BY JEPH JACQUES
In the short history of this blog, we’ve had comics about gods and wombats, about superheroes and vikings. My To-Write List includes comics about fairy tales, fantasy lands, monsters and characters in role playing games (sometimes all at once). Among all these, Questionable Content stands out specifically because it doesn’t do (almost) anything of the sort – it is just about a bunch of humans. And “human” is the key word here.
QC is a slice of life story about a group of friends in their mid-twenties, who live in almost-real-world USA – the main difference being the existence of fully-developed AI, and robots being a part of society. This, however, isn’t the comic’s focus, but just adds to its extraordinary variety.
This variety and presents itself in every facet of the comic. One character manages her own coffee shop, another is an Office Bitch (official title), one is a professional dominatrix. One has severe OCD, and one is just extremely clumsy. There are people from all across the spectra of sexual orientation and identity. Even amongst the robots, there’s a tiny mayhem maker, a humanoid with a job, and an ex-con.
Diversity in characters, of course, leads directly to diversity in stories and discussions, especially since the characters’ personalities don’t just arise from the story – they are the story. Jeph Jacques readily admits that often he has a specific idea for a story arc or a punchline, but then the characters take it off in a completely different direction “by themselves”.
This leads to a comic which contains crazy robotic hijinks interwoven with love stories and relationship dramas, which sometimes verge on the soap-operatic; obscure arguments on indie bands alongside dealing with serious mental problems; and details of robots’ social rights next to going to see tapirs at the zoo. Try thinking of every conversation topic, event and adventure you had with your friends in the past year, and you’ll get the general idea of the breadth of this comic.
What you probably won’t get is a list as funny as QC’s. This is, at its heart, a sitcom: almost every strip contains at least one joke, most of which are good, and many of which are great. Furthermore, Jeph strikes an impressive balance: even while not shying away from tackling serious issues, he keeps the mood light-hearted and the humor flowing.
The strip’s beginning may be a bit difficult. The focus is different – Jeph started it as an outlet for his not-so-great life at the time – and the art is, well, bad. And there are nonstop indie music references. But all of this improves, rapidly. The characters start fleshing out and taking control of the story, and the art gets better and better without losing its style – you only realize how far it’s come when you jump back a few hundred strips. The indie references stay a bit longer, but they become a welcome part of the group’s dynamic.
The above comparison to your group of friends is not accidental – after almost a decade of reading their lives and jokes, their loves and hardships, I honestly think of Marten, Faye, Dora and the rest as an additional circle of friends in my life. Getting to know them is well worth diving into the possibly intimidating 2700-strip archive. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll blaze through it in a sleepless week anyway – and reread it all every few months.
1. To quote Jeph’s newspost from strip 1481 (no link because spoilers):
“OH GOD WHY IS THERE NO PUNCHLINE WHAT IS GOING ON IS QC GOING TO BE A STRAIGHT UP DRAMA COMIC FROM NOW ON?!?!?!??!???!?!??!
(no)” [Back to post]
2. I even follow them all on Twitter! Yes, these are actual active accounts which Jeph maintains occasionally.[Back to post]