Rogues Portal had the opportunity to chat with the creative team from Flavor #1, a brand-new series from Image. Our advance review of the series describes Flavor as “a dark, delicious read about competitive cooking—just not in the way you probably expect!” Check out the Q&A with writer Joseph Keatinge, artist Wook-Jin Clark, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and culinary consultant Ali Bouzari.

  1.       How do you describe Flavor to potential readers?

JOSEPH KEATINGE (JK): Flavor is a culinary fantasy set in a mysterious walled city where chefs are the ultimate celebrity and food the ultimate commodity. An unlicensed chef discovers the secrets behind the city and learns it’s all rotten from the inside out. Think Hunger Games without the Hunger or a Miyazaki-fueled Battle Royale.

  1.       Where did the idea for Flavor originate?

WOOK-JIN CLARK (WC): Originally Joe and I were hanging out I believe, and he was looking for a collaborator on a new project he was playing with. We’ve been friends for about 7 years, and my schedule happened to be open and when he told me about the project I was immediately intrigued and interested!

JK: I met Ali Bouzari years ago and the way he talked about food reminded me of the way Jack Kirby talked about comics. Always thinking forward, where it’s going next, what you could do, how you can expand beyond people’s preconceived notions. The idea of food and comics and the relationships between them percolated in my head for a while. I pitched the idea to Eric Stephenson thinking he would run me out of town, but he was into it. Then I ran into Wook Jin at Emerald City Comic Con and then we made a comic book.

  1.       From the description, I was expecting a more futuristic world. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Why did you choose the environment that you did?

WC: Haha, yeah I think we had a certain aesthetic in mind. As the story opens up more there will be more fantastical settings and elements, but we wanted to be able to gradually bring the reader in with settings they could understand.

  1.       I’m really curious about Xoo’s parents both being in wheelchairs. What motivated this decision?

WC: I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler, but both Xoo’s parents are sick. They have a disease that put them both in wheelchairs. As the issues go on we will see what happened to them and if there’s a remedy.

  1.       What can readers expect from Xoo in upcoming issues?

WC: At the start of the story, Xoo is already a well rounded person who takes care of business. She’s one to do what needs to be done in order to keep her family safe and taken care of. As the issues go on she’s thrown into situations she wasn’t expected or wanted, but she will learn and survive just like she always has. The difference now moving forward is that she’s doing what she loves, which is cooking, not just to make ends meet, but to strive for something greater!

  1.       Buster is fantastic. Will he be a key character in future issues?

WC: Haha thanks! I love that dog! He’s so fun to draw! Yes, he will be a key player in the story. He’s Xoo’s best friend, and sous chef. Also he’s sometimes the voice of reason and a character who brings a different perspective to situations.

JK: Buster is 100% based on my dog. He’s a good boy.

  1.       I like how the story is rather dark, but the art remains light. Was this a deliberate choice?

WC: I think so? Haha! Sorry, I think I always draw somewhat pretty light. And going with Joe’s darker themes make it give off an uneasy feeling, which I enjoy, and hope the reader will enjoy as well. There are definitely themes throughout the book that we all deal with, and it’s a nice challenge to try and get them across in my style.

JK: Absolutely.

TAMRA BONVILLAIN (TB): Haha, for some reason, I didn’t think of this as overly dark, but I guess that says more about me than anything else. However, I do love working in bright/colorful into tonally darker stories, offsetting people’s usually expectations.

  1.       What is it like working together as a creative team?

WC: Joe is great! I’ve known him for quite a while and to be able to work together has been a lot of fun. Tamra is amazing! I was familiar with her work before, and when she agreed to be a part of the team I was so pumped! Her colors are incredible and can’t imagine it without her now! Whenever we get pages from her I’m always in awe. Ariana, our letterer, is great as well! She ties us all together! And Ali is otherworldly to me! He brings the science to back up Joe’s ideas with real world notions! I feel blessed to be part of such a great team!

Ali Bouzari (AB): Honestly, I just got to plant seeds. There are a bunch of fundamental patterns of how food and cooking work in our world, so I laid them out for the FLAVOR team to pick over and adapt to Xoo’s world. It’s a crazy gratifying thing to see a tiny idea that I mentioned briefly one day get funneled through several sets of brilliant brains and rendered into something elegant and delicious a few weeks later.

JK: One of the great things about Image is you bring your team together, not just the writer and artist, but the colorist, letterer, editor, and, if you’re lucky, culinary consultant. Everyone on this book is a dream collaborator of mine, so I’m grateful for them.

TB: It’s been fantastic! We all get along well together creatively, so things move very smoothly! I’ve worked with Ariana before, so it was nice to have her join us on this, but it’s my first time with everyone else, and so far, so good!

  1.       What comics, books, and/or shows are you enjoying right now?

WC: I just read A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima. It’s incredible! It’s a manga that has such heavy themes but told through the eyes of middle/high school students. Also I loved Firebug by Johnnie Christmas, Tamra, and Ariana! The mythology, settings, and pacing were amazing! I loved that book!

AB: Rewatching Samurai Jack now that it’s all on Hulu.

JK: I discovered the Brown Sugar streaming service, and I just watched Pam Grier in Sheba, Baby. Next up is Cooley High, I believe.

TB: I watch a bunch of weird, random, mostly horror, movies and stuff with friends online. Most recently we watched Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, which had me in tears, I was laughing so hard.

  1.     I love food, and I love comics. What is your favorite thing to eat?

WC: Yikes! Hmm, I love pizza and wish I could eat it everyday, but I know I can’t haha! For everyday food, I love simple stuff like eggs and couscous, but gimme an open face hot turkey sandwich any day!

AB: Out here in Sonoma County, CA, it’s dungeness crab season! For the past few weeks, we’ve been grilling, poaching, and wok-frying crab with whatever spicy, savory thing we have on hand.

JK: Dim Sum. Straight up. There is no taste finer.

TB: I have to say salsa, because that’s what people expect from me.

Flavor #1 will be available in stores Wednesday, May, 16, 2018. 

Anelise Farris
I'm a doctor that specializes in folklore and mythology, speculative fiction, and disability studies. Basically, I'm a professional geek. When not researching or teaching, I read; I write; I yoga; I travel; I play with my fur babies; and, I watch way too many (if that's a thing) horror movies.

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