Anthony and Joe Russo, the directors behind “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” have announced production of a “Quantum and Woody” TV series based on the popular buddy comedy superhero comic book originally created by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. The original run was one of Valiant’s most critically-acclaimed books ever.
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The series was recently revived in 2013 by writer James Asmus and artist Tom Fowler and focuses on two estranged brothers who come together again after their father’s death, and in the course of trying to find the real killer, become superheroes… terrible superheroes. With the Russo Bros TV show on the way, here’s a crash course on everything you need to know before the premiere!
The original run of “Quantum and Woody” by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Bright ran for 23 issues and was considered one of the most critically-acclaimed runs Acclaim Comics had ever had. Sixteen years later, the newly rebranded Valiant Entertainment decided to revive the series with the new creative team of writer James Asmus and illustrator Tom Fowler. It was considered a risky mov,e considering the cult following of the original series, but went on to be quite successful in its own right.
The new series didn’t continue on with the previous story, but instead rebooted things with a few noticeable changes. Eric and Woody were no longer just childhood best friends, but now adoptive brothers, Woody having been adopted by Eric’s father. Their powers also get tweaked slightly. In the original volume, both characters can produce energy blasts from their metal wristbands, but in the reboot, Woody gets the energy blasts and Quantum gets the ability to produce force shields.
14. INSPIRED BY…
“Quantum and Woody was originally conceived when Valiant/Acclaim editor Fabian Nicieza called Christopher Priest and said that he wanted a buddy superhero book similar to “Power Man and Iron Fist,” which led to Priest suggesting they hire the “Power Man and Iron Fist” artist Mark Bright. Bright was initially hesitant to work on the series, but eventually agreed with the addendum that they make the white character the point of comic relief for once.
Together, Priest and Bright drew inspiration from the dynamic of Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson from “White Men Can’t Jump,” with Woody being the goofy screw-up comic relief character and Quantum being the more serious, straight man of the group. The creative team would even go so far as to lift Woody Harrelson’s name for one of the main characters, and when Quantum and Woody are testing out costumes for the first time, the first one they try are the iconic suits of Power Man and Iron Fist.
13. BROTHERLY LOVE
In the rebooted series, Woody Henderson (or Woodrow Van Chelton) was adopted by Eric Henderson’s father as a young boy, making them brothers. They grew up together until they were 15 and Woody ran away again. Decades later, when their father is mysteriously killed, they meet again at the funeral and get into a fistfight, which results in their arrest. The brotherly relationship is really the heart of the comic. They annoy each other to pieces, their personalities are totally opposite, but they’re completely loyal to each other and stick together through thick and thin.
In the original volume by Priest and Bright, they were just estranged childhood best friends who came back together after both their fathers were killed in the same accident. The brotherly dynamic is still there in the original comic, but it arguably works better in the new volume because it gives the main characters a deeper connection than just two guys who used to be best friends who have to stick together because of their superpowers.
Quantum and Woody have an unusual and epic rogues’ gallery, being a predominantly comedic superhero series. One of their greatest enemies is “Edison’s Radical Acquisitions,” a terrorist organization started by Thomas Edison to steal scientific ideas and advance controversial scientific research with an aggressive “by any means necessary” approach. When Quantum and Woody first run into Edison’s Radical Acquisitions, or the ERA, they’re being run by an evil old woman called “The Crone,” who has used her perfected method of cloning technology to extend her life by replacing organs in herself as needed, and create an army for her to command.
One of the first enemies they encounter in the rebooted series, Johnny 1 and Johnny 2, work for ERA and attack Quantum and Woody with a bio-engineered monster called, “The Nightmare Brigade,” a hybrid of mankind’s greatest fears: needles, spiders and clowns. Woody, who has a paralyzing fear of clowns, was not a fan.
11. THEY’RE THE WORST
Since the original volume, Quantum and Woody have proudly labeled themselves “The World’s Worst Superhero Team.” A lot of the humor in the series comes from the fact that Quantum and Woody are really, really bad at their jobs. Woody, for the most part, basically doesn’t care about doing the right thing or being a hero, and is more interested in the glory, the brand recognition and charging in, guns blazing for the fun of it.
