Meet John Layman.
He is the writer and co-creator of “Chew,” the Image Comics 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 several other similarly bizarre components including a powerful food writer, a far off alien world and a fruit with unknown origins that tastes just like chicken.
And this is CHEW ON THIS, 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, “Chew” approaches a critical turn toward its conclusion and the bodies just keep piling up. With several beloved characters facing their doom, CBR News caught up with Layman to dig into the losses and loyalties Tony is processing. If you aren’t caught up, be warned — there be spoilers ahead.
CBR News: John, we’re approaching the final showdown between Tony and The Collector. Tony was pretty quiet this last arc, so how has he been preparing for this fight? Is he ready?
John Layman: I think he found a bit of peace, even if it was short lived. He got closure with his twin sister, who he wasn’t around to save, and in a way, she let him off the hook from going down the dark, violent path he was heading — giving him a vision of the future of what would have to happen before he could face the Collector. But this peace came crashing down when the rest of the supporting cast tried to take on the Collector and failed so spectacularly. This was something Toni neglected to tell her brother.
Is Tony ready? No. But he’s now itching for a fight once again. And this time, he’s completely on his own.
Tony’s relationships have changed in this last arc. He’s married Amelia, his daughter is secretly working behind his back with his enemy, his partner seems to have betrayed him — who can Tony depend on? Is he going into this fight alone?
He’s still got Amelia for support, and he is closer to his daughter Olive than he’s ever been, assuming he can get over her training with Savoy, Tony’s old mentor and enemy. But losing Colby, his partner and best friend — that’s a pretty big blow. There is nobody else he can turn to, certainly not at his work, and most of the rest of his family hates him.
What went into the decision of giving Tony a bit of a break this arc? It seems like he might actually have a shot of being happy and having a normal life with Amelia…
Well, ya gotta set up the pins to knock them down. And, honestly, Tony needed to be “over there” while everyone else was “over here” for the sake of the story. Why not give him a little happiness in the meantime? He deserves it.
Was Tony prepared for any of the apparent losses in #44? Was any of this in the prophecy he received?Â
No, and no. Not in the slightest, in either case. Which made both blows so powerful.
And since father and daughter are appearing to be a bit more alike that we might’ve guessed — what about Olive? She’s been so motivated by avenging her Aunt Toni — was she prepared for the fate that might await her?Â
No, but for all her power and raw potential, she’s still young and unexperienced. Young and dumb, and it was easy for her to walk overconfidently into what turned into a slaughterhouse. Olive is a bit more reckless than Tony. Maybe that will change with age and experience, or maybe that’s just a difference between father and daughter.
So far in “Chew,” when a character has died, they’ve stayed gone, except in ghost form or flashbacks. Can you talk a little bit about what goes into deciding who lives and dies? Were there any characters this last arc you had a difficult time maiming or killing?
Well, it was a lot harder to kill Toni than Poyo. Both characters took on lives of their own, and Toni was one of my favorite characters to write — the other being Colby. Issue #30 brought me to tears to write, and still makes me misty to read.
Poyo, on the other hand, is super bad ass, but at the end of the day, he’s still just a chicken. A few less dimensions to him, I’m sorry to say, than Toni, so he was a little easier to kill. On the other hand, he’s starred in two of his own own-shots and is easily one of our most popular characters, if not the most popular character. Did I just kill the cash cow? A cash cow who happens to be a chicken?
You once said that Mike Applebee would live forever. Are you still sticking by that, or has that changed?Â
Nope. Mike Applebee is there until the very end. I’ve shown two panels so far flashing forward to Issue #60, and there he is, in some indeterminate future with Tony. In issue #48 will flash-forward for our third and final time, and we’ll actually reveal one more character who survives to the end.
Issue #44 was one of the bloodiest we’ve seen. You included your script in the backmatter — was this to help the readers understand what was going on amidst the carnage?Â
I was just very proud of the script, and thought it would be a fun extra for the floppy readers. They pay our monthly rent, after all, so I try to find little ways to keep the monthly book worth reading.
Issue #45 is the end of this arc — what homework should readers do to be ready for any plot threads coming to an end?Â
Hmm. Good question. I tend to write arcs as both 5- and 10-issue stories, so usually what get set up in the first five gets (mostly) addressed in the second. I think the next arc, #46-#50, “Blood Puddin’,” will compliment this last arc pretty well, and not require any dedicated rereads.
Tell us about the next arc — will it be taking us anywhere new, or is its focus on wrapping up loose ends?Â
“Blood Puddin'” is the next arc, followed by “Last Suppers,” and concluding with “Sour Grapes.” Tony’s immediate concern is now “get the Collector.” I think the focus after that becomes “everything else.”
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