In the past year, Valiant Comics have made a comeback with an array of critically acclaimed, high-quality bestselling titles. But now, perhaps the greatest and best of all the titles from the company’s 1990s heyday has become available again.
That’s right: Quantum and Woody are back on comiXology.
Though the title wasn’t part of the initial run of Valiant books (which also included reboots of such Gold Key 1960s characters as Doctor Solar, Turok and Magnus, Robot Fighter), Quantum and Woody remains a cult favorite among Valiant fans – and with good reason.
Told in a series of title-card-introduced out-of-order scenes (think Pulp Fiction by way of Frasier), the characters’ adventures featured heart-pounding action, complex characterization, and a goat. Occasionally, there was also a woodchuck outfit.
Now at comiXology, old fans and new readers can experience the complete run of the original series – with the first issue available for free.
But who are Quantum and Woody? Well, here are 10 things you need to know about the book…and why it was so damn awesome.
1) The Set-Up: Quantum and Woody was the brainchild of Christopher Priest (not the same guy who wrote the book The Prestige that the movie was based on) and M.D. Bright, who had previously collaborated on such books as Power Man and Iron Fist at Marvel. This was…a bit different from that book.
The series premiered when the video game company Acclaim bought out the Valiant Comics characters, which then got rebooted with some new titles with the explanation that it was a different timeline because of some time-travel hoodleehoo, and this was unofficially known as “VH2,” which sounds like a music channel.
Then everything got canceled again a couple years later and it all got rebooted again in the current Valiant Universe.
That’s the short version.
And now Quantum and Woody, the most acclaimed (pardon the pun) of the so-called “VH2” books, is being reprinted, and life is good.
But who are these guys?
2)“The World’s Worst Superhero Team: ” Priest and Bright were never happy with that title – and in fairness, Quantum and Woody were pretty successful at getting the bad guys. But as a team…yeah.
Eric Henderson and Woody Van Chelton were best friends growing up in Connecticut. But, they were not a couple. The two drifted apart after Woody’s parents divorced and he abruptly left school, something Eric resented a great deal. Eric became an Army Tactical Officer; Woody became a not-very-successful musician.
Years later, they were reunited when their scientist fathers died in a mysterious accident. While investigating, they tried on a pair of “quantum bands” their fathers were working on, and got caught in an explosion.
Things quickly got weirder.
With Eric and Woody each wearing one quantum band, they found themselves starting to dissipate into energy about every 24 hours…unless they clanged the bands together. Which was annoying enough, but Eric still resented the irresponsible Woody for “abandoning” him when they were kids, and Woody couldn’t stand the uptight Eric for being…well, Eric.
But, having been granted kinda-sorta incredible powers from the bands, they decided to use their situation to use some good. Eric, with his military training and millions of dollars, set up a state-of-the-art crimefighting system to become…Quantum. Woody, with his street smarts and utter hatred of code names, grabbed a Beretta 9-mm and a Zippo and became…Woody.
Still, they were not a couple.
There were some rough patches at first, such as Quantum’s insisting on their investigating an open-and-shut murder resulted in their getting stuck scaling a building (after some kids on the roof assaulted them with Super Soakers and Woody threw up in some poor tenant’s air conditioner), then attracting a large crowed and police who assumed they were a suicidal couple (which, as Woody continued to insist, they were not).
This all ended with their going halfway around the world to track down the source of a chemical that, as Woody correctly guessed from the start, was Kool-Aid. On the bright side, they did inadvertently thwart a plot by a major arms dealer and acquire the most important part of their team…
3) The Goat: Also known as Vincent van Goat and H.A.E.D.U.S. (Heavily-Armored Espionage Deadly Uber-Sheep), this four-legged friend Woody impulse-bought from a monk quickly became the most iconic part of the series.
Later, it got some teleporting powers by eating a magic map, and starred in a surprisingly dramatic one-shot story that’s also available on comiXology. The character proved so popular that it even spawned “Goat Month” at Valiant/Acclaim, with the character wandering through titles and eating the logos. It even inspired the only known Valiant character action figure outside of Turok, the Goat “Inaction Figure.” Yes, I still have one.
If nothing else comes back from Quantum and Woody, THE GOAT MUST RETURN TO A WORLD THAT NEEDS IT.
4) “S-WORD!”: In a hilarious fourth-wall-breaking scene in issue #4, Quantum and Woody explain to the reader what words they can and can’t use in their book, resulting in multiple scenes where characters make such declarations as “A-Word-Hole.” For a particularly controversial world, one that has often been replaced by “ninja” in years since, they find a reasonable substitute…
5) “Woody My Noogie!: ” …”noogie.”
