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Exclusive: Legacy heroes return as Valiant reveals first look at 'Archer & Armstrong Forever'
For the first time in five years, Archer & Armstrong are back for an ongoing adventure.
They're baaaack. SYFY WIRE can exclusively reveal the return of one of comics’ favorite odd couples from Valiant Entertainment, as Archer and Armstrong land their first regular ongoing title in five years — and they've cooked up a major twist for the revival. Archer & Armstrong Forever #1 hits stands on May 4 and is written by Steve Foxe (X-Men ’92: House of XCII) with art by Marcio Fiorito, colors by Alex Guimaráes, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Regular covers by Bernard Chang.
“Immortality’s been a common trait to show up in the Valiant universe,” Foxe exclusively told SYFY WIRE. “So editor Rob Levin and I asked, what if we took it away from one of them? The classic dynamic is Armstrong is immortal, heals very quickly and has been around forever, while Archer was sheltered, mortal but very skilled. How do we shape this and highlight Armstrong’s qualities through the absence of one of the things we take for granted with him?
“If he can’t just be impaled and walk away from it, where does that leave Armstrong? It’s a classic storytelling tactic to say what’s an intrinsic thing about a character and if you deprive them of that, where does that leave them? How does it highlight what’s left? How does it highlight how that played into their character in the first place? Even though Armstrong is not at his most immortal in this book, how that relates to him and how that informs who he is is still a key building block for the character.”
It’s a hook and twist aimed to satisfy existing Archer & Armstrong fans who have been thirsting for their return while inviting new readers. Foxe and Fiorito will also be adding to the Valiant Universe lore with a new supporting cast and new foes, The Eccentric and the Maw, who will operate on different levels. “The Eccentric does not get his hands dirty and so the Maw is his attack dog,” Foxe explained. “So we’ll see an Emperor Palpatine and Darth Maul-type dynamic. We’ll get to play with two different sides of villainy and their antagonism.”
“The Maw is also very gross and I don’t want to give too much away but I always keep one foot firmly planted in horror, and the Maw was me bringing as much of the horror world into Archer & Armstrong as much as I possibly could. They’re not the first characters you think of when it comes to horror and terror, so how can I bring this nightmare Clive Barker creation-style character into their world and how freaked out would they be if they have to deal with him?”
Foxe’s other foot is usually planted in all ages work (Spider-Ham: Great Power, No Responsibility) so adding horror, with Archer & Armstrong’s unique blend of comedy and adventure, is new ground. During the pandemic, Foxe said he went through 80s action movies like Die Hard and True Lies, for inspiration. “It’s a more nuanced balance than modern cinema,” Foxe explained. “How can I put in these genuinely funny moments but when you turn the page, and there’s a life or death scenario, you still feel the stakes of it. It doesn’t feel like it’s all one big joke, or a weightless, stake-less comic.”
“That’s the core balancing challenge for me, and it’s been a lot of fun. Comedy is incredibly hard to pull off in comics; it is deceptively hard! We (creators and readers) often mistake glibness and tossed off lines for comedy sometimes. But to construct something that is genuinely funny is a lot harder than that. It’s going to be up to the readers on whether I succeeded or not.”
Forever’s first arc will place the lead characters and their new surroundings under the microscope. Then afterwards, Foxe hinted characters closely associated with Archer and Armstrong’s family trees will show up. He will also be using a “well-known Valiant location” that will be a new experience for Archer & Armstrong. These two have a long and complex friendship but Foxe insists that there’s still more to discover.
“They’ve wanted to kill one another, betrayed one another, have gone to the map for one another. [They’re] up there with Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, people who were known as real duos. They’ve had so many low points like Armstrong has done things to Archer that is not very kind. Archer was raised to kill Armstrong. Finding out how that relationship grows over time and getting to build the next steps on that, and how it’s affected by Armstrong losing his immortality, has been the big surprise to me.
“You can simplify them down to the funny drunk who can’t be killed, and the sheltered kid who’s skilled at everything. But when you put them together there’s more than the sum of their parts.”