In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
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Name: John Layman
Notable Work: Chew (2009-present), New 52 Detective Comics (2012-2014)
“…Now that CHEW has reached levels of success I never expected, sometimes I freeze up, feeling like I am under a microscope. Eventually I have to shake it off and just do my own thing in order to make the strongest story.” – John Layman
John Layman is best known these days for his creator owned, Eisner Award winning series Chew, which he started with Rob Guillory in 2009. He did start out his career in a much more resigned position of an editor at Wildstorm, a branch of DC comics. He eventually moved on to being a writer for Marvel Comics in 2002. Layman has made a good name for himself working on pre-existing licenses such as Xena, ThunderCats, Godzilla and Mars Attacks. He also did the story arc of the Marvel Zombies storyline with Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness. Starting in 2005, he went on to create his own characters and stories. In May 2005, John Layman released Puffed, a story about an amusement park mascot beaten up and dropped off in the roughest part of town still in his costume. He followed up Puffed with his amazingly well received Chew in 2009.
Chew follows the story of Detective Tony Chu and his investigations into food-related crimes. Tony, and many other characters, has amazing food related abilities. When asked in an interview with Ambidextrous where the inspiration such an unique world and storyline came from, John Layman said he really has no idea. “Does anybody have a good answer for where inspiration comes from? At least for Chew, I have no idea. It’s an idea I’ve had for a long time, and I’ve taken my sweet time developing the story and working it out, but I don’t have the slightest freaking clue when inspiration first struck,” said Layman. He does clarify his original thought though. “I think this idea came several years ago, probably as a joke, when everybody was panicking about potential bird flu, and maybe there was some snarky Elliot Ness-like scenarios that spun out if it—federal agents kicking down doors to stop chicken smugglers like they did with alcohol during Prohibition,” he continued.
Aside from working on his own creator owned books, John Layman was brought on to replace Tony Daniel to write for Detective Comics in late 2012. Layman was approached by Mike Marts, an editor at DC Comics to come on board and take on writing duties. The always-busy Layman could not pass up on the opportunity to write a Batman title. While writing Detective Comics, Layman was approached to start a new Batman weekly called Batman Eternal. John contributed to the first four issues and then bowed out to focus his time on Chew. Luckily, in his leaving of Eternal there were no hurt feelings. “There were no creative differences, no drama, no bad experiences, no unreasonable rewrites or capricious changes, during Detective or during my time on Eternal,” stated Layman in an article he wrote for Bleeding Cool News.
John Layman doesn’t resign himself to just comic books, though. He’s worked in video games and movies too. In 2007, he was hired by Cryptic Studios, makers of City of Heroes, City of Villains, and most recently, Neverwinter. Chew is being made into a animated movie starring The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun and geek icon Felicia Day. He also helped create the animals for the movie Avatar. John Layman is a extremely talented writer and creator. He’s quietly made a stellar career for himself and deserves any and all accolades given to him. He is one of the creators that really reinvigorated my love of comics as a medium for great storytelling. Take some time out of your weekend at Denver Comic Con and stop by Layman’s booth, you won’t be disappointed.
Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with former Swamp Thing penciller, Yanick Paquette.
All media belongs to DC, Image