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Comic Book / Quantum and Woody

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Quantum and Woody, the world's most dysfunctional superhero team. But they're not a couple.

Quantum and Woody is a comic book series created by Christopher Priest and Mark D. Bright. it was originally published by Acclaim Comics, and later folded into the Valiant Comics label after Acclaim's buyout of the Valiant catalog.

The comic chronicles the super-heroic adventures of Eric Henderson and his longtime friend Woodrow "Woody" Van Chelton. Though their childhood friendship was abruptly terminated fifteen years ago, the two were bitterly reunited when their fathers were killed in a suspicious helicopter crash. Named as the primary suspects, the duo attempted to clear their names, but instead fell victim to an industrial accident. They survived the accident with the ability to fire energy blasts, but with a caveat: every 24 hours, they must slam together a pair of metal wristbands (not by themselves; against each other's, of course) to prevent themselves from discorporating into pure energy.

Genre Savvy Woody decides that — having survived an origin story — they must now become heroes. Despite some skepticism, Eric soon leaps at the opportunity to be The Cape; he augments his military fighting skills with an arsenal of gadgets, dresses up in a full-body costume (with cape), and takes the codename "Quantum". Rejecting costumes and code names as stupid, Woody simply charges in with a 9mm Beretta and a Zippo lighter.

Now the question is whether Quantum and Woody (and their pet goat Vincent) can clear through fifteen years of emotional baggage, repair their fractured friendship, and use their powers to help the helpless? Or will they simply strangle each other first?

Quantum And Woody quickly became an underground cult favorite for its unique blend of sharp writing, irreverent humor, social/racial commentary, and multifaceted characterization. Due to the closure of Acclaim, the series only ran for 22 issues and ended in the middle of a revival story arc.

Fast forward to the 2010's and the series is experiencing a second wind: a reboot of the series began in June 2013 with a new creative team consisting of James Asmus (Gambit, Runaways) and Tom Fowler (Venom). The series lasted for 12 issues, and was then followed by two miniseries, Quantum and Woody Must Die! and Delinquents (the latter crossing over with Archer & Armstrong). Valiant also released Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody, a miniseries by the original creators and set many years after the ending of the original series.

