NYCC 2013: QUANTUM & WOODY & PRIEST & BRIGHT: Together Again

Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody
Credit: Valiant Comics
Credit: Valiant Comics

Legends never die. They linger in memories – a pair of quantum bands, a mismatched duo of former friends, a goat with a mask and cape.

And some legends…get to return.

As announced Saturday afternoon at New York Comic Con, in 2014, Valiant Comics will host the return of not only the original Quantum and Woody in Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody, but their creators, Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright as well. Yes, while the duo have enjoyed a successful and acclaimed reboot this year, these are the originals – in their original continuity, 20 years later.

The World’s Worst Superhero Team is together again…and things are going to get messy.

We got to speak with Priest and Bright about their return to their fan-favorite characters, and to comics. And yes, we asked about The Goat.

Newsarama: Priest, Mark – it’s great to not only have you guys back on Quantum and Woody, but back in the comics game. How’d all this come about?

Christopher Priest: Well, I’d been in the Witness Protection Program for the last few years (laughs), and somehow (Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer) Dinesh Shamdasani tracked me down and talked to us about what was going on.

Credit: Valiant Comics

I was aware that they were doing a new monthly with new guys, and I was excited about what they were coming up with at the company, but I was really interested in what he wanted to do, which was bring back the original creators for the Acclaim days to do something in that universe.

If we were going to do something like this, I wanted to do something that was not competitive with the monthly, and yet added something to what Valiant was doing, rather than just repeat ourselves.

So when we got the idea to set this 20 years in the future, 20 years from “now,” whenever “now” happens to be, everything sort of clicked into place.

Nrama: What was it like getting to work on these characters again, and more importantly, falling back into that collaboration that was such a big part of the original series?

M.D. Bright: My thought was, “Why oh why couldn’t we have thought of Stick Man before anyone else thought of Stick Man? He would have been so much easier to draw.” I’m looking at that older stuff and…it’s not George Perez level of detail, but just putting in all the pouches on Quantum’s outfit is a lot more work than I remember it being.

By the same token, it’s like I never stopped drawing the book. I can still make the characters look like the characters, and thank goodness my years and years of doing chemical experimentation haven’t made my hand shake so much that I can’t hold the pencil steady. (laughs)

Priest: From my perspective, just like Mark said, it’s a lot like muscle memory. And someone was saying, “What’s it like to return to the characters after 20 years?” I was like, “20 years? Has it been that long?” It doesn’t feel like 20 years…

Bright: It was 1996.

Nrama: So it’s not that long. The book can’t even vote yet.

Priest: So it’s been a while. And returning to the characters, who they are and what their voices are, that’s easy. Picking up with Doc again, with Mark again, that dynamic is still precisely what it was all those years ago.

Credit: Valiant Comics

For my part, the hardest part was figuring out all my macros in Microsoft Word – spending like a day figuring out what this does, and what that does. That was the hardest part for me. Other than that, finding a rationale for this project, so we’re not just doing another Quantum and Woody story, not just another Quantum and Woody book.

Bright: Yeah, and I’m not sure saying the book is set 20 years in the future is fair. It’s set 20 years from “now.” We don’t pretend the guys are the same age they were 15 years ago. They’ve aged. We’re not setting it in 2033. It’s still 2013, we’ve just continued time since the last time the guys were there.

Priest: That’s what I meant to say, absolutely.

Bright: They’re not flying around on jetpacks, and don’t have holographic TVs in their apartment.

Nrama: Well, John Byrne had that bit with the Blonde Phantom in Sensational She-Hulk where he explained that while you’re in a comic, you don’t age, but the minute your book gets canceled, you start to age like everyone else.

Priest: (laughs) Yeah! I like that.

Bright: Yeah, I keep remembering getting an invitation to the funeral of Eric (Quantum)…though obviously that was wrong.

Nrama: Getting into the new book, I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but it gets into some issues like the characters aging and genetic experimentation and spying and so forth. What can you possibly tell us about that?

Priest: It’s natural, I think, for issues of the characters aging to come into the mix here. We might have gotten around to that eventually – we did those body-switching issues – so having the characters be old and fat might have been something we’d have gotten around to eventually.

