Meet John Layman.
He is the writer and co-creator of “Chew,” theÂ Image ComicsÂ series about FDA agent Tony Chu, a cibopath who gleans psychic information from anything that he eats, except beets. Layman and artist Rob Guillory’s “Chew” is filled with a number of other similarly bizarre components, including a powerful food critic able to make you taste whatever she writes about, a far off alien world and a fruit with unknown origins that tastes just like chicken.
And this isÂ CHEW ON THIS,Â CBR’s ongoing discussion of all things “Chew”-able. Following each major event in the series, we sit down with Layman for an exclusive question-and-answer session about the latest turns-of-events in the world of Tony Chu. In short, this is your one-stop shop for everything “Chew!”
This month, “Family Recipes” comes to a close in issue #40. This has been a difficult arc for Tony — loss, depression and angst have consumed him with little in the way of hope. It isn’t until he gains access to Toni’s memories (thanks to Olive and Amelia) that he’s able to see past his pain. As the background characters step into the spotlight, the concept of “family” really solidifies in Tony’s world. There are people around him ready to help, and thanks to spectral Toni’s assistance, Tony knows what he must do next.
CBR News: First of all John, how does it feel being just about 40 issues into “Chew?”
John Layman: I spent the first 15 issues or so in stunned disbelief that “Chew” was received as well as it was, then it sorta settled into a routine, and now I’m kind reaching this other point of stunned disbelief where it’s sinking in how far we’ve come, and how comparatively little is left. And, really, how many creator-owned books that don’t come out of the gate written by superstars, or Image founders, or that aren’t bankrolled by a company like Vertigo, make it this far? I’m very proud, and grateful.
Of course, this just puts the pressure on to make the last 20 issues as good as the first 40.
“Family Recipes” has just ended, with Tony and Olive both receiving secret information from Toni, seemingly giving them both an understanding of things to come. Are we going to see them working more closely together into the next arc?
Actually, no. There’s definitely been a thaw to Tony and Olive’s previously chilly relationship, but Tony remains blissfully unaware that Olive is in training, and under the tutelage of Tony’s archenemy Mason Savoy. That’s gonna be a problem when and if he ever figures things out.
â€¨What is the attraction she sees in working with Mason?
The promise of knowledge. He’s the only person with the same power as her that she’s ever met — other than her father, who is not exactly helpful.
â€¨But there were some really nice moments after Tony and Olive shared her mother’s toe and bonded over the memories — isn’t Olive’s relationship with her Dad on the road to recovery?
It definitely is, other than that potential complication I just mentioned.â€¨
In terms of the voyages into the psychedelic world with the Gallsaberry — Chu and John have different trips after eating it at the same time in #40, although they merge into one sort of reality. Are people with food powers more highly affected by eating it?
I don’t think all people with food powers are more highly affected, but certainly somebody with cibopathic abilities would be.
â€¨Where is Tony at emotionally, now that he’s spent time with the hallucination of Toni for the past couple of issues? He’s strongly motivated by his work, and his ability to throw himself into his cases, but he was suffering some serious depression the past few issues. Is the new information about the Vampire going to help pull him out of his funk, or is it just another distraction?
Yes, Tony’s been down after losing his twin sister, and we’ve seen him experience various stages of grief. With a proper goodbye in #40, Tony gets to achieve some peace, and some closure, and we’re going to see a Tony Chu with a radically different mind-set going into the next arc.
â€¨Jumping to another Cibopath who’s been seeing some interesting things — Savoy seems to finally have the truth he’s been seeking and is now free from prison to continue his mission. Are he and Tony heading in the same direction?
Savoy and Tony have always been heading in the same direction, while at the same time being on a collision course. Each of them have radically different methods of going in that same direction, which, of course, is what puts them on that collision course.
Besides Olive, we’ve seen some other characters taking larger roles in the story, such as Amelia. Is he going to remain at the center of the next arc?
“Chew” has always been an ensemble book, with Tony Chu at the heart of it. He’s the focal point of some issues, and he’s absent or largely absent from some issues next arc. But even when he is absent, I think Tony Chu casts a long shadow — he’s never far from the heart of the action.
The next arc is called “Chicken Tenders” — does this mean we are going to see a lot more Poyo?
“Chicken Tenders” is indeed the most Poyo-centric arc of “Chew” so far, with a new Poyo one-shot, “Warrior Chicken Poyo,” falling right in the middle of the arc, and slated to come out in July.