Of all the Valiant Comics titles published after video game developer Acclaim Entertainment acquired the line in 1996, “Quantum and Woody” was perhaps the most beloved. Created by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright, the comic was known both for its excellent writing and its standout comedy, though it wasn’t billed as a humor book. Its unique structure, pacing and character work left an impression on readers, ensuring that the series remained in the mind and hearts of fans well beyond its cancellation. The continuing hope that there would be more from Priest and Bright was evident when the relaunched Valiant Entertainment announced a new “Quantum and Woody” series — written by James Asmus. Amidst immediate outrage, publisher CEO Dinesh Shamdasani attempted to quell the fires by stating there was a project in the works with Priest and Bright, appeasing some fans, though others remained steadfastly unconvinced.
Today, at New York Comic Con 2013, Valiant announced a new series set in the world of the original “Quantum and Woody” and written by the pair’s creators. Launching in 2014, “Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody” is a five-issue miniseries that takes place in real time, nearly twenty years after the ending of the original Acclaim series. The story picks up well after Quantum and Woody have managed to separate themselves rom their wristbands and each other, but a significant event brings them back together. The title shares no ties to the current Valiant ongoing by Asmus and Ming Doyle.
CBR News spoke with Priest, Bright, Shamdasani and executive editor Warren Simons about the return of the original Quantum and Woody to Valiant Entertainment, getting back into the swing of writing comics, reuniting for one more story and more.
Guys, before we get into the details of the actual project, what does it feel like to come back to Quantum and Woody after twenty years?
Mark Bright: Feels like working for a paycheck again. [Laughs]
Christopher Priest: For me, it felt like — has it really been that long? Has it really been twenty years? It felt like it was last week we were doing this with Fabian [Nicieza]. It really just felt like we picked up where we left off. I wish I had something more fantastic to attribute to that, but it just — wow, I didn’t realize it had been that long. It’s like riding a bike — you just get back on. The only difference is that you’re older, fatter and it’s slower going uphill.
Warren Simons: [Laughs]
Even though the story starts two decades after the final issue of the last run, you guys are, in a lot of ways, picking up where you left off. Tell us a little more about where your story picks up from the original run and what the status of Quantum and Woody’s relationship is twenty years later.
Priest: Well, it doesn’t connect directly to any ongoing plot thread, mainly because I barely remember what those plot threads were and I doubt that a lot of people would want to have to go digging back through old volumes to figure out who those characters or what those particular situations were. Mark and I kicked it around, and I said, “Why don’t we boot this some years down the line?” The guys have found some way to separate themselves, so they literally have not seen each other in at least a decade or more. Woody has gone on to other things. He’s not doing the hero bit anymore. Eric continued being Quantum for quite a while, but he actually stopped being Quantum for a number of years and no one has seen the masked vigilante Quantum in quite a while. It’s just like old friends rediscovering themselves.
Basically, Woody is off living his life, the Quantum character reappears on the news and some news chopper gets a shot of Quantum in action. At first, Woody is kind of scoffing at him, because he knows Eric’s way too old to be running around like this now. But then he sees on the news that Quantum has a new partner — and the partner’s like a teenage sidekick. Woody thinks Eric’s lost his mind, that he’s being really reckless and irresponsible, endangering some kid. In theory, Woody thinks he has to seek Quantum out and confront him about this new behavior and talk some sense into him. That’s the inciting incident for the story that brings them back into each others’ lives.
Mark, what was the process in updating and revisiting your original designs and giving them a more modern twist?
Bright: Well, we’re not really changing much on them other than we’re taking a bunch of pouches off of Quantum’s costume at some point. Quantum’s costume has been destroyed a bunch of times, and he decides, “Well, I don’t actually need this or that any more.” It’s a little bit of less-is-more. I really just got to the point where I’m drawing the guys in costume right now, so I’m still seeing how it’s going to go as the series develops.
How did this project come to be? What was the development process like?
Priest: The story actually kind of mirrors the development process of the actual project in that Mark is doing other things in his career and his life, and I’ve been doing mostly Christian ministry-based things. I’m doing some branding and design work for churches and businesses here in Colorado. We’re doing other things and living on opposite sides of the continent now. For reasons that only Dinesh could possibly know, Valiant went out of their way — and I mean really out of their way — to approach us. They kind of went down to the old comic book creators’ home and dragged us out in our wheelchairs and said, “Hey, we want you guys to do this.”
