Classic Jonny Quest
Classic Jonny Quest Comic from Scott Brooks - The Details
© 2020-2006, Lyle P. Blosser

Scott Brooks created his own Jonny Quest comic book and has made it free to view, online

To see more of Scott's work, visit his website

He also provided this write-up when asked:

Classic JQ co-moderator Lyle Blosser was kind enough to feed my ego and ask me for some exposition about the "whys and how-comes" of the creating of my JONNY QUEST comic, "Hordes of the Khan." Here's more than you want to know!

I've been a fan of JONNY QUEST since stumbling upon syndicated episodes of the show on Ted Turner's WTBS Superstation cable channel back in the 1970s. It was clear that this show was something extraordinary and special. It didn't look like any other cartoon show I'd ever seen, and frankly, still doesn't. When Turner's Cartoon Network premiered in the early 1990s, it held a classic JQ marathon, which I recorded to VHS, and through which I introduced my young son Connor to the show. He likewise fell under its spell.

Connor and I have always loved animation, and as he grew up, we worked on some animation projects together. Doing something with the JQ team seemed a natural project for us to work on. I conceived the idea of creating a 30 second "trailer" for a non-existent episode of JONNY QUEST, perhaps from an equally non-existent 2nd season of the show from 1965-'66. I noodled out two or three plot ideas that hewed closely to the style and content of what had been done, but using new elements, locales, and villains. I plotted out two of the ideas. I'd learned from creating sample pages of comic art (I'm an illustrator by trade, and a lifelong comic book enthusiast), that it's smart to underlie even truncated sequences of action with a complete plot, if not a full script. Of the two stories, one -- "Hordes of the Khan" -- seemed more doable, with some fun action visuals. I hadn't seen horses in an episode of JQ. Nor had the guys been to Mongolia, a place that seemed sufficiently exotic, remote, and dangerous for 1965, being surrounded by the USSR and Cold War China. I wanted not only to mimic the style of the show, but to do something that wouldn't look out of place if it were sent back through a wormhole to 1965. No anachronisms. Oh, and no parody, satire, subversion, updating, or re-conception, while I was at it. Straight homage.

After choosing about 20 four-to-five second scenes to animate -- starting with a JQ title card and a voice-over saying, "NEXT WEEK ON ... JONNY QUEST!" and ending with an explosion (natch!) -- I realized I'd need a full minute for this trailer. Connor and I started drawing, and managed to get about 6 scenes animated. It had only taken three years of spare-time work to get those done. THREE YEARS?! It was at that point, I realized it would take another 10 years to finish it. Time to reassess.

So I decided to turn the idea into something I knew better than animation -- comic books. I broke the story down into pages, wrote a script and started drawing a second time. The first page of the story, showing the Dyna-Soar space plane, is an actual frame from that aborted animation project -- with a little re-working to turn a horizontal image into a vertical one.

Being a space buff, I've known about Boeing's X-20 Dyna-Soar project for decades. It seemed a natural thing to include in a QUEST episode: cutting edge, real-life, "it could happen" technology. The astronaut character, Jack Bluehawk, is an homage to a little-known series of juvenile fiction readers from the early '60s by author Donald Wollheim about astronaut Mike Mars. They're admittedly pretty terrible books, but Mike's best friend is a Cheyenne named Johnny Bluehawk. I liked the idea of a Native American astronaut piloting the X-20, and his having had a past with our buddy Race Bannon. I didn't want to have two characters named "Johnny/Jonny," hence going with "Jack." Putting Jack in jeopardy in a remote, dangerous part of the world gives us the action kick-start to the story. But was it enough? No, the astronaut would be a B-plot.

Mongolia says two things to me: Genghis Khan and dinosaurs -- especially the "1965" version of me. We already had one high-tech "dynasoar" in the story; why not throw in some real ones (if only in fossilized form) too to kick off the A-plot. Unconsciously ripping off the Alan Grant intro scene in "Jurassic Park," I have Dr Quest delivering on a paleontological version of the sonic device he demonstrates in "Calcutta Adventure." Funny how things seep into your noggin. I'd totally forgotten that imaging scene (using a shotgun shell instead of a sci-fi gizmo) from JP until rewatching the movie a year or so after writing and drawing the comic. Consider it another homage.

Aside: a lot of the chatter between Bluehawk and the Canary Islands tracking station in the opening teaser scene is adapted from actual transcripts from John Glenn's Mercury flight. I said I was a space buff!

