Chew-ing with Rob GuilloryApril 21, 2014
GTA Comicon in Toronto came up quicker than expected and this meant that I was going to be able to sit down with Chew artist Rob Guillory and pick his brain on a few questions I had about him and his work. Let me start by telling you that aside from being an incredible artist, Rob is a fantastic person to talk to. Given the opportunity, I probably would have enjoyed sitting with him all day and watching him interact with the fans. He was humble as they came to speak with him during our interview to get their comics and artwork signed.
Chew is beautifully drawn by Guillory and written by John Layman. As of February 2014, the comic has 40 issues that is published by Image Comics and if you haven’t began reading it yet, you can pick up individual comics or larger graphic novels. I was able to ask Rob how everything began for him, where things are headed and what’s coming up next for him and his comic.
Having done some cover art work for various companies, what are some of your favorite pieces you have worked on?
Oh man, The Walking Dead cover is a personal favorite because (Robert) Kirkman has been a good friend to the book Chew for a long time. Very few people have worked with The Walking Dead. Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore are the only two guys to actually touch the book so the opportunity to be one of the few guys to actually work with those characters was totally tantalizing for me. I recently did a cover for The Bunker which is one of my favorites as it was way more experimental, which was cool. I also did one for The Uncanny Avengers recently and that was fun because I had never done any Marvel work.
How did you begin working on Chew with John Layman?
Before Chew I was working on a lot of indie stuff and I was working on a book for Tokyo Pop off and on for a couple of years. The writer I was working on with Tokyo Pop, Brandon Gerwell, was a good friend of John Layman’s. So when the Tokyo Pop book fell apart, John had asked Brandon about Chew. John had Chew for a good 5 to 10 years already but he could find the right artist for it so he asked Brandon if he knew anyone. Brandon said, “why don’t you try my guy?” And John didn’t feel it was the right fit for it in the beginning at all because the Tokyo Pop stuff I was doing was way more anime influenced. This would give me a chance to work in my own style so John did hit me up. I actually knew John, I was a fan of his work he did with Image on a book called Puffed. He also did a Scarface sequel with IDW, about “what happens if Tony Montana survived?” so that’s how we hooked up.
Chew #40 just wrapped up the “Family Recipes” story arc, can you give us a little info on what’s to come next for Tony Chu?
We’re moving into the final third of the book where things are about to get really… final. It’s going to start feeling like we are going to be wrapping up really soon and we still have 20 issues left so it’s plenty of time. It’s going to start feeling like every issue matters. #41 has some major character points; significant things start to happen to characters that really start to change them. Issue #44 is when things are going to get really, really crazy. I feel like #44 is the beginning of the end for the book and it’s going to be very similar to issue #30 because it was a brutal issue and one of the hardest we have ever had to do. So #44 is going to be like that and it’s going to be painful.
As an artist, your book Chew won two Eisner and two Harvey awards, which is a great accomplishment. Can you give us a little insight on what those awards mean to you?
I never got into comics to win awards and this is going to sound a little stupid, but I was so focused on the work and loving comics, and I wasn’t really into the politics. I didn’t even know about the Eisner award until I got nominated for one and asked “what’s an Eisner?” I knew who Will Eisner was, but I didn’t know the award was like the Oscars of comics. It’s really cool because it wasn’t my motive; my motivation was never to win awards. It’s cool to have the affirmation of doing good work and it’s kind of nice to have that pressure out of the way. I don’t have to ever feel like I need to win an Eisner because I’ve won it at such an early juncture of my career that now the pressures off and I can just have fun, and have the bragging rights to place “Eisner winner” on whatever.
It was rumored that Chew was going to get its own TV series, is there anything you can give us on details to weather this will come to light or not?
We were developing with Showtime for a live action TV series for about three years and it got to a point where it looked really good; we had the perfect writer, a perfect script, and then Showtime screwed it up. The stuff you see about TV executives making really stupid moves — that stuff is real. Basically they had the perfect script. It was as accurate to the comic as you could make a live action. So things were perfect and then they said “maybe it’s just too weird.”
They wanted to keep the food psychic part but take out the bird flu part. It’s [the bird flu] part is arguably more important to the story than the food psychic part. So they took out the bird flu and started making stuff up and that was it; that was the end of it. Our option ran out, and we got it back. Now we are working with a guy named Jeff Krelitz who is producing an animated feature. We actually just started doing voice recording. We have actors and have done the Tony and Amelia voice and will be doing the Mason voice in about a month while we are still playing with whom to cast for the other supporting roles. The first thing we are going to release is a ninety minute feature which will be a direct adaptation of the first trade. This is going to be a good launching point to continue to pursue live action.
Are you able to tell us who the voice actors are?
No, but we’ll be making announcements in about a week. You’re going to know who they are because one of them is an Oscar winner. It’s a pretty big deal.
Being with Image, do feel you have more freedom to do whatever you’d like to do?
Yes, I’m spoiled and I worry. I want to do more stuff with Marvel but I really am spoiled. The success of my career has been based on just doing whatever we felt was right. The idea of an editor telling me I can’t do something… I can’t even fathom that so I’m always going to do creator-owned because it’s so free.
Is there a comic book out there that you would really enjoy getting your hands on to do a cover or issue?
Pretty much everything I do as guest covers or whatnot is stuff I like. Because of the success of Chew, I can literally reach out to someone and say “Hey I like your book, let me do a cover for you.” That’s how I got work on covers for The Bunker, Samurai Jack, and Adventure Time. I did a cover for Ninja Turtles years ago that I did because I love them so and I reached out to IDW and said “I want to do a Ninja Turtles cover”, and they just say “Okay, cool”. And then I get paid to do that cover just because I wanted to draw Ninja Turtles. Everything I do is because I like what I’m doing.
Are there any new projects or books you’re working on that everyone should keep an eye out for?
I have a couple creator owned projects I’m kicking around like solo projects. I don’t really have anything to announce yet. I’m trying to do a one shot in the next year just for fun but right now Chew is my full time gig. It’s a full time job so it’s just fitting in the time between that. But you will be seeing more solo stuff from me in the next couple years. Some of it may wait till after Chew is over, but we’ll see.
Lastly, what is your favorite part about attending conventions?
Just hanging out with the fans. Our fans are surprisingly normal for such a weird book; you would think there are some crazy people reading this book but they are surprisingly low key and very normal. Most of our fans are people that have never read comics, or were huge comic fans that had stopped reading and now they want to get back into it, but they don’t want to read Superman and are looking for something different, so they read Chew.
Thank you to Rob for giving us some time to chat. You can find him on Twitter @Rob_Guillory, Blogspot and his store where you can purchase his artwork. You can find Chew in your local comic book stores.