Back in 1995, writer Jason Kruse began publishing his webcomic “World of Quest,” chronicling the story of a one-time hero named Quest’s forced march to aid a spoiled young prince named Nestor. Now, 13 years later, this web strip of humble origins has become a highly rated animated series on the late Kids’ WB!. CBR News caught up with Kruse to take a look back at the “World of Quest.”
“World of Quest” is about Prince Nestor’s journey to save the world from Lord Spite, who has kidnapped Nestor’s parents because they factor into his plans for world domination. To that end, Nestor recruits the aid of banished former hero Quest. Since Kruse didn’t just want to rehash the standard “retired former hero willingly, though begrudgingly, comes out of retirement” story, the writer added a twist: Nestor subjects Quest to a magical allegiance spell which compels the former hero to obey the young prince.
“Quest isn't just bad-tempered, he's Batman without the whimsy,” Kruse told CBR News. “He really has no sense of humor.”
Prince Nestor, meanwhile, is “a wannabe hero born into a life of privilege and he believes everyone should follow his word because of his station in life,” Kruse continued. “Ultimately, he means well and learns a lot of life-lessons from Quest, even though Quest doesn't really care whether he learns them or not.”
Another member of “World of Quest’s” supporting cast is Gattling, former Captain-of-the-Guard for Nestor’s now-kidnapped parents during the war that made and broke Quest’s reputation. “Gatling is 90% machine and has a bunch of cool gadgets on the show,” Kruse said. “His most effective weapon is his metal jaw which allows him to bite through just about anything and fire it out like a gun.”
If Nestor hopes to rescue his parents, he must first locate the five elemental swords that comprise the most powerful weapon in the land, the legendary Shattersoul Sword, and Nestor would be lost in his efforts if not for the aid of Way, the living map. “And then there's Anna Maht (which is supposed to sound like "animate if you say it fast),” Kruse said. “She's an amateur sorceress who specializes in bringing inanimate objects to life for a short time.”
“World of Quest” began as a thrice-weekly web-based comic strip, but Kruse quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to achieve the epic scope he envisioned for the story in three-to-four panel strips. Kruse then turned “World of Quest” into an animation script for one of his screenwriting classes at California Institute of the Arts. “After that, it became my second-year student film at CalArts,” Kruse said. He continued to develop the story until he found himself at the short-lived Pasadena Con in 2003, where then “Detective Comics” artist and Kruse’s good friend Tommy Castillo introduced the “World of Quest” creator to comics legend Bernie Wrightson, who in turn introduced Kruse to Komikwerks co-founder Shannon Eric Denton.
Denton gave Kruse some notes on how to improve his story, and when Kuse showed a new draft to Denton and his Komikwerks partner Patrick Coyle at the 2003 Comic-Con International in San Diego, Kruse got “World of Quest” greenlit. “They immediately asked me to do a stand-alone issue for the site,” Kruse said. “I went home and I believe within a month or so I had the story ‘Prison Break’ ready for them.”
At the time, Denton’s day job was working as a story artist at Warner Bros. Animation, and Denton got Kruse’s permission to pitch the project as an animated series. The pitch went so well that within a week, Kruse was brought in to pitch the project himself. “It went immediately into development and by June we pitched it to Kids’ WB, who optioned it.”
The “World of Quest” animated series, produced by Cookie Jar Entertainment and animated by Mercury Filmworks East, made its U.S. debut on Kids’ WB on Saturday, March 15, 2008, claiming the top ratings spot for its timeslot, and retaining it all season long. But despite the show’s success, when the Kids’ WB Saturday morning TV block was replaced earlier this year by 4Kids Entertainment’s CW4Kids, the “World of Quest” animated series lost its U.S. distributor.
That said, it’s certainly too early to count the animated “World of Quest” out: Just this month, the series premiered on the Teletoon network in Canada, and it is also set to air on Cartoon Network UK. Kruse and Cookie Jar Entertainment are continuing to produce the series’ second season for these foreign markets.
Kruse said the animated series has given him the freedom to introduce more characters than he’s been able to do within the “World of Quest” graphic novel. “With the book, it's more intimate and I can feel like I can develop the characters much further than the show,” Kruse said. “There are a ton of characters I'd like to introduce in the book but they'll be rolled out much more slowly.
“Obviously, with the show there are a lot more cooks in the kitchen, too, whereas the book, it's really just me, the colorist and my publishers, so I have a lot more input on the latter,” Kruse continued. “With the animation though, you get to really and literally see your characters in motion (despite character design changes) which is a huge thrill.”
After the “World of Quest” animated series was greenlit, Denton turned Kruse on to Yen Press, the graphic novel imprint of the Hachette Book Group. “Within a few days I had a book deal with Yen, and now, this December, Book 2 will be coming out through them (in Previews now),” Kruse said. “It was very cool and, again, I owe a lot of it to Shannon.”