Food AND comics: the perfect combo platter
Each Tuesday at Robot 6, we run a look the week’s comic releases in a feature called “Food Or Comics?” The title implies the choice in spending money on either food or comics, but lately we’ve been able to get morsels of food and comics in a growing number of titles. Food as subject matter might seem odd, considering the intense action scenes that many comics are built upon, but as tastes vary and develop, comic fans are getting a craving for more than just one type of comics.
The first major entry I remember of food into American comics was in the second volume of Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. In it, the character Stephen Stills does his best impression of a food show host by outlining his process in making Vegan Shepherd’s Pie. Cartoonist Bryan O’Malley goes in depth, labeling all the ingredients and doing a step-by-step primer on Stills’ method for making this dish. Although certainly not the first, it was the first one that hit me as a reader– and many others as well.
From scenes to full-on books, we saw comics about food spring up, from detective mysteries like John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew in 2009 to a cookbook/memoir called Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey. DC’s Vertigo imprint recently enlisted celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain to write a story about a sushi chef called Get Jiro! Webcomics have been a hotbed for food and cooking as comics, with long-running strips like Cheap Thrills Cuisine, Cooking Up Comics and They Draw & Cook. Earlier this year, Local artist Ryan Kelly partnered with Kat Vapid to tell the story of working in a kitchen as a webcomic called Cocette. Kelly tangentially did a comic about food in Local #8 with writer Brian Wood, who has talked about doing a food comic in the near future.
But food and cooking as a genre of comics isn’t new; in Japan, cooking manga is a well-established category. An early import to the United States, Iron Wok Jan, is a remarkable story about a Dragonball-esque chef fighting his way through cooking competitions, while the more serene Oishinbo is a more classic tale about a food journalist touring different chefs and their kitchens. One of the most popular ones in recent memory has been one devoted exclusive to just one aspect of food – wine. Kami no Shizuku (translated as The Drops of God) has been so popular as to become a tastemaker for wines in Japan and wider Asia, with the creators being named to wine connoisseur magazine Decanter’s list of most powerful people in the wine industry. There are over three dozen other manga about cooking in Japan that I’m aware of with only 10 minutes of google and little to no understanding of the Japanese language.
But more and more, you don’t have to know Japanese to be a foodie and a comics fan. Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski is a well known foodie with a blog called Eataku, which documents his food experiences, and the gang at iFanboy doing a series of food/comics podcasts called A Taste of Comics. And more and more you’ll see comics about food coming into season on your local comic store, or online browser’s shelves.