CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching welcomed fan-favorite writer John Layman to the internationally renowned CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego. They discuss Layman’s return to Marvel on “Cyclops,” taking a different approach to the buddy story with a father and son and why space opera is big right now. Layman also talks about the ever expanding world of his Image Comics series “Chew,” from the latest developments in the comic to the upcoming animated feature and a game from IDW Games.
On his return to Marvel and taking over “Cyclops” from Greg Rucka in October: I quit Batman to get ahead on “Chew” and now I’m very well ahead on “Chew.” So Marvel came knocking — I haven’t worked at Marvel in three or four years — Mike Marts and Katie Kubert, who were my Bat editors, are now X-editors and they called me and they’re like, “Hey, do you wanna write teen Cyclops in space as a buddy action movie with his dad, a space pirate?” “Yes!” you know, every single part of that sounded good. I’ve always been a Marvel dude, and I’ve always been an X-Men guy. Cylops and Nightcrawler are my two favorite X-Men, so to write “Cyclops” and — way, way, way back when, 2001-2002, Cyclops as a short story for “X-Men Unlimited” was my first Marvel Comics work, so in some ways it’s coming full circle.
On how the father-son dynamic makes “Cyclops” unique: I like writing buddy stuff, I like the two-person dynamic, but I also really like the space — I think “Guardians of the Galaxy” is gonna be huge and there’s some excitement in the zeitgeist about “Star Wars” again. I just think space opera is cool again and this — I’m writing “Star Wars” starring an X-Men, who’s a pirate. So yeah, there’s no downside. There are a lot of cosmic toys right now in Marvel that are all very hot and I’ve never gotten to do anything with them so it’s gonna be fun.
On the latest with “Chew,” his fan-favorite Image Comics series with Rob Guillory and the upcoming cartoon: There’s always stuff going on. The book is progressing toward issue #45, which is the three-fourths mark, which is scary. After this we got 15 issues and maybe a special here or there, but by San Diego next year the end will really be in sight and everyone’s just gonna ask, “What are you doing next?” But I’m just focusing on “Chew” rolling along. We’ve got a game with IDW in development, we’ve got swag/merchandise with Skelton Crew, we’ve got stuffed animals and statues. “Chew” has turned into this weird little mini-industry. And then we’ve got the cartoon which, you know, three months ago I was in the studio with Steven Yeun and Felicia Day recording lines. That’s been the latest and then there’s all this… it’s moving, it’s just moving kind of slow, which everything does. With Showtime, when we were under Showtime, you don’t watch the pot boil because nothing will happen. You just do your own stuff and eventually you get a call, “We’re at this point,” and somebody somewhere plunked down the money to get those guys in the studio. It is moving along. It’s surreal.
It was weird to sort of give notes — like I sat there kind of quietly — but by the end I’m like, “Try it this way.” It is literally an adaptation of the first trade. So they were reading from my script and there was a point where Steven Yeun couldn’t — because it wasn’t written like a screenplay — he couldn’t see some of the stuff in context. There was a point where he took the trade and he was literally reading and acting out the trade, which was awesome and crazy. At this point I wrote “Chew” #1 seven years ago, without ever intending it to be a cartoon that a famous celebrity would be reading from. There’s like Russian words and the big, crazy food words and they’re like, “How do you pronounce this?” I’m like, “I don’t know…”
On the upcoming “Chew” game from IDW Games: IDW has a games division, and I know all the IDW guys, they’re all ex-Wildstorm guys. I’ve worked with IDW on “Mars Attacks” and “Godzilla” and “Puff’d” and “Scarface.” I know them all, I trust them all, they do super high end stuff, and they wanted to do a game and they came to us. And at one point Rob Guillory sat down and tried to design his own board game, and at another point I thought I had a genius idea one Friday night and I just worked through the whole weekend designing a “Chew” card game. The fundamentals were there, but then I forced all my family to play and it’s like, ‘Well this has seeds of greatness in it, you don’t understand math or balance or any of this and this game kind of sucks.’ But if I can take the ideas to them and they can fine tune all the balancing part, we’ll have a pretty good game and it’ll feel very “Chew.” And I’m gonna contribute a lot of ideas and write and Rob’s gonna do art for the game, so we’ll be very involved in it.
On setting up readers for a gut punch by lulling them into a false sense of security: “Warrior Chicken Poyo” comes out on Wednesday, it’s right in the middle of a story arc which is very Poyo-centric, and then we head to the three-fourths mark where — “Chew” kind of sometimes rolled along happily and people don’t realize we’re setting them up for a gut punch. The next three issues have a lot of stuff going on, like it’s really a game changer that will take you into the final act of the book. #43, #44 and #45 are all just horrible. It’s a prolonged cliffhanger where I feel really sorry for the trade waiters, because it’s gonna be agony waiting month-to-month, but the way this thing ends is so bad that the people who have to wait eight months or ten months for the next one — they’re gonna be bummed. I’m gonna get a lot of hate mail.