Priest has self-published a book on Amazon titled Klang!: A Writer's Commentary that details the creation of the original series, its cancellation, its later revival and also includes scripts for six unpublished issues.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Hero: The duo's first case was an investigation into the murder of Ed Palmer's wife. They follow clues all around the world until they captured Terrence Magnum, a global financier with a stolen computer chip that could decrypt military codes. Unfortunately, he had nothing to do with the murder — Mrs. Palmer was killed by her husband, as the police had originally surmised.
  • All Just a Dream: Sometimes used as a Batman Cold Open, such as the beginning of issue #5, where Woody, Quantum, and Amy Fishbein are working as a tightly-synchronized counter-terrorism team to stop a criminal called Othello. It's all a dream induced after Quantum was accidentally blasted off of a building in the previous issue.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Inverted with Eric; though his father was black and his mother was white, he is drawn with unambiguously African-American traits (most notably his hair, nose, and skin tone).
  • Anachronic Order: Sometimes invoked as a series of cuts between flashbacks and the present day. Word of God is that it was done in the first issue to break up the monotony of typical origin stories.
    • In addition, the computer the writer was using kept dying on him, forcing him to re-start the story again and again. He later decided that the style was a good fit.
  • "Angry Black Man" Stereotype: Deconstructed with Eric, a child of uninterrupted privilege, who becomes instantly convinced he's in sync with the struggle of the inner-city ghetto after watching Roots. Truth is, he's not even in sync with the suburbs.
    • He's not any better with the ghetto — when Eric was lost in the inner city after one of Woody's pranks, he tries to get directions from three gang members by speaking very slowly and condescendingly to them. After a brief scuffle, he quickly asks a taxi driver to drive him to a tailor because "those black kids" tore his blazer.
  • Bash Brothers
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done several times.
    • The first time was in the introduction to issue #4, "Noogie", where Quantum and Woody explain to the reader how and why they'll avoid using "the N-Word" in the story. Acclaim's lawyer hovers in the background and gives a thumbs-up sign of approval.
    • The second time was at the end of issue #17, where after a climactic battle, Woody picks up a ringing telephone, has a quick chat, then informs Quantum (and the reader) that they're been cancelled. A year later, issue #18 starts with Quantum and Woody bemoaning how they'll cease to exist once they leave the room, only for Woody to get a second phone call telling them the comic has been reinstated.
  • Breakout Character: Vincent Van Goat was originally intended as a one-issue gag, but was added to the comic at the request of Fabian Nicieza. He became so popular that fans brought goat-themed toys, drawings, and memorabilia during promotional tours.
  • Can't Stay Normal: Woody suffers from this; even after losing his powers and a breakup with Eric, he's shocked when he answers police calls unbidden due to Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • The Cape: Despite his Batman-style methods and general skepticism, Eric is a Cape — he has a highly idealistic sense of heroism, is a strict adherent of Thou Shalt Not Kill, and can become blinded by his attempts to frame everything in a context of Black-and-White Morality.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Woody's Zippo lighter is ignored until issue #16, when the duo are locked in a cage being slowly lowered into a pool of toxic waste. Woody, blinded by the fumes, desperately tries to strike the lighter to see... whereupon the flame ignites the fumes and blasts them clear.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Joe Tomorrow, a police detective Eric and Woody sometimes come to for help in the original series, is also a Deconstructed Character Archetype, because repeatedly coming into contact with two vigilantes of limited competence like them hurts Tomorrow's credibility and damages his career, getting him demoted first to a uniformed desk officer and then to traffic duty.
  • Complexity Addiction: Eric in spades. In a classic story, he's convinced that a woman was murdered as part of a great conspiracy and a red dot at the crime scene is blood. This leads him and Woody to go all over the world tracking down an arms dealer, asking why he killed her...and the man just asks "who?" When they get back, the detective in charge of the case notes that the red dot was ketchup (as Woody was saying all along) and the woman's husband confessed to killing her.
    • Heading to a building, Eric insists on climbing up the roof with a grapple gun. Woody just uses the elevator.
    • When Woody can't be found, Eric goes on a rampage against David Warrent, convinced he's behind his abduction. It turns out Woody just wasn't answering the phone. Warrent openly lampshades how Eric is obsessed with the idea someone has to be behind things like a comic book when in real life, "things just happen."
  • Continuity Nod: In issue 6 of the reboot, a crazy secessionist soldier is going on about a bizarre conspiracy theory involving Wall Street bankers in gold masks fighting nuns. Even his comrades think he's crazy... when in fact, he's talking about the Sect Civil War arc that was going on at the same time in Archer & Armstrong, in which that exact situation happened.
