A field guide to Questionable Content

I’m lucky enough to live in a city that’s home to an awesome library with a formidable (depending on your level of interest in Charlie Brown’s gang) comic collection. But if I remember correctly from growing up, a lot of libraries are kind of terrible. And because two of my posts so far are really gay, I’ve decided to put off the book I planned to write about this week to write about an indie music web comic instead! That’s right, folks, something for everyone. Three great components, indie music, comics, and the internet, have joined forces to create pure awesomeness and its name is Questionable Content.



QC is a sit-com(ic) that captures the daily interactions of a group of friends. The comic orbits around Marten, a twenty-something indie music aficionado who works at a library, owns an anthro(pomorphized)-PC, PintSize, and falls in the Scott Pilgrim category of directionless slacker hero. Marten, and for the most part, the entire QC universe, is a loveable mess. The characters work in a wide range of jobs from libraries to coffee shops to. . . offices? Okay, most of the characters work at Coffee of Doom.

Set in a small Massachusetts college town (is there a town in Massachusetts that isn’t a college town?), the cast is a collection of aimless graduates. They bond over music, computer games, coffee, and drinking JUST LIKE REAL PEOPLE. Aside from some futuristic elements and a leisurely time progression, the comic does a great job of mirroring the unguided adventures of most twenty-somethings.

Though most of the characters seem to be on standby life-path-wise, this comic is a nice reminder that we don’t have careers, we have lives. There are much worse things than being young and poor and a barista.

The comic, created by Jeph Jacques, first appeared online in 2003 and is now rounding toward its 2,000th strip. For those of you with awesome libraries/book stores and rocky wireless, this past fall Jacques published Questionable Content, Volume One, which collects the first 300 strips.

The strip updates five times a week, Monday through Friday. When Jeph’s at a convention there are usually pretty excellent guest comic strips. On the rare occasion that Jeph is sidelined due to illness or business, Yelling Bird makes an appearance. Yelling Bird is terrible friend that everyone needs. He’s a total ass, and he will go to great lengths to humiliate you and ruin your life, but damn if he doesn’t tell it like it is.

The QC universe has expanded greatly since I first encountered it in college, and though most of the characters are complex and interesting I’m just going to focus on my favorites. I’ll give a rundown of the usual suspects as a sort of field guide for new readers.

Marten: the warm little center that the life of this world crowds around. In a band. Has cute hair. CoD’s (Coffee of Doom) most loyal, regular, non-paying customer.

Faye: her sassiness seems bitchy, but mostly it’s just awesome. Barista at CoD. Cute glasses. Average hair.

Dora: owns Coffee of Doom. Cute in a goth-meets-indie sort of way. Allegedly bi-sexual.

Hannelore: clearly the best. Works at CoD. Her intense OCD is somehow endearing. She once learned to play drums in seconds and described her ease by likening playing the drums to “counting using your whole body.”

Tai: for lack of a better way to put it, is the lesbian. She works with Marten at the library. Mostly she tries to sleep with straight girls and gets rejected (she’s drawn a little too close to the lesbian-predator stereotype for my comfort). Good hair. Adorable.

Marigold: WoW enthusiast/guild leader. Painfully shy. Subsists on Pocky alone. Rejects Tai when she tries her luck, but then seems to reconsider via this Harry Potter fanfic.

I’m sure I’m forgetting characters, but these are the ones I like the most in no particular order. The particular order, for those of you curious is 1. Hannelore 2. Tai 3. Marigold 4. Faye 5. Yelling Bird 6. EVERYONE ELSE

The truly great thing about Questionable Content is its evolution. About every month Jacques gets noticeably more skilled at drawing the characters. (See, for example, http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=1 and http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=1861) For someone with a degree in music and no formal art training it’s pretty impressive. If you ever feel thrown off by the change in the characters appearance, Marten is the guy in the black hoodie or the “Teh” shirt (sometimes both), Faye has the nerd glasses and all the sass, and Pintsize is the robot. You’re now ready to join the ranks of loyal QC fans. Feel free to consult this field guide as often as necessary. You’re welcome.

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