Famed chef Anthony Bourdain is serving up a second course of his sci-fi chef drama Get Jiro this week, and he has found a superhero veteran to help serve it up: Alé Garza.
Due out Wednesday, Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi is a prequel that reveals how Jiro became such a cool-headed food master. Co-written by Joel Rose, the story goes back to the origins of the mysterious Jiro, the heir to a Yakuza crime family who longs instead to study culinary arts.
Newsarama talked to Garza to find out more about the graphic novel, his approach to the food-centered world of Jiro, and what he thought of working with a American culinary icon.
Newsarama: Alé, how did you get involved in this project? Did you like the first book and were interested in doing something else set in that world?
Alé Garza: I followed Anthony Bourdain's TV show and his books and stuff outside of comic books, and I had heard about the first book being released, but I'd never actually read it.
Vertigo editor Will Dennis came to me, at Comic-Con International: San Diego last year, and kind of pitched the idea to me. He said they found your work online and they're very interested in working with you if it's something that interests you, and I was kind of caught off guard, but at the same time, I was like, are you kidding me? That's amazing! Of course!
Once I got that job offer, I obviously went back and picked up the original book, and I read it and I loved it. At first I was a little thrown off, like, are you sure you want to work with me? Because mine and Langdon Foss' artwork is about as different as you can get. But they were like, no, they want to work with you. They like the qualities of your artwork and what they think you can bring to the prequel.
Overall, once it all started coming together, I was very excited and very honored. This is definitely an opportunity where, I had other stuff going on at the time, and I said, those things are going to have to wait.
Nrama: Let's talk about the setting. I know this world was established in the first book, but as a prequel, this is a little different setting. Can you describe what you're getting to draw?
Garza: The city itself is like a futuristic, Japanese setting. It's a future that you kind of feel is our world, but different. Like, the environment has been let go. But other than that, it's very relatable to the world we live in now. It could be five years from now and it could be 50 years from now.
It was an interesting challenge. Joel and Anthony gave me great feedback, as far as what they envisioned and what they wanted to see. And that helped a lot.
Nrama: You mentioned that your style is different from what readers saw in the first book. Can you describe your style and what you were hoping to do in this book?
Garza: I've never really considered myself to be a Vertigo guy. Up until now I've pretty much been doing superhero stuff. So for me to do this family drama, this gangster drama, it was definitely a stretch for me. A lot of the effects that I'm used to dealing with weren't the same. Instead of doing layouts you'd normally do for something like Teen Titans, I used a very straightforward box layout, just focusing on the pacing of the storytelling, to make sure that was first and foremost before anything else. And the emotion of the characters. That was I definitely wanted to play upon, because it's such a dark story, but it's got quirks to it.
The people who love the artwork in the first one are going to see something completely different in this once, and I think that's what Vertigo wanted. But I still tried to bring a more artistic sensibility to it, as far as being a storyteller first and foremost, and getting the emotions of the characters onto the page. And helping the main character, Jiro, grow as a character on the pages.
Nrama: Can you expand upon that? About Jiro?
Garza: He's always so cold and methodical, in the first book, so in this one, I really wanted to give him a little bit of that characterization so people could see where he came from and where he started. You see why, in the first book, he was so cold and methodical — because of the different characters he grew up with before he came to America, and the experiences he had in Japan.
Nrama: Yeah, because this takes place, what, when he's younger? And he's dealing with his father and family?
Garza: Yeah, he's younger and he actually has hair too. That's one of the things at the end that you'll get to see happen.
Yeah, we get to see the relationship between him and his father and his half brother. It's mostly a story of him and his half-brother, and their interaction and sibling rivalry, the way they push each other to become the characters that they ultimately end up become.
And then, we meet one of his love interests. She's also one of the main characters.
And you get to meet his teacher, who he apprenticed under, and taught of him all his sushi-making skills and stuff like that.
So there's a pretty nice core of characters in it. It's not a huge cast, but we really get to know them. It's a little over-the-top something with violence, but it all came down to a story about characters, and I hope I did a good job of getting all their personalities and emotions across on the paper.
Nrama: I assume there are quite a few food references, like the first one. Did you have to do some research on food? Or are you a food fan?
Garza: I'm actually — that's my other passion, is food. I love having worked with Anthony. The people in that industry are all people I've admired and looked up to while I was building my career in comics.
A lot of the food we do in the book is actually stuff I had some experience with. And luckily Joel and Anthony both had lots of references to help with. I think there isn't quite as much food as the first one. The food aspect is definitely there, but I feel like this story really focuses on the characters and the relationships around Jiro. Whenever food comes into the spotlight, we really handle it well. I went out of my way to make the food as sexy as possible, if that's even possible.
Nrama: I think sexy food is definitely possible!
Garza: Yeah, it's a lot of fun. When you sit there and find yourself drawing a plate of carrots, and you're just like, that's fun! Never in a million years did I think drawing a plate of carrots would be fun, but it was! And it was relaxing. It was as relaxing as chopping carrots. So it was an interesting to add to the arsenal of things that I know how to draw well. Carrots are part of that now.
Nrama: Then Alé, I'd just finish up by asking if there's anything else you want to tell potential readers about this book and the experience of drawing it?
Garza: It was just a dream come true situation for me within an industry in which I've worked for so long. It's amazing the opportunities that come up and the people who are now wanting to do comics. And Anthony Bourdain is an American icon, as far as I'm concerned. So to be able to work with him was a dream come true. And I think people will really enjoy the story.