The GeeksverseINTERVIEW | Fred Van Lente on Archer & Armstrong and more

INTERVIEW | Fred Van Lente on Archer & Armstrong and more
Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by
We recently got a chance to talk with Fred Van Lente on the new Archer & Armstrong book from Valiant, as well as his thoughts on the Cowboys & Aliens movie based on his work.

The ‘Verse: The new Valiant is off to a very strong start, with each new release being extremely solid. Archer & Armstrong, in the old Valiant, was a lynchpin book to the shared universe. How did you come to be involved with the book?

Fred Van Lente: They approached me at New York Comic Con, I think, because of the Incredible Hercules series I did for years at Marvel with Greg Pak.

a&aDid Valiant have a story bible for Archer & Armstrong or were you free to recreate them how you wanted?

There wasn’t a bible, but David Aja’s great redesigns preexisted, and they gave me the hardcover of the first eight issues or so of the original Barry Windsor-Smith series, which I quickly devoured. They let me have a fairly long leash to do my kind of comics, for which I’m very grateful. I’ve had to accommodate their needs too, which is par for the course when you’ve been allowed to play with someone else’s toys.

What do you like best about the duo?

Archer is a naive, big-hearted assassin. I mean, his looks are probably lethal. That’s how formidable he is, but he grew up in a cloistered Creationist compound, so he doesn’t know anything about the outside world.

Armstrong, on the other hand, has been anyway and seen and done everything (and everyone). He’s the opposite of your morbid, morose immortal — he loves life, and living. But he’s very cynical, and not one to take up causes — Archer provides him that drive, he’s the idealist. So they compliment each other in a really terrific way.

The revelation that Armstrong is immortal thanks to the Boon, and really the souls of the people it had absorbed, adds a new dimension to the big guy. In a way it makes him a stronger character. Instead of his love of life being selfish, it now appears that it’s a coping mechanism. He “stole” so many souls so now has to live for them?

Yes, I think you said it perfectly.

Will you do any flashback stories showing Armstrong’s life through the years? What important events has he been involved in?

My original conception of the series was that we’d never flashback to the past so the reader could get the impression (along with Archer) that maybe Armstrong was in fact mostly full of shit, but we’ve moved away from that somewhat.

The flashbacks were a huge part of the original Eternal Warrior series, though, so you’ll see a lot of them in Arc Two. We’ll see him fighting against the First Emperor of China, Blackbeard the Pirate, the war machines of Archimedes … and that’s just the first three issues!

Archer-Armstrong-05-CVRYou’ve recently introduced Gilad The Eternal Warrior into the new Valiant (Editor’s note: check out the ‘Verse’s review of Gilad’s return), as well as a new Geomancer. Is there an Eternal Warrior book coming?

It’s been discussed, but so have a number of titles from Valiant’s previous incarnation. I can’t really do more than tease.

The new Geomancer, did you create her and how long will she and Gilad be involved in the book?

I did. Her origin is next issue, #6, and it may be my favorite script I’ve done for A&A so far. I hope people dig it. She and Gilad are the main supporting characters of this arc, which lasts through #9.

After Gilad and the Geomancer, what do you have in store for the duo?

Dinosaurs. The Epic of Gilgamesh. The return of Mary-Maria … and the Archers? Civil war within The Sect.

Ya know. Nuthin much.

Speaking of Mary-Maria, was that the Holy Grail she found in Armstrong’s satchel? And what else is in there?

Looks like the Spear of Destiny and the Book of the Geomancer. Probably a lot of pens, lighters and sunglasses Armstrong will never find again.

How connected will Archer & Armstrong be with the Valiant universe? Would Armstrong have encountered the Hive, who we know were around in the time of the Visigoths?

Well, and if you’ll recall, the Sect had records on the Vine in the Vatican Library in #3. The Valiant Universe is thoroughly interconnected in many surprising ways that will become more and more clear in the coming months…

It seems you’ve done a lot of research into the different fighting systems across the world, how much time have you put in? What did you discover that amazed or surprised you?

At one point for Marvel I was developing a series pitting all of their different martial artists against each other, so I did a lot of research into fighting styles around the world. A huge help in that was the terrific History Channel series Human Weapon, which I very much urge folks who are interested in the history and practice of the martial arts to check out.

a_a_2aIf you had been able to, or can do it in the future, that book involving all of Marvel’s martial artists, how would it have gone? What was the basic plot behind it and who would you have featured?

It was called ROUGHHOUSE and I stole a lot of plot elements for another project, so I can’t tell you too much here. It was going to be kind of like a martial arts SEVEN SOLDIERS, with independent characters’ stories interlocking in the end like what Grant did in that book, only on a much smaller scale. Shang-Chi, Elektra, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and yes, The Goddamn Batroc were the main characters.

It would’ve been fun, we were supposed to do it on-line and the fans were supposed to be able to vote on who won certain matches and so forth, but it never got off the ground. Once the interactive element got introduced the whole thing became very unwieldy.

Batroc doesn’t get enough respect. Brubaker did some good things with him recently, making him as tough as he could be and not the constant laughing stock.

There’s a hint of craziness to the title, the Nazi monks come to mind, but at the same time it’s a serious title. How do you toe the line between the two? Not being too serious and at the same time not falling too far into the craziness?

Well, that’s kind of my thing — nuttiness mixed with real human emotion. I guess that’s what I like about the art I consume too. That’s the thing about absurdism — it’s the ultimate “laughing instead of crying.” It’s both sad and hilarious and hilarious because it’s sad that this is the way the world is.

c&aliensYou’re one of the few creators to have their work appear as a movie. How did you like the Cowboys & Aliens movie? Looking back, is there anything you wish was done differently?

I wish they had retained more of the family-friendly, “fun” element of it, and not tried to make it so serious and badass. Other people go to the movies than angry teenagers, but that seems to be the only demographic Hollywood gives a crap about.

How involved with the movie were you?

Not at all. For a long time I avoided watching it so I wouldn’t have to tell people whether I liked it or not (or have to lie).

I caught it on HBO just a few weeks ago and didn’t really care for it at all, to be honest with you. It’s kind of depressing to see such a concentration of talent produce such an un-fun movie.

Besides Archer & Armstrong and G.I. Joe, what else do you have planned? What characters that you haven’t worked on would you like to?

I can’t make a whole lot of announcements yet, but there’s a lot in the hopper.

Is it gauche to link to another comics site? I hope not, because I’d like to remind folks you can vote until December 19 for Archer & Armstrong to win Best New Series of 2012 at IGN:

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