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Joe Casey and Sebastián Piriz talk action and mystery in 'Jonny Quest'

Comic Books

Joe Casey and Sebastián Piriz talk action and mystery in ‘Jonny Quest’

The latest ‘Jonny Quest’ series debuts this August.

Seven decades ago this year, Jonny Quest debuted. In that time, the precocious young explorer (joined by his father Dr. Benton Quest, bodyguard/secondary father figure Race Bannon, and BFF/adopted brother Hadji Singh) have traveled the world in the name of science and adventure. While most of the Jonny Quest stories have been on TV (including this writer’s beloved, super ’90s The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest), he’s made forays into the comics realm, including a late ’80s run from Comico. Now, Jonny Quest and the whole gang — yes, that includes the adorable Bandit — will return to comics with a brand-new series from Dynamite.

Jonny Quest is headed up by writer Joe Casey and artist Sebastián Piriz, and launches directly from the #0 issue released for this most recent Free Comic Book Day. The story officially begins “where the show left off in 1964” — as the team return from yet another mission to their Palm Key HQ, they quickly discover that “the once-familiar landscape is now strangely, disquietingly different.” With solicitations asking foreboding questions like, “You can’t go home again, or can you?!,” it’s clear that this series is both classic Jonny Quest goodness but with with a tension and overarching scope that should infuse the franchise with interesting new life.

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Issue #1 of Jonny Quest is due out August 14. In the lead up to the debut, we got the chance to speak with both Casey and Piriz recently via email. There, the two creators spoke about their fandom of the original series and even the comics, how the #0 issue informed the book’s larger development, playing with the book’s feel/tone, and the relationships emphasized across this book, among other topics and tidbits.

Joe Casey to headline 'Johnny Quest' ongoing series

Main cover by Chad Hardin and Chuck Michael Obach. Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: What was your own “relationship” like with Jonny Quest before this project?

Joe Casey: My relationship with the original cartoon goes back quite a long time. Decades, in fact. In some ways, it’s probably the same relationship for me that it was for most of my generation…it was on broadcast television on Saturday mornings throughout my entire childhood. Every couple of years, it would show up on a different network. Then a little later I was a fan of the monthly comic series published by Comico during the 80’s, superbly written by William Messner-Loebs. So there’s definitely some history there.

Sebastián Piriz: Jonny Quest was one of the cartoons they had when Cartoon Network started (back in the ’90s? ). JQ, Space Ghost, Birdman… I fell in love with all the Hanna Barbera series, especially the action and adventure ones.

AIPT: What was the reception like from the issue #0 from Free Comic Book Day — did it help you feel as if you’re onto something here?

JC: From what I’ve heard back, it went over like gangbusters. Mainly, I hope it gets readers legitimately interested in the series itself, because the FCBD story was barely the tip of the iceberg.

SP: I think it was pretty good. I joined a facebook group of Jonny Quest fans when I started working on this (I know… I shouldn’t) I don’t participate in any discussion, but all I see is people really happy with the comic and very interested in what’s happening next.

Joe Casey and Sebastián Piriz talk action and mystery in 'Jonny Quest'

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: Similarly, do people need to have read #0, or can they come in blind at all?

JC: You can absolutely come in completely cold with issue #1, where the events of the FCBD story are ably and entertainingly recapped right there on page one.

SP: You can start in issue #1, everything you need to know is there in the first pages. Joe made sure of that.

AIPT: There’s been heaps of new Jonny shows and stuff since the 1964 original. Do you touch on any of that stuff or keep it as tight as possible?

JC: It’s not always my default position as a writer, but in this case, I feel like I’m a real traditionalist. That attitude on my part basically translates into the original, single season of the show from the early 60’s serving as our “bible”. So as much as I dug the Comico series (like I said, a fantastic comic, all around… especially its first 12 issues), for our book we decided to stick to the admittedly loose continuity that they laid down in those first animated episodes.

SP: Back to Cartoon Network. One of the first original shows they made was the real adventures. I liked it a lot back then, maybe more than the OG series. But as I grew up, I became a kind of fan of everything from the ’60s: music, comics, cartoons… there’s nothing like that original series.

