Character building 

How Josh Quick fills his comic universe

Page 4 of 4

There are a few real Missoula people whom Quick draws more than others including Charlie Beaton, the owner of The Big Dipper, and John Fleming, owner of Ear Candy Music. He draws Fleming over and over, he says, "and I don't know why...I don't know how he feels about it; I've never asked him. And I'll duplicate Charlie. Charlie means a lot to me, too. I don't think he feels either way about it."

Beaton says he commissioned Quick to design Big Dipper items because his style is unexpected. "I've been in Missoula for a long time, since '88, and I've been friends with his brother Troy for a long time. I remember Josh as a little kid and then discovered him later as an artist. For us it's just a little departure from some of the branding we've done, in that we can just do some playful things that seem to fit well with ice cream...I like pieces that are quirky and odd, and Josh has a crazy creative mind."

But did he realize he was one of the frequent subjects of Quick's comics?

"Well, I didn't really know that," Beaton says, laughing. "I know I've been in maybe one or two things, but I'll have to keep my eye out for more."

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If there's one person who understands how much Quick uses his interactions with people in his work, it's Opstad, his partner. A few months back, they went through a rough patch in their relationship. Opstad had just graduated from UM's speech therapy program and they were about to move into a new house together. "Our relationship was growing a lot then," laughs Opstad, putting it diplomatically.

When it came time to draw a poster for local band Sick Kids XOXO, Quick created a series of scenes with a guy and a girl hashing out their frustrations. The girl's getting shot out of a cannon and blasted through a hoop of fire by the guy. The guy is being put in a box full of spikes and sawn in half magician-style by the girl. "I'm trying to show the tension of a relationship," Quick says. "It's the best kind of catharsis because I don't even have to think about it, it just comes out."

"I'm totally willing to be shot out of a canon," adds Opstad.

Sometimes the little mistakes make for great fodder. On Opstad's birthday, Quick got her an expensive German chocolate cake from Bernice's Bakery. The thing is, she doesn't like German chocolate cake—Quick does.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm an idiot!'" he says.

The incident showed up in a "Camp Sleep Over" episode, with the conversation about German chocolate cake played out by two men hanging from a clothesline over New York City, for no other reason than that Quick relishes the absurd.

Opstad teases Quick about his love of pro wrestling and the way he gets lost when he's working on comics. When he says they moved into their new Northside apartment a few weeks ago, Opstad laughs, saying, "It was three months ago." But it's easy to tell she enjoys his creative nature. "The other night I asked him what he were thinking about," she says, "But I don't even need to ask, I know. He's always working through a shape or idea, always occupying his mind, creating something."

Pebble-sized people

Two years ago, Disney bought Marvel Comics. This summer, Spider-Man died. The comic world seems to be in upheaval. "It breaks my heart that Stan Lee doesn't own Marvel anymore," says Quick, "but these things are always evolving. As for Spider-Man, they did the same thing with Superman. And they broke Batman's back. In the comic universe, they want to keep us in suspense. That's why the do it. They'll bring Spider-Man back. They have to."

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The world of Josh Quick is evolving, too. A few weeks ago he got word that one of his comics was chosen to run along with the work of 43 other graphic artists in Minneapolis' alt-weekly City Pages, for its annual commix edition—a contest in which the paper asked artists to predict the future.

"I freaked out," Quick says of being picked. "I jumped around. It was awesome. It's only happened a couple times before where I actually jumped up and ran around the house."

His prediction for the future is a goofy but somehow poignant four-panel showing a time-traveler who arrives in 2525 A.D. and finds people are the size of pebbles, in order to mitigate overcrowding. It's typical Quick: a commentary on the seriousness of overpopulation coupled with a funny and optimistic solution.

He has a couple of new ideas brewing in his head. One takes place in Custer, Mont., where a cosmonaut plummets from space, causing radiation that keeps all the townsfolk from growing old. He's also thinking about doing one about a fishing village where the water dries up due to an environmental disaster.

"It's meant to be humorous and funny, but it's also kind of heavy, too," he says. "I love the idea of the after-effects—how people have to change their perspective and re-see everything. It's sad, but at the same time human beings have to move on and survive. I love the idea of that. That's a story just waiting to happen."

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