Quantum, on the other hand, takes his role as a superhero very seriously and even grows to have a slight obsession with his newfound responsibility, but this doesn’t make him a good investigator. Even with his military training, he once busted through the window of a hot new nightclub because he thought the glowing lights indicated that it was a supervillain hideout. Another time, they busted out of a skyscraper window, protecting themselves with Quantum’s energy shield, and nearly crushed a passerby to death on the bounce.
10. THEIR POWERS
In the reboot, Woody and Eric Henderson (Quantum) see each other again after years of estrangement when their father is mysteriously killed. They ultimately decide to go to their father’s laboratory to try to find some clues to their father’s death. They get into a scuffle and accidentally activate one of the machines, which blows up the lab with them inside, but they miraculously survive, and quickly find that they’ve been granted incredible new powers.
Eric finds that he has the ability to produce energy force shields when the police try to shoot him and he instinctively throws up a shield. Immediately after, Woody finds that he has the ability to produce destructive energy blasts when he accidentally blows up a police car. Both of them take quite a bit of time to gain any kind of proficiency with their new powers. Woody rarely hits his target, and Quantum takes eight issues before he realizes he can throw his energy shields. Even then, he’s pretty bad at it.
Much of the humor of the series comes out of the fact that they annoy the hell out of each other, and yet they stick together through all the ups and downs. However, brotherly love isn’t the only thing that keeps them at each others’ side. When they were investigating their father’s laboratory, they ended up with two metal wristbands that they are each stuck wearing because they never come off.
This is for the better anyway, because if they don’t “KLANG” their metal wristbands together once every 24 hours, they start to dissipate into the quantum energy that hit them in the explosion. For this reason, Woody moves in with Eric, who mandates that as a failsafe, they “KLANG” their wristbands together every 12 hours. Once in the morning and once at night. In the original run, they both end up as disembodied torsos by the time they realize this.
8. SENSITIVE SUBJECTS
One of the hallmarks of the series is its willingness to be direct about sensitive subjects like race, gender, religion, politics and sexuality. The original run was written by Christopher Priest and illustrated by M.D. Bright, who are both African-American creators, and the book tackled race issues proactively from the first page. With one of the main characters being white and the other black, it gave Priest, and later Asmus, an interesting dynamic to work with that they never shy away from.
When the creative team switched over to James Asmus and Tom Fowler, two straight white males, there was some worry that the series would either shy away from sensitive topics, or worse, that they would handle them in less than graceful ways. However, Asmus has been praised for his ability to avoid cliches while writing jokes about race, gender and sexuality. Neither of the main characters are stereotypes, but they’re also far from icons of political correctness.
7. NO LAUGHING MATTER
While “Quantum and Woody” is recognized for its comedy — and rightly so — it’s more than just an irreverent funny book. There’s a laugh to be had on nearly every page of the series, but it can still be a strikingly poignant book. The heart of the series is the relationship between the two main characters and the loyalty of family that keeps them protecting each other, even when it puts themselves in harm’s way.
Their shared connection is through a deceased father who took Woody in after he had been bounced around from different, sometimes abusive foster homes. Woody always felt that he was a disappointment, living in the shadow of Eric, the perfect son, while Eric always resented Woody because their dad seemed to spend a lot more time doting on the “troubled child,” which ultimately they realize was because their father wanted to raise him to be something better.
6. THE GOAT
The other main character of the series, in both the original and the reboot, is Vincent Van Goat. In the rebooted series, they rescue the goat from Edison’s Radical Acquisitions before it explodes, but not before the goat uses its laser eyes to brutally murder some of the Crone’s evil clones. The goat was originally intended as a one-issue joke in the original run, but fans liked it so much that they demanded he be used as a regular character.
When the series came back, one of the most common letters they received was asking when the goat would be introduced, and when he was in issue #4, they wrote in to demand the goat receive a one-shot special. In that special, we learn that the goat once ran into Eric and Woody when they were kids at a science expo with their father. When one of the machines malfunctions, it transfers a copy of their father’s consciousness into the goat’s mind. Vincent Van Goat has tried in several not-so-subtle ways to tell the boys he’s their father, but to no avail.
