UL alum, Carencro native, Eisner and Harvey award winner Rob Guillory draws the enormously popular graphic novel series Chew, which was just optioned by Showtime. He sat down recently to talk about comics, UL, and the growing creative industry in Lafayette.

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Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Carencro. I graduated from Carencro High in 2000. I thought about going to the Art Institute in Houston. I had a little scholarship there, but I got talked out of it by my parents because it was super expensive. I looked into some other art schools, but I decided to go to UL for the diversity, and exposure to other things.

I started out in 3-D animation. I hated it. I actually worked as a cartoonist at The Vermilion. I was at The Vermilion for 4½ to 5 years. They were my first “paying” gig. Not very much but something. It was at The Vermilion that I realized that comics could be something I could do. I knew painting wasn't going to pay the bills and I hated 3-D animation.

What did you do after college?

I had some crappy jobs. I got a gig working at a local transportation company.

The guys that work offshore have to get taken off shore. I would have to call drivers to get them offshore. It was a night gig. I would work 7 and 7. It was very easy, but a very boring job.

I didn't get back into art until about a year and a half after I graduated UL.

How did you get back into comics?

I got married a little while after I started working at the transportation company. My wife knew I wanted to do the comics thing, I had already met a bunch of people and I had a pretty good network. We decided that if I was going to do it, I needed to really do it. I started going to the conventions again. I started to arrange my night work schedule to work around my comic schedule, and it just started snowballing. I started getting so much comic work that I was turning it down because I just couldn't do it with my night job.

Around 2008 my wife and I decided that it was counterproductive to turn down the work I wanted to do for a job I didn't care about. We didn't have any kids at that point and my wife was making pretty decent money, so we figured we had nothing to lose. I just said, "Screw it" and quit my job.

Actually, six days after I quit my job was the San Diego Comic-Con. I was packing to go to Comic-Con when John Laymen, the writer for Chew emailed me asked me if I wanted to work on his new comic. He said it was a paying gig. He said it was at least five issues. We just went from there.

It's funny because I had only met him briefly before. I really didn't know him.

Talk about Chew.

Chew's weird.

Its a like sci-fi/dark comedy/action thing. It's a mix of everything. It's set 3-4 years from now. We don't ever actually set a year, its just somewhere slightly in the future. A bird flu kills millions of people worldwide, and as a result the FDA becomes very powerful and outlaws poultry because of the flu. People start freaking out, and like anything else, when you make something people want illegal, black markets start popping up. People start buying poultry illegally and the FDA starts arresting people for that. It's completely ridiculous, but that’s what's going on.

The main character, Tony Chu, is a cibopath which means he's a food psychic. He gets psychic visions when he eats, so when he eats an apple, he sees the entire life of the fruit, or if he eats a hamburger, he sees the entire life of the cow up to its death, including the processing. It's really unpleasant and he hates it. He gets recruited by the FDA because they see his gift as an ability to solve crimes. He is kind of like a one man CSI. He eats a lot of horrendous crap in the name of justice. Along the way he goes on adventures and begins to see that there may not have been a bird flu at all, and maybe its just a big conspiracy.

Is there any food he can eat without seeing the history?

Yeah, only beets.

The first time you see him he is actually buying beets. That's all he eats. If you go in his house and open his fridge, it's nothing but beets.

How did you guys get involved with Showtime?

It's weird because the second Chew was announced and put into previews before issue 1 even came out.  We got slammed with a lot of media attention. We got contacted by a lot of different directors and people who wanted to work with us. It was strange because the first issue hadn't even come out yet.

We got with our agency, Circle of Confusion, last year at Comic-Con. They said they had a director who really loved the book and wanted to work with us. His name is Steven Hopkins, he's done stuff like 24, Californication, other dark comedy. From there, Circle of Confusion started building a pitch to bring to Hollywood.