Announced today at New York Comic Con, the ongoing series is written by relative newcomer Rafer Roberts, who has enjoyed critical indie acclaim writing and drawing "Plastic Farm" and "Thanos and Darkseid: Carpool Buddies of Doom," and illustrated by "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man" artist David Lafuente, who just signed an exclusive deal with the publisher.
CBR News spoke exclusively with Roberts and Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons about "A&A," and learned that the new series is a continuation (not a reboot) of the just-completed, Harvey Award-nominated run by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry, and is also inspired by the seminal '90s series co-created by Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Shooter and Bob Layton.
For the uninitiated, Armstrong is an immortal adventurer that 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, including some friends (and enemies) that he has inadvertently (read: drunkenly) trapped inside his satchel that never leaves his shoulder. And Archer is a sheltered teenage martial arts master and expert marksman that was raised for a single purpose -- to kill the devil incarnate A.K.A. Armstrong.
Fast forward though nearly 25 years of comic book continuity, and the dynamic duo are now best buddies. Then, when Armstrong finds himself trapped inside his own satchel, Archer jumps 'In The Bag' (the title of the first "A&A" arc) to save his pal and, more importantly, the world.
CBR News: Rafer, did you go back and read the original run by Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Shooter and Bob Layton? And does your new series tie into what Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry just finished in "Archer & Armstrong?"
Rafer Roberts: I actually worked in a comic book store back in the early '90s when the original Valiant books were coming out, and I read them back then, but I did make a point of re-reading them in preparation for this. I think all of the Barry Windsor-Smith issues hold up pretty well.
Warren Simons: I agree. I think those issues do hold up really, really well. Some of the stuff from the '90s feels like it has aged a lot, but with his stuff, I think if it came out tomorrow, it would do well. It feels like a modern comic.
Roberts: I think Armstrong's pants from that run need to be updated. [Laughs] But everything else holds up really well. As for my run, it's not a reboot. It's a continuation of the story that Fred and Clayton started. I actually pitched a story, originally, as a one-shot. It was easier for me to a pitch a one-shot versus pitching to follow the great run that Fred and Clayton just finished. But here we are.
In my first arc, Archer and Armstrong basically go into Armstrong's bag. And it's filled with monsters, demons and some old friends and enemies that are trapped inside due to Armstrong's negligence. And a lot of them get out and wreak havoc. Archer, Armstrong and some very special guest stars have to team up and defeat the chaos that Armstrong has caused with his own drunken oafishness. [Laughs]
Armstrong has been around so long, he has this incredible emotional baggage and his satchel is the physical embodiment of that baggage. And now that he is inside of it and letting it all out, it's causing quite a bit of harm.
This new series has a new title, which is "A&A." Why the change?
Simons: It's just a fun, punchy title that helps separate it from the last run.
"A&A" also has a new villain. What can you tell us about Bacchus?
Roberts: Bacchus has modeled himself after the Greek god of wine and revelry. It makes sense that Armstrong would have known him, being a big fan of wine and revelry himself. I don't want to give too much away but he may or may not be an actual deity. He's actually been trapped inside Armstrong's satchel for thousands of years -- a very, very long time and he was put there by Armstrong, who was "joking around" and forgot that he had done it. [Laughs] There is a long backstory, but it's basically an old friendship gone bad, and now Bacchus has great desire to get revenge. It's really all about the mistakes that you made back in the day when you drank to much booze. Just because you don't remember doing it doesn't mean that you didn't do something bad.
And Mary-Maria has a role, as well, right?
Roberts: Yes. Armstrong goes into the bag himself, and when he doesn't return, Archer realizes he has to go in there and rescue him. Rather than leave the bag unguarded, he reaches out to the only other person in the world that he kind of trusts, which is his sister Mary-Maria -- who may or may not be planning on betraying them and stealing the bag anyway while trapping both of them inside. It's a complicated relationship. [Laughs] I really look forward to exploring that relationship throughout the series.
The other huge news here is that David Lafuente of "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man" fame has signed exclusively with Valiant, and his first project is "A&A."
Roberts: Yes, that's right. Immediately, when I found out that he was going to be the artist, I started thinking of more and more ways to bring Mary-Maria into the story. I love the way he draws, and I think Mary-Maria and the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness uniforms are gorgeous and fit really, really well with his art style.
Simons: I am over the moon that David is going to be joining Valiant as an exclusive artist. I think that he is an extraordinary artist. He has incredible energy and line work. He's a great storyteller. He feels very modern and classical at the same time. Rafer really packed a lot of story into the first issue and David handles it beautifully. The expressions, the sense of humor that he brings to the page, as well as his ability to handle action, he's a great fit for "A&A," a great fit for "Valiant," and I couldn't be happier.
Roberts: It's insane to me that he's drawing the book. He's so good. It's so cool.
Over the past two or three years, Valiant has been hiring some of the top creators in the business to reinvigorate classic characters like Matt Kindt on "Rai," Jeff Lemire on "Bloodshot Reborn" and Robert Venditti on "X-O Manowar." Warren, what was it about Rafer -- a relative newcomer to the industry -- that made him the perfect fit to relaunch an Archer and Armstrong series?
Simons: I'm really excited to have Rafer launch this series for us. I saw Rafer at Baltimore Comic-Con last year, and I bought some art from him. I actually bought the "Thanos and Darkseid: Carpool Buddies of Doom" cover from him. I ran into him again a couple of months later, and Rafer had been drawing the backup stories for some of our #25 issues that Justin Jordan had written, and Rafer was kind enough to pass along some of the stuff that he had written, which was mostly "Plastic Farm." I thought it was terrific. I thought it really moved and had a lot of energy to it. It was a lot fun, and approached the world with a terrific sense of humor, which I think you can also see reflected in his art. I asked him to pitch on a couple of different things and one of the pitches was for Archer and Armstrong, which I thought was just fantastic. I am really excited to have him here, and I think he's going to be working on some other stuff too.
Roberts: Thanks, Warren. I'm really excited to be here. When I gave Warren the package of comics, I was really hoping that I might get a chance to pitch something, so actually getting to write Archer and Armstrong for real is really amazing to me. It's a dream come true.
"A&A" #1, by Rafer Roberts and David Lafuente, will debut in March 2016.