I recently stumbled across my notes from an Incomparable episode we recorded way back in 2014. I thought I’d pull them together and flesh them out to make a series of blog posts because web comics are cool goshdarnit! And know there are more out there than these. (The other comics we talked about in The Incomparable #220 are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure!) Let me know what your favorites are in the comments!
Sluggy may have been my first, but Questionable Content is my favorite web comic. Of all the comics I read, has the most realistic characters. They’re quirky and odd, and sometimes act in unexpected ways, but they still manage to stay realistic. Doing that 5-year catch-up felt like reconnecting with a bunch of old friends. And best of all while my life had changed and I’d grown while I was away, they’d been evolving too.
There’s not a big gimmick to QC. It’s the story of a few people wo live in Northampton, Massachusetts. Among them are Marten, an indie-rock aficionado who doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life. His friend and roommate Faye, who’s whip-smart, with a quick tongue to match, and heaps abuse on the customers at the coffee shop where she works. The shop, Coffee of Doom, is owned and run by Dora, a bisexual ex-goth with an amazing talent for coffee-roasting. Then you have Hannelore who’s super-sweet, a little shy, and a LOT OCD (having grown up on a space station, you see). This world is also populated by robots with artificial intelligence, like Pintsize, Marten’s “AnthroPC”, who’s very clearly the comic relief, spewing dirty jokes (and occasionally cake batter).
QC is written by Jeph Jacques (one of the creators I support on Patreon). It started in August of 2003, and has consistently improved over the years–both in terms of art and of the complexities of storylines and character arcs.)
There are a few things I love about this comic. Time for a bulleted list. I love bulleted lists!
- The AI thing isn’t a big deal. It’s just a part of the fabric of this world. It’s so similar to ours, but there happen to be, well, people who are electronic. In face, they’re campaigning for civil rights in the background.
- It’s super-geeky. References abound! Many are to indie rock bands I’ve never heard of, but there are just as many nods to Star Wars or xkcd or MST3K. “Alright Tom Servo, it’s movie sign, get the hell out.” Yeah, these are my people, even if they are living in a weird comic strip.
- Though it’s written by a guy, QC has the best treatment of female characters of any kind of anything I’ve read lately. They’re real people with developed personalities and relatable flaws. They make realistic decisions that don’t always revolve around the guys in the strip. And there are healthy female friendships! Gasp! Among the main characters, the women outnumber the men, which is super-rare. Also, they’re not all super-skinny and busty. Some are just super-skinny. Some are curvy. Some hold themselves awkwardly in their body-language. It’s mega-refreshing.
- The guys are like that too. You get some chunky fellas and some really cut dudes. Come to think of it, there’s a nice diversity of races and skin color as well. It’s not dwelt upon, so I never noticed until I was reading with intent to talk about it. Proof that adding diverse characters won’t actually break your fictional world! Who’d’a thunk it?
- Jeph doesn’t shy away from discussions of sexuality. His characters are all over the spectrum, and it’s an accepted thing. It’s really great. REALLY great.
- In addition, he’s taking on gender identity issues. He introduced a trans character, Claire, and I fell in love with the storyline (and the character—she’s adorable and sweet and lovable and just happened to have been assigned the wrong gender at birth). Jeph has worked hard at doing the research and talking to people to make sure he gets it right—or as right as possible. And apparently the feedback has been really positive, so huge kudos for incorporating another aspect of humanity into a world that I love.
- I also like how Jeph interacts with both the audience and the characters. He often includes a note at the bottom of each strip, putting a little bow on the day’s entry. Sometimes it seems like he’s every bit as surprised at the strip as I am, which is kinda hilarious. He’s also very open about his own mental health issues, which occasionally get in the way of putting out consistent comics. I think that openness is great. I wish more people would talk about that sort of stuff to help destigmatize it.
Yeah. I just can’t say enough nice things about Questionable Content. If it sounds at all appealing to you, please please check it out. And then help support Jeph Jacques like I do! Supporting creators: it’s fun!*
*No, that was not a hint. (But maybe this footnote is.)