Daniel Kibblesmith Talks the Return of Quantum & Woody
Sometimes… you embrace your destiny. And sometimes… you and your trouble-making adopted brother find yourselves trapped in a scientific lab explosion that grants you $@&%ing awesome super-powers. As a result of their accident, Eric and Woody Henderson – aka Quantum and Woody – must “klang” their wristbands together every 24 hours or both dissipate into nothingness. Which makes superhero-ing pretty awkward when you’re not on speaking terms at the moment. See, Eric has been keeping a pretty big secret: He knows who Woody’s birth father really is… and where he’s been hiding all these years.
Consider yourself warned…
This December the world’s worst superhero team return in the all new Quantum & Woody #1 written by Daniel Kibblesmith with art by Kano.
We got a chance to talk to Daniel about the new series as well as his writing for The Late Show and the difference between digital and print.
GP: How’d you become a writer, especially one focused on comedy?
Daniel Kibblesmith: Well, I always wrote and drew and generally made stuff. I wanted to be a filmmaker from an early age, and taught myself how to make claymation shorts on our family’s VHS camcorder. It wasn’t until I got to film school that I realized how the duties are divided up and that the writing was the part I cared about the most – plus, being on sets stressed me the hell out. When I was making short films, it was at the beginning of YouTube, and I figured out that no one really wanted to watch a three-minute drama, but they would totally check out a comedy sketch. I was naturally inclined toward comedy, so I committed. From there I took Second City classes, tried stand-up, and made friends in the comedy community, which eventually blossomed into this whole career-like object.
GP: You’ve previously written for Valiant, how’d you wind up on Quantum & Woody? How well did you know the characters coming on to the project?
DK: I knew them pretty well. Quantum and Woody was my entry point into Valiant, because I knew James Asmus a little bit from the comedy world, and I was told that you didn’t need to know anything about Valiant to get into Q&W. I loved them right away, especially in The Delinquents team-up series, so I’ve had my eye on Quantum and Woody for a while. They seemed like a good fit for another comedy/comics writer like me.
GP: Was it a bit of an adjustment to go from writing for things like the Late Show to writing for Valiant and comics in general?
DK: Not really, because I still do both every day. I compare it to playing different video games sometimes – both video games could require a lot of overlapping skills, like timing or coordination, but the headspace and rhythm you slide into could be really different between, say Mario Kart and Smash Bros. (Nintendo, I mentioned your intellectual properties, please send me a free Switch).
GP: For those who haven’t been introduced to the characters before, how would you describe Quantum and Woody?
DK: Quantum and Woody are “the world’s worst superheroes” -– two dysfunctional adopted brothers, one straight-laced black guy (Eric) and one reckless white guy (Woody), who become estranged in childhood and reunite to solve their scientist father’s murder. But while investigating his lab, they accidentally blow things up and get superpowers (Quantum makes force fields, Woody shoots explosive blasts), and also get two golden bracelets fused to their wrists that have to be KLANG’D together every 24 hours to re-stabilize their molecules and stop them from turning into energy. So no matter how angry they get at each other, they’re basically stuck with each other.
GP: What’s your process like when you sit down to write?
DK: I don’t really have a set process outside of the Late Show office, where everything is driven by the schedule of producing that day’s show. It leaves me nights and weekends to carve out time to get actual pages written, but a lot of the breakthroughs are incidental, which won’t surprise anyone else who writes. I think most of my ideas for Quantum and Woody came to me in the shower at the gym or walking to and from work, when my wind can wander. It’s great for dialogue, because I just kind of let my mind go blank and imagine them bantering on an empty stage back and forth until I’ve got way, way more bickering than I can actually fit in word balloons.
GP: Quantum & Woody has a nice history with Valiant and the last few volumes have built off the madness of the previous. You reference some previous adventures but as a writer how do you balance the history with making the comic easy to pick up for new readers?
DK: Well, for one thing, the hook. You don’t really need to know who Quantum and Woody are to appreciate a buddy-action-comedy-superhero-
GP: You’ve done all sorts of writing, print, television, comics. How does the fact you have visuals change how you might approach a joke?
DK: Comics and comedy both have something really important in common, which is timing. The most fun for me is using the visuals to tell the story in a way that it feels like it’s playing out before your eyes, and take advantage of those storytelling devices to land different kinds of jokes – like the interminable silence that’s implied by a grid of identical panels with no dialogue, or being able to use flashbacks or little insets to reveal people’s secret motivations and reactions. Now that I think about it, something like Arrested Development, with the narrator and all the jumping around in time and points of view, would’ve made a really funny comic book.
GP: You wrote the Valiant High comiXology Original comic. What’s the impact the digital aspect has on the story? Is the fact that is what you’re writing for impact how you approached the story? How does an ongoing print series differ from a digital one?
DK: It really makes me wish I’d learned where the ads are going to be. Some writers I really admire have a very conscious awareness of “left page, right page, reveal page, opposite facing pages, double-page spread,” and I didn’t teach myself any of that for Valiant High, because I was picturing it as one-page-at-a-time on an iPad with no screen-rotating. That doesn’t mean Quantum and Woody won’t have double page spreads in it, though. In fact, Issue #2 is all double page spreads. Unless Valiant says no.
GP: What’s the biggest difference between writing for comics versus television versus prose?
DK: For me, it’s the voice you’re writing for. At The Late Show, you’re writing for the rhythm and delivery of a late-night talk show host telling the story of today’s events, and what our country is going through, in a kind of shared POV that gets filtered through his own sensibility. In the comics, you’re telling a story through characters who have their own personalities and dialogue ticks, and are at odds with each other by design. It’s sort of like essay versus novel, but way more lowbrow and with more energy drink ads.
GP: Thanks so much for chatting and looking forward to the comic!
Check out a preview for the first issue below.