Rafer Roberts Brings Archer And Armstrong Back To Valiant


As Valiant teased last month, beloved buddy comedy Archer & Armstrong will be relaunched this spring as A&A with creative team Rafer Roberts on the script and David Lafuente on art. Rafer Roberts chatted with us last month about his plans for the hard-drinking, hard-fighting charmers.

Bam Smack Pow: A&A is your first full issue at Valiant, but you have done shorter pieces in the backups of Valiant mainstays like X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Unity, and even Archer & Armstrong. How do you approach running a series differently from a backup strip?

Rafer Roberts: Well, there’s a lot more of it, that’s for sure!

All but one of those back-up strips were written by Justin Jordan, but I’ve written other short stories and find the shorter format to be a great exercise in trimming the fat in order to hone into the key purpose of your story. With a longer series, the same holds true but you get more room to explore other aspects of that story, to view things from other perspectives, and to bring in side stories to expand upon or act as a counter melody to the main story.

Within the confines of A&A, we’ve got Armstrong, the ten thousand year old drunken, immortal, warrior-poet who ran afoul of a confederacy of secret organizations called The Sect a few millennia ago. And on the other side we’ve got Archer, a super-human teenage martial arts expert who was raised by a fundamentalist wing of The Sect and trained since birth to assassinate Armstrong. Throughout the series we’ll be seeing the world through both of their eyes, and exploring the conflicts that may arise when their differing viewpoints contradict each other.

But don’t get me wrong; Archer and Armstrong are friends. Despite their differences and their constant bickering, they have each other’s back when it counts. They may disagree on many philosophical and political issues, but when it comes to battling a giant goat monster and his army of drunks in Santa suits, they are on the same page.

BSP: Archer & Armstrong go back to the original Valiant titles in the 1990s, but readers haven’t needed to collect those to follow Van Lente’s work with the characters in the main title or the Delinquents crossover with Quantum & Woody. The guys have also surfaced in The Valiant, Bloodshot, and Dead Drop. Which of these would you recommend a reader get before starting your new series?

RR: All of those series are great. The previous series written by Fred Van Lente is absolute perfection, and I would never dissuade anyone from going out and buying all of the collections right now. However, we have created A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong so that anyone can pick it up and enjoy it without any previous knowledge of the characters.

One of the things that has impressed me about all of the Valiant books is how accessible they are to new readers. Pretty much every issue of every series can be someone’s jumping on point.

BSP: Fred Van Lente wrote Archer as a super-competent psiot using near-infinite fighting techniques, losing his faith in the corrupt dogma of his adopted parents but still possessed of a firm conviction in how Right his actions were. How do you see your version of Archer comparing to this? Will we still get cute little dictionary captions naming all of his fighting moves?

RR: Those captions aren’t going anywhere. At this point, to me at least, they signify Archer using his ability to download a new skill from the Akashic Records–the plane of existence containing all of the knowledge and history of every soul to have ever inhabited the planet. They’re like those squiggly lines around Spider-Man’s head when his Spidey Sense starts to tingle.

Personality-wise, Archer is still going to be typical Archer. He’s a tad more mellowed out due to his experiences at Armstrong’s side and is starting to no longer see the world in stark contrasts of right vs. wrong. However, change is never easy and there are always growing pains. Learning that his entire upbringing was based on lies and deceit has left Archer with some underlying feelings of mistrust and anger, and it will be interesting to explore how those emotions (however hard Archer tries to repress them) will affect his desire to be a better friend to Armstrong and a force for good in this world.

BSP: On that tactic, Armstrong was depicted as an immortal who hides his grief over countless losses with a Party Guy bravado. How does your version differ?

RR: I think that part of that party guy bravado will always be a part of Armstrong’s personality. He has lived for ten thousand years and seen everyone he has ever loved grow old and die. He has forgotten what past lovers and friends looked like and, in some cases, has forgotten that they even existed. To an immortal, the rest of humanity must look like a bunch of goldfish. That tends to have an effect on a guy, and in Armstrong’s case he closed off his emotions and began to live life only for himself. Why get close to anyone when they’re just going to leave you?

But then Archer entered the picture. Archer’s inherent “goodness” has had an effect on Armstrong, and now the immortal who has been shutting himself off from the world is beginning to once again feel compassion and empathy towards his fellow man. Of course, Armstrong is way out of practice at being a “good person” who “cares about other people” and more often than not his good intentions lead to chaos and destruction.

For example, in the first arc, Armstrong tries to make amends for something terrible he did years earlier but instead unleashes Bacchus, the ragged and insane monster claiming to be the Greek god of wine and revelry. Bacchus has been plotting vengeance after being trapped inside of Armstrong’s magic satchel for three thousand years, and finally gets his chance after Armstrong climbs inside the bag in a clumsy attempt to repent for past sins.

BSP: In the Faraway, it was hinted that Archer will end up in love with Faith from the Harbinger team – any chance that’s going to happen while you’re writing this guy?

RR: I think it would be foolish of me to ignore the Archer/Faith potential romance, but I wouldn’t expect for it to be all wine and roses from the start IF I do get into that. I have a history of tormenting readers with this sort of thing.

BSP: Readers have seen the boys interact with several big Valiant characters like Quantum & Woody, Bloodshot, and Hardcorps. Who can your readers expect to see as guest stars?

