These days, audiences like hefty helpings of humor in their superhero tales, and Quantum and Woody are there to deliver the goofy goods. They’re a pair of mismatched superhero siblings who have been kicking around for years in the comics of Valiant Entertainment, and it was just announced that they’re being developed for television at the producing hands of Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo. But that’s not the only way TV and the super-duo intersect: We can exclusively announce that they’re getting a relaunched comics series penned by Late Show With Stephen Colbert writer Daniel Kibblesmith, with art by the mononymous Kano. Quantum and Woody! — exclamation point very much intentional — will debut in December. We caught up with Kibblesmith to get his take on the characters and the proper approach to superheroic action-comedy.
So, Daniel! Who are Quantum and Woody and why should people care?
Quantum and Woody are the World’s Worst Superheroes® — or at least they were the last time we saw them. Eric “Quantum” Henderson is a straight-laced, black former military man and Woodrow “Woody” Henderson is his white, con-man foster brother, who joined the family when they were kids, and ran away again during his teens. They reunited to solve the murder of their atomic-scientist father and walked away with superpowers that also bonded them together so they can’t separate for more than 24 hours. So a superhero odd couple, who are also interracial brothers, who are also terrible at superhero-ing.
They can’t separate for more than 24 hours? Why not?
That’s where the “KLANG” comes in. The mysterious atomic explosion that gave Quantum the ability to project force fields and Woody the ability to shoot explosive blasts ALSO made their atomic structures unstable, so they slowly dissolve into glowy blobs of energy. However, it ALSO ALSO summoned mysterious gold bracelets that restabilize them for 24 hours if they’re touched together, emitting a KLANG! sound. It’s basically a magic fist bump that stops them from turning into loose molecules. But it also keeps them frustratedly joined at the hip.
Ohhh, got it. What makes them the “world’s worst superheroes”?
For one thing, they’re brothers, so professionalism goes out the window pretty fast. Eric always wanted to be a superhero, he’s the ambitious overachiever who does everything right and still manages to trip over his own shoelaces every time. And Woody is the opposite, a former child delinquent turned adult delinquent who’s only looking out for himself. If they can go a full conversation without getting into a fistfight, that’s a victory. They also blow a lot of stuff up.
Interesting. So what’s the balance of comedy and action here? Is it a farce? A satire? A relatively straightforward superhero story that just happens to have some quips?
Action-comedy starring superheroes. When you have two guys with opposite personalities, family baggage, racial tensions, and superpowers, and then send them on a mission, it’s a pretty natural genre fit. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing Quantum and Woody in a Jane Austen scenario.
How much will readers have to know about their previous adventures to get into your story? Is there required (or at least recommended) reading?
Ideally, they can hit the ground running and just pick up the first issue of the new Quantum and Woody. But one of the beautiful things about Valiant Comics is that the universe has only been building for a few years, so if you want more backstory (or you like the new stuff and want to see more), the 2013 run of Quantum and Woody is hilarious, exciting, and invaluable to me, obviously, in getting to know these characters.
But they’ve been around for longer than that, right? What’s their real-life backstory?
Okay, I lied a little bit. The Valiant Universe as it’s being published today is the 2012 reboot of a line of comics launched in the ’90s. The original Quantum and Woody were created by the legendary Christopher Priest and artist M.D. Bright, and if you get nostalgic for the ’90s comics boom, they’re definitely worth checking out. I don’t know if Wikipedia is telling the truth, but the mixed-race-buddy-comedy angle MAY even have been partially inspired by White Men Can’t Jump, which would make Woody’s namesake Woody Harrelson. I hope this is true. A lot.
And what’s the haps with the two of them in your run? What new stuff can longtime readers look forward to?
We haven’t seen Quantum and Woody in comics for a while, and in the meantime their powder keg of a relationship finally exploded. When we return to Q&W they’re estranged, living separately, meeting up once a day to KLANG! and keep from dying until the next day when they do it again. It’s like a bad divorce with joint custody over their atomic structures. It turns out Quantum kept something pretty important from Woody: The identity of his birth father.
So this story is all about the fight that ended Quantum and Woody, and the adventure that (maybe?) brings them back together again.
Let’s talk a little about you. How did you start writing comics?
I grew up with comics, but went to film school (Columbia College of Chicago). But during that time was when I also reconnected with comics, read all the big ’90s Vertigo titles and seminal superhero stories, and found myself thinking in the language of comics more than movies when I was coming up with ideas. I finished school in L.A., but moved back to Chicago to an internship with First Comics co-founder Ken F. Levin, who was entertainment lawyer to the stars (of comics). At the same time, I was starting to fall into the comedy scene there, so I had these kind of parallel tracks going. Via being “A Funny Person on the Internet,” I ended up befriending then-Valiant editor Alejandro Arbona, who started offering me gigs doing single-page humor stories (fake ads, etc.) in some of Valiant’s anthology issues. This kind of paved the way for the lighthearted Valiant High, where I also got to write about teenage “Muppet Baby” versions of Quantum and Woody.
How did this particular assignment come about? Did you go to them? Did they come to you?
I went to them … with my mind. Quantum and Woody was THE property I had always hoped to write at Valiant, being a huge fan of the reboot, and figuring that my comedy résumé might click (Klang?) with the characters. But after the editors seemed to dig Valiant High, and I pitched around on some other possibilities, Valiant were the ones who asked if I’d be interested.
Last question: I know you’re not involved in the Quantum and Woody TV show, but what do you think makes them a good fit for a small-screen series?
There’s a Quantum and Woody TV show? This interview is over until I’ve spoken with my big-shot Hollywood agent, who I don’t think lives in Hollywood? I actually have no idea. Actually, in the collections of the 2013 Q&W, there’s a lot of fourth-wall breaking stuff where they cop to the fact that this story is pure TV show bait: two brothers, one black, one white, who fight crime and each other. Honestly, given the amount of superhero TV now, I’m surprised it took this long. I’ll definitely watch it, especially if they add a sullen Jughead.
This interview has been edited and condensed.