Priest on Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody
by Ryan “Irish Rican” McLelland
Valiant Entertainment’s amazing Quantum and Woody soon will not be the only Q&W book on the market. Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody will bring back the original incarnations of the characters which will take place some twenty years after the original Acclaim series ended.
For me Quantum and Woody was the main reason to read Acclaim comic books in the 1990s. It was sharp, fun, sarcastic, and one of the best books Acclaim had put out during that time frame. The series was cancelled along with the rest of Acclaim’s line with several issues ready to be printed that would never see the light of day.
The return of the original characters is coupled with the return of series creators Christopher Priest and Mark “Doc” Bright. How does it feel for Priest to return to writing a Quantum and Woody book and what is in store for us as readers when Q2 is launched? Those are the thoughts that swam through my head as I sat down to talk to Priest about the resurrection of “The World’s Worst Superhero Team.”
I first asked Priest how it feels to be returning to Q&W after so many years away to which he said he felt, “Fatigue. Sleepless nights. Flop sweat.” Priest noted, “I’ve seen creative talent return to signature projects before; it wasn’t always pretty. Spending a lot of time on my knees praying this doesn’t suck.”
My thoughts went directly to the unpublished Acclaim issues and what was left unsaid by their non-publication. Was there any feelings that Priest left some unfinished business in regards to Quantum and Woody?
“I regretted the timing of the book’s cancellation,” Priest said. “Part of that was an overall “Education of Christopher Priest” thing where, at both Marvel and Acclaim, I learned the hard way to plan shorter story arcs because the traditional sense of publishing as 12-issue increments was changing and books were routinely being dropped as the industry contracted early into this decade.”
Priest continued, “I was writing a 12-issue arc in Captain America and the Falcon as well as in Quantum and Woody, the Q&W arc was just amputated by the cancellation, while Tom Brevoort and I worked to wrap up things in Captain America and the Falcon, and Marvel was in no hurry to cancel that book (and, in fact, hadn’t cancelled it but were planning to pull Cap out of it), which allowed it more dignity in ending its run.”
In being asked what elements and themes Priest would like to reestablish from the older series he said, “I think it actually disturbs MD “Doc’ Bright more than I, but, neither Doc nor I ever thought of Q&W as being a humorous book or a parody. I think there’s this character in the book–Woody who is, as often as not, channeling Mark Bright’s sarcasm–whose personality lends itself toward a kind of deconstruction of the super-hero genre, but the series concept in and of itself had absolutely nothing to do with humor; it was supposed to be Acclaim’s version of Power Man and Iron Fist.”
Priest went on to say, “There were, admittedly, places where I (not Doc) went a little too far– like writing Marvel Editor Ruben Diaz into the Acclaim series (Diaz literally appeared as himself in the Acclaim comic, as did Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. Ruben actually hung around as a supporting character for an arc). But, for the most part, the situations and villains and so forth were fairly straightforward. It was Woody mocking those situations and villains that lent a humorous pall to the book; the book in and of itself was not humorous.”
“The current Valiant monthly is much broader in terms of its humor,” said Priest. “It is very much its own invention and works well within the humor discipline. I am concerned that fans of the current series, who may or may not have been familiar with the Acclaim run, will be puzzled. Q2 will be about two-thirds less funny than the current monthly. In fact, maybe that should be Valiant’s marketing strategy, we’re now Quantum and Woody Lite: Great Taste, Less Funny.”
As for ideas that were discarded for the new series some might be sad to hear what has now gone away. “We sort of discarded the goat,” Priest said. “Not intentionally, but because we could not find way for Vincent to logically appear in a story set 20 plus years from the 1997 series. There was some thought of forcing the goat, or “a” goat, into the miniseries, but that felt forced and artificial to me, what I would consider a result-oriented story development. He just didn’t fit, though he makes a cameo appearance.”
Comic book characters rarely age so the idea of seeing superhero characters age an actual twenty years is something rarely seen in comic. I wanted to know where the decision came from to age the characters and with that age did the characters now feel older, more tired, and less quick than they once were.
“The idea to age them was, I believe, mine,” said Priest. “The idea that this story takes place, ostensibly, in real time, as if Quantum and Woody had never been cancelled and we’re now working on issue #256, was Mark (Bright)’s.”
“The guys are old,” Priest said. “Well, roughly the same age as their creators. They are dealing with what we are dealing with, which is what made the idea appealing to me. Until we hit on that notion, I wasn’t fully onboard with doing this. I didn’t want what Doc and I would be doing to compete with the monthly or to be just another bunch of Q&W stories.”
“Obviously, since we’ve skipped ahead roughly twenty years, much of the story takes place in the form of flashbacks, so there’s plenty of scenes with Q&W as the fans of the original Acclaim series remember them. The guys are dealing with issues of aging and relevance and, yes, legacy: there’s a new Quantum and a new Woody, and the guys have mixed emotions about handing that legacy off to the next generation. ”
Priest noted, “By comparison: I went to my local comic shop and bought a bunch of the new Q&W issues. I was a little overwhelmed by the selection and stock of new titles. For some reason, I’d thought the comics biz had dwindled down to two titles: BATMAN and MORE BATMAN. But there was tons of new stuff there, a lot of it looking very interesting. I don’t recognize many of the names, though: there’s a whole new generation of people doing this and comics have evolved into whatever they are today. That doesn’t necessarily mean Doc and I no longer have a place in the industry, but, I vividly recall explaining to my assistant at Marvel, inker Keith Williams, once, when the legendary Bob Kanigher was visiting the office, that Bob was a brilliant writer, only the industry and expectations of comics have changed. After Bob left, I turned to Keith and said, “Today it’s him, tomorrow it’ll be us.”