  • Costume-Test Montage: Appears when Eric and Woody are trying on costumes for their new crime-fighting identities. One of the costume pairs they try are Power Man and Iron Fist, a Shout-Out to Priest and Bright's work on Heroes for Hire and the inspiration for Quantum And Woody.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Quantum, who can pull an electronics-disrupting bolo, a portable forensics kit, a grappling hook gun, and a pocket Tibetan dictionary out of his costume.
    Woody: "Geez, Eric — how much junk do you have taped to your back?"
    Quantum: "I've got enough."
  • Cut Short
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Woody. Abandoned by his father, he falls into poverty with his mother, who becomes a junkie with a quasi-pedophile boyfriend. Left to fend for himself on the streets, he eventually falls in love with a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who gets killed by her pimp.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Woody, almost always to Eric.
  • Death by Origin Story: Eric and Woody's fathers.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Near the end of the series, Quantum ends up partnered with a female black version of Woody.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: In the final issue of the first series, Woody picks up a telephone, then informs Quantum (and the reader) that the book has been cancelled. The trope was reversed when the title was un-cancelled a year later with a second phone call.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Vincent Van Goat is nicknamed HAEDUS — Heavily Armored Espionage Deadly Uber-Sheep.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Invoked when Woody develops a television pilot based on their adventures, and two gratuitous lesbian co-stars are added.
  • Gold Digger: Eric's mother, who flatly admits that she married his father for his wealth.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Just one of Quantum's many gadgets.
  • Hand Blast: Quantum and Woody's wristbands allow them to shoot energy blasts based on their shared quantum energy. Quantum fires a heat beam while Woody fires beams of force.
    • David Warrant can do both, thanks to his mastery of the energy he shares with the protagonists.
  • Handsome Lech: Woody, who thinks nothing of flirting with a cute girl while in the middle of a hostage situation... even after he shoots her. With a paintball pellet.
    Woody: "So, hey, I'm Woody. Maybe I can call you sometime—"
    Hostage: "—?! You shot me—?!"
    Woody: "So, what, meet for drinks, then—?"
  • Hermit Guru: Double Subverted when Eric travels to Africa to learn "The Way of the Black Lion". After the desert shaman sends Eric off with a mystic pendant and a quest, he loots Eric's wallet and drives off in a car loaded with pendants. However, after Eric confronts the black lion without a fight, the shaman reappears and accepts him for training.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Enforced by their quantum bands.
    Christopher Priest: "These two guys, who get on each others' nerves, can never live more than a half-day's drive from one another."
  • Hopeless Suitor: Eric is this to Amy Fishbein, due to his childhood crush on her. Unfortunately, Amy has the hots for Woody, who's casually indifferent.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Woody gives Eric lots of grief, but when the chips are down, he'll do anything to help.
  • Jumped at the Call: Eric, despite some initial skepticism at Woody's idea that they become heroes. It is later revealed that Woody suggested the idea simply to help Eric work out various emotional issues after his father's death.
    Woody: "The only reason I'm even wearing this stupid costume is because you couldn't score with Amy Fishbein! Because your parents dropped you on your head too much — screwed up my best friend!"
  • Just Friends: Woody regularly insists to anyone within earshot that he and Quantum are "not a couple".
  • "Kick Me" Prank: See the page image.
  • The Lancer: Woody.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Done when Woody first reads the "Dark Kitty" comic book, an Expy of Marvel Comics' Black Panther (also written by Christopher Priest at the time). Woody badmouths the book with criticisms that are entirely applicable to Quantum and Woody...
    "The story is told all out of order — you can't follow the damned thing... God, they just let any idiot write this stuff, don't they..."
  • Leeroy Jenkins: This is Woody's preferred approach to everything.
    "Plan schman. Beat the crap out of 'em while yelling a lot. It's in every movie."
  • Love Dodecahedron: As the story continues, one develops between Eric, Woody, Amy Fishbein, Tempest Sheridan, and Holly Williams. Just don't ask how Vincent Van Goat fits in there...
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Eric's infatuation with Amy Fishbein sometimes reaches borderline-creepy levels, such as the time he had a meticulously-researched skintight costume made for when she'd join the team... before she was even asked to work as a receptionist.
    "Makes me wonder who he designed it for, though — 36C seems a little optimistic, yes? ...And I'm just a tad weirded out about the amount of thought the man gave to the antibacterial microweave nestling Miss Kitty..."
  • Missing Mom: Happens to both Eric and Woody. Eric's parents went through a divorce after an auto accident, and she happily left after securing a huge alimony payment. Woody's mother got a divorce to leave an abusive relationship and ended up an impoverished drug addict, emotionally absent as she left Woody to fend for himself.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Happens often enough that "We are not a couple" is Woody's Catchphrase.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: David Warrant, whom Eric believes engineered the accident that transformed himself and Woody. In reality, David was trying to shut down the reactor and prevent the accident.
