Questionable Content

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Questionable Content
A recent Questionable Content strip.
A sample QC panel, featuring characters (L-R) Marten, Bubbles, Pintsize, and Faye.
Author(s) Jeph Jacques
Website questionablecontent.net
Current status / schedule Updates every weekday
Launch date August 1, 2003; 14 years ago (2003-08-01)
Genre(s) Humor/Slice of life

Questionable Content (abbreviated QC) is a slice-of-life webcomic written and drawn by Jeph Jacques. It was launched on August 1, 2003. Jacques makes his living exclusively from QC merchandising and advertising, making him one of the few professional webcomic artists. By 2004, Jacques was able to support himself and his then-fiancée based on income from merchandise and advertising sales.[1] On July 11, 2015, the comic reached its 3000th strip.[2]

The plot originally centered on Marten Reed, an indie rock aficionado; his anthropomorphized personal computer Pintsize; his roommate, Faye Whitaker; their mutual friend, Dora Bianchi; and their neighbor Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham. However, over time a supporting cast of characters has grown to include employees of the local coffee shop, neighbors, and androids. QC's storytelling style combines romantic melodrama, situational comedy, and sexual humor, while considering questions of relationships, sexuality, dealing with emotional trauma, and, as of late, artificial intelligence and futurism.

Background[edit]

In 2003, Jacques worked at a local Easthampton, Massachusetts, newspaper 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".[3] 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."[4]

Publication[edit]

Questionable Content was originally updated twice a week and was later bumped to three strips a week.[5] In September 2004, Jacques left his day job to begin updating Monday through Friday.[6][7][8]

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 decided to re-publish the strips in book form.[9] To date, five volumes have been released, covering strips 1–1499.

Unlike many other webcomic artists supported by their work, Jacques has not expanded his business outside of the comic and related merchandise.[10]

Style[edit]

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.[3] While QC is still seen as one of the main rock comic strips,[11] the story has come to focus more on the character development and humor of the strip.[12] 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."[13]

Jacques spoke on the evolution of his art in an interview at ComixTalk in March 2006:

The art is constantly changing, as anybody who reads the comic for more than two weeks could probably tell you. I'm always trying different things with the artwork- it's been a goal from day one to continually improve my drawing ability, and I think it's finally beginning to get to the point where I'm halfway decent at it. It's basically survival of the fittest- changes that I think fit in with the overall look I'm going for stick around and get refined, and changes that do not fit in get phased out, sometimes in the course of three or four strips, sometimes over a much longer span of time. I'm trying to get better at using different "camera angles" in each panel and doing more involved backgrounds, both of which are really just a matter of being patient and taking my time with the artwork. There's still tons of room for improvement, and always will be, but I think I'm at least making progress.

— Jeph Jacques, ComixTalk[13]

Jacques uses a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet[14] to draw his strips and Adobe Photoshop to color them. He cites Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and the webcomic Scary Go Round as his main influences.[12]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Questionable Content takes place in Northampton, Massachusetts. Frequent settings include an apartment shared by Marten, Faye and Pintsize; Coffee of Doom, Dora's coffee shop, where Hannelore, Penelope, Cosette, Emily, and Dale work; and Smif College's Williston Library[15] where Marten is employed along with Tai and Claire. (The real Williston Library is at Mount Holyoke College; the public library in Easthampton, Jacques's former residence, is also called the Williston Library. The main library at Smith—our universe's analogue to Smif—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 a reality similar to our own, but with a futuristic twist. For instance, references to music and bands in various strips are current and relevant at the time of publication. On the other hand, the comic also regularly features highly intelligent anthropomorphic robots with individual personalities (referred to as "AnthroPCs"),[16] which frequently interact with human characters as though they have been doing so for a significant amount of time. Jacques remarked of the setting:[17]

Something people do not often realize is that the world in which QC takes place is considerably stranger than our own. You'd think that with all the little talking robots running around everywhere that this would be obvious, but I am consistently surprised at how often people take it for granted.