5. I UNDERSTOOD THAT REFERENCE
Another hallmark of the series is their love for pop culture references and cameos. Whether those references are to other superheroes or pop culture figures, the creators have been including subtle references since the original run in the ’90s. The first time Quantum and Woody are trying out different superhero outfits, their first attempt is the iconic costumes of Power Man and Iron Fist. As we mentioned, this was a nod to artist M.D. Bright who drew “Power Man and Iron Fist,” and of course, were the inspiration for Quantum and Woody in the first place.
In the original run, Woody has a buddy who helps them out on occasion called, “Bat-Man,” because he carries around a baseball bat, which he uses to attack his enemies. At least, he’s called “Bat-Man” in his first appearance, but in the next issue, Quantum greets him with, “Hey Bat-” before he gets cut off due to “too many legal copyright issues,” and in another issue, a bartender is drawn to look exactly like Maurice Moss from “The IT Crowd,” from an episode where he finds himself behind a bar.
4. THE FOURTH WALL
Like many comedy comic book series, “Quantum and Woody” likes to use breaking the fourth wall to its advantage. In case you’re not familiar with the phrase, “breaking the fourth wall” refers to instances where a fictional character speaks directly to the audience or otherwise acknowledges that he or she is a fictional character. The first instance of this is in issue #4, preceding a story titled “Noogie.”
Quantum and Woody speak directly to the reader, referencing that their editor, Fabian, considers some swear words acceptable in comic books, but certain other words aren’t allowed, so they have to be replaced by “S-Word,” “F-Word,” “B-Word” and “Noogie.” Every time a character goes to say one of these swear words, it comes out as “What the F-word?” There are also subtle nods to the fact that they exist in a comic book, calling out common comic book cliches and insulting comics in a “tongue-in-cheek” way.
3. WRITING LINEAGE
The main reasons “Quantum and Woody” resonates with so many of its readers is its superb quality of writing. The original writer and creator, Christopher Priest, has written for such titles as “Power Man and Iron Fist,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Black Panther” and “Deadpool.” His successor, James Asmus, is most well known for his writing on multiple X-Men comics, but his real background is in stand-up comedy and comedy theater writing, which explains why his work on “Quantum and Woody” always hits its beats.
The real reason audiences should be excited for the upcoming “Quantum and Woody” tv series, though, is the fact that Joe and Anthony Russo are producing and developing the show. The Russo brothers are well known to superhero fans as the directors of the two most recent “Captain America” films and the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War,” but they proved their comedy chops before that when they were directors for the cult favorite comedy show, “Community,” and another show you might have heard of called, “Arrested Development.”
2. QUANTUM WEARS THE CAPE
One of the best running jokes of the series is Woody’s utter lack of conviction in protecting the innocent, saving those in need or generally being a superhero at all. Quantum, on the other hand, takes his role very seriously, even a little obsessively. When they first got their powers, Woody was not only the person who said they now had a responsibility to become superheroes, but also the one who suggested they wear masks and capes so people could recognize the city’s newest heroes.
Quantum was initially against all of Woody’s ideas, but when they embark on their first superhero mission, Quantum shows up in full gear with the superhero code name and all, and Woody busts through the window in a suit and sneakers. Other characters are constantly reminding Woody that all this was his idea, usually just after he tries to brush off some major disaster going down nearby. Everyone knows Quantum is the real hero.
1. THEIR PASTS
Quantum has a tactical advantage over most of his enemies because he spent a few years in the army before entering a career as a security specialist at Magnum Security Solutions. He’s a straight-laced, by the rule book Republican who grew up as an academic overachiever always trying to live up to his father’s lofty expectations.
Woody spent most of his childhood being moved from foster home to foster home, being abused and treated like he was disposable. This caused him to act out and get into trouble, even when he finally landed in a good home with Eric Henderson (Quantum) and his father. He ended up leaving because he thought he could never live up to Eric’s example, and until he met up with Eric again, spent most of his adult life committing petty crimes, doing drugs and just generally getting into trouble. They’re a superhero odd couple, and it’s exactly why they work so well together.
Are you excited for the Russo Brothers’ Quantum and Woody TV show? Let us know in the comments!