Asmus & Van Lente Buddy Up for "The Delinquents"

It's the crossover Valiant fans have been asking for since "Quantum and Woody" and "Archer & Armstrong" were both published at the same time -- and it's finally set to happen in "The Delinquents" this August. Courtesy of writers Fred Van Lente and James Asmus and artist Kano, "The Delinquents" sees both dynamic duos hunting for treasure by following a map torn from the tattooed ass of a hobo. The story takes place in the middle of the current "Archer & Armstrong" storyline, and the end of Asmus' "Quantum and Woody" arc.

In order to get a firmer a handle on what awaits Quantum, Woody, Archer and Armstrong in their ass map-guided hunt, CBR News spoke with Asmus and Van Lente about crossing over the two humorous Valiant duos, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the first draft of the crossover, some of their favorite interactions between characters and the artistic stylings of Kano.

CBR News: Fred, James -- the time is fast approaching when folks will be able to see what "The Delinquents" is all about. I know fans have been waiting for this crossover for some time, but how long have the two of you wanted to team up your books?

James Asmus: Truthfully, I think as soon as I was getting a hold of really what "Quantum and Woody" was going to be. "Archer & Armstrong" was my gateway into Valiant because I was a fan of Fred, and it sounded like a book up my alley. I didn't approach "Quantum and Woody" with "Archer & Armstrong" in mind, but certainly, once I really got ahold of the characters, I knew it'd be fun to play them off each other.

Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I'm a huge [Christopher] Priest fan from way back. I was reading a lot of his stuff when I first started at Marvel, and I enjoyed the original "Quantum and Woody" quite a lot. I think James and Tom Fowler's first arc really put a great spin on it. I have to admit that it wasn't the first thing that leaped to mind, but since the nanosecond that book was announced, I got tweets and Facebook requests for them to team up. I didn't actually have a chance to think of it myself! [Laughs] It was something that others really started demanding.

Asmus: As tight as the Valiant Universe line is, it covers a lot of stylistic ground, but I really think the humor in our books really makes them an easier marriage than there are across some other titles.

When the first issue opens, what's happening with the two duos individually? Where are they and how does the story kick off?

Van Lente: Archer and Armstrong -- what's the best way to explain this? "The Delinquents" begins technically before the current "Archer & Armstrong" arc ends, which was not really planned, but I think that it's not going to be a big problem. Gosh, I don't want to say where Archer and Armstrong are! It'll give away the ending of the current arc! [Laughs] I guess I can say -- for those of you that have read "Archer & Armstrong" #1 -- they ended up at Thousand Cows, which was the Manhattan biker bar that Archer first encountered Armstrong in, and they are both co-bouncing. They are bouncers. That's their job.

Asmus: Well, I don't mind spoiling the end of "Quantum and Woody!" [Laughs] The Goat was killed by whatever animal meme is on the Internet at the time we go to print, and that's the new character. No, as we've teased, Woody convinced Eric that they should become -- essentially -- bounty hunters. They should sell their services. I will continue finding as many ways as I can to not say Heroes for Hire while still alluding to the same concept.

Van Lente: They're Idiots for Hire.

Asmus: Exactly. Antiheroes for Hire.

Van Lente: There we go!

Asmus: Essentially, the first really big job someone hires them for ends up being the catalyst for kicking off "The Delinquents." It sets them on a collision course with Archer and Armstrong.

The core concept of "The Delinquents" -- that both duos are attempting to find the treasure denoted by a map printed on the butt cheeks of a hobo -- certainly has the potential for some hilarious situations.

Asmus: It's a tale as old as time, really.

Van Lente: An ass as old as time.

Asmus: Armstrong gets the map from the King of the Hobos, but it's not from the king's butt cheeks. It's still the severed butt cheeks of a hobo with a map on it.

As crazy as that is, when you were developing the book, was there any concept you came up with that was so insane that you felt like you needed to take a step back?

Van Lente: Our first version was considerably less crazy.

Asmus: It was much more -- it was like combining the long-term narrative arcs of our books into mutual resolution and climax. The fine folks at Valiant realized that in terms of making a footloose and fancy free summer adventure open to all folks, including those that have not read our books before, it might come with a lot of baggage! [Laughs]

Van Lente: Yeah, our original concept was sort of the "World's Finest" team-up, which would pit Archer and Armstrong and Quantum and Woody against Thomas Edison and Mary-Maria Archer, who are kind of the Joker/Lex Luthor of the respective books. That would have been a cool villain team-up in itself. We were more encouraged to make this open to people that might not know the characters.

Asmus: I'll say that one thing I miss from that is, because Fred's book had Mary-Maria possessed by her parents, and our book has the Goat haunted by the memory imprint of their father, we thought about getting all the characters who were possessed into a Tesla electric field of brain-switching.

