Sunday, August 26, 2007

Webcomic Review: Questionable Content

About a year ago, a friend turned me on to a webcomic called Questionable Content. I ended up staying awake half the night and reading through the archives as fast as my computer could load the strips to catch up on the storylines (and that's no small feat!). Ever since, checking the QC website for the newest update has become part of my morning routine. My day is just not right without my QC fix.

Drawn by 27-year-old Jeph Jacques, the comic focuses on Marten, a twenty-something guy trying to eke out a place for himself in the world, as well as his ever-increasing and ever-bizarre group of friends. Marten lives with Pintsize, an Anthro-PC (it's like a Mac, but with a personality) whose inappropriate comments and actions could carry the comic on their own. In addition to Pintsize, Marten's social circle includes Faye, a charming indie girl cursed with complex on top of complex; Dora, a shameless semi-goth chick who runs the local coffee joint (appropriately dubbed "Coffee of Doom"); Jimbo, a mechanic-by-day, romance-novelist-by-night; as well as an impressive and extensive host of other characters ranging from the clever to the ridiculous.

QC's humor is very situational, with a lot of witty banter and unexpected directions. Sometimes the humor is more subtle and steadily developed, but sometimes it jumps out at you like ... like an underwear-masked Anthro-PC, I suppose. It's very much the thinking man's comic, occasionally veering into the philosophic and liberally tossing around SAT-type words that may leave less word-hungry readers a bit stymied. On the flip side, Jeph makes liberal use of sight gags and physical humor, as exhibited by Faye's habit of punching people when teased and Pintsize's stint as the Underwear Ninja.

Despite its off-the-wall content, QC is very universal. It deals with issues most everyone has dealt with at some point in their lives, as well as some issues no one should ever, ever have to deal with if they are lucky.

The art style is very simplistic in the first few strips, but Jeph clearly loves perfecting his art - the comic is nearly 1,000 strips strong, and his art style has evolved and improved very steadily over time, fleshing out the characters physically as well as emotionally.

Jeph also makes some pretty savvy references in his strip, encompassing everything from Shakespeare to Indiana Jones to an FLCL-styled chick called the VespAvenger. In the earlier strips, a lot of the humor is directed at various indie bands. Those references go right over my head, but those who do keep tabs on the indie scene will feel very much in on the joke.

Some strips deal with personal issues the characters face at the time. Some strips simply do all they can to set up a powerful punch line. And some strips are clearly there because Jeph really wanted to draw them. For instance, comic #666 (subtitled "I've been waiting three years for this strip") includes a completely unprecedented and unexpected break in continuity for a "spontaneous metal interlude" where all the characters dress up like the spawn of KISS and rock out for a few panels before going back to normal.

One of the highlights of Questionable Content is the depth of the characters. While some webcomics tend to let their characters change personality at the drop of a hat to generate a storyline, Jeph does a fantastic job of developing his characters and sticking to the traits he assigns them. As a result, his characters seem truer-to-life and more believable than many webcomics. By the time a reader has made it all the way through the archives to the current issues he will feel as if he knows these characters, or at least knows people in his life like these characters.

QC is updated five times a week, Monday through Friday. It can be found at In addition to the daily comic, the site contains Jeph's music suggestions, links to other webcomics of interest, and an online store which sells t-shirts bearing popular QC characters and slogans. Be forewarned that QC is definitely for mature readers. The characters are prone to language, generally in colorful and unusual combinations. While there is never any explicit sexual action, there is a lot of implied action and suggestive situations and dialogue.

Jeph has kept the site going strong for over four years now, and with any luck it'll be around for a long time to come. Check out QC today and find out what all the hype is about.


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