Hello, Legions of the Unspoken! It’s me, Dean Compton, back again once more! I know it’s been some time since I dropped by here, and believe-you-me, I have missed this place and all of you! Life comes at you fast, and even The Flash himself wouldn’t hit as fast as the way life has hit me over the last year. I’m about to embark upon my second move in 14 months, which will result in the 4th state I have lived in in that same time! It’s enough to make my memories seem like they stretch back to the beginning of time, Mr. Fantastic style!
Of course, my memories don’t really do that. I am blessed to have a good memory (although all that results is in me recalling every time someone was mean to me — I’m looking at you, Mrs. Jeffries, my fourth grade teacher!) ,but I can only remember what I have learned in my decidedly short lifetime. For someone who is eternal, though, having an even average memory means recalling details of thousands of years ago from great historical moments to what it was like to shit next to Woolly Mammoths.
Which brings us to the Super Blog Team Up theme this go-round: Immortal. Living forever or being eternal has its ups and downs, and between all the topics you’re gonna see around SBTU, we’re gonna hit every one of those highs and lows harder than Armstrong hits the bottle! 90’s comics were chock full of Immortals, but the Valiant Universe’s triad of immortal brothers has always appealed greatly to me. Gilad the Eternal Warrior, Ivar the Timewalker, and Aram…the drunk? They are brothers who are bonded by somehow being immortal. They can be killed, but it would take utter vaporization to keep them from being healed from most other wounds.
To be fair, Aram (whose name has evolved into Armstrong as time goes on) is much more than a drunk, although that is the image he puts forth most prominently. Having seen so many deaths and so much violence, he has seemingly retreated into debauchery. I mean, why not? The path of excess will lead to the palace of wisdom, or so I have been told. And when you this hard to kill, there’s lots of paths that lead to lots of excess that will surely end up in lots of wisdom, correct? Aram seems to think so.
Archer, on the other hand, isn’t immortal, isn’t nearly invulnerable, and isn’t a drunk. His parents were evangelists who engaged in awful torture and molestation of the younger members of their congregation, all without Archer’s knowledge. Archer, you see, believes wholeheartedly in his parents, their beliefs, Jesus, and himself. This belief enables him to sometimes become otherworldly in his ability to accomplish physical feats that would be impossible. After he catches his parents in their gruesome rituals, they attempt to kill him via burning the house down with him in it. He heads for the light, only to realize that someone needs to deal with the evil that is his parents. Archer heads back for reality.
His powers kick in, and he gets away, only to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. With his parents lingering and waiting to kill him, he escapes from the hospital and somehow makes his way to a monastery in Asia, where he masters martial arts, marksmanship, and everything about their philosophy except for letting go of the pursuit of vengeance. To be fair, if my parents tried to kill me, I’d be all about some fucking Ghost Rider style vengeance too (probably with less flaming skulls, though). Archer leaves the monastery to get his vengeance, only to learn that his parents were arrested about two weeks after he ran away.
I know what you’re thinking: these two fucking belong together. Lucky you, buddy, because Valiant is giving you just that with Archer and Armstrong!
Created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor-Smith, you’d be hard pressed to find a funnier or more fun buddy comic than Archer & Armstrong. The book is sort of the superhero version of the relationship between Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat from the “Opposites Attract” video. If you have not seen this video, goddamn, man, what are you waiting for? If you have and you are not smiling at the thought of it, you are a Terminator.
The song highlights a relationship between two people who have little in common. These differences start with the fact that one is a hot choreographer turned pop star and one is a cartoon cat and eventually end up much more mundane, like who makes the bed and who messes up the sheets. Archer and Armstrong, believe or not, have a similar dichotomy. Archer, the ultimate pious man who eschews vices, and Armstrong, who will seemingly live forever and never met a vice he didn’t enjoy twice.
Like many odd couples, these two meet on accident, with both of them living up to their ideals.
Armstrong sees this act of magnanimity as something to celebrate, and Archer has nothing better to do with his purpose gone. Armstrong promises to hear about Archer’s troubles, but instead does nothing but drink and tell what Archer perceives to be tall tales. You’d be hard-pressed to blame him for not believing Armstrong about the stories he tells. He often talks of long dead historical luminaries like Hannibal, and he looks like a cabbie from a 1970’s exploitation film. The only thing that differentiates him from other tellers of tall tales is that his are mostly true.
