Bridget Jones Becomes Dr. Strange: Fred Van Lente on Archer & Armstrong #6

Fred Van Lente, having crafted one of the coolest, most original new superhero comics of 2012, came into 2013 strong...and we managed to miss him.

Actually, what happened was that I had a series of deaths in and close to my family, so forgive the lateness of this commentary, but once it was a week late, it was easier to let it get two weeks late while I caught up, etc.

Thankfully, Van Lente is a tolerant man, and joined to talk about the action-packed first appearance of the new Geomancer in Archer & Armstrong #6.

As always of course, this is a spoiler-filled interview. If you don't have it already, go buy it and read along with us. How do you think the flashbacks at the opening of an issue translates to the trade collection? I always feel like it generally works well but since page one flashbacks are such a convention in comics, I wonder if you ever think about that kind of thing.

Fred Van Lente: The individual issues in a trade are separated by covers, so it shouldn't be hard to follow. Besides, since we're cutting to and from such wildly divergent time periods, that'll make it even easier. Is it bad that when he refers to "Mister Hands," my first instinct is to think of "The Mister Bill Show"?

FVL: Yes.

Hands was the name of one of Blackbeard's actual crew members; in fact, pretty much everything happens here -- from the date and setting, to the Virginians hiding below deck, to the "giving quarter" exchange, is all from eyewitness accounts of Blackbeard's final battle -- he finally died after getting shot like five times and stabbed with swords twenty times. He was one bad mother.

I doubt Gilad was actually involved, but can you prove he WASN'T?!? SO, what's the one life goal Kay HAS managed?

FVL: That's a good question. Landing a job with a six-figure salary, I imagine.

My high concept behind Kay was "Bridget Jones becomes Dr. Strange," and it's cool the fans have responded so well to her. Inveterate cable news junkie that I am, I can't help but notice that the right wingers try and find the most attractive women (usually blonde) to trot out and spew their invective -- either simply to dress up the message in a pretty package or because that's the only kind of women they think people will listen to (probably both). With Kay, right down to the fake glasses, the idea was for one of these people to go over to the side of the angels.  On the climate change thing -- is it a little tough to write topical material into a book that gets published months in advance? Within days of your comic with the climate change reference, more information on climate change opponents has come out that ties more or less directly into how you depict them here.

FVL: Global warming is something we're going to be dealing with years, if not a centuries to come, so sadly it's a pretty timeless subject, at this point. Is there something to the selection process of the Geomancer that trends toward a connection to the previous one, or towards Aram? It seems like a hell of a coincidence, someone just two degrees of separation from Archer getting the gig.

FVL: I think maybe you misread something. The last Geomancer didn't have any direct connection to Archer other than getting kidnapped by Zorn to be delivered to his parents (a subtlety from #4 some may have missed).

Kay doesn't have any connection to Archer either; in fact, one could argue Nature recruited her from Zorn's camp in retaliation for the death of her predecessor. I've heard people accuse cartoonists who use the repeating panel with the stat image of laziness. I think that's obviously a pretty silly notion, but can you explain, as a writer, what makes you think "That's a good way to pace out the scene"?

FVL: It depends on the scene. I very, very often stat images, usually for comedic or dramatic effect. It forces the reader to focus in on the words themselves. I've had a few artists refuse to do it because they think it's lazy, which I don't agree with, but hey, if they want to make extra work for themselves it's hard for me to stop them. Do you ever wish you could cut a trailer for your comics before they're out? That "Silly girl--nothing is forever" moment is just begging for someone sufficiently sinister to read it.

FVL: Thanks, yeah, that would be fun. Is Archer getting quicker with the quips or was his "We'd rather you didn't kill us" meant to be read earnestly?

FVL: Earnestly. Archer hasn't quite wrapped his brain around the concept of quips. That is a nicely-upholstered chair to be hanging out in limbo. Did you guys take design advice from the folks in Twin Peaks?

FVL: No, but for the curious, here's the Chiffon Margarine commercial we were referencing throughout this scene. As the caption says, there's not a kid growing up in the 1970s who wasn't scared sh--less by this ad. Giving someone like Zorn charge of the Null is interesting--it means that his business interests aren't actually causing collateral damage along the way to making profit, but are making collateral profits along the way to causing damage, right?

FVL: Right, precisely. At the end of the day, then, wouldn't it seem that even if they're to work together in the short term, the Null and the One Percent will eventually be incompatible?

FVL: We'll just have to see how this partnership plays out.  Just to clarify for those who need to be spoonfed: Blackbeard is...?

FVL: Uh ... a pirate? The villain of the great Tim Powers novel (and crappy Johnny Depp movie) On Stranger Tides? A pioneer of the use of gunpowder in facial hair?

Maybe I'm the one who needs to be spoon fed here.  Somehow I had missed next month's cover. I f---ing love it.

FVL: Yeah, that's my favorite of Ema's for this arc.