AnthroPCs are the only consistent signs of advanced technology in the series; when other technological advances are referenced, they rarely get developed beyond one or two strips. For instance, some of the notable technological creations in QC are the Deathbot 9000;[18] a Vespa scooter that transforms into a battle droid;[19] humans living permanently in space, and orbital defense satellites capable of conversation.[20]

The internal chronology of the strip is somewhat ambiguous; on January 13, 2006, 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."[21] In a Q&A Tumblr post on January 23, 2012, Jacques estimated that it had been "at least a couple years in comic-time since the strip started."[22]

Characters[edit]

  • Marten Reed is QC's main character and the first to be introduced at the start of the comic. An indie rock fan, he is a former self-described "office bitch"[23] who now works as a library assistant.[24] He is generally optimistic, laid-back, and altruistic when it comes to relationships. He has no pets, but owns an AnthroPC named Pintsize.[24] Marten and Faye are roommates, and have been so since strip 22.[25] As of strip 2807, he is dating library intern Claire.[26]
  • Faye Whitaker is Marten's best friend. Having met him in strip 3,[27] she moved in with him after she accidentally burned down her apartment. Prior to moving to Northampton, she witnessed her father's suicide; in the first serious moment of the comic, Jacques devoted six strips to covering the subject, accompanied by a direct note to his audience.[28] Faye is known for her quick wit,[29] sharp tongue,[30] and usually playful, but sometimes violent, physicality.[31] For the majority of the comic, Faye worked alongside Dora at the Coffee of Doom, but was fired after Dora caught her being drunk at work.[32] Since then, Faye has begun working in an underground robot fighting ring, and has developed a friendship with one of the robots there, Bubbles.[33]
  • Dora Bianchi, Tai's girlfriend, is a bisexual[34] former goth who owns and operates the coffee shop Coffee of Doom. Her first appearance was in strip 75.[35] In the past, she has struggled with a habit of hiding her personal problems, such as her self-claimed social anxiety[36] or trust issues caused by previous relationships.[37] In fact, it was the latter issue which led to her and Marten's breakup.[38] She is now a relationship with Tai.[39]
  • Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham (nicknamed Hanners) is Marten's and Faye's eccentric upstairs neighbor. She has a rather severe case of obsessive–compulsive disorder and is an insomniac.[40] She now works for Coffee of Doom.[41] Despite her pathological fastidiousness, Hannelore has five piercings in each ear.[42] Her parents are both billionaires, but her mother paid little attention to her; she was raised by her father in a space-station. Hannelore first appeared in comic 515.[43]
  • Pintsize is Marten's AnthroPC and was the second character introduced in the comic's inaugural strip. Mischievous, impulsive, and filthy-minded, he is often used for comic relief, throw-away gags, or punchlines. He especially enjoys harassing or pranking Faye, although his hijinks are usually brought to end by some form of punishment, such as dismemberment, replacement of body parts with other objects, or being stuffed with bird seed.[44] Even so, he continues to be a companion to Marten, originally serving as a sounding board during Marten's more introspective moments.
  • Marigold Farmer is Dale's girlfriend. An avid gamer, she is very introverted, despite having acknowledged her desire to be "less of a shut-in",[45] and at low points, she has shown a tendency to ignore personal hygiene. She is also obsessed with anime and manga and has a Japanese-style AnthroPC named Momo.[46]
  • Tai Hubbert studied English at Smif College and is now Marten's boss at the library. She is a lesbian with a very active and complicated love life and sports numerous tattoos on her arms. As her preferred genre of music is minimal techno, she also works as a DJ under the name Tai Fighter (an allusion to TIE fighter). Tai first appeared in comic 691 and is dating Dora.[15]
  • Dale (surname unknown) is a video game enthusiast, playing a large amount of World of Warcraft. In order to support his mother and pay for his otherwise sedentary lifestyle, he worked "a bunch of jobs" including delivering pizzas, though he is now working at Coffee of Doom.[47][48] He is often seen wearing an augmented reality device in the form of glasses, which for a brief period enabled him to see and converse with May, an imprisoned AI,[49] who has since been released. He and Marigold are in a relationship.
  • Claire Augustus is an intern at the Smif College library and an aspiring librarian, first appearing in comic 2203.[50] Her younger brother is Clinton; the siblings resemble each other closely enough to sometimes be mistaken for twins.[51] Claire is a trans woman,[52] a fact that makes her self-conscious and causes herself and Clinton to worry about her personal safety. Claire and Marten have been dating since strip 2891.[53]

