fact. Read #4. (grin)
Gilad, Valiant’s Eternal Warrior is set to show up in your second Archer & Armstrong arc. So let’s get this right out of the way up front: “eternal warrior” isn’t just a fancier way of working another undead into your book is it? If so, I think you might have a problem, bro.
FVL: Hell, no. Only way I have any truck with zombies these day is to make fun of them. Did I mention I have a zombie parody coming out from Dynamite this year?!?!? No? Well, I will once it has a title.
Speaking of, remember this cover?
FVL: What I don’t understand is how a guy who appears to wear a bandolier of shotgun shells on his sleeve doesn’t lose his arm five times daily.
What body part will Gilad be losing on your watch?
FVL: Does dignity count as a body part?