CHEW #34
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Remember how last review I declared Tony Chu to be hardcore? Well, rogue Agent Chu is more than hardcore, he is scary. After nearly twisting the head off of his last enemy informant Chu lands somewhere in Europe to finally confront the man who murdered his sister. The long awaited tête-à-tête between hero and villain was appropriately anti-climactic (we’re only thirty-four issues in, after all) as they ‘politely’ sat down to – what else? – dinner. And what an enlightening meal it was.

John Colby is officially in bed with Savoy (one of the few characters for whom that phrase is metaphoric), and they are on a fact-finding mission. Thus far Colby is unaware of his goddaughter Olive’s involvement in Caesar and Mason’s illegal activities, but he’s busy busting a food-powered senator’s own personal forays into politically incorrect arenas, giving the turncoat food agents access to valuable information.

Meanwhile at the dinner table, the ‘vampire’ is thumbing through the roster of food powers he has acquired in an attempt to intimidate Jedi Chu into joining the Dark Side, to no avail. All he manages to do is bring out Chu’s own burgeoning darkness, which undoubtedly will have dire consequences.

There were oodles of new foodies to sample, and though most were only granted brief appearances they certainly whet the appetite for more while leaving you wondering how Layman and Guillory could possibly get any weirder. The background nuggets were few and far between this issue, but one in particular stood out: a lovely nod to Chicago’s own Mike Norton, artist extraordinaire and creator of web comic ‘Battlepug.’ Nicely done, gentlemen!


Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Watson-Guptill

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Over the last few years, I’ve seen and reviewed dozens of how-to books, and to say that they have been a mixed bag would be understating it. For any number of reasons, this is a tricky genre to get right. So it was with some wariness that I sat down with two new entries in the genre.

However, I was more than pleasantly surprised by HOW TO BECOME A VIDEO GAME ARTIST by Sam R. Kennedy. A veteran artist who has worked on a number of games, the book immediately starts with a high level of authority and it never waivers. This is because Kennedy does any number of things right along the way. He shares how he got started in the industry, he emphasizes the fundamental skills that one needs in order to even consider the career, and then he breaks it down into small component pieces. The book discusses six different types of jobs that a video game artist might work, discusses the training and education you would need in order to qualify for that job, introduces the reader to a current professional in the field, and offers up a job description you might see for the gig and what your resume and portfolio should include in order to be considered for the position. In short: Kennedy offers an unusually comprehensive look at the industry he works in and with that he has produced a how-to book of unusually high quality. Anyone picking this up should be able to use it for its intended purpose and come out smarter along the way.

The same cannot be said for STAN LEE’S HOW TO DRAW SUPERHEROES, unfortunately. The book is produced nicely enough, an attractive package for the shelf. But the content is hit and miss. The basic stuff on creating a hero is executed well enough, but the chapter on creating heroines is downright awful, encouraging “brokeback” anatomy on women who seem to be lacking ribs and some internal organs. (Not to mention that the real comicbook examples used aren’t much better.) But the real problem is that the development examples are far too simplistic. Take the section on developing a “brute” character. The book gives you a single page of development, and that glosses over a lot of real work that needs to be done to make things right. This is common throughout the book, this surface-level look at drawing. But maybe more egregious is that the guys who did the real bulk of the work here (hint: Stan Lee didn’t write this 200+ page book by himself) get the tiniest of credit on an interior page. Danny Fingeroth, Keith Dallas, and Robert Sodaro deserve a bit more notice, as do the artists who did the internal work. But they are all relegated to the fine print. Unfortunate.


Rogue Element #110: C2E2 2013: The Panels

By Avril Brown

With every comic convention comes panels, presentations and Q&A’s, and while I did not attend as many as I normally do at this year’s C2E2, the couple I did join pretty much blew my hair back. A well-rounded panel is not solely about spoilers for the future or answering the standard questions; one should be able to learn something new about an art form, be that writing, art or swordplay. One should reflect on that hour as time well spent and be eager to share what has transpired. One should walk away and say, either to themselves, a friend or a complete stranger who has become an acquaintance thanks to mutual passionate nerdiness, “Now THAT was fun!”

CHEW – John Layman and Rob Guillory, creative team of the CHEW comic book
I have been reviewing CHEW since the first issue and I have yet to be disappointed in the story, art and overall wackiness of the book. In a world where a strain of avian flu has claimed millions of lives, a tragedy leading to the illegalization of chicken, there are a few unique individuals possessing a range of powers related to edibles. This book has received critical acclaim, an Eisner award, amassed a rabid cult following and was optioned for a Showtime television series.

“The TV show is dead,” writer John Layman announced to his audience, which responded with disappointed groans and muted outrage. Layman went on to explain the many reasons why CHEW never took off as a series, citing the producers desire to create a live action show as one of the main roadblocks. Tony Chu, the central character, is a cibopath, which means he receives psychic impressions of everything he eats, and he will eat anything if it means solving a case. “When you have a real person eating a corpse it’s not as funny,” Layman added. Fair point.