Van Lente: It would have been a complicated body-swapping.

While there definitely seems to be a goal in mind for both duos, what can they expect in terms of opposition -- not necessarily an antagonist or a villain, but obstacles that get in their way?

Asmus: The person who hired Quantum and Woody, it's pretty clear early on that there are some malicious agendas behind the whole thing. We did end up coming up with a group of henchmen that I'm really excited about.

Van Lente: They're inspired by my sister, which I don't think I've told her about yet.

Wait -- the group of henchmen in "The Delinquents" is inspired by your sister?

Van Lente: Well, no -- I told James a story about something my sister did, and it inspired the henchmen. It suddenly occurs to me that I need to tell my sister about this.

Asmus: Well, wait until the copyright is filed, and then tell her.

Well, is there anything you can tell us about this group of henchmen?

Van Lente: [Pause] Vegetarians won't like them. And the feeling is mutual -- they don't like vegetarians!

Asmus: [Laughs]

James, you and I have spoken about this previously, but Fred -- what was it like for you to relinquish some control over Archer and Armstrong, and gain a little control over Quantum and Woody?

Van Lente: It was fun, although it's not entirely the first time that's happened -- Christos Gage did a great job of writing Archer and Armstrong in "Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps" earlier in the year. James has a great comedic sense, we get along really well, and he's doing a great job with both Archer and Armstrong and Quantum and Woody. I feel totally unnecessary, but in a good way.

"Archer & Armstrong" as a title has been stuck in -- for lack of a better word -- plausible conspiracies, like Area 51 and the Da Vinci Code and who really killed Elvis. "The Delinquents" storyline is still kind of conspiracy-y, but I think there's a madness that Quantum and Woody provide and James provides that has pushed it off the rails into truly insane territory of ass maps and hobo treasure and henchmen that taste like chicken.

Asmus: I do think you're dead-on in that we ended up with a plot that kind of marries the motifs and sensibilities of the two books. As much as they are both character humor-driven, buddy comedies, there are a lot of differences in the series and I think it captures and infuses both books' DNA of absurdity in a way that should please the respective readers.

What interaction so far has been most fun for you to write?

Asmus: I'm in the middle of putting down some stuff where they really are playing off of each other, and the Woody/Archer dynamic is definitely the one I'm enjoying the most. I thought Woody and Armstrong would just be off-the-rails fun to write, but in truth, it just reminded me how valuable counterpoint is in humor, just pitting two utterly different world views against each other.

Van Lente: Yeah. To me, the obvious paring was Armstrong and Woody -- they'd be great drinking bros -- and Quantum and Archer would join forces in anal retention. We ended up finding a really clever and character-based way to flip that dynamic, and that's what I think is most interesting. That's the challenge of doing this in the first place. It's opposites that makes for good comedy and good drama and because the two books are so similar, the biggest challenge was to find a way that we would find something that was more interesting than just two times what we had before. It worked out really well.

Kano's working on the art for the book -- James, you've worked with him previously on "Quantum and Woody," but Fred, I believe this is the first time you've worked with him in an "Archer & Armstrong" context. What do each of you think makes him a great fit for your story?

Asmus: In particular, I think he fills his pages with such energy and joy, and when you're talking about trying to do this summer fun miniseries -- to me, "The Delinquents" isn't the world-changing, nothing will be the same crossover mega-event. I always think of those Art Adams annuals in the '80s -- just a chance to have some really fun self-contained adventures that you can read and smile from ear-to-ear. I think [Kano] brings that manic energy and creativity and a character nuance that makes those stories so gratifying and fun. It makes you want to live in that world.

Van Lente: I did "Marvel Zombies 5" with Kano.

Asmus: Oh, I didn't know that!

Van Lente: Yeah. That was an interdimensional-hopping story where Howard the Duck and Machine Man -- another classic and obvious team-up -- went to a western world, and they went to the Killraven War of the Worlds world, and they went to Camelot. Kano just blew everything away. He can draw anything. I have total faith in him that he'll take our insanity, embrace it with both artistic arms, and hold it tight. I don't know where I'm going with this metaphor, it got really sensual for some reason. Kano will make sweet, sweet love to your eyeballs.

Asmus: Yeah!

Van Lente: And we will cheer them on.

Wrapping up, what are you most looking forward to for readers to see when they get their hands on the series?

Van Lente: Ass map.

Asmus: I would say that I have been really, really thrilled and delighted with everything I've seen from Kano. Especially for those that might have missed "Quantum and Woody" #9 & 10, I feel like he played differently than I'd seen him do in some other series, and I think it really impressed me and was just pure joy to behold his work. He really contributes creatively to the pages, and I think it elevates everything.

Van Lente: Agreed!

"The Delinquents," by James Asmus, Fred Van Lente and Kano, launches August 20.

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