Are Two Guys Stuck Together Actually Stuck Together? Daniel Kibblesmith On The Return Of Quantum & Woody

by Staff

 

As revealed during the Valiant Summit 2017, Quantum & Woody are returning in 2018, much to the excitement of fans of the diametrically opposed brothers and their fascinatingly powerful goat. The series will be arriving in December 2017 and will be written by Daniel Kibblesmith (The Doorman, Valiant High, Bloodshot, writer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert) and drawn by Kano.

Quantum & Woody have also recently been in the spotlight for Television news, with the announcement that the Russo Brothers will be be Producers on the show. Casting hasn’t been announced yet, but at the Summit, Valiant hinted that we can expect big announcements this year, as we move toward the December release of the new comic series.

Here’s a quick recap of the ideas behind Quantum & Woody: Eric and Woody grew up together from the time they were pre-teens when Eric’s father took Woody in as a foster-son. Later estranged from each other due to Woody’s wild life choices, they reconnected at their father’s funeral. Investigating their father’s death, they became the victims of a science accident that gave them super powers but made them dependent on a pair of metal bracelets which have to come in contact with each other at least once in 24 hours to maintain their existence. They couldn’t be more different, or need each other more.

But at the point when we meet Quantum & Woody in the new series arriving in December, these brothers who don’t get along are now at a point where they are not even on speaking terms. They still have to “clang” their bracelets to survive and maintain molecular stability, but that’s about it in terms of their preferred interaction, engaging only because they have to, not because they want to. Then there’s the goat, custody of which is unclear at this point…and whose origin is perhaps best explained below by Mr. Kibblesmith, who took the time to talk to me at C2E2 a few weeks ago.

I met with Daniel Kibblesmith at C2E2 to talk about the recently announced return of Quantum & Woody, everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family duo, and his role in bringing them back to audiences.

I had planned to ask Kibblesmith what had caused the rift between Quantum & Woody that we find in place at the beginning of the new series, but in the Valiant Summit that had been hinted at, and in the panel I attended at C2E2, he spoke more fully on that subject. It had been the first time he’d spoken about it in a room full of people, he laughed. Kibblesmith reminded that Woody is a foster-brother who joined the family as a pre-teen, and then left during his teenage years. It was the death of Eric’s birth father who brought them back together initially.

Woody has never had any other family, so learning that Eric had knowledge of his birth father but kept it from him has caused the rift between them. I noted that it was interesting that a death had initially brought them back together and now birth information was tearing them apart, a kind of reversal. Kibblesmith said it’s interesting from a storytelling perspective to take a new look at their origin story, it’s a “new, new origin” for them.

I added, based on having a close relationship to someone who was adopted, that receiving new information about birth parents can cause a destabilization of identity, and that a person has to go through a lot of mental processes to integrate that new information into their sense of identity, and this would affect a character like Woody. Kibblesmith agreed, and said it’s especially true for a character to learn this information as an adult.

I asked Kibblesmith what core features of Quantum & Woody he was aware of that he knew he needed to “bring in” to make this new series authentic for readers. He said that ultimately the themes of “family” are the strongest. Because these brothers literally can’t be separated, this is a “great metaphor” for the people we can’t escape in our lives. These are the people you are “tied to” in life. All through the “funny stuff” and “mad-science stuff”, at the core are two guys who love each other but have personalities that “test that constantly”. I observed that it’s almost a Greek myth situations of Titans battling each other, and Kibblesmith said “That’s comics for you!”

As someone who’s not an expert on Quantum & Woody lore, I asked Kibblesmith about the nature of humor in the traditionally humorous comic. I suggested that underlying the humor in the comic is something bigger, perhaps a strain of absurdity, that’s not always “funny haha” but sometimes “darkly funny” or even “disconcerting”. I said that, “It seems like crazy shit gets thrown at them more than other characters, as if they attract it”. I wondered if part of their heroism is their ability to stay on top of all these crazy experiences, in Kibblesmith’s view.

