When Anthony Bourdain set out to write a comic book, he knew he had to make the story convincing enough for readers to believe in the world he created: A place where killing people over food is acceptable.
Bourdain can consider his readers convinced. His new comic “Get Jiro!” rocketed to the No. 1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list this week.
Don’t expect cooking tips from this one. The chef, author and TV personality has described his story as “set in near-future L.A., where warring clans of chefs with differing ideologies slaughter each other in the streets.”
The hero of the story is Jiro, an old-school sushi chef who, according to Bourdain, “really doesn’t like it if you disrespect his sushi.” A quick peek into the book shows Jiro hard at work behind his sushi bar, catering to a group of customers. One orders a California roll. Bad idea. Jiro is not pleased and decapitates one of them, saying, “No California roll!” He then holds his knife in the face of another terrified patron who says, “Sorry ... soo ... sooo ... sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking!”Video: Chef Eric Ripert dishes on pal Anthony Bourdain (on this page)
Bourdain promoted the book at Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego last week. He said in a panel that the Jiro character is based on Chef Jiro Ono of Tokyo’s Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of Bourdain’s favorite restaurants. The real Jiro Ono is already famous in his own right; he has been recognized by the Japanese government as a living national treasure for his contributions to Japanese cuisine.
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Bourdain said of the real Jiro: “Jiro is an 85-year-old man and, as far as I know, has never wielded a blade at a customer ... but this is a guy who goes to bed every night thinking about how he’s going to make those same 25 cuts of nigiri better than the day before, and jogs two miles every day so he doesn’t look pathetic in front of his customers.”
Though Bourdain hadn’t written a comic book before, he mastered it quickly. “I learned very early on that this is a visual medium ... you want to show people things,” he said. “It’s not about your words. Yeah, the story is important, but without beautiful images and someone who can pace those in a dynamic way, all is lost.”
The man behind the images is Langdon Foss, a comic book artist and illustrator.
“Without the really amazing attention to detail and Langdon’s vast experience in Japan, this would’ve been a tough project,” Bourdain told Comic-Con’s John Barrowman.
A lifelong fan of comic books himself, Bourdain said he couldn’t be happier with his debut. “It’s a child’s dream,” he told Barrowman. “I’ve got a comic book!”
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