FUTURE QUEST, the first series to debut from DC’s new line of Hanna-Barbera comics, is all about bringing the action heroes of Hanna-Barbera animation together, in many cases for the first time ever. Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman, the Herculoids, the Galaxy Trio and more must team up to face a powerful threat that will take their combined effort and the unique skills of each and every one of them to bring down. It’s such a powerful, easily understood concept that it’s surprising no one’s done it before. It just makes so much sense.
Fittingly, you could say the exact same thing about bringing legendary artist Steve Rude to the book. The Nexus creator and WORLD’S FINEST and BEFORE WATCHMEN artist has a distinctive style that has often been compared to the work of Doug Wildey and Alex Toth, the creators of Jonny Quest and Space Ghost. Rude contributed both a cover and interior art to FUTURE QUEST #1, pages that we learned were drawn in the same house as the animation desk on which Wildey drew Jonny Quest many years ago.
In this exclusive interview and comic preview, we spoke with Rude about this adventurous new comic, the major influence these shows had on his career and work and just how he wound up with Wildey’s old desk.
Future Quest is about as fun as comics get. How did you get involved with it and what were your contributions to the first issue?
I was first asked to do a cover for Future Quest, and then [I got] a phone call from [editor] Brittany Holzherr, who asked me if I was interested in contributing to the book.
How familiar were you with these characters when you got started on the series?
I was eight when Jonny Quest came out. It was the one show that I remember that the whole family sat around and watched together.
So you’re VERY familiar with them. Were you a fan of some of these other characters as well, such as Birdman and Space Ghost?
Well, I was ten when Space Ghost debuted and I recall all the kids in the neighborhood that were about my age being abuzz about this incredible show about this guy with a black mask and cool ship flying around space and firing his power beams. It was exactly suited for a Steve Rude mentality. We just went crazy over it, and when it finally premiered after we had seen those ads, we went even more crazy for it. It’s lasted my entire lifetime—my devotion and love of these characters.
I hear you actually have a connection with the creator of Jonny Quest. Is that true?
When I would occasionally visit Los Angeles from my hometown in Wisconsin, I would be shuffled around to meet my heroes and one of them was Doug Wildey, the creator of Jonny Quest. So I got to know Doug and when I moved out to California a couple of years later, I got to know him even better. I would hear these wonderful stories from him about working on the actual show and the trials that he would have to go through to get this show out on a weekly schedule. I’d hear these stories, and eventually I got to know Doug so well that I would be a regular visitor to his house. We just hung around the kitchen table talking about Jonny Quest.
At some point, I got this call from Doug where he said, “Hey, how would you like an animation desk? I’ve had it my entire life. I don’t use it anymore and I need someone who can come over and pick it up.”
And I said, “I’ll bring a truck.”
Do you still have the desk? Do you use it to draw?
It’s sitting about five feet from me right now. It’s an animation desk, and it’s something he probably had since he was doing freelance work at home on the Jonny Quest show. He probably had a setup in the office, and then he had this animation desk at his home for when he went home at night and did more work on the show.
Was there anything you watched for inspiration when getting started on this series? Have you been rewatching the cartoons?
The variant cover I drew for Future Quest #1 was based on an actual episode of Jonny Quest called “Monsters in the Monastery.” So I got out my DVD and took some reference photos from that so I could make things look accurate.
I did that for the cover, and then later on when I was doing my work on issue #1, I had to check out exactly what the robot spy looked like because he was featured in the first issue. I had model sheets given to me by some very thoughtful Warner Bros. employees over the years, so I certainly had access to all of the main characters, as well as Doctor Zin and Jezebel Jade who also appear in the sequence that I drew.
But I needed reference specifically for that robot. When we were kids we used to call him “the Eye.” Because that’s what he was—he was an eye. He scared the hell out of us. I remember when I told Doug that Jonny Quest scared us, he felt bad about that. But we wanted to be scared! We liked it!
So I took shots off the TV and I have those where I keep all my reference and inspiration photos. The show was just incredibly well done. Quest came mostly from the inspiration of the guys who made it back in the early ‘60s, and those artists grew up on comic strips. The one they always cited as being the most influential was Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff. So they were working off things that they grew up loving, and I was working now with DC and Warner Bros. with my inspirations which were these animated shows I grew up with like Jonny Quest and Space Ghost.
FUTURE QUEST #1 by Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude and Jordie Bellaire will be available next Wednesday, May 18th, in print and as a digital download.