PHXCC: "Chewing" It Up With John Layman

John Layman, the writer of Image Comics' "Chew," hosted an intimate panel with his biggest fans at the Phoenix Comicon on Saturday, May 29.

"Wow, there's like thirty more of you here than I thought there would be," the creator joked to kick things off.

Layman spent the first half of the panel discussing his early career. As a writer for the San Diego Union Tribune, he frequently pitched comic book related stories, until a write up about WildStorm actually inspired the publisher to hire him as an editor. When WildStorm was bought by DC Comics, Layman suddenly found himself closer to writing comics, as he'd always wanted.

Layman's first comic book writing job was a 45 page spec of the "Left Behind" franchise. He was originally assigned to the project as editor, but he knew finding a writer would be difficult, since it wasn't a paying gig. As he explained to the audience, the exposure he received was priceless.

"'Dark Knight Strikes Again' was the biggest selling comic that year. You know what the second one was?" he asked attendees. "'Left Behind' was. It just wasn't in comic book stores; it was in Christian bookstores!"

Fulfilling that job led to others, most impressively in the video game industry. Layman financed "Chew" with his income from writing the "Champions Online" MMORPG.

"I was calling publishers looking for artists, and Eric [Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics] didn't know one, but said he really liked the idea and gave me a green light if I could find an artist."

Originally intended for five issues, Layman revealed that "Chew" will probably run 60 issues, just as his favorite titles "Preacher" and "Transmetropolitan" did.

"I know the ending," he revealed. "Everything is leading to a conclusion."

Layman also revealed that the direction of the book will fundamentally change with #15, an issue featuring a pull-out poster starring the series' core characters in a Last Supper pose. "Some of these characters haven't even been introduced yet," he teased. He revealed that he writes out of sequence, and while the script for #15 is complete, two pages for issue 14 are incomplete because he's afraid to move on into the next story arc.

According to Layman, Hollywood came calling after issue #1, and Circle of Confusion, the same group responsible for bringing "30 Days of Night" to the big screen, currently are managing the as-of-yet unsold media rights to "Chew."

"The Jim Carrey/Bruce Willis companies called me and asked why I didn't go with them. I said, because I can't call Jim Carrey. I can call Bendis!"

Layman wrapped the panel by telling fans that his future comic book projects may include "Species" with the comic book publisher Avatar and a Marvel online short starring a female villain he wouldn't name.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article indicated the film rights for "Chew" had been sold. This was incorrect and appropriate changes have been made above.

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