Next month, Valiant Comics will debut a brand new series featuring their odd-couple, superhero duo Archer and Armstrong, titled “A&A: the Adventures of Archer and Armstrong.” Archer and Armstrong are two of my favorite Valiant heroes so when this series was announced last year, I was beyond excited. The previous run lasted 25 issues, and I have been eagerly awaiting the return of this comedic tag team ever since it ended. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Rafer Roberts, the writer of the new upcoming series, and ask him a few questions about what it’s like writing a drunken immortal, a teenage ninja, and all the hilariously bizarre misadventures they get dropped into. Please enjoy!
4LN – To help our readers get better acquainted with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started in the comic industry, and, more specifically, how you got started with Valiant?
Rafer Roberts – Sure! I’ve been writing and drawing and publishing my own comics for over twenty years, pretty much staying in the underground and DIY worlds with comics such as PLASTIC FARM and NIGHTMARE THE RAT. A few years ago, I drew the bootleg comic THANOS AND DARKSEID: CARPOOL BUDDIES OF DOOM with writer Justin Jordan which got a lot of attention and got us hired to do similar backup stories for all the Valiant anniversary issues. I discovered that I really enjoyed working for Valiant and asked if I could try my hand at writing something.
Getting the chance to write A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG is a dream. I mean, just the basic concept is amazing. Armstrong is a ten thousand year old drunken, immortal, warrior-poet and Archer is an ex-fundamentalist super-human teenage martial arts expert. They fight against all the weird and strange forces that secretly control humanity and bicker like an old married couple the entire time. That level of weirdness mixed in with a great deal of heart and the human condition falls right into my sweet spot as a writer. It’s a lot of fun!
When working on a series like A&A, how do you balance the material from the previous run with where you want to go with the new series?
The previous series was amazing and, honestly, it is a bit intimidating coming in after that run. The thing that makes my life easier is how Fred Van Lente resolved pretty much all of the previous plotlines and left the duo in a very good place for a new creative team (and new readers) to come in.
Archer and Armstrong have had these crazy adventures, come out more or less victorious, and are better friends because of it. I look at that and how that informs their motivations moving forward. While we’ll be building upon the themes introduced in the first series, and while I look forward to playing with all of the wonderful toys, I’m much more interested in creating new adventures rather than try to do cover versions of stories that people have already read and loved.
That said, there are MANY characters I am looking forward to playing with. Mary-Maria, Archer’s ninja-nun sister, is just a fantastic character. The 1% and a few other surviving factions from The Sect, the conglomeration of organizations that secretly ruled the world, are gloriously bizarre. But, and this is important, these are characters that people have come to know and love, and I plan to treat them with respect.
A&A seems to have almost free rein as far as story possibilities, having everything from dinosaurs to Ninja Nuns. What’s it like writing a story with so many possibilities, and what can we expect to see in the future?
You’re right! There isn’t much that I can think of that couldn’t be an Archer and Armstrong adventure, but that seeming lack of limitations can actually be harmful if not properly harnessed. What gives me focus as the writer is to remember that this comic is about something. This is a comic about two very unlikely friends who know their differences are what makes them stronger, and who have each others’ backs despite constant bickering. A&A isn’t a book about strange stuff and the two men who deal with it; it’s a book about two friends who happen to fight weird stuff. Under all the humor and surrealness, there is a great deal of heart.
I admit, when coming up with future storylines I do think of the fun part first. “What if they go to the circus?” “What if they fight a giant baby that shoots lasers from its eyes?” That sort of thing. But if I can’t figure out a way to make that fun part enhance the emotional aspect, then the fun part gets cut and I think of something better. (Sorry, Laser Baby.)
Working with this creative team is also very freeing in what I’ve been able to get away with. Artist David Lafuente has been kicking ass on pencils, and every page he’s turned in looks even better than what I had imagined. There’s nothing I can write that David isn’t going to be able to draw and improve upon. Ryan Winn on inks and Brian Reber on colors are also doing amazing work and helping to make A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG one of the prettiest books on the shelves.