“CHEW was an idea where I have no idea where it came from,” Layman explained, going on to detail his struggle to find a publisher for his ‘cannibalistic bird flu book.’ Finding an artist to convey his story was another challenge, and Rob Guillory voiced his own efforts to find work. “‘We like your stuff; don’t do it,’” he said was a common response to his distinctive form. Thankfully for CHEW fans and for the comic world in general, these two found each other and fell in professional love. “At this point, [Guillory] is co-creator because [CHEW] wouldn’t exist without him.”

No relationship is without its bumps in the road, and as seamlessly Layman and Guillory work together they both admitted to the occasional hiccup. Guillory expressed his distaste for the out-of-sequence twenty-seventh issue, and Layman complained his ‘Finding Nemo’ joke was unloved by his artist, who is responsible for a majority of the background jokes littered throughout every issue. “I get bored and put whatever comes into my head,” Guillory confessed. “It’s a great way to increase re-readership.” An insightful, and effective, idea as the ‘Easter eggs’ are one of my favorite parts of CHEW and really force the reader to pay attention to each page in order to get the most hilarity out of the story.

Hungry CHEW fans learned of Layman’s humanness when he disclosed writing Toni’s (Tony’s twin sister) murder “really messed me up,” and Guillory’s perception (or physic ability) when he recognized early on “how special this is.” Readers will be treated to quite a few more twists, turns and wacky food powers (“The food pornographer is coming up.”), and Layman said the words every fan wants to hear at a panel: “You guys have no idea what’s coming!” Gentlemen, we are looking forward to everything you have cooking in the kitchen.

MODERN SWORDPLAY DEMO – Chicago Swordplay Guild
Full disclosure: I had a personal interest in seeing this presentation succeed. I have a boyfriend, a cousin and lots of friends who are members of the Chicago Swordplay Guild, and I have witnessed firsthand the time, hard work and fervor they put into their craft. These are not folks who decided to pick up a sharp object and mimic Aragorn’s epic ass-kicking of the Orcs; they study an authentic, centuries-old Italian manuscript detailing the teachings of Renaissance swordplay. They sweat, train and spar, proudly displaying their bruises alongside their weapons and armor. Essentially, they are badass.

The space given for their presentation made up for in square footage what it lacked in acoustics, but what I was really impressed with was the large number of people in attendance. Old and young, male and female, professional and spectator; all walks of comic convention life were represented at the Chicago Swordplay Guild’s very first (of many, we hope) C2E2 demonstration.

Operating without a speaker system of any kind in an enormous, high-ceiling room, some attendees struggled to hear what Greg Mele, founding member and teacher of the CSG, was trying to explain about the history of the Guild and the art of swordplay. However, it was obvious his words carried when almost every audience member brought their hand to their eyes as Mele described the field of vision one has when wearing a proper armored helmet. Spectators watched in rapt attention as experienced Guild members fluidly moved through standard drills, and cheered appreciatively when a five foot-nothing woman held off two attackers with well-timed blows.

Unable to resist an appreciative audience, longtime Guild member and instructor Jesse Kulla performed high jumps and cartwheels in almost full armor, exhibiting the strength and flexibility needed to effectively function in proper gear. Giving his opponent several hard whacks with his metal sword upon her head gave evidence of the competence, and necessity, of appropriate equipment.

Gender equality was stressed by the presenters and highlighted by the participation of at least one female Guild member in almost every demonstration. The fact every swordplayer started with as much knowledge of the art as the spectators was also conveyed, as was the need for proper fitness given the weight of the armor and the muscle needed to even hold up a sword for an extended period of time.

By the end of the presentation audience members were freely cheering on their champion in the final bout (I resisted the urge to shout “Kick his ass, Seabass!” given the number of youth present and knowing not all folk appreciate my movie quote-based humor), and many people stayed on to ogle the sharp objects and try their own hand at swordplay using the provided plastic practice swords. Veteran Guild members fended off blows from proud eight-year-old girls, discussed the history of their own experiences and detailed the packages available at the home of the Chicago Swordplay Guild: Forteza Fitness in the Ravenswood neighborhood.

Acquaintances were made, minds were impressed and people left with a first-hand account of how swords are wielded, knowing they themselves could take up arms if they so wished. All in all, a good day to be a swordsman.

Dynamite Panel
– There was none. The more vain, fantasy-loving side of my personality was immensely disappointed by this fact given my choice of cosplay this year; admittedly a part of me was hoping someone from this significant comic company would take note of Red Sonja and hire me as the poster girl for the revamp of their iconic character come this July (written by Gail Simone, a noted female comic writer). A cosplay gal can dream, can’t she?

Game of Thrones Q&A with James Cosmo and Natalie Dormer – As a fan of the book series as well as the HBO phenomenon, I was jazzed to learn a couple of my favorite characters would be gracing C2E2. What doesn’t make my metal-covered loins quiver is an hour-long line on the last day of the con, so I waited until the minutes before the event to try and get in, not caring if it was standing room only (partly because I was unable to sit modestly in costume). What I found was a small line of folks waiting to see if people left the room as it was already beyond capacity. Here’s hoping the logistic folks behind C2E2 plan accordingly next year and schedule Q&A’s with stars from television’s hottest show in a room large enough to accommodate their fan base. Don’t they know that Winter is Coming?

Though I wish, as always, I could have been in two places at once to better experience everything that caught my eye, I am glad time was made for something new, exciting and unforgettable. After all, that is in essence what a good panel is all about.