9:38 pm Jan 21 - by Megan Reilly
Whether it updates once a week or every day, most students these days have one or two favorite webcomics. Few reach as wide of an audience, however, as Questionable Content, the week-daily comic about life, love, music, and annoying little robots (with the occasional joke about male genitalia) that is the work and passion of Jeph Jacques. While he was in Champaign for the Reflections|Projections conference held by ACM (Association of Computing Machinery), Jeph sat down with this Technograph writer to talk about his comic, the world and business of webcomics, and his internet fame.
QC (Questionable Content) was first put online on August 1, 2003 with the first 4 strips all posted at once. When asked why he chose a comic over the various other means of expression available online, Jacques said that while he already had a blog, he needed another outlet for his creativity. Webcomics seemed to pop out at him mostly because he had thought, through much of high school, that he would be a cartoonist when he finished his education. Along with this, comics seemed to be something he could concentrate on in a solitary environment; while he had been in bands before, they required the collaboration and cooperation of the entire group, and this meant relying on others to follow through on their parts in order to express himself.
To create QC, Jeph spent between a month and six weeks on story and character concepts in order to organize what kind of comic he wanted to do. Even this, however, wasn't going to stop the personalities Jeph Jacques brought into his comic from creating havoc in their world. In the beginning, QC was “just going to be about this kind of depressed guy and his robot. Then, all of a sudden, Faye showed up.”
Jeph lets the characters take him from week to week with what he thinks they would honestly do in each situation he presents them with. Though he has plans for where the comic is headed (which he refused to share), he says that often the story will veer off in the opposite direction from where he had thought it was headed. “It's like quantum,” he says, “there's no real way of knowing what will happen. The moment I say that something definitely will or definitely won't happen in the comic, it's almost guaranteed to be the opposite.”
When Jeph Jacques first began writing QC, only a small handful of webcomic artists were able to support themselves from the revenue generated by the comic. Now, Jeph is part of an ever-growing community of professional webcomic writers. Jeph stresses to anyone that might be interested in making their living from the internet that it is a “labor of love.” Even his colleagues at Topatoco, a major printing and distribution center for webcomic merchandise, need to have access to their computers or smartphones every hour of every day in order to keep the store running smoothly. Jeph stresses that any internet business “is not for anyone looking for your typical nine-to-five job.”
Jeph has over 400,000 unique readers every month, and over 40,000 of them follow him on Twitter. How does it feel to be internet famous? “I think that Ryan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics, said it best when he explained that you get all of the good stuff with none of the bad. You don't have to deal with the paparazzi and privacy invasion of being a normal celebrity, but you do get recognized and sometimes you see your merchandise, which is cool.”
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