Without giving too much away, what kind of shenanigans can we expect once the heroes enter Armstrong’s infamous bottomless satchel/man-purse?
Inside the satchel is a Home Depot designed by M.C. Escher. It’s an entire world with an infinite, multi-planed warehouse at its heart, filled with thousands of years’ worth of Armstrong’s trash and treasure. Archer and Armstrong will be visiting a few of the subsections including a booze cellar, a desert wasteland made up of ten thousand years of Armstrong’s garbage, and the living quarters where the strange creatures who inhabit and work in the satchel go for coffee breaks. Armstrong goes inside in order to find something very valuable that has gone missing, something that he needs in order to make amends with an old friend who he did wrong by in the past, and Archer follows him after things almost immediately go awry. In order to retrieve the item and escape the bag alive, they’ll have to fight their way through an old enemy who has been trapped inside the satchel for three thousand years and now commands an army of lizard men, goblins, fish monsters, and trash golems.
That old enemy is Bacchus, or at least someone claiming to be the Greek God of wine and revelry. Bacchus and Armstrong were friends back in the day and he considers his imprisonment to be the ultimate betrayal. He’s a large goat-like man who has gone slightly mad, having been trapped inside the satchel for so long. He looks like Baphomet but acts like a manic-depressive Paul Lynde.
What kind of research goes into writing a 6,000+ year-old rabble-rouser and a character who’s super power is essentially anyone else’s super power?
I’m pretty lazy, so a lot of my research is done on the fly! The Internet and Wikipedia are wonderful tools when trying to figure out, for example, which eastern front WWII battle Armstrong would have most likely drunkenly stumbled into. I’ve been making a concerted effort to watch more historical documentaries for potential story ideas. For Archer, his powers derive from the Akashic Records. I actually did do quite a bit of research on that, including listening to a few audiobooks about Edgar Cayce and a new-age how-to guide about accessing the Records oneself. I don’t know how much of that will make it into the comic, but it was interesting and did give me some ideas about how to explore Archer’s abilities.
If Archer & Armstrong ever got adapted for television or film, what medium do you think would work best and what actors would you like to see play the heroes?
I personally think that adapting the serialized art form of comics works best when adapted by the serialized entertainment structure of television. I mean, what Marvel is doing by serializing their movies works pretty well and Valiant’s plans for HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT looks pretty awesome, but you don’t get to do the smaller adventures on the big screen. Everything in movies has to be a big event. On TV, you’d have the big events, but you’d also get to spend more time with the characters and see them in their down time. How many scenes in the X-Men movies are them just playing softball? I guess you could say that’s what the comics are for!
Anyway, I used Bobby Moynihan as reference when I drew the backup story for ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG #25. I think he’d be great. He looks the part and can pull off the emotional range. Archer is trickier, and I think you’d want to go with an unknown for his role. I was thinking maybe Dominic Monaghan for a while, until I realized he was as old as me. Maybe build a time machine and get him at FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING age?
Finally, can you give us a little back-story on the hilarious A&A bootleg that’s been floating around?
Ha ha ha! I have to walk a very fine line when discussing the Bootleg in public. For the record, the folks at Valiant are cool with me having done it and I’m not in any sort of trouble. As I mentioned before, I come from a section of comics where being ignored by the general comic reading populace is the norm and I understand the need to do whatever you can to get people to notice you. In this case, that was creating a 12-page bootleg comic parodying the characters that a major comic company has hired you to write for real and mailing it out anonymously to random comic stores.
The Bootleg was a lot of fun to make, but the best part about it is the way the fans took it and made it their own. They took the Bootleg and bootlegged it, creating a bunch of variant editions (such as a Gold Version printed on yellow paper) and mailing them out to other fans who couldn’t find one otherwise. That sort of community and overwhelming positivity is pretty rare nowadays, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.
I want to thank Rafer for taking the time to chat with us today. A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG will hit the stands on March 16, 2016, so be sure to head down to your local comic shop and pick up a copy! We hope you’re as excited as we are, but if you still need some convincing, check out a preview of the first issue below!