RR: Right now I’m focusing on the dynamic between Archer and Armstrong and exploring their friendship, so we probably won’t bring in any guest stars for at least a little while. They are on their own path right now, one of personal growth, self-discovery, and monsters made out of garbage. That said, Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior are brothers and, as you said before, Archer and Faith are destined to be together, so I wouldn’t be surprised if SOMEONE else shows up sooner or later.

BSP: The preview pages include a woman who looks like Archer’s foster-sister-slash-love-interest-slash-totally-got-with-his-best-friend Mary-Maria. What are your plans for her in the book? How involved do you plan to be with The Sect as established in the Van Lente run? What about Armstrong’s immortal brothers, the Eternal Warrior and Ivar, Timewalker?

RR: The Sect is pretty much in complete disarray following Fred’s run. Any surviving components, like the 1% and Mary-Maria’s Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, are acting independently from one another. A great number of the various factions have dissolved completely or ended up joining The Archies, a new cult that worships Archer. So I wouldn’t expect to see the unified forces of The Sect anytime soon, but the independent factions will remain a thorn in their sides.

You know, we haven’t talked about David Lafuente yet. When I started writing the first issue of A&A, I didn’t know who the artist was going to be. However, I love the character of Mary-Maria and wanted to get her into the book as soon as possible in the event that I got fired. I had some plans for her in this first arc (she is called in to assist Archer and Armstrong on their mission and is torn between her familiar bonds with her foster brother and her duties as leader of a band of murder nuns) and a vague idea of something else down the road. When I learned that David was going to be drawing the book, even before I saw a single piece of art I could clearly picture what his Mary-Maria was going to look like (I was pretty damn close, by the way) and I immediately came up with an entire major sub-plot for her and her Sisters.

As complicated as Archer’s family is, Armstrong’s is even stranger. Like I said before, I think the other two Anni-Padda brothers will be showing up at some point, but a lot of that will depend on what those two have going on.

BSP: The promotional material says your first arc is going to be an adventure within Armstrong’s magic bag. How far out have you plotted your run on this title?

RR: As the dozen or so people who have read any of my other comics can attest to, my brain likes big epic stories. I’ve got a rough outline of everything up to issue 25 which, in my not so humble opinion, make for a great story. If enough people jump aboard, I’ve got a vague sense of what I would like to do after that and probably have enough of those foggy ideas for another 30 or so issues. But whether or not me and David and the rest of the creative team get to tell those other stories depends a lot on whether people like these first few stories (which I think they will) and if they continue to support us by picking up A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong and telling their friends to do so as well (which I hope they do).

BSP: What themes should readers keep in mind as they read your work? Van Lente, for instance, brought in the idea of challenging the beliefs of your parents, learning to trust your friends, working within the moral grey, and giving yourself permission to have a great time. Are there themes or keywords you want us to be looking for in your book?

RR: I don’t go into a story with themes in mind. I like for themes to develop naturally and come from the characters. Sometimes characters make decisions you weren’t expecting, or events unfold differently than you had planned. Going in with a pre-determined theme can sometimes keep you from letting the story go where it needs to go.

However, while writing A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong, I do try to keep in mind that this is a story about friends. Very odd friends, but friends nonetheless. Whatever other themes may present themselves from time to time, A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong will always be the weirdest episode of The Odd Couple that Neil Simon never wrote.

BSP: How do you want A&A to stand out from the rest of the Valiant titles currently published?

RR: I think by the very nature of the people who are making this comic, A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong can’t help but stand out as different than pretty much every other comic on the stands. It’s a mainstream book being made by indie and underground weirdos. This is what Return of the Jedi would have been if David Lynch had directed it. This is a comic book version of a Terry Gilliam film starring The Marx Brothers. This is Daniel Johnston doing an album of Miley Cyrus covers. I think the current fans are going to love it (after what I expect to be some trepidation on their part) but I also think that readers who don’t normally shop in the superhero section are going to dig the hell out of A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong as well.





Cover B by KANO


Valiant x CGC Replica Variant by CLAYTON HENRY

Variant Cover by RAFER ROBERTS

Variant Cover by PHIL JIMENEZ

B&W Sketch Variant by DAVID LAFUENTE

Blank Cover also available

GET SMASHED…OR BE SMASHED! Valiant’s (somewhat) dynamic duo are going “IN THE BAG” for AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES from rising star Rafer Roberts and comic book superstar David Lafuente!

Meet Armstrong: Since the ancient city of Ur, this immortal adventurer has spent the last 7,000 years drinking and carousing his way through history alongside some of the greatest merrymakers the world has ever known.

Meet Archer: A sheltered teenage martial arts master and expert marksman that was raised for a single purpose – to kill the devil incarnate. Little did he know that this undying evil was actually Armstrong (he’s actually a pretty good guy…once you get to know him) and, since hitting the road together, the two have become great friends and even better partners.

Now: Archer is about to set off on his most dangerous mission yet – a quest into the mystic reaches of Armstrong’s bottomless satchel to liberate his friend and comrade from the clutches of the mad god Bacchus! (Okay, so, Armstrong went into the satchel himself to get a bottle of whiskey that he kinda misplaced and got stuck. It’s like the Amazon warehouse of arcane treasures in there…and he doesn’t exactly have a maid service.)

Imprisoned in Armstrong’s satchel for centuries, Bacchus now commands a legion of monsters, goblins and golems bent on escaping back into the world of man and enacting revenge on their captor… Can Archer single-handedly combat the godly embodiment of intoxication himself – and rescue his best buddy – without becoming lost amongst Armstrong’s endless repository of bizarre artifacts and historical oddities in the process?

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+| On sale MARCH 16