One of the true signs of a comic book being a genuine hit is when a character or concept proves so popular that it gets its own spinoff. That's certainly the case with John Layman and Rob Guillory's Image Comics title "Chew" which is set to spawn a special one-shot spinoff starring a certain government-employed rooster.
That's right, come July, Poyo gets his very own comic from the creative team that birthed him. Titled "Chew: Secret Agent Poyo," the 36-page issue is jam-packed with action as the title character embarks on a world-class spy adventure pitting the cybernetic foul against a man whose nefarious plot will surely rain down destruction upon Poyo's feathered world. To get the lowdown on Poyo's adventures, CBR News spoke with Layman about the hero's journey, how David Lapham's acclaimed "Stray Bullets" was influential in giving Poyo get his own comic and how difficult it was to base an entire story around non-speaking cybernetic poultry.
"Actually, it was pretty liberating writing something so bugfuck insane, and something that did not have to follow the same 'rules' as 'Chew,'" Layman told CBR. "Of course, we're dealing with a bionic, homicidal luchador rooster, so there is not a whole hell of a lot in the way of character development. We countered that by making it much faster paced and relentlessly crazy than the typical issue of 'Chew.' And, again, we broke our own rules. We would never feature Hell in an issue of 'Chew' -- that does not fit with the book -- but a scene with Poyo fighting his way out of hell is totally acceptable."
In addition his trip to the underworld, Poyo also finds himself facing off against a dastardly villain who's plan that would quite literally flatten London.
"It's sort of a tale of international intrigue, where Poyo has to deal with a James Bond-type villain and the worldwide threat he poses," Layman said. "In the case of 'Secret Agent Poyo,' the threat comes in the form of a meteorologist who figures out the science behind the very rare weather phenomenon where it rains frogs. From there, he is able to create a device that causes it to rain farm animals. Naturally, he threatens to unleash a sheep-storm that will destroy London unless the British government ponies up a ton of cash. Instead, they send Poyo after the villain."
Asked where the idea of a Poyo one-shot originated, Layman responded with an answer that seemed odd at first, but actually makes perfect sense. "My favorite comic of all time is 'Stray Bullets,' Layman said. "David Lapham used to do these specials starring a character named Amy Racecar that sorta existed outside normal continuity, that were far crazier and faster-paced than the regular book. Poyo has been a favorite supporting character ever since he was introduced, and issues he's in always seem to bring an extra level of crazy, so we decided to take it to the next level and have some fun with a story that was pure Poyo, and exists just a notch or so outside normal continuity."
While the one-shot may occur out of the "normal continuity" of "Chew," Layman is able to lay down a rough timeline as far as when the adventure takes place. "Somewhere between 18 and 28. It picks up directly after the events of 18, when Poyo was gunned down by a power-mad dictator, but story-wise, most of it takes place in some nebulous period prior to 'Chew' #28."
When a one-shot like this comes along, it often recruits the slkills of an artist other than that of the main title. When it came to Poyo, however, Layman couldn't imagine working with anyone other than Guillory, his "Chew" co-conspirator, though the reasoning might not be exactly what you'd think.
"Well, I'm a very sexual person, and have unbelievable sexual energy," Layman said. "I'm desired by pretty much everybody who comes into contact with me, male or female, gay or straight. So, of course, there is that to deal with. But Rob handles it pretty well. We get along, and trust each other creatively. I don't think something like 'Secret Agent Poyo' would exist with a different artist than Rob. I know what sort of madness he is capable of, and we both wanted to do something that was turned up to 11 on the bonkers meter."
In addition to Guillory, Layman and Image put the call out to artist friends to provide pin-ups for the issue. So far, they've gathered a pretty impressive group, with potential for more participants if all goes as planned.
"I can tell you a few, but trying to get pin-ups is a little like herding cats. You don't know who's gonna come through and who's gonna flake, so I'll only name the people we have in hand and tell you we're got an even longer list of great, talented artists we hope will contribute," Layman said. "Right now we have work from Joe Eisma ("Morning Glories"), Tony Parker ("Dead Man's Run") John McCrea and Andrew Elder (my "Mars Attack" team) and Gabriel Bautista ("Elephantmen") -- with even more planned. It should be a big, wonderful, all-star collection of talent."
John Layman and Rob Guillory get dangerous in "Chew: Secret Agent Poyo" from Image Comics on July 11.