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Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with a very cool peek at and chat about a unique new miniseries from Image called CHEW. I’d tell you about it, but I’ll leave it to the people behind CHEW, writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, to do that.
JOHN LAYMAN (JL): CHEW is a procedural cop drama with elements of horror and humor about a federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats, so he’s assigned to nibble on corpses to solve crimes, like finding out the motive or identity of the killer or whatnot.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So tell us a bit about CHEW.
That’s the shortest explanation, which doesn't just simplify it, but vastly simplifies it. The story is set in the near future, after a bird flu has wiped out millions across the globe. The U.S. government’s response to that is to enact a controversial Poultry Prohibition, and part of protagonist Tony Chu’s job is to enforce that, even if he, like many other Americans doesn’t completely believe in it.
So yeah. Horror. Cops. Gross-out humor. A dash of conspiracy sci-fi. And really, really fantastic artwork by Rob Guillory.
BUG: The concept of CHEW is pretty out there. What type of research does one do for this type of comic? Did you do much by way of studying forensics and the like?JL: There is a half-assed amount of research that goes into every script. It’s not going to stand up in any sort of scientific symposium, but I do at least attempt to make the crazy shit sound plausible. At least, whenever I can. But this comic book is entertainment, dammit, not homework!
ROB GUILLORY (RG): I watch a lot of CSI: Miami. Does that count? I find that watching David Caruso put on and remove his sunglasses repeatedly is adequate research for what we’re doing here. We don’t get very scientific, simply because it’s not necessary.
BUG: Were you the type who liked to put things in his mouth as a child?JL: Only when I aimed for my nose and missed.
BUG: Beets, of all things, cancel out Agent Chu’s power. Ugh, I hate beets. Why beets?JL: Because YOU hate them. In my next book, I want to write a story that revolves around some of the things you like. Can you send me a list? Can I include pie? Everybody likes pie (…except Agent Tony Chu).
RG: With CHEW, I think we take the 5-course meal approach. Each issue is standalone enough to whet your appetite a bit and give you your money’s worth, but there’s enough of an overarching plotline that you have to come back for more to get the whole picture and fill your gut. It’s a crack dealer’s approach, too, really. Keep them coming back for another fix.
BUG: The set up where poultry is outlawed in the world of CHEW due to a virus is a very cool one. Like prohibition, except with chickens. There are speakeasys that serve chicken instead of booze. Seems this is a concept ripped straight from today’s headlines. Do you see outlawing certain types of food as a realistic future in our world?JL: Well, 3 months ago I would have said no, but after all this swine flu stuff that just hit, suddenly it does not seem so far out. Weird timing, for sure. Basically, back when there was all the bird flu panic, I asked myself what would be a worst case scenario to spin out of that—beyond people dying that is. How would the government react? The answer, at least for this story…they outlaw the birds they think caused the flu, and could cause the flu again.
BUG: The art on CHEW is fantastic. Just the right amount of quirk, not too much to take away from a sense of real danger, but still enough to acknowledge how offbeat the premise is. Can you talk a bit about the artist/writer relationship for this comic?RG: The collaborative process on CHEW is very natural. I’ve found that John and I are on the same creative wavelengths on a lot of things, especially storytelling sensibilities. John’s incredibly easy to work with because his scripts are pretty dense with detail to feed my imagination, but still open enough to allow for me to improvise and insert a joke or eighty. Plus, I think we feed each other in terms of inspiration. He’ll write a script that totally lights a spark in me, which leads to me creating art that inspires him right back, etc... It’s pretty cyclical, and always escalating towards more and more crazy as we go on. Each issue kicks it up a notch, which is kinda scary.
BUG: Do you have more CHEW stories after this miniseries is over?RG: Yeah, we’ve been knocking around story points for the next twenty issues or more, depending on reception. There’s a huge payoff that we’re building toward.
JL: Yes, in fact. We’re not even thinking about it in terms of a miniseries.
BUG: Why should the AICN readers give CHEW a chance and pick up issue one when it hits shelves in June?RG: Flat out, there’s nothing like CHEW on the shelves. It’s a totally original concept, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it. It’s just a really, really fun book. Remember when comics used to be fun? We’re bringing it back.
JL: Yeah, everything that Rob just said, but with a lot more blood and barf and bodily fluids …and cannibalism.
BUG: Thank chew…I mean, thank you for answering these questions for us.RG: Thanks.
JL: “Thank chew”… I get it!