AIPT: Joe, you’d said in some press that you’re “maintaining the bouncy spirit” of the original series. Is there something a little more complicated or tongue in cheek about Jonny Quest, or is it just this deeply pure thing?

JC: It’s not so complicated. In terms of writing, it’s mainly about locking into the voices and the dynamics of the characters and making them seem authentic to the source material. So when you read their dialogue on the page, it matches as close as I can get to how they sounded in the show. Luckily, that came pretty quickly.

Joe Casey and Sebastián Piriz talk action and mystery in 'Jonny Quest'

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: Sebastian, what was it like visually trying to adapt the 1964 series? Did you have any other inspirations/influences to work with or touch on?

SP: Matt [Idelson], the editor, told me I should do it my way… I tried, but once you start gathering reference (Joe sends a lot in the scripts — that’s awesome), it’s almost impossible not being influenced by the vision of Wildey and Toth. As I feel more comfortable drawing the characters and I think there’s more of me, but I can’t get too far from the original.

AIPT: I don’t think you can think about Jonny Quest anymore without thinking of its satire in The Venture Bros. Do you lean into that aspect at all, or just try to avoid it entirely?

JC: I feel like we play things pretty straight, much like the tone of the original show. I’m more interested in drilling down on the more emotional aspects of the concept and the characters. As it turned out, that ended up being a big part of the story we’re telling.

SP: I didn’t want to watch the ‘64 series while drawing, I already have to deal with imposter syndrome only because of the reference pics. So I started a rewatch of The Venture Bros, just to watch something similar. Besides the fact that Race now sounds like Brock in my head, it didn’t leak into my work at all.

AIPT: There was some talk about this book exploring the generational aspect of the Quests. Can you touch on that a little more?

JC: To me, the fact that Dr. Quest and Jonny are father and son automatically make this a generational story. For this series, we’re just going to lean into it a little harder than they ever have before. We even turn it on its head a bit… in a specific way I wouldn’t want to spoil here.

Jonny Quest

Courtesy of Dynamite.

SP: I think it’s better to read what Joe has to say about this. I will only say that I love the way it’s handled.

AIPT: I got the sense from the issue #0 that, as the team had returned to their home base where things felt off, that you were playing around with horror vibes. Is that true, or is there something else happening here instead?

JC: I guess that depends on whatever your definition of “horror” might be. Again, no spoilers, but what happens to them and some of the truths they’re confronted with, some folks might consider extremely horrific. I think the best Jonny Quest stories always had a sense of mystery and discovery to them, some of them much darker than others. We’re just upholding that tradition.

SP: I’d say it’s more mystery than terror.

AIPT: How much do you delve into specific relationships here? I’d love to see more about Race and Hadji or Race and Dr. Quest.

JC: As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the relationships, and how these characters bounce off of each other. The plot, the challenges they face, the villains that go after them… they all pale in comparison to this family and what they mean to each other. Maybe the most interesting interactions come from Dr. Quest and Race. They’ve always been the adults in the room, the authority figures. We switch things up in this series in a way where that dynamic dramatically shifts. How they react to that shift has been a blast to write.

SP: You’ll like this series then. There’s some stuff happening between the characters that I think adds a layer to their relationships.

Jonny Quest

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite moment/page/panel from the story that you can tease or talk about? Something that feels important or significant?

JC: For me, there are some character moments that I think really resonate, specifically certain interactions between Dr. Quest and Jonny that go very deep. There’s also a bit in issue #2 between Jonny and Hadji that, on the surface, is just heartbreaking. And not for any reason you could ever predict.

SP: I love when the script says, ‘And now we’re gonna use this awesome prop from the series.’

AIPT: If you had to be a member of the team, who would you be and why?

JC: I think anyone’s knee-jerk response would be Race. But if you take a breath and really think about it, you realize that Jonny’s who you want to be. He’s the one. And once you read our book, I think you’ll understand why.

SP: Dr. Quest! He’s smart, but he’s also an action man…and he has a lot of money, that doesn’t hurt.

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