This results in the funniest scene of the series, as Quantum attempts to stop a black guy with a TV in a shopping cart, only to wind up flustered by the guy’s constant use of the word “Noogie.” This gets more awkward when Woody shows up, turns out to be a friend of the guy, and solves the entire situation in an elaborate, street-slang-filled dialogue.
Though this sequence is played for laughs, the series actually did feature some serious examinations of racial and social politics. Eric’s resentments at how he’s been discriminated against (in both real and imagined incidents) are contrasted with the fact that he’s still a rich guy from Connecticut who doesn’t understand many people who’ve grown up under more impoverished circumstances.In one hilarious flashback, Eric fends off some street toughs, only to be horrified when he rips his school blazer and alienates a cab driver when he desperately requests to get to his tailor to repair the damage done by “those black guys.” Woody, meanwhile, has plenty of friends on the street from his time growing up in a more urban environment, which only rankles Eric all the more.
Neither character’s defined by their race, but it still informs who they are and how they interact with others – but in ways the reader often doesn’t expect.
I will admit I still call a number of my (white) fanboy friends “my noogie.” I’m sad that way.
6) Comedy and Tragedy: Quantum and Woody featured some of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in comics, such as this hilarious two-page sequence showing their contrasting methods of heading to their car from a high-rise building (Quantum does it Batman style, Woody…doesn’t).
But the series wasn’t all fun and games – one stunningly dark issue flashed back to Eric and Woody’s respective pasts, showing Woody’s impoverished life on the streets after his parents’ divorce, and the very real racism Eric faced as a perceived “quota hire” in the military. Later, a major supporting character meets a shocking, violent fate, setting into motion a storyline that pushes Quantum and Woody’s partnership to the limit...and beyond.
7) The Villain Who Isn’t: In the first issue, Eric and Woody investigate their lead suspect in the death of their fathers, Dr. David Warrant, who is caught in the explosion that gives them their powers. Actually, he was attempting to shut down the reaction the two had set off, which meant that they pretty much blew up an innocent man. Smooth.
Later, Warrant reconstitutes as an energy being with flaming hair, who uses his powers to…watch Wheel of Fortune and Flashdance on the moon. We can’t argue with those choices. Ironically, by the end of the series, there are hints that both Quantum and Woody might become bigger threats than their all-powerful “arch-enemy.”
8) For the Last Time: They Were Not a Couple: In a multiple-issue storyline explained by “pseudoscience” gleaned from Internet fandom, Eric and Woody wake up to discover they’ve switched bodies. To Woody/Eric’s horror, this means he now automatically wakes up at 5 a.m.
Aside from the usual physical adjustments (Eric chops off Woody’s shoulder-length hair; Woody responds by getting a dreadlock weave), several pages are devoted to the extreme awkwardness of going to the bathroom.
We’ll spare you the details but show you the payoff.
9)“Medi-Sin WOMAANNNNN!”: For a song that doesn’t exist in the real world, Woody’s glass-shattering rendition of this number is surprisingly hard to get out of your head. Later issues, though, reveal the origin of when Woody started singing this song, and why his guitar means so much to him – and the answers put the previous scenes in a startling new context.
If my memory serves, the chords for this were available in one of the trade paperback collections (possibly “S-Word! We’re Cancelled?!”), along with such extra bits as Quantum and Woody killing LeAnn Rimes for daring to cover “Purple Rain.”
10) The Lost Stories, Revealed!: After Quantum and Woody was canceled as part of an implosion of Valiant/Acclaim titles with issue #17, it was revived a year and a half later…at issue #32, as though the book had just kept going. It then doubled back to its original numbering, only to be canceled again a few issues later, with many of the hinted-at plot threads never coming to fruition.
Though we might never find out exactly what was going to happen, there are apparently two finished issues that were never released – and we might get to see them through comiXology.
Sadly, creators haven’t done many comics in recent years – Priest all but left the industry after his extended run on Marvel’s Black Panther (which is actively parodied in Quantum and Woody, with his editor on that book becoming a supporting character in the last issues). We do recommend this two-part podcast with Priest on Dollar Bin, and his own notes on the characters on his website.
And of course – there’s the comiXology issues. But given the success of Valiant’s other revivals so far, might there still be a chance that Quantum and Woody will live to bicker again?
Until then, check out the series again – or read it for the first time.
And in electronic form, there’s no need to worry about The Goat eating your comics.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!