Comic Vine Exclusive Interview With 'CHEW' Writer John Layman
The really great thing about ' CHEW' is the fact that it is so unique and so different from any other comic book out in the market right now. In fact, I would go as far to say that it may quite possibly be one of the most unique books that I have read yet. John Layman not only takes a different approach in the style and structure of his book (the lack of a first person character narative, for example), but he also brings concepts to his book that are quite honestly, unheard of (cannibal secret agents!). The story meshes really well with the art, and it is really a book I recommend to everyone! It is no wonder that the fourth issue has gone to sell out four times! I was fortunate enough to catch up with Mr. Layman at Isotope Comics in San Francisco this past weekend and he agreed to talk to me on camera about the recent success of his book. Perhaps the interview will compel those of you who may be unfamiliar with 'CHEW' to delve into this unique story. I have added the transcription to the interview below for those of you that might be interested in reading. Thank you again to Isotope and Mr. Layman for making the interview a success. Enjoy!
Comic Vine: Hey guys I'm here with John Layman, the writer of Chew at Isotope comics. How are you?
John Layman: Pretty good
CV: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. You have experience as both a writer and an editor. How is it different writing your own comic book from reading everyone else's?
JL: Well I've written my own for a while, this is just the first one people have cared about. Its very gratifying. On the other hand you're on the tight-rope...you're on Image and you've got no editor and you're doing your own thing. If it succeeds or fails, it's all on you.
CV: Going off of that, why Image? Why that publishing company?
JL: Image...it was just the right book. I love IDW, Oni...I like Marvel...not that they would be an option for CHEW; looking at various books... Image was just the right one for a creator owned monthly...Image is the best bet.
CV: Are you planning on making it an ongoing?
JL: Yes. A lot of people think its like a 5 issue thing because I said "Taster's Choice 1 of 5" but that's just the story arc. We are intending it to go for a finite ending. Fifty to sixty issues with an ending that is pre-determined. We are aiming for a five year run with Rob mostly doing monthly...Rob might have to do a five week schedule...11 issues a year, but it's Rob and I for the duration.
CV: At the end of your first issue you added a letter and mentioned that you were holding off on this series. You said something about having hesitation.
JL: Well, I'm financing it. I wrote a video game "Soldier of Fortune Payback" which paid for it. I took the money and said I'll finance this five issue mini series...and it will be this cult thing. I'll make my money back, make it a trade, then I'll do five more issues. But people like it! It's doing very well against all expectations.
CV: One thing I noticed is the lack of internal monologue.
JL: Yeah, I like that I have this sort of omniscient narrative on what I call the "origin' page where I take a page every issue and lay out something very important.
CV: I really like the dialogue and the way it's structured. It's different.
JL: My favorite writer in the world is Warren Ellis. I got to work with him on ' Planetary,' I got to read his scripts. One of the cool things about being an editor is that I got to read scripts from Joe Casey, Kurt Busiek...you get to absorb what you like and don't like. Even some B list guys that didn't quite make it that really did good stuff...and you learn as an editor reading these scripts. There are certain things you like and don't like....and I don't like a lot of first person.
CV: What's it like working with Rob? Do you have to give him a lot of direction?
JL: My scripts are very lengthy. For a twenty-two page script I write about forty-five pages of single page script...but a lot of it is "this is why Star Wars sucked." It's me talking to Rob, and having a conversation. Rob gives me exactly what I want but always surprises me and does something different which is the hallmark of a great artist. Every once in a while he'll say "I'm gonna do this," and I'll be like "I don't know,..." and he'll say "trust me," and it always [comes out well]. You learn to pick your battles and mine are very few if you trust your artist...and Rob is a genius.
CV: If you could describe Tony Chu in one word, what would it be?
JL: Angry! Tony is based on a friend of mine who is really quiet, but also a seehing hunk of rage. Tony's like that, he holds it all in and then he explodes.
CV: Have we seen him explode yet?
JL: Well, we've seen him eat someone's face? [Laughs] He wants to do what he thinks is his job no matter what....Mason is this character that knows you have to bend the rules to get what you want.
CV: Will you discuss how Tony obtains his power?
JL: Yeah but we're talking long range. Issues 15-25. Not for a while.
CV: Are you excited about the success?
JL: Yeah but, I'm still in a period of disbelief. Is it flopping yet? When is it going to flop? I feel like God is playing a mean practical joke on me.
CV: Last question. Where is the inspiration from? It's so different from everything out in the market right now
JL: Well, this will get political people mad. The bird flu part....I was angry at GWBush for a long time. What if there was bird flu that was going to kill everyone. So I thought, how would the Bush administration have dealt with the epidemic? How would they react? So I have this very fascist government that outlawed chicken. That being said, I wasn't trying to make a political statement or a political book, but a book everyone can enjoy. It's a little bit of my anger. The cannibal-cop part, I really have no idea. My comic creator friends....no one thought it would take off.
CV: Didn't it sell out? Issue 4?
JL: Yeah it sold out four times, but still, it's God's practical joke.
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