ipython qtconsole --gui=foo was never enabled in the absence of pylab-mode. It should be easy to add.
ipython qtconsole --gui=foo
Essentially, the gui-related code from the terminal app here should be added to the pylab logic in the kernelapp here.
When we fix this, remember to update the GUI section in the docs/source/interactive/reference.txt file that has warnings about this issue.
remove doc warning that %gui doesn't exist in kernel