After much effort to create a live-action version of Chew — understandably hampered by the story’s routine use of cannibalism as a central plot device — producers have decided to go in a different direction and create an animated feature instead (that is expected to go straight to home release). This, I think, is a good decision: the book has a very specific tone and atypical humour that I think would not translate very well through a live-action script.
I can’t help but be excited about this latest bit of news coming out of the efforts to produce a feature adaptation of Chew. For those who don’t know, Chew is a quirky title created by John Layman and Rob Guillory. It follows the adventures of Chinese American protagonist (and U.S. Food and Drug Administration agent) Tony Chu, who has the bizarre power of a cibopath: he receives a psychic imprint from any food he eats (except beets). Chu’s power is, understandably, both a blessing and a curse, and Chew explores how Chu uses his ability to solve crime in a universe that has since expanded its repertoire to introduce a broad range of food-related powers.
Felicia Day has also been cast in the feature to voice Tony Chu’s love-interest, Amelia Mintz, a food critic and Saboscrivner, who has the power to write so compellingly about food that she can make her reader taste it.
The series is witty, sharp, self-effacing, and instantly memorable; it belongs on the shelves (or in the digital long boxes) of any comic book connoisseur. More so than many comics, Chew has succeeded not only in creating a uniquely likable hero in Tony Chu, but also a richly detailed world for Chu to inhabit.
This is great news for Yeun, who in taking the role can now claim influence over the two singularly best and most complex Asian American male heroes coming out of contemporary comic books.
Like Glenn Rhee, Tony Chu tackles the reader’s existing expectations of an Asian American man — initially introducing him as meek and unassuming — and turns it on its face by allowing the character to both embrace his status as an unlikely hero while simultaneously infusing conventionally heroic and masculine qualities into him to challenge the readers’ pre-existing stereotypes. Glenn Rhee is, in both comic and TV show, a strong leader and a romantic love interest. Tony Chu is an understated hero, but one who shows clear intellect and morality; more importantly, the series’ writers manage to create a character who is both highly cynical and who eats dead flesh for a living, and then turn him into a charismatic and likable hero-protagonist.
My one complaint is that Tony Chu is strongly based on Miles Straume — played by the esteemed Ken Leung — from Lost. Similar to how Chu uses his cibopathic abilities to solve murders, Miles can empathically read a person’s death. Chu also physically resembles Ken Leung and shares the actor’s characteristic sarcastic cynicism. I’ve been rooting for Ken Leung to be cast in the role of Tony Chu for years; alas, what could have been.
No word yet on the rest of the cast, but I’m already salivating (ba-dum-dum) with the anticipation of checking out this movie.