If you've ever watched a cooking competition show -- and with "Iron Chef" to "Chopped" to "Cupcake Wars" and more on TV, it's difficult to say you haven't -- you've probably wondered how your culinary skills (or lack thereof) would fare in competition. In "Space Battle Lunchtime," Natalie Riess's new Oni Press series, pastry chef Peony discovers how her cuisine stacks up against not only the best chefs on Earth, but the best chefs in the entire galaxy.
The eight-issue series, the first borne out of Oni's open submissions policy, debuts in May. But while "Space Battle Lunchtime" is Riess's first print comic, her online webcomic "Snarlbear" has been running for four years. With that experience under her belt, she utilizes a full-package approach to "SBL," writing, illustrating, coloring and lettering the entire series herself.
CBR News talked to Riess about what makes a great cooking show, culture shock, working for print and drawing alien foods.
CBR News: How long has "Space Battle Lunchtime" been lurking in your mind?
Natalie Riess: Maybe a year or so. It's not old. I make a lot of story ideas for fun, fiddle with them for a bit, and then throw them in the trash. "SBL" just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
In the first issue, the Earth people we meet don't seem to realize there are aliens out there, but Peony takes to being off-planet as if isn't that big a deal. Is she simply that easy going, or was it simply more important to get to the point of the show/competition rather than making the comic about her culture shock?
Peony's not here to make friends. She's, well -- actually, she kind of is.
What I mean to say is, in the first issue, out of the twenty-two pages I had to set up the story, she does yell on at least one and a half of them and look at least mildly bemused/confused on a several others. She is not a naturally nervous or doubtful character, so I think that's OK.
She agreed to this competition very quickly. Has she considered that she'll be asked to use ingredients with flavors and preparation requirements that she's extremely unfamiliar with?
Not really. There were a lot of sparkles and she's just -- she's here, now. She's caught up in the adventure.
We only meet her competition briefly in the first issue. What can she look forward to on the kitchen battlefield as the series continues?
Me getting better at drawing space food!
Your webcomic "Snarlbear" has been going on for about four years now, but this is your first printed comic. Does working in print affect how you work? Does it give this series any different weight in your mind?
I have to remember about page bleeds and 600 dpi CMYK files. Those take forever to load up in Photoshop.
Otherwise, yeah. The subject matter of "SBL" is lighter than "Snarlbear" (fun cooking and friendship in space vs. sad monster punching), but there is more pressure to do well so people buy it and I can keep drawing it and getting paid, and more people I have to get approval from at various stages along the way. That makes me spend more time developing and fine-tuning these pages than on projects I do just by myself. The final product's more polished.
It's still pretty early on, though. I'm sure my opinion will be affected when I see people reading it and get the benefits of a published print distribution audience.
You're a one-woman show on "Space Battle Lunchtime" -- writing, drawing, coloring and lettering. That's fairly rare.
It's not that rare! Anyway, it's not 100% me -- Hilary Thompson designed the logo.
What's your favorite cooking competition show?
Ahh jeez. "Chopped" probably. I like seeing chefs improvise and try to figure out their ingredients as they go and trying to guess what they'll come up with.
"Space Battle Lunchtime" #1 arrives May 4 from Oni Press.