I have no idea why — that’s a question for them. But it was very nice, very kind of them to work out an arrangement for us to do the project. It’s like one of those movies that you see over and over again, where these two guys have gone on in their lives, and some emergency happens, some planet explodes and a messenger comes and says, “You’ve got to suit up again.” For me, this is the first time I’ve written a comic book in about eight years. It’s a little weird to be doing this again, let’s put it that way.
Dinesh Shamdasani: Everyone at Valiant’s a huge fan. Christopher Priest has been very, very kind. Warren and I — everybody — would talk about “Quantum and Woody” right from the get-go of the launch. We’re just excited and honored to have Priest and Mark jump back on the horse and get back with these characters. It’s a big first for us; it’s unlike anything we’ve done — bringing the original creators back. We’re just happy they were able to do it.
Simons: Yeah, this is one of the books that fans just absolutely love, that the guys upstairs just love, and it’s something we talked about from the start. We really felt like we wanted to take a look at a new series with the guys and what they’ve come up with is — well, I hate to bring bad news, but there’s a comet headed toward Earth and there are only two guys that can save us, and they’re on the phone with us right now. You know what I’m saying? We wanted to get the team together and we’re super excited.
What was it like getting back into that mindset and writing those scripts?
Priest: It took me quite a while to remember where all the macros were in Microsoft Word, because I spend most of my time in Photoshop these days. Just from a technical standpoint, there were several days of me trying to figure out what the buttons do. Past that, I had actually forgotten how much agony plotting is, mainly because I think every story that’s ever been interesting has already been done many, many times. My hat is off to people who do this for a living or do this on an ongoing basis that, every month, they come up with an original Batman story that we’ve never seen before, with a gun to their head because they have a deadline. I had actually forgotten that discipline to the effect that, probably from the moment that the plot overview was approved right up until last night — literally, 3:00 this morning when I finally figured out, “Oh, here’s the surprise ending!” Probably from the very beginning up until last night, I’ve done nothing all day every day but think about this thing. Even if I’m at Wal-Mart, even if I’m at church, even if I’m walking down the street or riding my bike — if I’m not doing anything work-related at all, as a writer, you’re always working on the plot. You’re always wondering how we solve a problem. It’s really, really difficult to do.
The other thing is, I’m just tired of reading the same story or seeing the same story at the movies. You go to see these films — particularly the superhero films — and you get into the third act of the screenplay and you know for a fact how it’s going to go. You get to the third act, there’s going to be some crisis that comes to a head and they’ll resolve whatever the conflict is by violence. In other words, there’s going to be some fights, some big car chase, some big gun battle or whatever. The good guy or the right guy — the person in the right — will miraculously win the gun fight, which is unrealistic. Lots of times in real life, the bad guy guns down the guy with alarming regularity. I’m sitting here going, “I don’t want to write that story, I don’t want to write that ending.” Yet, isn’t that what the audience expects? Yeah, I’ve got my head back in this vice: trying to write something original, but make it familiar enough to the audience that it meets their expectations and not bore myself or them at the same time. Sometimes along the way, I go, “Why did I sign up for this?” [Laughs]
But I’m having a good time and we’re getting to the end of the story here, which will alleviate some of that anxiety.
Simons: I think it’s interesting that there are no new stories, but there are new executions of the stories. One of the coolest moments I’ve had since I’ve been at Valiant — Priest, I don’t know if I told you this, but when you were first walking through what the story would be during a conference call, I think I was in a room with Dinesh and Jody LeHeup, and we were loving every second of it. Where the story goes is super exciting. You’re opening up new dimensions of the universe that we haven’t seen before, and I’m excited for fans to check this out because the ride is going to be tons of fun. Where we’re headed with the book ramps up the whole mythology of Quantum and Woody, and what they’re doing with the characters is pretty exciting. That was definitely one of the most enjoyable moments I’ve had since I’ve been at Valiant.
Priest: Thank you for that! From my side of the desk, I’m just hoping that the fans don’t track me down with torches in the middle of the night. The worst part of returning to something you did 20 years ago is — how many times has Sly Stallone embarrassed himself, or Bruce Willis embarrassed himself? If Mark and I can get in, entertain some people and get out without really hurting ourselves or anybody else in the process, then that’s a win for us. I think we’d be very satisfied with that.
Shamdasani: You’ve got nothing to worry about. To be honest, I was a little worried about the exact same thing, and then Mark sent in his pages and they’re beautiful. They fit the story perfectly and they somehow manage to look like Mark never stopped, ever, but he’s also evolved. It’s going to be a great story.
Priest: It’s funny that you say that, because I thought the same thing! “This looks just like Mark Bright!” [Laughs] Which is really impressive, because I didn’t expect him to look like Mark Bright anymore.
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