He thinks that it happens “organically” in a book with a “tone” like this. If you’re working on a book that’s a “funny family-action comedy”, if that even is a genre, that the book becomes a “lightning rod for weirdness”, he said. It’s like a “cul-de-sac where there’s a goat with laser eyes and more out-there mad science”, he said. It’s the same as any superhero universe, where all of the titles are in the same setting, but each book reflects the world of specific characters, almost as if you see things more through their eyes, and that creates tone.

To take a brief side-avenue, I asked Kibblesmith about his work on the Heavy Metal published series and trade of The Doorman, co-written with Eliot Rahal, and drawn, penciled, and lettered, by Kendall Goode. In that book, there’s a piling up of absurd circumstances as well, and it’s very funny when the comedy keeps building up. But you also get the feeling the “universe is out to get them”. I asked him if that is true at all of Quantum & Woody in the new series.

Kibblesmith said that The Doorman IS a story about feeling like the world is out to get you, but Quantum & Woody make a lot of their own problems, kind of like the maxim about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. What Kibblesmith likes about the brothers is that they are “polar opposites” who manage to end up in the same space, conceptually. Eric is a guy who’s so smart that he can’t get out of his own way, Kibblesmith said, and Woody is a guy who’s barreling through life and “doesn’t care who gets in his way”.

That argues for the difficulty of maintaining extreme approaches to life, I said, since obviously, maintaining some kind of moderation would be better, but neither are capable of it. When they are together, they balance those aspects of personality a little, or try. Kibblesmith laughed and said, “At the end of the day, this is a book about two guys are who are literally unstable”. Talk about “literalizing the metaphor”, he said. Coming together for the two of them usually results in “explosions for the rest of the world” in a situation of “classic co-dependency”, Kibblesmith said.

A lot of what Kibblesmith was saying reminded me of very old story patterns in mythology and folklore where two very different characters find it necessary to learn to work together in order to accomplish a common goal. In a way, of course, we all have personality aspects that are more like Eric, or more like Woody, and we struggle with ourselves to be more moderate. “It’s very psychological!”, I laughed. “What? Comedy can be psychological? How surprising.”, I said facetiously.

“Oh yeah”, Kibblesmith said. “It turns out a lot of us are very sad, or unstable”, he laughed.

Switching gears, I asked Kibblesmith at what point, when trying to write funny dialogue, he allows himself to step back and say, “Ok, I got it. That’s it. I’m done.”

He said that the best case scenario is when you “surprise yourself” and “crack yourself up”, but there are other lines he’ll keep tweaking all the way through the “lettering process”. In that case, he keeps “tightening it and tightening it” in trying to create “that perfect bullet”. Clarity is a major factor, though. The best jokes “drive the story forward or pay off something later”. He loves it when something that feels like a joke “is actually information”.

The reader files it away as a joke, but “it ends up being a plot point”, he said. It’s when something is hidden in plain sight, for instance, or if it arrives as a joke, the reader will take it as such. It’s actually a clever way to be economical with the space and real estate possible in comics. It’s a “perfect architecture” to do so, I said. “It also gives you more bang for your buck” as a reader, he added.

I asked Kibblesmith about working with artist Kano on this new series of Quantum & Woody. He said they were just getting started on that process. Mainly he’s a big fan of Kano, who has worked on Quantum & Woody in the past, and when they were talking about artists for the book, Kibblesmith asked if anyone wanted to “come back”, since he was a fan of the previous work. Kano was “top of the list” for “compelling page structures”, as well as great “facial acting” for carrying emotion and jokes. “Sometimes it’ll feel like a really funny sit-com and sometimes it’ll feel like an Escher drawing”, Kibblesmith said of Kano’s artwork. He can’t wait to see the outcome.

I observed that the art style is probably the most important thing in trying to do the difficult task of conveying comedy in comics, to be able to reach readers on the superficial and the deep level at the same time. Kibblesmith said it’s also about timing and “manipulation of time” which comics are “really good at” and Kano is also good it. He observed that comics is a medium particularly suited to these demands, by using elements like silence and breaking with the format.

