"I wanted kicks—the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I'd yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I'd found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books." - Anthony Bourdain
Back in 2016 (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- Food For Thought”), I wrote about how, unlike Japanese manga where the subject is a staple, there have been relatively few American comics about food. Naturally, among the ones that I cited were Get Jiro and its sequel, Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi, graphic novels written by celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain.
I had been a fan of his writing and television shows, but have to confess I was surprised by how deeply affected I was by his recent death (see “RIP Anthony Bourdain”). Part of it was no doubt due to the fact I (no doubt foolishly) felt a certain solidarity with the chef because I spent a decade working in kitchens. It was while I was working the prep station of an “Italian” chain restaurant (the kind where food wasn’t so much “cooked” as assembled then briefly introduced to high heat) that I came across a copy of his first book Kitchen Confidential. I related to his “Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” the book’s subtitle, and found myself hooked when I reached the part where he, accurately, compared a kitchen staff to the crew of a pirate ship.*
But I knew Anthony Bourdain was, as I like to say, “one of us” when in Kitchen Confidential I discovered what amounts to his “origin story.” How while on a family trip to France he learned he loved exotic foods after eating an enormous, extremely fresh oyster. And his desire to travel most likely had to do with reading volumes of Tintin set in far-off locales which “...took me places I was quite sure I would never go.”Before He Wanted to Be a Chef, Anthony Bourdain Wanted to Draw Comic Books”, credited to Karen Berger as told to Abraham Riesman. Berger worked with Bourdain on his graphic novel Hungry Ghosts which is being published by her Berger Books imprint in October and in the piece revealed he had also been a big E.C. Comics fan. And that he became a chef partially because in the 70s he went to a small con and showed his artwork to underground comix publisher Denis Kitchen who “basically told him his art wasn’t very good.”
Like me, he was always looking on the lookout for what was new and different, or as the tagline for his TV show No Reservations put it, he was “Always Hungry for More.” Loving food and travel, I was jealous of the life he led and admired the way he lived it. But for me, the most amazing thing about him was how he had actually managed to literally live his childhood dream of traveling the world having adventures like Tintin.
He would have hated being called a “hero,” but there was something inarguably heroic about the way how he championed all of the misfits who labored behind the scenes in restaurants as well as the cuisines and cultures of people all over the world. The first piece about his death I read described him as being a “chef, author, adventurer.” Even though it was one of “our” words I was taken aback because I only thought of it as a pulp magazine cliche, meaningless outside of a fictional context. But if anyone ever deserved to be called an adventurer it was Anthony Bourdain. With his rugged features, resonant voice and genuine interest in justice, he came as close to being a real-world post-modern pulp hero as we’re ever likely going to get.Dark Horse Partners With ‘MST3K’”). As a huge fan, I’ve impatiently been waiting for some sort of sign the comic was actually going to come out. Well we finally have gotten that sign (see “Dark Horse Unveils First ‘MST3K’ Comic”). It is admittedly a bit shy on actual details about Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic, other than it's a six-issue series with the first issue coming out on September 9. And its premise has the cast of MST3K: The Return (Jonah Heston, Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, and Gypsy) riffing on public domain comics. We also don't know who'll be writing or drawing it, but do know who’ll be doing the covers for #1. The variant is by Steve Vance, who drew the MST3K’s DVD covers, and the main one by Todd Nauck. Last year (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - A Look At New Looks”) I wrote how I found an illustration done by Nauck of the new cast online and suggested he’d be perfect for the upcoming comic. I’m just glad someone else thought so too.
*I know this might seem a ludicrous comparison but working in kitchens means long hours in hot close quarters doing difficult tasks at lightning speed and exacting standards on command. It’s a high-pressure, volatile environment where your resentful, often unstable co-workers have immediate access to sharp objects. I never actually saw a knife fight break out, but I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if one had.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.