Exclusive: More with Questionable Content’s Jeph Jacques

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From Comic 420: Best Band Ever

After picking the brain of Questionable Content kingpin Jeph Jacques for well over an hour, we’d plotted the history of his groundbreaking webcomic, rationalized away the dated, overbearing aspects of DIY, and developed a revolutionary new model for independent music. The only thing we forgot to talk about was that one little thing: the comic itself.

After the jump, the Beard takes his place alongside fellow QC obsessives, hitting Jacques up for insider info on Dora’s new hair cut, Hannelore’s impending killing spree, the increasing absence of Pintsize, the likelihood of a surprise Marten/Faye bootie call, and the secret identity of Pizza Girl.

Flavorwire: I’d love to ask a couple of quickies about the comic. My girlfriend and I had about 20 plot points we wanted to suggest (which I won’t bore you with, though they were good).

Jeph Jacques: I hate it when people suggest good plot points cause it means I can’t use ’em

FW : Oh man, that makes me want to suggest the opposite of what I want.

JJ: People try that, too…

FW: Seriously though, Marten has seemed listless lately. I’m wondering if that’s got something to do with your desire to make some shifts.

JJ: Marten is in kind of a transitional phase right now. He’s finding some potential stability in his life but (as I think a lot of people in their mid-twenties find) he’s not sure if it’s the kind of stability he really WANTS. Also he is constantly surrounded by crazy, shrieking women. But yeah, he’s naturally mellow to the point of spinelessness, so I don’t know how well he’s gonna handle having to actually make some Life Decisions sooner or later.

FW: How does that relate to the season shift? Or does it?

JJ: It does to some extent. I needed to jump forward an unspecified but significant amount of time, to imply that things were status quo for a while. Marten and Dora doing their thing, Faye and Sven sort of doing their sort of unhealthy thing. I think dating Dora is a little weird for Marten, because she’s basically already where she wants to be in life, running her own business and stuff.

FW: So is this part of a bigger scheme? I know in the earlier days you said you had it all mapped out (even the ending).

JJ: I don’t really know where the comic is going in the short to mid term anymore. The strips around #500 were originally gonna be at the END of the comic, but I changed it because I really had to end the will-they-won’t-they with Faye and Marten if the story was gonna progress. So these days I have plot points in mind and then the actual “getting there” is basically up to the characters. So yeah saying “I don’t know where it’s going” sounds worse than it actually is! It’s more like “I know where it’s going but I’m not sure how it will get there.” Basically at the end of the comic Hannelore is going to cut everyone’s heads off.

I used to get really nervous about big shifts in the plot because I was worried I’d “ruin” the comic. But I’ve done it a bunch of times now and the audience has only grown, so I just tell myself to stop worrying and do it.

FW: I actually wanted to ask a bit about Hanners. It seems she’s come into a strong support role, kind of knocking Steve, Pintsize, etc., out a bit.

JJ: She’s easily my favorite character, although not the easiest to write. She’s the only one whose problems aren’t directly her fault!

FW: Do you ever feel constrained by those other supporting characters, or just have better ideas for her? Steve is a good example of someone it seemed like you lost interest in.

JJ: I write for characters based solely on interest and ideas, so yeah if I’m bored by a character there’s a very good chance we won’t be seeing them again.

FW: Do you get pressure from readers? MORE PINTSIZE!

JJ: I get people asking/demanding more screen time for a given character, but that is pretty easy to ignore. And some characters are hard to write because they have a single defining trait. That’s why Raven is so tricky. Everyone knows she’s a ditz, so I can’t just make every joke about her be “ha ha she said something dumb lol.” The same thing with Hanners: everyone knows she’s crazy so every joke can’t be an OCD gag or “ha ha something happened and she freaked out.” So with Raven I have to find ways to subvert expectations, and with Hanners I have to avoid making her mental problems the butt of every joke.

FW: Does that maybe just take time? I mean, I guess for awhile Faye was the “neurotic” girl .

JJ: I think with Hanners the real core of her humor isn’t that she’s crazy, it’s that she has this really sad life. It takes a lot of careful thought. I definitely spend a ton of time wondering whether I’m being true to the character.

FW: Along that line, what’s the response been like to Dora’s new hair? It certainly started a debate in my household.

JJ: Mostly positive, but that could just be because I was like “if you don’t like it DON’T EMAIL ME I DON’T CARE.” I know I like it better, ’cause now she and Marten don’t look like siblings.

FW: I always thought that was sort of hilarious.

JJ: It definitely did lend a creepy undertone to their relationship which I enjoyed. The comic’s kind of blonde-heavy now. I might have to dye her hair a different color or kill someone off. Either, or.

FW: With that stuff though, how much responsibility do you feel to the reader? On some level, it’s natural for people kind of claim ownership over things they like and freak out if anything changes in a way they don’t like.

JJ: I totally understand peoples’ resistance to change, but one thing I have noticed on the internet is that nobody remembers after three days. You get a big initial burst of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH MY GOD YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING,” but as long as you don’t respond to that, in three days the same people are going “Oh haha, today’s comic was really funny.” Although there are *still* people holding out hope for a Marten/Faye relationship. That ship has SAILED, people.

FW: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JJ: Watch, having said that it will happen next week, and I will be a total hypocrite.

FW: That’d be something. Alright, here’s a selfish one: when do we get more indietits?

JJ: You know I am actually thinking about relaunching it.

FW: Really?

JJ: As an actual “real” comic instead of just the static art, because birds are just fucking hilarious animals and I love drawing them. And I can finally draw QC fast enough that I have time to do another comic if I want to.

FW: You should man. I’ve always enjoyed it A LOT (even if the skull fucking makes me shudder). OK, last one, and don’t bullshit me on this one, Jeph. Who is Pizza Girl?

JJ: Marnie Stern.

FW: I thought so.

Read the Beard’s other interview with Jeph here.