  • Name and Name
  • Naughty by Night: Amy Fishbein appears to be a prim and proper white-collar professional, but she starts dropping obvious innuendos and undressing herself as soon as she's alone with Woody. Who's actually Eric in Woody's body.
    "God, Woody, you didn't tell him about 'Cats', did you? It's not every girl who loses her virginity in a Broadway show... I'll bet I can get us some tickets. Meeoww."
  • Noodle Incident. Lots, usually brought up by either Woody or Eric during their incessant bickering.
  • N-Word Privileges/T-Word Euphemism: The story "Noogie" begins with the characters introducing the issue by saying that they've been forbidden to use the "N-Word", and will use the word "Noogie" instead. The idea is later subverted when a poor black character repeatedly calls Quantum "noogie". Quantum demands to know how the man knows he's black, only to be told "You're black? S-Word!" It's later revealed in the same story that the man calls everyone that word, even white people.
    • In the comic, Woody (who is white) has the privilege, and uses it freely among the black friends he grew up with in Eric's absence.
    • The title of the third TPB is "Quantum & Woody: Holy S-Word, We're Cancelled?!"
  • Odd Couple
  • Only Sane Man: Eric often believes this is his role. Given his obsession with super-heroism, that's debatable.
  • Planning with Props: Done briefly when Woody talks about Eric's plans to romance Amy Fishbein. See Where da White Women At? below.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: Eric and Woody got their powers after they were accidentally bombarded with quantum energy.
  • Salt and Pepper: Inverted; Eric (who's black) is the straight-laced, middle-class serious hero, while Woody is the irreverent street-smart punk.
  • Scary Black Man: Double Subverted by Eric; while he is a tall, muscular, and physically intimidating black man, his full-body costume and articulate speaking patterns means he's inevitably assumed to be Caucasian. People don't really freak out until they find out he's black underneath.
  • Self-Deprecation: Later issues had a advertisement for the series listing things by funny/not funny. This included on the not funny side "Quantum and Woody #5 (all right, we admit it)".
  • Shoot the Hostage: Done by Woody in issue #4. He shot her with paint pellets to distract the hostage-taker.
  • Shout-Out: One of the panicking bystanders in the reboot mentions Gundam as he flees for safety.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Very, VERY much so.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes
  • Team Pet: Vincent Van Goat.
  • Technical Pacifist: Quantum.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Enforced by Quantum's heroic ideals. This proves very frustrating to Woody when they face Terrence Magnum's private army while armed with rubber bullets.
    Woody: "I got armored goons in air sleds firing lasers at me, and you're playing paint ball and laser tag!"
  • Time Skip: Played metaphysically due to Real Life circumstances. The comic was delayed for eleven months after issue #17, so the next issue (#34!) starts off with some unexplained major changes to the characters — Woody has become a villain and married Amy Fishbein, Quantum has a black girl called Woody as his partner, and Vincent Van Goat could fly. The issue after that resumed numbering at #18, building towards the events seen in #34. Sadly, they didn't quite make it.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Eric to Amy Fishbein, which has been going on since his early teenage years.
  • Utility Belt: Quantum, whose utility belt is equipped with numerous gadgets for any occasion.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Very much so, as the two titular heroes spend more time fighting each other than the bad guys.
  • Where da White Women At?: Played with in Eric's longtime unrequited love for Amy Fishbein, despite Woody's repeated warnings that her white suburban Jewish family would strongly oppose such a relationship.
    Woody: (Picks up pepper shaker) This is you. (Picks up salt shaker) This is Amy Fishbein. (Picks up ketchup bottle) This is her cousin, you know the one with the eye. (Grabs a handful of fries) This is the angry mob of her relatives. This is the judge who looks the other way...
  • The Whitest Black Guy: Eric, having grown up privileged in the suburbs, is far less in tune with the plight of urban blacks than he'd like to think he is.
  • Windmill Crusader: Eric is convinced that David Warrant engineered the deaths of his and Woody's fathers, and tried to kill them in the accident that gave them their powers. He still suspects this even after repeated non-violent encounters with Warrant, including one time when Warrant helped save Woody's life. It reaches cataclysmic proportions when Quantum absorbs all of their shared power, neutralizing Warrant at a critical moment as he tried to save the LunaWatch Eternals on the Moon.
  • With Friends Like These...: And how. Compounded when they casually throw racial insults at each other.
    Eric: "Woody, my people have been pulling the weight for yours for centuries—"
    Woody: "Christ, not that 'me so ethnic' crap again. Only cotton you ever picked was the lint balls out of your drawers."
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: Quantum gets this from time to time. Justified as his full-body costume completely covers him.
    • He's on the receivng end in a flashback to hopping in a cab after a run-in with street thugs and when he complains about "those black kids" cutting his suit up, the black cab driver just gapes "son, have you looked at your skin?"