Recognition[edit]

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.[54] The comic has been used in the Create a Comic Project, a New Haven, Connecticut youth literacy program sponsored in part by Yale University.[55]

Questionable Content has been recognized several times by the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards:[56]

Year 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[edit]

  1. ^ Villarreal, Yvonne (May 22, 2009). "Comic strip artists feeling the squeeze". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ Jacques, Jeph (10 July 2015). "Post-Beyonce Comedown". QuestionableContent. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, Joel (August 29, 2008). "No question, he's a success; Easthampton artist's comic strip is a surprise hit on the Web (pg. 1)". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 29, 2008. 
  4. ^ Farnsworth, Anna (October 21, 2007). "From doodles to Web star; Artist fulfills dream, finds success with online comic strip". The Boston Globe. p. R10. 
  5. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "You're Ruining The Moment (Newspost)". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved August 29, 2008. 
  6. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "I Am Sorry, Arcade Fire Dude (Newspost)". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved July 29, 2008. 
  7. ^ Jacques, Jeph (October 17, 2006). "Is it whining if I had a serious medical emergency? Probably". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved August 29, 2008. 
  8. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Number 732: Bad Color Scheme". QuestionableContent.net. 
  9. ^ Brown, Joel (August 29, 2008). "No question, he's a success; Easthampton artist's comic strip is a surprise hit on the Web (pg. 2)". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 29, 2008. 
  10. ^ Hiltzig, Andrew (July 28, 2007). "Big boys enter the Web-comic arena". Los Angeles Times. p. E20. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  11. ^ Moorman, Trent (March 6, 2007). "Toilet Humor". The Stranger. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  12. ^ a b O'Rourke, Matt (March 16, 2007). "Pioneer Valley comic artist uses the web to reach readers". The Daily Collegian. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Curtis, George (March 2006). "Questionable Creator: George Curtis Interviews Jeph Jacques". ComixTalk.com. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  14. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Over The Bodies Of The Fallen". 
  15. ^ a b Jacques, Jeph. "That One Never Gets Old". QuestionableContent.net. 
  16. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Accostation". QuestionableContent.net. 
  17. ^ "Questionable Content". www.questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  18. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "A Very Literal Flame-War". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  19. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Custom Package". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  20. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Made from Cows?". QuestionableContent.net. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  21. ^ Jacques, Jeph (January 13, 2006). "Question". QC_Comic. LiveJournal. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  22. ^ Jacques, Jeph (January 23, 2012). "QA Dump #24". jephjacques.com. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  24. ^ a b Ordonorff, Patrick (August 18, 2008). "10 Great Webcomics You Should Not Share With Your Kids". Wired. Retrieved September 3, 2008. 
  25. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  26. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  27. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "True Professionals". 
  28. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "The Talk, Part 5". 
  29. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  30. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  31. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "No Fit State". 
  32. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Homeward Bound". 
  33. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  34. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Much Too Much Information". 
  35. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Provocative". 
  36. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Lost In Translation". 
  37. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Cheat Sheets". 
  38. ^ "Questionable Content". www.questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  39. ^ http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=2246
  40. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "I Would Be Terrible At That Job". 
  41. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "7kHz at 120dB". 
  42. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Shame, shame". 
  43. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Smokin' In The Boys Room". 
  44. ^ "Questionable Content". questionablecontent.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18. 
  45. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Oh The Memories". 
  46. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Just Because You're Paranoid". 
  47. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "A Budding Romance". 
  48. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Roamin' Candles". 
  49. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "So Sweet And Demure". 
  50. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Hubbert's Peak". 
  51. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Acid Meet Base". 
  52. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "Willingly Ignorant". 
  53. ^ Jacques, Jeph. "You And Me". 
  54. ^ McCloud, Scott (2006). Making Comics. New York City: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-078094-0. 
  55. ^ McLoughlin, Pamela (March 19, 2007). "Cartoons propel creative process". New Haven Register. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  56. ^ "WCCA Awards". Retrieved September 13, 2008. 

External links[edit]