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Questionable Content (abbreviated QC) is a slice-of-life webcomic written and drawn by Jeph Jacques. It was launched on August 1, 2003; the 1500th strip was posted on September 25, 2009. Jacques currently makes his living exclusively from QC merchandising and advertising, making QC one of the few self-sufficient webcomics. By 2004, Jacques was able to support himself and his wife based on income from merchandise and advertising sales.

The plot centers on Marten Reed, an indie rock aficionado; his roommate, Faye Whitaker; and Faye's boss, Dora Bianchi. Supporting characters include employees of the local coffee shop and anthropomorphized personal computers. QC's storytelling style combines romantic melodrama, sitcom, humor about indie rock music, and sexual or scatological humor. The artistic style has notably changed over the lifetime of the comic, as Jacques has been constantly refining his drawing methods. Whereas earlier strips were focused at a niche audience of indie music fans, the comic has since become more story- and character-driven.

Background

In 2003, Jacques worked at a local Easthampton paper answering telephones. According to Jacques, the large amount of free time and access to the internet led him to read webcomics "as something to do". Jacques stated that of the webcomics he read, "I've always been really interested in music, and indie rock specifically, and I never saw any other comics that dealt with that aspect of our culture. I felt like there was a niche there that would work."

Publication

Originally, Questionable Content was updated twice a week, and later bumped to three strips a week. In September 2004, Jacques left his day job to begin updating Monday through Friday, and kept this schedule even after a knife accident that sliced an artery in his drawing hand in 2006. QC's thousandth strip appeared on October 26, 2007. Unlike many other webcomic artists supported by their work, Jacques has not expanded his business outside of the comic and related merchandise.

According to Jacques, at one point he would have sought newspaper syndication for Questionable Content, but the thought no longer appeals to him because he does not want to surrender editorial freedom. Instead, Jacques is planning a Questionable Content book.

Style

Both the methods of storytelling and the artistic style of the strip have changed considerably since its inception. Originally, Jacques intended the strip to be about "a depressed lonely guy and his robot", but the introduction of the female character Faye led to an increase in Jacques' ideas for the strip. While QC is still seen as one of the main rock comic strips, the story has come to focus more on the character development and humor of the strip. Jacques informed interviewers that he makes sure every individual QC strip "has at least one thing in it that someone who does not know anything about obscure band x would find funny."

Jacques spoke on the evolution of his art in an interview at ComixTalk:

Jacques uses a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet (previously a Wacom Intuos) to draw his strips and Adobe Photoshop to color them. He cites Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes and the webcomic Scary Go Round as his main influences.

Synopsis

Setting

Questionable Content takes place in Northampton, Massachusettsmarker; the most frequent setting locales include Marten and Faye's shared apartment, Coffee of Doom (the fictional coffee shop Dora owns), and Smith Collegemarker's Williston Library where Marten is employed. (The real Williston Library is at Mount Holyoke Collegemarker; the public library in Jacques' hometown of Easthampton is also called the Williston Library. The main library at Smith is Neilson.) The comic is mostly realistic (with occasional bouts of absurdity), and action primarily focuses on banter between the characters, with slowly-progressing plot developments. Due to the emphasis on inter-character dialogue, Jacques rarely uses thought bubbles in the comic.

The comic appears to be set in modern times, though the presence of anthropomorphic robots with individual personalities (called "AnthroPCs" within the comic) implies some sort of futuristic technology. However all music and band references in the comic are current at the time of each individual strip's publishing. The AnthroPCs are the only consistent signs of advanced technology in the series. When other technological advances are referenced, they usually never get developed beyond one or two strips. Some of the memorable technological creations in QC are the Deathbot 9000; a Vespa scooter that transforms into a battle droid; humans living permanently in space, and orbital defense satellites capable of conversation. Jacques remarked of the setting:

The internal chronology of the strip is somewhat ambiguous; on January 13, 2006, Jeph Jacques stated on a LiveJournal fan community that he has "never sat down and exactly tabulated," but he suspects the total amount of elapsed QC time at that point was "no more than six months." Jacques also estimated that by the 1,400th comic, the elapsed time will have been "greater than six months and less than two years."

Characters

  • Marten Reed is QC's main character, and the first character to be introduced at the strip's beginning. He is an indie rock fan and former "office bitch" who now works at the Smith College Library. Marten lives with Faye, whom he was romantically interested in for many months, but he is now dating Dora. Marten is in a band named Deathmøle with neighbors Amir, Hannelore and formerly Natasha.


  • Faye Whitaker is an employee at Coffee of Doom. She moves to Northampton from Savannah, Georgiamarker, two years after a nervous breakdown resultant from witnessing her father's suicide and moves in with Marten after she burns down her apartment with a toaster. Faye is known for a quick wit and a sharp tongue, usually used in affection. Faye was celibate for a long time, then impulsively slept with Dora's brother Sven. A short time later, the two of them had a falling out when Sven confessed to sleeping with fictional country music starlet Gina Riversmith. Her first appearance was in comic number three.


