As Valiant Comics continues its renaissance, Fred Van Lente has some very definite plans for the popular Archer & Armstrong.
All heck is about to break loose in the book and its protagonists will find each other on different sides of the Sect Civil War come October.
Old friends return, new enemies will be discovered. To find out about this latest development, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively got the 411 from Van Lente and filed this interview.
CosmicBookNews: Fred, you are known for “fun” books and you are obviously having fun on Archer and Armstrong. What is it about these characters and their world that brings about your creativity?
Fred Van Lente: I can relate to them both so well because I've been them at different times in my life. I was very religious like Archer when I was a teenager -- though a lot less strict in my upbringing. I was very active in my church youth group, did work stations around the world, really did believe in the mission of the church. That's pretty common for us idealists, I think. As I grew up, I drifted from that, and now I'm much closer in attitude to Armstrong. I like writing these characters so much because it's like having a conversation with two different sides of myself.
CosmicBookNews: Can you tell us a little about how the coming four-part storyline, “Sect Civil War,” came about? I believe it is the book’s first “event,” as the publishers like to say.
Fred Van Lente: It's natural outgrowth of the other events in the book. The Sect, the network of secret societies that control the world, has been left with a power vacuum since the events of our first arc. Archer has been delving into the mysteries of his past, and this leads him directly to a conflict with Project: Rising Spirit from Bloodshot. This is the spark that forces long-simmering inter-faction conflict to erupt into full-out, bloody civil war.
CosmicBookNews: What moves this forward in the A&A series, and how do they wind up on different sides?
Fred Van Lente: Without spoiling too much of the end of Vol. 3, let's just say something happens that causes a rift between our two main heroes ... and Dark Archer is born...
CosmicBookNews: Will we be seeing the return of any old favorites here?
Fred Van Lente: Oh, yeah. There's the One Percent, and also the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness -- the ninja nuns -- return, play a major part, and we learn a lot more about their order and the perverse theology behind it.
CosmicBookNews: What about new factions? I heard artist Michael Walsh has been doing some crazy design work!
Fred Van Lente: He has, and his themed covers have been amazing. What he's come up with to flesh out the modern-day version of the Hashish-Eaters -- whom we saw the Eternal Warrior tangle with in #8 -- and the brand-new Black Bloc and Master Builders, will really knock your socks off.
CosmicBookNews: Fred, one of the surprising things to me (really!) was the return of Mary-Maria in #10. Will we be seeing her at all anywhere in the series’ future, and how?
Fred Van Lente: That would be telling. Let's just say she's picked her side in the Civil War, and it's not one you'd expect.
CosmicBookNews: What does artist Khari Evans bring to the table here? Big fan?
Fred Van Lente: Oh, yeah. I love his issues of Harbinger with Josh Dysart. It's a great shift in art style with the birth of Dark Archer. He's really bringing the heat in both the flashback sequences and the modern day stuff -- when you have a certain Anni-Padda brother involved like...
Oooh, that would be telling too...
CosmicBookNews: Is this at all a good jumping-on place for the valued and vaunted “new” reader?
Fred Van Lente: Definitely. We're beginning the second year -- the second "season" -- of Archer & Armstrong, and #14 is the premiere episode. We open with the origin of the Sect in ancient Egypt, learn the real reasons behind their millennia-long pursuit of Armstrong, and get introduced to Dark Archer, and his new bosses... Project: Rising Spirit.
So this is the beginning not just of a new arc, but an even closer relationship between A&A and the rest of the Valiant Universe.
CosmicBookNews: What would you like readers, new and long-time, to come away from this story with?
Fred Van Lente: Pizza.
Cosmic Book News: Fred, any projects current or future you would like to discuss?
Fred Van Lent: Looking forward to Brain Boy, my contribution to Dark Horse's super hero line, to debut in September, along with the zombie comedy The Mocking Dead from Dynamite. And I'm happy to say there are more announcements to come in short order -- it's an exciting and invigorating time to be a comics creator.
"Archer & Armstrong" #14 hits October 9th!