by Jeffrey O. Gustafson
Friday at New York Comic Con, creators John Layman and Rob Guillory talked to several hundred fans of their hugely entertaining, humorous, action-drama series Chew.
They talked about upcoming issues in the current stoyline. Next month’s Issue 38 will be Colby/Savoy focused and set in the FDA prison. Additionally, writer Layman revealed that a background character on the cover is the villain from the flash-forward from issue 17.
Artist Guillory is chiefly responsible for the visual easter-eggs that are one of the series’ hall-marks. Layman never sees the gags until the very end of the production process. Guillory, on the strengths of his art: “I think there are a lot of artists that are better than me, technically, but I think my strength is that you can read Chew without any words and probably get it.”
When asked about the amount of research he puts into the various unique powers, Layman said “I don’t do any research, everything is B.S. Except [with the names] I look into linguistic things, Latin and Greek root words, which technically are not supposed to mix. It takes me a while to find the right rhythm, what sounds right.”
“The next arc is called Chicken Tenders and it is completely Poyo-centric,” said Layman, featuring the hugely popular assassin rooster. It will be five issues plus another Poyo special one-shot. (Guillory wants a chromium cover for the story at some point.) The popularity and importance of Poyo in the story wasn’t planned but grew organically from the craziness of the eventual execution of the character. Issue 42 is a murder mystery Poyo must solve.
The series will end at issue 60, which has long been the plan. On why 60, Layman said “Because Preacher is 60, because Transmet[ropolitan] is 60, because Y [The Last Man] is 60.” There are four story arcs left after the current one is complete. As noted, the next arc is centered around Poyo, the arc after that will be about the vampire, the penultimate arc will be about Savoy, and the final story will be back to being centered on Tony Chu. About the wacky presentations of federal agencies, “The EPA will probably show up at some point.”
There is an Absolute-like slipcased hardcover coming out, called the Smorgasbord edition. (It is currently available at the Convention and will be available in stores next month.) It is the first of three such collections, each having 20 issues. “We’ll never have a compendium with all sixty issues,” said Layman, contrasting the experience of reading the much denser Chew to something like quicker Walking Dead which is available in compendiums.
When someone asked about the book’s racial diversity, Layman said “It wasn’t really conscious. Comics are too white.” (There was a big round of applause to this.) “Rob designs the characters as he sees fit, and makes things more diverse.” He noted that there has never been any push-back from Image.
About planning ahead, Layman said “I know where I have to be at the end of every arc and where the characters have to be. And who lives and who dies. I was kind of bummed when Glenn died in The Walking Dead, so I decided that someone else would survive as pushback for Kirkman.” Guillory noted that the day the first met, Layman drunkenly told him the plot of the whole story.
About the long-in-development television adaptation, “The Showtime thing went away.” They are with new “Hollywood people” who they feel will better represent their wants and needs from an adaptation. If an adaptation goes forward, they wouldn’t do animation if it wasn’t visually like Guillory’s distinct, highly stylized art. About live action, Guillory would want to be intimately involved with the production: “I would like to be involved, especially [with decisions about] the acting, if that would even be possible. I have very specific things in my brain about how the characters act, and how they react. It’s a humor thing. And I would like to be involved in design things, like character design.”
About their favorite issue of the series, Layman says that usually it’s the most recent issue. “I’ll have an issue that is my favorite until the next favorite comes along. Thirty was really a high-point, for both of us.” Added Guillory, about the issue’s shocking turn of events, “And a low point.” Layman continued: “I really loved 36, [which is] weird because 37 was a better comic.” (I agree.) Guillory’s favorite was the Secret Agent Poyo one-shot. Just because its so out there. I’m a big fan of cheesy ’80s action flicks. [The one-shot] is in the mode of really ridiculous action movie.”
Layman and Guillory answered questions from fans and talked for several more minutes. I’m personally a big fan of this series. Each successive issue gets stronger and stronger. The creators continue to mix inventive, high-concept, high-energy weirdness with fantastic character drama and genuine hilarity in story & art. Layman and Guillory are working a pretty special voodoo with this book, and I look forward to the final stories as they are published over the next two years.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.