  • Dora Bianchi is Marten's girlfriend, a bisexual former goth who owns and operates the coffee shop Coffee of Doom. Unlike most of the main characters, she prefers metal to indie rock. Dora does graphic and web design in her spare time and claims to have a long history of social anxiety that she tries to hide with her use of sass. Dora first appeared in comic 75.


  • Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham (nicknamed Hanners) is Marten and Faye's eccentric upstairs neighbor, who lives in apartment number 33. She has a rather severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, is an insomniac, and counts things for a living. Hannelore has a raw talent for playing drums (which she describes as "counting with your whole body"); she was introduced to drumming by Marten, and has joined Deathmøle. Her parents are both billionaires, but have paid little attention to her during all her life. Hannelore first appeared in comic 515.


  • Pintsize is Marten's AnthroPC, and was the second character introduced in the comic's first strip. He is a companion to Marten and frequently used for comic relief, throw-away gags or to add punchlines to a strip.


  • Raven Pritchard, a native of Houstonmarker, is an ex-goth friend of Dora's and a junior employee at Coffee of Doom. Although she is energetic and cheerful now, Dora claims that Raven was 20 pounds heavier in college and very depressed. Raven goes by her middle name as she dislikes her first name, Blodwyn (Welsh for 'White Flower'). While generally depicted as being somewhat 'air-headed' and oblivious, she has been known to display remarkable intellect and insight at times, and it has even been hinted that her mental 'slowness' might just be an act. Comic 1509 revealed that Raven is pursuing a doctorate in physics. Raven's parents both occupy professions that require a lot of mental capability. Raven first appeared in comic 102..


  • Steve is one of Marten's close friends. Steve is described "more adept at dating than Marten". He is, however, prone to frequently going out of control after a break-up, and was tapped by an unspecified US intelligence agency because "nobody would believe [him] if [he] tried to expose [them]" in his drunken stupor . Steve first appeared in comic 3.


  • Sven Bianchi is Dora's older brother, a successful writer of country music songs. Sven has a very active love and sex life, though he claims to have calmed down. Sven and Faye had a physical relationship, although that physical relationship ended after Sven had a one-night stand with Gina Riversmith, a fictional country singer. Sven first appeared in comic 328.


  • Penelope Gaines (often called Penny or Pen-pen over her objections, or will have her name pronounced to rhyme with "Antelope" to similar objections) is the newest employee of Coffee of Doom. She is suspected of having been the superhero Pizza Girl, formerly a recurring character. She was courted by Sven's friend Wil, a poet, but they only had two awkward dates before he decided to find himself on the road. He kept correspondence with her while he was away, and now that he has since returned, Penelope is helping Wil find work while he stays with her. Penelope first appeared in comic 698.


  • Tai studies English at Smith Collegemarker, and is Marten's boss at the library. She is a lesbian with a very active and complicated love life, sports numerous tattoos on her arms, and is a great fan of Jimbo's romance novels. She goes by the DJ name Tai Fighter. Tai first appeared in comic 691.


  • Winslow is Hannelore's Macintosh model AnthroPC. He resembles an oversized iPod with arms and legs. Though Winslow was initially taunted by Pintsize with "pictures of equine molestation," the two are now friends. Winslow is a cautious foil to Pintsize's reckless nature. Winslow first appeared in comic 527.


  • Angus McPhee is a regular customer of 'Coffee of Doom', and is obviously romantically interested in Faye Whitaker, though the level of reciprocation is unclear. Angus is employed as a 'professional strawman', and enjoys Faye's rapier wit. He shares an apartment with Marigold, a very messy computer expert who has fixed Pintsize for Marten, in exchange for Hannelore's cleaning expertise. Angus first appeared in comic 710.


Recognition

Questionable Content was used along with Penny Arcade, Fetus-X and American Elf as an example of comics using the web to create "an explosion of diverse genres and styles" in Scott McCloud's 2006 book Making Comics. The comic has been used in the Create a Comic Project, a New Haven, Connecticutmarker youth literacy program sponsored in part by Yale Universitymarker.

Questionable Content has been recognized several times by the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards:

Wins Nominations
2004
  • Outstanding Newcomer
  • Outstanding Reality Comic
  • Outstanding Romantic Comic
2005
  • Outstanding Romantic Comic
  • Outstanding Character Writing
  • Outstanding Comic
  • Outstanding Reality Comic (honorable mention)
  • Outstanding Character Writing (honorable mention)
2006
  • Outstanding Romantic Comic
  • Outstanding Character Writing
2007
  • Outstanding Character Writing
  • Outstanding Dramatic Comic
  • Outstanding Slice-of-Life Comic
  • Outstanding Romantic Comic
2008
  • Outstanding Character Writing


References



  1. http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=1432
  2. http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=1384


External links




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