There’s no way for Archer to know this, though, so he departs from Armstrong, but not before Armstrong convinces him to look for a job as a bar bouncer. Archer’s naïveté disqualifies him from this job, despite his physical ability to perform it. His performance does attract a strange man named Mahmud, who seems to know a lot about Archer. He convinces Archer that there is a great evil that needs to be taken care of. If you guessed that said evil is Armstrong, then you have read a comic book before. Congratulations! They’re fun.
Over time a group of people have formed The Sect, a cabal dedicated to destroying Armstrong. Over the many years he has been alive, people of varying religious faith have determined that Armstrong is Satan, or at least a Satan. This makes sense. How many times over the years has this large cabbie dude bumbled into a village/town/city, gotten mega drunk, seduced some ladies, beat up a bunch of dudes, and then destroyed heavy property with the strength of a rhino? So, yeah, I bet some people have thought he was the devil, or at least close.
The Sect only manages to get Archer on their side for a bit, until Armstrong points out that he is only trying to get away, compared to The Sect, who is trying to kill him and don’t care who gets caught up in the collateral damage. Finally, our heroes are together and ready to make a stand!
The Sect has to wait, though, since at this very moment, Armstrong’s brother arrives on the scene, using Solar’s hand to find Armstrong to help battle the MotherGod during the events of Unity! (Which I still consider to be the best superhero crossover of all time. It’s mindblowingly amazing and seamless, even if you can’t read every part.)
This is truly the moment where the two are cemented together as partners. Being whisked off on an adventure that they really didn’t choose sets the template for the series. Archer & Armstrong is just one long buddy road trip story, and I mean that in the best possible way. I reckon this is also the moment that they become partners because Archer literally fucking says so.
I’m not going to tell you everything that happens to them during Unity or beyond, but I do want to take a moment to show the encounter between Turok and these two. After A&A botch an assassination attempt on Mothergod in the land of Unity, the would-be God sends Turok after our diametrically opposed duo. Just to see how opposed they are, look at how they differently they handle captivity:
It’s funny to think about, but Turok is almost certainly the most well known Valiant/Gold Key character in mainstream circles, due to his exploits on the N64 after his well-received game came out. I have lost count of the number of times I have manipulated a conversation into the realm of Valiant Comics (yes, this is something I do; don’t act like you don’t too), and the only character non-comics fans know is Turok. Perhaps that will change with the impending Bloodshot movie and all; only time will tell.
Before his N64 conquering days, though, Turok was a badass in the Valiant Universe. Everything he did just seemed and looked cool. and when he decides to take up arms in the service of the Mothergod with his cool fucking bow against Archer and Armstrong, it was must see. Could this Native American with somewhat advanced technology take out the Immortal and Quasi-Invulnerable Armstrong? Could he deal with the martial arts prowess of Archer?
Um, yeah, more or less.
After showing our own dysfunctional duo that he could honestly drop them just about anytime, Turok asks Archer why he shouldn’t.
Archer is able to convince the world’s greatest dinosaur hunter that he and his rotund and immortal pal aren’t the enemies here by appealing to Turok’s innate and devout sense of right and wrong. Archer always tries to appeal to the better nature of humanity. Sometimes, that costs him, but I find it inspiring that no matter how many times he is betrayed or how many times he is let down, Archer refuses to stop believing that there’s a better part of all of us. He insists to Turok that one day, a good man like Turok will realize MotherGod is evil. If Turok has to kill them this day, go ahead, but Archer implores Turok to take up arms against MotherGod on the day he inevitably figures out MotherGod is an evil deity.
In this case, it works out for Archer, as Turok has had a sense of Archer’s righteousness from the start due to his own connection to the Earth. He spares the duo and goes off to do his own soul-searching, but he realizes MotherGod ain’t the way.
That’s the end of the first three issues of Archer and Armstrong. There’s so much more ahead, but that’s for another day. I can’t get enough of the antics between these two. There’s nothing like the polar opposites in your group of pals that seemingly never stop arguing but also never stop getting along. Here we get to see all of that, plus they are involves in the high stakes world of the Valiant Universe. For superhero buddy comics, it just doesn’t get any better.
Make sure and check out the rest of the SBTU gang at the links below, and hopefully, we’ll see you around here again really soon!
Chris Is On Infinite Earths: Podcast Episode 26 – Resurrection Man 1997 & 2011
Black, White and Bronze: What Price Immortality? A Review of Red Nails
DC In the 80s: Young Animals Bug
Between The Pages Blog: Big Finish: Doctor Who’s Finest Regeneration
Comics Comics Comics Blog: Dr. Fate
The Superhero Satellite: Mephistos Whisper: The Immortality Of Peter and Mary Jane (One More Day)
Comic Reviews By Walt: TMNT and Highlander