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 who 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, these 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.)
PREVIEWSworld talked with writer Rafer Roberts to learn all about A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #1 (JAN161737) from Valiant Entertainment!
PREVIEWSworld: What makes Archer and Armstrong unique within the Valiant universe? How will those unique attributes shine in A&A?
Rafer Roberts: I think that Archer and Armstrong aren't only unique within the Valiant universe, but unique within comics as a whole. You've got Armstrong, an immortal, slovenly warrior-poet who has been drinking his way through the past few millennia. And you've got Archer, a teenage super powered spiritual (yet moralistic) martial-arts master who was raised in a cartoonist theme park and trained since birth to kill Armstrong. Despite these very glaring differences, they are best friends who battle against the strange and diabolical.
In A&A, we'll be exploring how this unusual friendship effects Archer and Armstrong. Over time, we'll see how Armstrong's oafishness opens up Archer's worldview, forcing Archer to not see the world as stark contasts of right vs. wrong. We'll also see how Archer's inherent "goodness" impacts Armstrong, forcing the immortal who's been shutting himself off from the world to once again feel compassion and empathy towards his fellow man. While this seems pleasant and life-affirming, we'll also see how these influences won't always be in each other's interests and, in fact, may sometimes be a detriment to their ability to battle against the surreal conspiracies of the world.
PREVIEWSworld: What is your mission statement for A&A? In what new ways will you explore the mythology of Archer and Armstrong, and how will you accomplish them with A&A?
Rafer Roberts: I've seen A&A described as the weirdest buddy cop movie ever made . I think that's a pretty accurate description, but for A&A to work, it is critical that whatever weirdness I set Archer and Armstrong against (and there will be weirdness) it should never be at the expense of the buddy part of the equation. I'm also very interested in Archer's spirituality and his connection with the Akashic Records, the metaphysical realm containing the entire knowledge of the universe from where Archer draws his abilities.
PREVIEWSworld: What are Archer and Armstrong going to tackle this time in A&A, and how will these new challenges allow the characters to develop from where we last left them?
Rafer Roberts: Archer, due to Armstrong's positive influence, is once again feeling actual human emotions including guilt and regrets over his past behavior. A well intended, but ultimately poorly thought out attempt to correct one of his past mis-deeds, sets Archer and Armstrong on a path of attempted redemption and strange chaos. Like the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved in good intentions. Over the course of the new series, we'll be seeing a lot of good intentions gone very wrong, often putting Archer and Armstrong's friendship to the test. I think, however, that the best way to strengthen a friendship is to test it.
PREVIEWSworld: Where do we find Archer and Armstrong when A&A opens, and where will you immediately take them in the first arc?
Rafer Roberts: Armstrong has learned that an old friend, someone he did wrong, has died. Wracked with an unfamiliar feeling of guilt over his past behavior, Armstrong sets out to make things right. Unfortunately, Armstrong is woefully out of practice at being a good person, and his attempts to make amends for the way he treated his old friend only end up irritating Archer, his current best friend.
In order to make amends, Armstrong needs to recover a very important item from his magic satchel (the bottomless bag where Armstrong has been keeping centuries of weapons and important items) only to find that it is missing. He climbs inside to find the item, failing to inform Archer of his plans, and chaos ensues. Archer, grumbling about Armstrong's lack of consideration, has to go inside to rescue his friend and close the satchel in order to keep a "dark and ancient evil" from escaping.
PREVIEWSworld: What new characters will appear in A&A? What makes them exciting additions to Archer and Armstrong's cast and entire Valiant universe?
Rafer Roberts: The strangest, and so far my favorite, is Davey the Mackerel. I describe him as a 3-foot tall fish that grew arms and legs and put on a cheap suit and looks like he's on his way to a job interview. He's got this sad sack quality and the vocal cadence of a old-timey mafia snitch. He comes out of Armstrong's magic satchel and (spoiler alert) escapes out into the world. He'll be popping up every once and a while, often at the worst possible time, and getting in Archer and Armstrong's way.
PREVIEWSworld: Who's the big bad in the first arc, and how will he/she give Archer and Armstrong a massive headache in the story?
Rafer Roberts: Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry...or at least, that's who he claims to be. Three thousand years ago, Armstrong trapped him inside his magic satchel, so he hatches a plan to draw Armstrong inside the bag so he can get revenge. Archer goes into the bag to rescue his friend, but of course nothing goes according to plan and chaos ensues.
Bacchus is one of my favorite characters to write as he's this gnarly goat man with super-villain leanings, but the affectations of Paul Lynde. His only company are the goblins and lizard-men that also live inside the satchel and he's clearly gone a tad mad.
PREVIEWSworld: What's it like writing for artist David Lafuente? What does he bring to A&A?
Rafer Roberts: David just nails it. He makes the action sequences sing, and he makes the quieter parts (the talking scenes) interesting and dynamic. His character designs are amazing and his facial expressions and body language as they relate to the story-telling are fantastic. The one thing I most appreciate about David is his instinct. He's not afraid to add (or combine) panels if he thinks it makes a scene work better, or to move panels that I've written that end a page to start the following page instead. Even without having talked about it ahead of time, he seems to naturally get what I'm going for and is able to capture the intent of a scene even if it differs for how I broke it down panel to panel.
PREVIEWSworld: What's one tease from A&A that you can give readers now?
Rafer Roberts: Just because the Sect's plans to use the Boon and Grail to gain power and immortality have come to naught doesn't mean that they don't have a plan B. After all, no one wants to be the richest guy in the cemetery.