Comic review: "Questionable Content"

"Questionable Content" is a long-running webcomic by Jeph Jacques. The strip has been running online since 2003.

Summary

“Questionable Content” is a “slice-of-life” strip about the lives of a group of twentysomething friends, lovers, and acquaintances. The strip's set in a college town in Massachusetts, but in a "twenty minutes into the future" setting where artificial intelligence (AI) and sentient robots are commonplace.

The cast has grown to a large size, but some of the current main characters of note include:

  • Marten: the main star of the strip; a library assistant who’s interested in indie rock.
  • Pintsize: Martin’s small-sized robot companion. Pintsize spends his time making crude jokes, misbehaving, and serving as comic relief. That said, he does like Marten.
  • Faye: Marten’s roommate. A former coffee shop employee, she’s now running a robot repair shop.
  • Bubbles: an android who's a former military soldier; Bubbles is now Faye's coworker (and girlfriend).
  • Hannelore, an eccentric employee at Coffee of Doom, the local coffee shop. She’s also Marten and Faye’s neighbor.
  • Roko: an android and former police officer who's now a nonprofit organization employee.
  • May: a surly and foul-mouthed android who works at a convenience store.
  • Claire, a transgender woman (and Marten's girlfriend), who works at the local library as an intern.
  • Brun: a reserved, autistic woman who works as a bartender. Brun likes clocks and bad puns.
  • Clinton, Claire’s more reserved younger brother. He’s a fan of Hannelore’s father, the scientist behind the artificial intelligence present in the strip’s world. Clinton also has a crush on Brun.
  • Renee: Brun's roommate, who works at a bakery.
  • Elliot: Renee's coworker, who's also worked as a bouncer. Elliot has a crush on Clinton and Brun.
  • Yay Newfriend: a mysterious, powerful AI (with multiple bodies); they chose "Yay" as their name on a whim, after someone said the phrase to greet them. (Robots in the strip seem to have unconventional names in general, however.) Yay wants badly to be Roko's friend; Roko's ambivalent about such, but tolerates them.

The strip's stories tend to focus on the characters' jobs, romantic lives, and various personal problems. While it's usually humorous, some stories delve into serious material (such as Faye dealing with alcoholism).

Questionable Content volume 5
"Questionable Content," vol. 5. Art by Jeph Jacques. (Topatoco Books)

More recent strips have also delved into the presence of AI in the strip's world, including more focus on several robot characters. There's also been a shift toward more android-like characters like Bubbles, over the more cartoony/robotic characters like Pintsize. (That said, the latter still show up, such as a coworker with a Pintsize-like body at Roko's job.) One example: for most of the strip's run, Hannelore's robot pal Winslow was an iPod-like small robot. A storyline a few years ago saw Winslow get an android body upgrade at an Apple Store-like robot body shop occasionally seen in the strip. It also might be a way to quietly update Winslow's design, given iPods by now are pretty dated.

As a webcomic about twentysomethings, some of the humor is fairly "blue" or "Not Suitable For Work." Sex and sexual references come up frequently (May's often seen flipping through adult magazines at her job), and the characters also swear often.

Highlights

  • Brun's one of my favorite characters in the strip. I enjoy seeing her interacting with Renee, Clinton, and others.
  • Faye and Bubbles' budding, and eventually confirmed, romance.

Image from "Questionable Content," vol. 5. Art by Jeph Jacques. (Topatoco Books)

Anthony
I'm Anthony, the owner of Diverse Tech Geek.