In 1997, Quantum and Woody burst onto the scene from creators Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. While most superhero comics are good for a funny joke or two, the ongoing adventures of bickering adopted brothers Eric “Quantum” Henderson and Woodrow “Woody” Van Chelton have been more like a buddy cop action movie than a blockbuster epic. But 20 years after their debut, Late Show with Stephen Colbert writer Daniel Kibblesmith is injecting some drama between Valiant’s comedic duo.
“When we rejoin the brothers, they’re not on speaking terms,” Kibblesmith tells Inverse.
As fans learn, Eric has withheld the identity and location of Woody’s biological father for years. “Eric sees this as protecting Woody, but Woody suspects selfish motives.” Says Kibblesmith: “They both have a point!”
“This is a level of conflict that goes beyond scrapping with each other,” he says. “This is a deep, knife-in-the-heart hurt. So our story is about whether they can come back from that, and if it’s really possible to totally cut someone out of your life when they’re family.”
Though Quantum and Woody can’t stand each other, a freak accident that made them into superheroes forces the two to stick together, in a somewhat literal sense, to “klang” their bracelets and prevent their bodies from dissolving. As a trade-off, they get superpowers, which they used to save the day. Sometimes.
While Kibblesmith’s Quantum and Woody! will have new personal stakes that increase the drama, there’s no shortage of comedy to go around. A known late-night comedy writer, tweeter, and the author of the progressive children’s book Santa’s Husband, Kibblesmith fits into the world of Valiant’s duo like a glove. “I don’t think anyone would be too surprised that I’ve been hoping to write Quantum and Woody since I got my foot in the door with Valiant,” he says.
But just because Quantum and Woody! will be packed with humor doesn’t mean the work is smooth sailing. To Kibblesmith, “The biggest challenge has been connecting the humor to the characters,” he says. “I write a lot of political humor or monologue jokes during the day, or Twitter jokes that exist in a vacuum, but to feel like Quantum and Woody, the humor has to be rooted in their personalities.”
For those who have yet to get acquainted with Quantum and Woody, imagine if someone smushed Lethal Weapon with Iron Fist and Luke Cage. (The true inspiration to Quantum and Woody, according to legend/Wikipedia, are Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in the 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump.)
Another challenge to making superhero comics comical: Staying relevant. Just given the nature of the medium, a funny movie often has more staying power than a funny comic book. Kibblesmith’s solution, he believes, isn’t to write anything “timeless.”
“Woody is playing on Twitter on like page two. If Twitter is still around in five years, we’ve all made a terrible mistake,” Kibblesmith jokes. (Also, hard agree.) “It comes back to the humor being character-driven. The jokes that spring from personalities and relationships work will still work in the context of their stories — whether it’s comics, TV, or [a] movie — decades later. And personally, I kind of love it when I’m reading an old comic and Iron Man makes a reference to Spiro Agnew or something.”
In addition to a new character in Quantum and Woody! — whom Kibblesmith calls “a mysterious, bad-ass ninja girl” who is Woody’s “no-nonsense foil” — Kibblesmith teases a few takes on topical issues. Though he didn’t reveal any specifics, “given the ingredients” of the comic, in which “a loud-mouthed white brother and a straight-laced black brother, who also happen to live in the nation’s capital? Some social satire seems pretty unavoidable.”
“It’s important that Eric and Woody feel like real people,” says Kibblesmith, “[who go] through the kind of awkward, family crisis that test the relationships of adult siblings — and suck you back into old childhood dynamics.”
Quantum and Woody! #1 will be released on December 20.