Monday, November 4, 2019

Anthony Bourdain's "Hungry Ghosts" (comic)

Esra Erol (, 3/16/18); Seth Auberon, CC Liu, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Hungry Ghosts’ is not for the faint of heart: The globe-trotting chef’s comic book series promises a violent kitchen nightmare
If Bourdain did vegan, mmm.
Hungry Ghosts is a four-part comic book series from TV star/author Anthony Bourdain and novelist Joel Rose.

This is the same duo that created the epic graphic novel Get Jiro! about master chefs who rule as crime bosses in a not-too-distant future where people literally kill to get tables at the best restaurants. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from this series.

Killer art
Fans of stylized comic book violence (think Raw meets Lady Snowblood) are in for a treat. Joining Bourdain and Rose in Issue 1 are artists Alberto Ponticelli (Unknown Soldier, Dial H) and Vanesa Del Rey (Bitch Planet, Redlands).

It's grotesque! How can he eat horse head?
Issue 2 features the work of Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer) and Mateus Santolouco (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). These artists further amplify the horror element in each story with their wonderfully grotesque art. There’s also the amazing color by José Villarrubia, whose saturated reds pop off the page. Raw flesh, human and animal, never looked more nauseating.

And let’s not forget Paul Pope’s covers, one of which features an onryō hunched over a bowl of tonkotsu ramen while she stares deep into your soul. The style is very reminiscent of the 19th century ukiyo-e woodblock prints by rival artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Utagawa Kunisada. Surely, some readers will consider this issue a collectible worth framing.

The Bourdain twist
Traditional Japanese ghost art is grotesque.
In addition to featuring awesome art, Hungry Ghosts is full of great stories. The main plotline revolves around a Russian oligarch who is hosting a party at his beach house on Long Island. As the night grows darker and stormier, he and his rich cronies get bored, so he invites the chefs working in his kitchen to play a version of 100 candles, an old game in which brave samurai would try to one-up each other with terrifying tales of ghosts, demons, and unspeakable beings.

This take on the Japanese Edo-period game gets the Bourdain touch with chef-storytellers telling tales about food and hunger.

The influence of Japanese mythology

Hungry Ghosts promises two courses, both of which draw inspiration from the many horrors found in Japanese mythology.

In the first issue, the game of 100 candles begins with “The Starving Skeleton,” a story about a ramen chef who, after refusing to give a beggar a free meal, gets eaten, piece by piece, by the same man he turned away. The beggar turns out to be a gashadokuro (“hungry skeleton”).

Name that fishy testicle eater of Japanese lore.
It is then followed up with an even more terrifying tale. “The Pirates” tells the story of a band of sailors who rescue a drowning woman from the sea and get more than they bargained for. The woman is actually a sazae-oni (“shellfish ogre”), but she doesn’t reveal her true form until after she seduces every man on board and — wait for it — bites off their testicles.

After she finishes the dirty deed and returns to the sea, she demands they give her all of their gold in exchange for their “treasures.” More

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