With every day that passes, the ’90s — the decade of grunge, Bill Clinton, and the death of Superman — retreats further into the rearview mirror. But Portlandia isn’t the only place where the dream of the ’90s is still alive today. For the last few years, Valiant Entertainment has been building its own multi-faceted superhero universe in the shadow of Marvel and DC, mostly using characters that were originally created in the ’90s.
That decade was a big one for comic books. The rise of Image Comics spurred a wave of loud action comics with explosive art at the same time that a spree of variant covers (often with shiny foil) created a speculation bubble that eventually crashed and left Marvel filing for bankruptcy in 1996. Valiant’s next big comic, a relaunch of Quantum & Woody, will bring back the best of that ’90s spirit — including the foil covers!
Originally created by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Bright in 1997, the comic follows a mismatched pair of brothers called Quantum and Woody. As a child, Woody was adopted by the super-scientist Derek Henderson and his son Eric. Years later, Derek dies mysteriously, and an investigation into his death gives both his sons superpowers — the only catch being that they have to “klang” their super bracelets together once a day, lest they be dissolved.
In the version relaunched by writer James Asmus and artist Tom Fowler in 2013, Quantum and Woody constantly bickered and sent hilarious insults back and forth. But when readers catch up with them again, things aren’t quite so chummy. When the new series launches this fall from writer Daniel Kibblesmith (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) and artist Kano as part of Valiant’s ICONS initiative, Quantum and Woody are somewhat estranged, only meeting up once every 24 hours to “klang.”
EW caught up with Kibblesmith and Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani to discuss how the brothers ended up so far apart, how Valiant recreated that old ’90s style with some of the very same foil material, and how Quantum & Woody keeps the spirit of the ’90s alive.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This series is intended as a jumping-on point for new readers. How would you describe Quantum & Woody to first-time readers?
DANIEL KIBBLESMITH: Quantum (Eric) and Woody (Woody) are a dysfunctional pair of brothers, sometimes described as “the world’s worst superhero team.” Eric was the straitlaced overachiever, Woody the adopted delinquent. They reunited as adults to solve the murder of their scientist father — but ended up getting powers in a science explosion. Now they have to KLANG their bracelets together every 24 hours or they evaporate into energy. So no matter how angry they get at each other, they’re joined at the hip.
And for long-time fans, what can you tease about what Quantum & Woody have been up to during their year-long absence?
KIBBLESMITH: Attention new fans, don’t read this part! Okay old fans, you’re all secretly my favorites. So, since we’ve seen Quantum and Woody last, they’ve become as estranged as you can be when you’re bound on the molecular level. They’re not on speaking terms — Woody shows up every morning, KLANGS, and drives off. But the crazy thing, at least for readers who know the characters, is that the fight that broke up Quantum and Woody was actually Eric’s fault. He knew Woody’s birth father was still alive, and kept it from him. So, we’re all going to find out why, and the consequences of that brotherly betrayal. Speaking of betrayals — new fans, I know you read this too. Bold move, you’re my favorites now.
Woody is Quantum/Eric’s adopted brother, but his birth father is still alive. What will we learn about Woody’s father in this series?
KIBBLESMITH: Well, Woody’s an insensitive, arrogant, womanizing conman, so it all comes down to nature versus nurture. How much of his personality comes from having a sleazy dad, and how much of it comes from that sleazy dad abandoning him? But they definitely have a lot in common personality-wise, except that Woody had the guidance of his adopted family to fight against his worst impulses. In some ways, his drifter father is Woody’s possible Ghost of Christmas future. Actually wait, I think that ghost just shows you a tombstone. But you get the idea.
You’re a writer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which is great because I find the wisecracking mismatched duo of Quantum and Woody to be Valiant’s funniest property. How will you be balancing humor with heroism during this series?
KIBBLESMITH: Well, as a satire writer in 2017, I believe that humor is the most heroic act you can do. Please God, I hope everyone knows that was supposed to be self-deprecating. Quantum and Woody has always been a buddy comedy at it’s heart, and my favorite part of writing them so far is the bantering (or bickering) because the characters carry you away so naturally, it’s easy to get carried away in their back-and-forth. It’s sort of the background noise of their [relationship] — you don’t imagine Batman talking much when he’s driving to the scene of the crime, but Quantum and Woody are bickering the entire time. It’s especially a treat for me as a talk show writer, because I rarely get to write dialogue, so it’s two different kinds of joke writing — topical versus character driven.
What inspired these foil cover variants for Quantum & Woody?
DINESH SHAMDASANI: Over the past several years, Valiant has earned a reputation for introducing some of the most ambitious and innovative promotional ideas in the comics, but each and every one of them springs out of the story we’re telling in some way, shape, or form. Quantum and Woody — especially Woody — are brash, they’re rude, they’re loud personalities, but, at their core, they’re also brothers and that’s what makes their story unique. This series is a 90 miles-an-hour, full-throttle superhero story, but it also comes wrapped around a beating heart of family drama. These covers are much the same way: a totally fun and excessive tribute to the comics we grew up loving on the outside and a truly heartwarming, charming, funny, and action-driven superhero tale on the pages within — much like Quantum and Woody has always been, going all the way back to the seminal, much loved Priest & Bright run in the late ’90s.
How did you guys find all that foil?
SHAMDASANI: The credit goes to Valiant’s publisher Fred Pierce, who was not only a member of the original Valiant team back in the good old days, but an instrumental figure in creating the printing processes behind some Valiant’s all-time most successful issues, like the original Bloodshot #1. But here’s the crazy thing about most of the enhanced covers that swept comics in the ’90s – most manufacturers have literally forgotten how these types of covers were produced. It is literally a lost art. Fred and our team have working behind the scenes on this initiative for close to three years, working with our printers, and trying to find the same technicians and specialized presses that perfected the science behind applying all sorts of crazy technologies to comics in the 1990s.
It’s a complex and labor-intensive project, but, after many months of searching, we finally hit the mother lode and discovered a vault that contains many, many kinds of foils and other enhancements that were used at the height of the 1990s and never reproduced again. So we’re reclaiming this material — which includes the exact same foils that were previously used on some big, big comics like Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s #2, as well as some others that were never put into production — remixing them and bringing them into the modern day.
The technology has advanced to such a degree and Geoff Shaw’s cover art is so jaw-dropping that we’re confident these will be among the best, if not the best, enhanced covers ever produced. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a much more intricate process than most people would ever assume. It’s truly a labor of love, and we’re taking it on because we can’t wait for the fans to see Daniel and Kano killing it on Quantum & Woody.
The first 12 issues of this series will come with “extreme” foil covers using foil from the ’90s. How else is the dream of the ’90s alive in Quantum & Woody?
KIBBLESMITH: Well, my comics coming-of-age was in the ’90s boom, so it’s in the DNA of my entire relationship with comics. And behind the extreme cover, we want the art to be as splashy and eye-grabbing as possible, just like it was when Spawn was tearing off Superman’s head or whatever in 1995 (I’m not 100% positive this happened, but it feels like it might have). But Quantum and Woody were introduced in the ’90s, so it will always be right there under the surface. I mean, c’mon, a white brother and a black brother team up to fight the criminal underworld and each other? I just wish we could somehow release the new issues on VHS.