“It’s us, now. It’s our turn. I AM Bob Kanigher. Which is not to say the late and greatly admired writer would not have a place in today’s industry, but that the industry itself has evolved. I am not at all happy about the insanity of the current “star” system, where the publishers are marketing the creators rather than the characters. 9-year olds don’t know who Jim Lee is and don’t care. They like Spider-Man. But nobody’s trying to sell Spider-Man to 9-year olds, we seem only interested in selling Jim Lee to 35-year olds. Maybe there’s some Manhattan Project underway now where publishers are trying to get back into the business of publishing instead of this moronic Whose Name Is Bigger system. A good idea is a good idea and my work should compete on its own merits, not based on the size of my fan base.”
Priest continued, “I’d actually like to see comics go back to the days when creator credits did not appear on covers at all. Let’s buy Spider-Man because he’s Spider-Man and, oh look, there’s Doc Ock. I loved Swanderson Action Comics, Elliott S! Maggin and Cary Bates, but I didn’t buy Action Comics because of those guys, I bought Action Comics because Superman was in it, and the Human Target back-ups. Even if the story was written by some new guy, it was Superman–I’d give the book a shot because of the character, not the creators, and the book would stand or fall on its merits rather than whose name is above the title.”
“I kind of burned out after Captain America and the Falcon (http://digitalpriest.com/legacy/comics/caf.html) and became weary of the development process–where Marvel or whomever clubs you like a baby seal for months and forces you to rewrite project proposals a dozen times and then cancels the book before issue #1 even ships (as they did with THE CREW (http://digitalpriest.com/comics/crew/). It was, at that time at least, a debilitating, draining process, and the thought of climbing that mountain yet again contributed to my desire to find other ways to support myself.”
For you what is the most exciting aspects of the new miniseries?
After so many years off of Quantum and Woody I wanted to know what were the most exciting aspects for Priest? What is it like working alongside Doc Bright again? And what does he think of the artwork he’s seen so far?
“That Mark and I no longer live in the same state, so it’s less likely one of us will make the drive up the Garden State Parkway to kill the other. Beyond that, the themes of aging and relevance and the 2nd generation Q&W are, I believe, really interesting. It’s also a real privilege to be able to revisit this property.”
Priest added, “It sounds clichéd, but it really is just as if we never stopped working together. We’re driving each other insane. As for the drawing, Mark has, literally, never been better. I’ve seen artists return to comics after a long time away and it hasn’t always been pretty. This stuff is amazing. Of course, it helps that Mark makes his living as a storyboard artist for feature films and TV (he was a storyboard artist on CBS’ The Mentalist among others). So he’s drawing all the time. I’m the one I’m more worried about. I write all the time, but haven’t written comics in a very long time.”
*I’m* the one I’m more worried about. I write all the time, but haven’t written *comics* in a very long time.
With Q2 being a miniseries I next asked if this is the last we will see of the original Quantum and Woody team? Is there more to say? If it sells like gangbusters will Valiant come knocking at Priest’s door once again? “Well, never say never,” Priest said. “I am assuming this is a better question for Valiant, and they could likely not answer it until they see some actual numbers. I am open to suggestions and ideas, but I am also keenly aware this is a different business and a new generation of really creative and inventive talent is in place, now. I don’t want to be William Shatner whining about J.J. Abrams. I’d like to live quietly and alone out here in my little UnaBomber shack in Colorado, hunched over my PC witting bad crime novels I never get around to publishing. That’s my nirvana: I’d love to be Elmore Leonard (yes, even in his current condition).”
I ended by asking Priest what is the appeal to the comic readers of today who may want to pick up the first issue? To that Priest said, “This is a trick question because the new Valiant monthly is as different from the original Acclaim run and the 2014 mini as the Abrams Trek is from The Original Series TV show. I’m not sure where the sweet spot is in terms of audience overlap, though I am certain there is one. But there’s also a group of people Valiant can reach with the 2014 miniseries just as they’ve obviously reached a new audience with the ongoing monthly.”
“I will say Doc and I have taken great strides to present the original Acclaim property but with very few ties to the Acclaim continuity. You do not need to know anything at all about Quantum and Woody to enjoy this series. Yes, we include the obligatory origin flashback, essentially because the origin story in the current monthly is very different. Ours had no nudity.”
Priest wrapped it all up by noting, “Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody is an exciting super-hero story which examines the meaning of heroism and confronts issues of aging, purpose, legacy and relevance. Even if you know (or care) nothing about the main characters, the tent poles of the journey these guys are on–which span from childhood through middle age–involve universal themes which can be appreciated and hopefully enjoyed by any fan of super-hero comics.”