Joel Rose & Anthony Bourdain Tell Weird Scary Stories in Hungry Ghosts

On Get Jiro:

Bourdain was always after me to do a graphic novel. He wanted to do comic books with me. He bugged me for a long time. Then, one year he was at my house for Thanksgiving and his daughter was sick on the couch. He was leaving and he cornered me, and he said, I got this idea. He told me this story about this renegade chef. It was when I had just read Mat Johnson’s Incognegro that came out from Vertigo. It was so fucking good. I wrote to Karen Berger just saying how great I thought that the book was, and she wrote back to me and said, if you ever have anything that you want to talk about, just let me know. I said, “I have this thing with Bourdain,” and she said, “Yeah, I want to see it.” So, I wrote a proposal with Tony and I sent it over, and they bought it right away. It became Get Jiro, and then we did the prequel to it too.

On Hungry Ghosts:

Yep, it was his story. He wanted to do it. We talked about it. We were going to do it at DC, and that sort of fell apart. Then I went back to Karen. Karen got an imprint at Dark Horse, and it was the same deal. I wrote her and said, congratulations. She got back and said, "Thank you, if you ever have anything…" I said, "Well, Tony’s been talking to me about this samurai game."

She bought it last May and it’s ready to go. We did the stories and the artists are on it right now. It’s an amazing moment for me. I didn’t really know these stories. I didn’t know this game, 100 Candles. And I didn’t know Kwaidan… I didn’t know these weird tales. But it was so much fun.

Hungry Ghosts #2 cover by Paul Pope.

On his favorite story from Hungry Ghosts:

They’re so peculiar and distant from what we know as ghost stories. I would have a hard time choosing a favorite. One is called The Cow Head, and that’s a story that has cast an urban myth. It’s a story that was supposed to be so fundamentally frightening that anyone who heard it, would immediately die from fright. It was so horrible that the story was disassembled and each piece of it was sent to a different part of the world so the story could never be put back together… and of course, we’ve put it back together.

On co-authoring with Bourdain:

I sort of do the heavy lifting. I mean, he’s so busy at this point. I worked with him on Typhoid Mary (2001)…so we’ve worked together closely for years. We have a very good rapport. As for the comic books and the scripting, I’ve written so many movies and TV, I have an ease with it. So, we’ve worked from his ideas, I put it down in a rough form, I get back to him, he looks it over, he tells me what’s good and what’s bad, and we just go from there. I usually write as much as I can and then when I hit a scene that I need him, I just feed him the scene and he riffs really fast. He gets back to me really quickly. I pick and choose what I need and plug it into the script. We go back and forth that way until it’s done. I always give him last eyes.

EXCLUSIVE: Hungry Ghosts #1 interior art by Vanesa Del Rey.

On where they eat together:

We used to eat at lots of different places ‘cause he was working in a lot of different places. From One Fifth Avenue to like Mexican joints on the Upper Eastside. But all the last times we’ve eaten, we’ve eaten in Japanese places. I can’t speak for him but his fixation and love for Japan comes from their value of craftsmanship but also from the food. He’s very involved in that. That’s not to say we haven’t watched four gazillion yakuza movies, [because] we have.

On what he and Bourdain have coming next:

We have a couple really big projects going, but we’re both thinking that if Hungry Ghosts works, then we'll do more of these stories. There’s only eight stories in it. Two per issue and four issues. There’s a lot of room to riff and the way we set it up, it’s meant to come back. For my own pleasure, I would love to do some more of these. They’ve been incredibly fun. Writing is a solitary thing, but to be able to be thrown in with these visual artist of the caliber that Karen Berger has put us in contact with, that’s like… otherworldly. There’s an amazing pleasure and awakening when you see these construct that you have put down on paper come back to you as beautiful comic book art. I love every step along the way. I love the thumbnails, I love the pencils, I love the inks, I love the coloring, I love when it’s lettered. It hits in one pleasure centre after another.

On which of his novels would make a good graphic novel:

It would probably actually be a novel that wasn’t published that was bought by Wesley Snipes. He had a publishing company for a while and then he got into trouble with the law, and he never published [it]. I wrote the book and it was called Anything That Moves. It was set in Brooklyn and it was about a drug dealer and a boxer. It would be a great graphic novel. I always thought it was a good novel, but it’s probably not a great novel. It never saw the light of day…it never had a chance.

Written by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose and illustrated by Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey, Hungry Ghosts #1 is scheduled for release on Jan. 31.

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