The other element, Genghis Khan, suggested a good villain for our Mongolian beef -- a local warlord who patterned himself after the Great Khan. I'll admit that he comes off as little more than a stock villain, but that's about all a done-in-one, 21 page comic allows for. I also threw in an ambitious Chinese colonel for our B-plot villain, and then it was just a matter of doping out the story beats.

The comic was created entirely in Photoshop, using a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. I know a lot of folks are critical of using modern tools to create art, but the world marches on. If I'd had to create this traditionally, I'd probably still be working on it. Or would have abandoned the project. As it was, it took me about three years, working on it in my spare time (admittedly, I'm slow.) Working digitally requires just as much work; it's just a little cleaner and more flexible. And no scanning. Ugh. Scanning.

A few random notes:

  • Bandit is surprisingly hard to draw on-model. I don't think I succeeded. I don't know why, but he's a real challenge. Hats off to the Hanna Barbera guys for getting it right most of the time.
  • Most all of the people in the comic are me. I shoot a lot of reference. It's weird seeing yourself as a chunky Mongolian warrior, a woman paleontologist, and a 10 year-old boy.
  • I give Race a little background in the comic. I hope it's okay with fans that I made him a Marine. I figure Race is probably in his early to mid 30s (with prematurely white hair); too young for service in World War II, but just right to have enlisted in the Marines during Korea. To me, he just *seems* like a Marine. Further, having him presumed dead at the Battle of Chosin (look it up, if you're not familiar) seemed like a bit of cool back-story. He's tough. He's a survivor. I've always liked hinting at characters' back stories, rather than having things completely spelled out. Why was he presumed dead? How did he survive? How did he get from the Marines to being the Quest bodyguard? I don't want to see that spelled out; I'd rather he keep some secrets.
  • Which leads to the Race-Bluehawk friendly rivalry for the affections of a woman. Who is she? Maybe Jade? Does it matter? Clearly Race likes strong, independent women. I thought the scenes between Race and Bluehawk were a little risky. The original show didn't do this sort of "adult" themed stuff too much. But then, comics have always (arguably) been a little more sophisticated in storytelling than contemporaneous animated tales. Why not add a little love triangle to the mix?
  • I nicknamed the flying platform the "washtub." I think it fits. I hope no one minds.
  • I bowed to some amount of "fan service," by including the flying platform and Hadji's "sim-sim salabim" rope trick, but generally I think such elements need to be used very sparingly to remain special. I think the show itself did a great job of not overworking that sort of thing. For instance, I admire their restraint with the use of Jade and Dr. Zin.
  • I believe I've read that comics were required to contain a certain amount of written or educational content back in the 1960s. I'm not sure why. I don't think it was to satisfy the Comics Code. To get some kind of publishing category tax break or something? Anyway, comics often had pages containing interesting facts or language or history lessons back then. I thought such a page would be appropriate for a book that was an adventure travelogue, so the "Quest for Knowledge" page was born. My good friend Rick Spears provided the drawings of the Protoceratops and Zalamdalestes. I drew the X-20 on that page.
  • The Letters pages were an obvious element of comic books back then. I had a great time writing and answering those letters.
  • The back cover was a separate personal project I did long before finishing the comic; it wasn't originally intended as the back cover/next issue tease, but it just worked out that way. I have no story idea in mind for that image. I think I originally was going to have a guy on a futuristic flying platform strafing Jonny, but thought it looked too similar to a sequence in "The Incredibles" with Dash. Upon reflection, I wish I'd drawn a WWII era fighter rather than a WWI (Albatros D.III) fighter -- too reminiscent of "Shadow of the Condor" and "Devil's Tower."
  • The front cover. I poke fun at myself in the letter column, having a reader complain about the covers never matching the interiors. I can remember reading such letters in the comics I read years ago. Covers serve a certain marketing and advertising function that a strict interpretation of the contents sometimes doesn't provide. Indeed, the cover here doesn't show something that actually happens in the story. But I thought it showed the gang in mysterious jeopardy that maybe makes you want to read the story. What's that device Dr. Quest is using? Why is Hadji reduced to throwing rocks? Where are those arrows coming from? What's Jonny holding? We may never know the answer to that last question.
  • The "Golden Monkey" logo is an obvious homage to Gold Key Comics, who printed the only Jonny Quest comic in the 1960s. Gold Key did a lot of TV tie-in comics at the time. I miss Gold Key.

Will there be another issue? Time will tell. And I do mean time. This one took far longer than I expected it to, but it was a lot of fun. I may just work up the nerve to tackle another one. I have that other story all mapped out, after all....

That's about it. I hope the peek behind the curtain didn't ruin the experience of reading the comic. Please let me know what you think. I welcome feedback. You can contact me through my website. Thanks!

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