CCI: Layman & Guillory "Chew" Through San Diego

Writer John Layman and Rob Guillory held a loud, fast paced and humor filled panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego to celebrate their hit Image Comics series "Chew." Fans were invited to listen to what stories Layman could remember about the series' origins.

Layman began by telling the assembled crowd that he did not know where he got the idea for "Chew." "I don't know where I got it and I hate that question," Layman said. The idea for the series was born out of a jumble of ideas, most of which were food related, that he assembled throughout the years.

"I called [Image Comics publisher] Eric Stephenson and told them I had an idea for a comic and did he know any artists that were available? He said no, but he loved the idea and told me to find an artist and he'd publish the thing. So we had a green light." Layman was eventually introduced to the work of Rob Guillory, which he initially thought might be too cartoony for the series.

"It thought of it as more of straight police thing," Layman said. When they first began working together Guillory did the first page of the book in a darker, painted style to match Layman's desire to pitch the book to Vertigo Comics. They both hated it, so Guillory took another shot at it and did the book more in his signature, high-energy animated style. From there, things just clicked.

"So then it got published and people liked it. It went into a second print. And then a third print. And then a fourth print. Which was cool, but we weren't making any money," Layman explained. "Then, Robert Kirkman said we should do a flip book with "The Walking Dead," Layman said. After that, the orders for the book skyrocketed and have been steadily climbing with each issue.

Layman told the audience that issue #30 is the halfway point of the series, which is planned to run for 60 issues. "Like many of my favorite comic series," Layman said, referencing titles such as "Preacher."

Guillory then said that "Chew" figures and products courtesy of Skeleton Crew Studios were in development, as well as t-shirts. "His [Guillory's] wife is making the shirts right now and can't keep up," Layman said.

"At one point, everyone was telling me, 'Do something accessible. Do superheroes.'" Layman said. He expressed how he enjoyed doing crazier, out of the box ideas. "I'm not a philosophical guy, I'm just a weird guy that thinks about weird stuff."

A fan asked how the two creators collaborated and whether or not they visited or called each other. "It's all on AIM," Layman said. He admitted that the few times they had talked on the phone it was a bit "awkward."

When an audience member asked what projects Guillory might have coming up in the future, Layman quickly replied, "He's working on 'Chew.'" Guillory agreed, "For the foreseeable future, it's going to be 'Chew.'"

The next question was about the status of the television adaptation. "I knew that was coming," Layman said. He then introduced Circle of Confusion, the producers of "The Walking Dead" who are working on the "Chew" show. So far, one script for the show has been produced. Brian Duffield, one of the writers from the show, then took the stage.

"I'm really excited to try not to fuck it up," Duffield said. He told the crowd that "Chew" was one of his favorite comics and that he really believed in doing a faithful adaptation.

"It was shocking how true to the book his script was," Layman said.

A fan then asked if books creators were big "foodies" since the book focuses so heavily on the subject. "I'm just sorta a fat guy that likes to eat what's in front of me," Layman said. Guillory then added, "I have had a lot of bad food experiences, I related to Tony in that way. I am not a foodie at all."

Another fan asked if the two were big pop culture fans. "All him," Layman said gesturing to Guillory. Layman admitted he did not even know who director Michael Bay was when Guillory included a reference to him in an issue.

The final question concerned the editing of "Chew," and whether or not scenes or images ended up on the cutting room floor for being too graphic or offensive. "There is nobody to stop us. We work for Image," Layman said. He pointed out that Image Comics in no way controls the content in "Chew." The closest thing they had to a censor was when Layman's wife would proof read the scripts before he sent them off to Guillory.

"I just wanted my own, creator-owned one thing. If everything else I do sucks, then that's okay," Layman said. "Chew" is his dream come true and its success has eclipsed all other projects for him.

"All I ever wanted was to do this, because I felt like it's what I'm supposed to do," Guillory agreed.

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