I couldn’t believe we’d gotten through so much of the interview without talking about the goat, so I brought the goat up. I asked Kibblesmith to be “tutor” about Vincent Van Goat, who I had previously learned has enhanced powers, but mainly that he exploded onto the scene and used its powers to protect Quantum & Woody and get them out of a bad situation. I stopped for a moment and asked about the goat’s gender, and Kibblesmith said the goat is “both” male and female, so I guess “they” is the appropriate pronoun.

I asked how it is that readers know that the goat has the mind imprint of Quantum & Woody’s father but the sons actually don’t know. He said it was gradually revealed to readers in the Goat’s one-shot origin story. I felt really ignorant not to have read that comic, but it was also great to be told about it, cold, in an interview, and contemplate the existence of such a comic.

Kibblesmith is a big fan of that comic. He said there’s stuff teased and added afterward, but the goat really embodies the “freewheeling spirit of ‘anything can happen’”. You know that in a comic with a goat, you’re not going to be able to predict every surprise that’s “around the corner”. The goat character is a “living symbol of the possibilities of comics and of Quantum & Woody in particular”, Kibblesmith said.

Because I have to ruin everything fun by becoming high-brow, I said that in this way, the goat was far more archetypal than even the dualism in the personality of these two brothers. I said that this was “some crazy Pan/Dionysan stuff, waving a big flag”. Kibblesmith agreed the goat represents “chaos”. He doesn’t know if that was always intentional to the comic, or if it was just something “subconscious”.

“It’s how people feel about goats”, I said. Many people I know have an obsession with goats, and family members want to own pygmy goats, I said. Kibblesmith said, “Who wouldn’t?” and was very enthusiastic about this. I pointed out there are even goat Twitter accounts. This amounts to a cultural obsession. People love goats. “They are so weird and ambiguous”, I said.

“It’s an animal that literally represents the Devil and is also totally hilarious”, Kibblesmith said. That’s a “weird mash-up”.

Getting back to my question, Kibblesmith said that Quantum & Woody do eventually learn that the goat contains the memories of their late father. A biologically female goat gets a back up copy of their father’s memories, time-stamped to around the time they were tweens. There are things that the goat doesn’t know about Quantum & Woody as adults, for instance. The goat with all kinds of superpowers is now a “weird cipher” who has started “communicating with them through a Speak & Spell”. They call it “Dad” sometimes.

My super-important question, then, was in the case of the new comic, where Quantum & Woody are estranged, who has custody of the goat? Kibblesmith said that, sadly, this was one question he couldn’t answer without spoiling the comic. I instead asked how the goat felt about the estrangement and how it was affecting them. He said you should think about it as “the kid in a divorce” or rather “the parent in the divorce” to understand how the goat feels. This is a “family unit with a goat caught in the middle” and we will definitely see how that plays out in the new series, and how that “affects the most beloved member of the Quantum & Woody family”, Kibblesmith said.

And that is Quantum & Woody in a nutshell.

I asked Kibblesmith for one, short, general statement about what Quantum & Woody will be “up against” in this new arc.

He said, “I think they’re up against an idea that family can survive anything. They are testing whether or not you actually have to put up with your family your entire life or if you actually have the freedom to just call it and walk away. These are two guys who, physically, can’t walk away, since they are bound together, but emotionally, could just write each other off. It’s about whether or not the two guys who are stuck together are actually stuck together. Whether it’s a choice or a hand you’re dealt”.

“And that trumps any other outside conflict they might face? That’s the big one?”, I asked.

“Family always does.”, Kibblesmith confirmed.

“Damnit”, I said.

“Sorry, but it’s true.”, he laughed.

[This goat toy was made in 1998 by Acclaim but should definitely have a comeback.]

Massive thanks to Daniel Kibblesmith for taking part in this interview with Hannah Means-Shannon and enduring her strange mythological comparisons, as well as for tutoring her on goat-ness.

Look out for future news from Valiant on  the arrival of Quantum & Woody #1 in December 2018 and on developments for the TV series.