In honor of this weekend’s Dragon*Con, I figured I’d let my nerd flag fly a little.
So, I was a late adopter to the iPad/E-reader thing. Perhaps it is the English major in me, but there is something about the feel of an actual book in my hand that I’ll always love. But now I’ve crossed over and do most of my reading on a screen instead paper.
And like all of those housewives out there who think that people don’t know they are reading one of the “Fifty Shades” books on that little device (I’m looking at you, lady sitting in seat 23F on the flight back to Atlanta), I’ve picked up my own little guilty E-reading pleasure: Comic books.
I was a comic book kid. And even as an adult, my bookshelf at home occasionally gets a new hard copy graphic novel or two added to it. But once I realized that I could easily download and read graphic novels and enjoy them in public while looking like I’m responding to an email, I went on a downloading bonanza. And that was how I stumbled onto the convergence of two of my great loves: Foodie comic books.
I’ve already written about Get Jiro!, Anthony Bourdain’s foray into the comic world. But that seemed more like a celebrity novelty to me, a one-off that I find mostly just clever. But, it wasn’t until I came across Image Comics’ Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory that I found a series I could really sink my…ahem…that I could really enjoy.
In this alternate world, all poultry is illegal because of an outbreak of the bird flu that killed millions, the FDA is the most powerful government agency in the country, and all of the heroes and villains have food related super-powers. Police detective Tony Chu, the protagonist, is a Cibopath. Chu’s power is that he can psychically see anything that has happened to whatever he tastes. A mouthful of beef floods his brain with the entire life of the cow, all the way up to and including its slaughter. And a nibble on the pinky of a corpse shows him just how the victim died, and who did it.
But that is just one of the foodie powers in the Chew universe. As a food writer, my obvious favorite is the Saboscrivner – one that can write about food so accurately that the reader actually tastes what is being described. A close second is the Effervenductors, baristas able to embed mind-controlling messages in foams.
The book is dark, violent, often funny, and certainly not written for kids. Showtime purchased the rights to Chew and is developing a new series based on the comic book.
It helps that the book is extremely well written, but I’m interested in a well-executed crossover of foodie culture into pop culture. It’s not often that happens when it doesn’t elicit a groan or feel forced. I think that, as food culture has grown of the last few decades, it is organically inspiring other art forms rather than feeling like an attempt at commercialization.
I realize that I’ve already alienated or bored the majority of my readership with this post, and it was more for me than it was for many of you. But hopefully, a few fellow geeks may see this and decide to check it out.
But take it from me….download it to your iPad or E-reader. Then, you and Mrs. Seat 23F can enjoy your flight without blushing quite as much.
-By Jon Watson, Food and More blog