But I mean, I’m 52 years old, and in the book, the guys are roughly our ages or a little older. These are realities. Mark and I going back to work in comics, teaming up again – that’s exactly what the characters are doing. So I said, “Why not have those resonances there, and work with those, instead of working around them?”

A lot of things we are dealing with as people, as human beings – a sense of being, purpose, “can we still do this?” – those are all in the mix. And I think it makes for an interesting, funny and poignant story.

Nrama: Obviously, you had a number of plot lines that were left in the wind with the abruptness of the cancelation/un-cancelation/re-cancelation…it was a time. How will this pick up from that, while also hopefully being accessible to new readers?

Priest: It does not pick up from any of that. I actually wrote an article on my website, “What would have happened with Quantum and Woody?” This project has virtually no connections/continuity with the Acclaim series other than a few recurring characters from that era, and that it picks up 20 years or so after that series. So it’s completely accessible to new people who haven’t read the book and know nothing about it. There’s an origin recap for characters who haven’t read the original series and are picking the new one up.

Nrama: Have you read the new series yet?

Priest: I actually haven’t! I haven’t had time. It looks great, though. I also wanted to make sure that we were well along with our story before I read it, and weren’t consciously or unconsciously influenced by them.

Credit: Valiant Comics

Bright: I still haven’t read any of the Quantum and Woody books I did with Priest 16 years ago.

Nrama: Well, you know, so many superhero screenplays are on the down-low these days I’m not sure even Joss Whedon gets to read his own scripts…

Priest: (big laugh) Speaking of screenplays, I remain convinced until someone tells me otherwise that Batman Begins ripped off a whole scene from Quantum and Woody, where the characters are escaping down this mountain in Tibet – Bruce Wayne is going down the mountain with Ra’s al Ghul and they’re about to go off and get saved at the last minute – that is ripped frame-for-frame from Mark Bright’s Quantum and Woody pages. Read the back issues and then check out that sequence in the movie.

Nrama: We’ll have to do some forensic investigation.

Priest: Please do! (laughs)

Nrama: So, any plans for you guys to work on some more comics after this miniseries?

Priest: You know, I’m in car-service hell, getting my car worked on, so yesterday I would have said no, and today I need the bread, so anything is possible.

Nrama: Mark, what about you?

Bright: Hey, doing those guys in green windbreakers with letters on their backs – that has defined me. If they can find me an editor who’ll go, “This dog can still hunt a little bit...” Whatever happens, happens. It’s nice to be here at the moment. I’ve got enough work to do that I don’t need to worry about it for a while.

Nrama: That brings me to something I’ve been wanting to ask – you’ve had some information on your websites about what you’ve been up to outside of comics, but would you like to share with our readers what you’ve been doing recently outside the field?

Priest: I’ve been doing completely different career things outside of comics – a lot of branding and ad work, and designing websites. I’m actually a designer these days, which is very surprising. It’s like I woke up one day and went, “I’m a designer!” which is pretty bizarre. I was trained as a writer, and did writing and editing, and I actually developed design skills while I was up nights at DC and we were developing Milestone Media. We couldn’t hire a lot of people to do stuff for us, so I had to learn how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and all that stuff, and do it myself.

So I am now more or less a one-man ad company that does branding for small businesses and churches. I’m an ordained pastor, I do a lot of ministry work. So it’s a very different side of the brain that I’m involved with these days.

Bright: And I’m doing storyboards since I got out of comics. It’s the same thing, except no one sees your work but the director. Once in a while, someone says “you’re thinking like a comic book person, think like a TV and movie person.” It’s the same thing! You just have to use different techniques.

Nrama: We’re about out of time, so I have to ask the most ridiculous fanboy question possible: We will see The Goat, right?

Priest: Uhhhhh…I’m sorry. It wasn’t a conscious decision to omit The Goat, it was just the logistics of the story itself, where Woody is living in California, and Quantum is living in New York, and presumably Woody took The Goat with him when they split, and you know how long goats live. Given the circumstances of the plot, where Woody rushes back to New York to deal with Quantum, he probably didn’t have time to take The Goat with him.

The Goat does appear in a flashback, but that’s it. I know it’s going to cost us sales, but sorry – there is no Goat.

Nrama: (pained) Vincent – ! Well, sometimes, when you get older, you just have to leave your Goat behind.

Priest: Exactly.

Look for Q2 in 2014.

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