“I am the Underwear Ninja!” An Interview with Jeph Jacques

Anyone who’s scratching their head or shocked by the title of this article obviously hasn’t read Questionable Content (abbreviated QC) or know anything about it’s adorably perverse and offensive robotic mascot, Pintsize. I can only hope that with a little background information and the interview with the creator/artist/writer, you will soon be waiting with baited breath for the next comic to make its way onto the internet.

Jeph Jacques

QC was launched in the Summer of 2003 and is a daily slice-of-life webcomic. The plot focuses on the main character, Marten Reed, his roommate and close friend, Faye Whitaker and Dora Bianchi, who is Faye’s boss and owner of Coffee of Doom. There are a variety of supporting characters, which include neighbours, employees of the local coffee shop and of course, the anthropomorophized personal computers. The storytelling style of the comic combines a love of indie music, romance and the drama that follows it, sitcom-esque and sexual humor.

In regards to the creator – Jeph Jacques is one of the few professional webcomic artists out there. Meaning, that he makes a living solely on the merchandising and advertising of his webcomic. And even while its granted him fortune and fame, he still challenges himself as an artist. Anyone who starts with the very first and continues to the present day will notice that his style has changed dramatically (and for the better).

Below is the interview I had with Jeph at the Calgary Entertainment Expo (June 17 – 19, 2011). Enjoy!

Kim: Hi Jeph! I just want to start off by wishing you a belated Happy Birthday! Do you want to tell us what you did to celebrate it?

Jeph: Well, I celebrated my birthday here at the convention. We flew out early in the morning and got here about six in the evening, and went straight from the airport to here. Sold stuff, talked to the fans – it was actually a really fun way to spend a birthday.

Kim: I have to ask you about the Pintsize cake that we saw at your table yesterday. Did a fan bring that for you?

Jeph: Yes, I’ve been getting a whole bunch of baked goods, actually. I got some cupcakes, the Pintsize cake, and was given some clandestine beers. It’s been a pretty fun weekend so far and the cake was quite good.

Kim: So you’ve been writing QC for eight years now, is there a foreseeable end to the series? Or are you just going to keep writing it until you’re dead?

Jeph: Well, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be writing it until I drop dead, then again, I didn’t think that when I started it that I’d be writing it for this long either. So, I’m kind of leaving it open ended at the moment. If I get to the point where I’m tired of it, or it’s just time to end it, I have ideas about how I could do that. If I did get tired of it, I’d definitely give it a proper ending because that’s the only way you can be fair to the fans.

Kim: And if you do end it, would you want to start a new webcomic? What’s the sort of things you would like to work on after QC?

Jeph: Well, I can’t imagine not doing comics at this point. It’s been such a big part of my life, and I really enjoy it. So, I’d definitely be doing something related to that. My goal right now is to get to the point where I can work on a side project along QC and I’ve been kind of bandying around with ideas now for about a year. So once I kind of settle on something that will be fun, I’ll probably just go ahead and start working on it.

Kim: Is there a particular company that you would like to work with?

Jeph: I’m really, really happy with TopatoCo who does all of my merchandise distribution and they published the first book and will be publishing the second one that comes out this Summer. They do a great job. The profit margins are a lot better then you would get with a bigger publisher, which means more money for me so that I can continue to support myself while I write the strip.

Kim: Can you tell us a little bit about your daily process? How long does it usually take you from start to finish? Do you usually have a week planned out?

What you can expect from QC

Jeph: As far as the time to do each comic.. well, the art is generally pretty consistently two to three hours, sometimes less, sometimes more. The writing varies wildly. Sometimes I can write a comic in thirty seconds while I’m in the shower, other days I spend six hours staring at a blank text editor file going “Oh my God, what am I doing?” For the overall plot, I have general plot points that I aim for over the long term, but even those will frequently change because a character will take it in another direction.

Kim: So you would say that your process is pretty organic? You just kind of go with the flow?

Jeph: Yeah. I’d say so.

Kim: Regarding the first book, how was it for you to go back and redraw all of those panels? How did it feel?

Jeph: It was a strangely emotional experience going back to these things that I drew eight years ago when I was twenty three. It was very cool going back and tidying them up, definitely an interesting experience.

Kim: Do you have a favorite character to draw or write?

Jeph: I enjoy writing them all equally, they all pose their own unique challenges. As far as my favorite to draw, it changes over time. Right now, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Tai and Marigold.

Kim: Here’s a bit of a strange question for you. You do a lot of guest spots on other webcomics and of course, you do sketches for your fans.. but there seems to be a trend with you drawing penises a lot and I was curious as to why that is.

Jeph: They’re just inherently funny and fun to draw.

Kim: Do you have any messages from Yelling Bird?

Jeph: Nothing that I could repeat.. at least not without the worry of being thrown out of this convention.

Kim: Is there anything you’d like to mention – anything coming up?

Jeph: Well, we have the book, Volume Two of Questionable Content coming out this Summer, we’re just finishing it up right now.

Kim: Great. Well, thank you very much for your time, Jeph. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Jeph: Thanks.

You can follow Jeph Jacques on Twitter @JephJaques and you can of course read Questionable Content here: http://questionablecontent.net/

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