Anthony Bourdain swears he's a nerdy fanboy
Jiro is the chef at the center of Anthony Bourdain's graphic novel.
June 28th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Anthony Bourdain swears he's a nerdy fanboy

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

Throughout the years, Anthony Bourdain has been cast as a punk-rock chef or as a food snob who will say anything to stir up a controversy.

For some he is the taste-making adventurer behind Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” the eight-season strong series where globetrotting is experienced through a cinephile’s eye, an audiophile’s ear and a gastrophile's stomach. Still others just think of him as that dude who ate warthog anus that one time.

But actually, Anthony Bourdain is a nerd.

Just as a comic book nerd can obsessively debate the merits of publishing companies, artistic elements, story arcs and creators, Bourdain is a food nerd who knows his restaurants, ingredients, dishes and chefs. He is a collector and communicator of food data, and you can add movie, music and, yes, comic book nerd to his list of labels as well.

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news. Bourdain uses his literary confessional “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” and “No Reservations” – along with his blogs, essays, books, writing gig for HBO’s “Treme” and presumably his upcoming weekend show on CNN – as a playground to sate big-kid wishes and hang out with icons like Alice Cooper and Harvey Pekar.

Now he is finally able to pursue a successful fanboy’s dream of writing a graphic novel for DC Comics. Published through the Vertigo imprint, Bourdain’s “Get Jiro!” is a satirical thriller set in a “not too distant future” where master chefs are mob bosses who pull the strings of power in Los Angeles.

(DC Comics, like CNN, is owned by parent company TimeWarner.)

The comic's two ruling “families” are the food-savvy but withholding “Internationalists” (led by an Alain Ducasse-meets-Robert Irvine kingpin) and the hypocritical locavore “Vertical Farms” (led by a pretty obvious Alice Waters stand-in). While the outer rim of the city is loaded down with obese, fast-food-gorging denizens, the inner rim is a place where a reservation at primo joints is a sign of influence. Then there’s Jiro, a mysterious sushi chef who wishes only to serve his culinary craftsmanship without getting caught up in the politics of the kitchen crime world.

Co-written with Joel Rose (“La Pacifica,” “Kill Kill Faster Faster”) with art by Langdon Foss (“Heavy Metal”), “Get Jiro!” is like “Ratatouille” meets “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” where deliciously gratuitous violence is juxtaposed with painstakingly accurate food nerd details. And Bourdain’s commentary about celeb-chefs and our food culture is about as sharp as Jiro’s tanto knife.

Bourdain joined me over some blood sausage and a Heineken at Brasserie Les Halles – the Downtown Manhattan restaurant where he served as executive chef and remains chef-at-large – to discuss “Get Jiro,” his fanboy bona fides and his upcoming appearance at San Diego Comic-Con.

CNN Geek Out: Why are you entering this world of comic books?

Anthony Bourdain: I was a serious comic collector and fanboy as a kid. I wanted very badly to draw comic books for a lot of my childhood and early adolescence. So when you have an unfulfilled dream like that, when years later you find yourself in a position to make a graphic novel – hell yeah, I’m going to do that.

CNN Geek Out: Let’s establish your nerd cred. What comic books did you, or do you, collect?

Bourdain: I was a big, early “MAD” magazine. In fact, even when I was a kid, I would collect anthologies of the “MAD” magazines in the pre-Comics Code era. So I became fascinated with pre-Comics Code work, because the stuff of my generation was all cleaned up. It had the little seal of approval; there was no blood, there was no sex, no antisocial behavior.

And yet, I quickly became aware there was this whole, nasty world from the ’50s, and I hunted that stuff down. Also, Will Eisner’s “The Spirit.” When the undergrounds came along, the West Coast stuff, it totally blew my mind. And I liked early Marvel, when Spider-Man was still neurotic and Steve Ditko was still doing him. There was also a period in the ’60s where people like Jim Steranko and Barry [Windsor-Smith] were really changing the game. You had four-page splash panels. People were doing psychedelic themes, and riffing on various styles. Comics suddenly became really interesting, so I read those on a contemporaneous basis while also collecting dark, violent, antisocial stuff from the ’50s.

And my father had turned me on to Will Eisner and “The Spirit,” and the Jules Feiffer collection – so I was reading that stuff as well.

CNN Geek Out: For “No Reservations,” you’ve always relied on a cinematic quality for episodes, so you did the same for the comic?

Bourdain: Will Eisner was famous for framing and pacing his panels like early Orson Welles or early noir directors. It was really moody, and he’d use lighting and black-and-white in a way that really added drama to the story, and pace. Obviously, those were influences. I just want to tell a ripping good yarn with lots of blood in it, with food that’s ridiculously correct. And a satirical, humorous element was desirable.

CNN Geek Out: You’re presenting “Get Jiro” to Comic-Con, and that’s become a venue where every pop culture entrant goes to sell their wares. Is there any concern that people will think you’re just cashing in on the trend?

Bourdain: The minute you emerge from your cellar with a guitar, and play for another person, arguably, you’ve sold out. I mean, is anything pure? To quote that great man, Omar Little [from “The Wire”], “It’s all in the game.”

Preying on the hopes and dreams of fanboys is the very backbone of the comics and newspaper industry dating back to 1939 – and certainly the backbone of the music industry. In fact, I can’t think of an industry that’s not the backbone of. So yeah, I don’t have an ideological problem with, “Wow, these people are keeping it real.” I mean, there’s a 120-fucking-thousand of them out there. I was at a comic-con back in 69, one of the first years, at the Pennsylvania Hotel, across from Penn Station. It was a room about twice this size with a bunch of guys who looked like Comic Book Guy, with some boxes and folding tables. Were those the good old days? I don’t think so.

CNN Geek Out: Have you had any stand-out DC Comics/Vertigo moments since you signed on?

Bourdain: Yeah, they gave me a really big stack of very cool books. Swag! At the end of the day, I’m a super nerdy fanboy.

CNN Geek Out: Since the food in “Get Jiro” is so accurate, could we expect a spinoff recipe book?

Bourdain: I’m not qualified to tell people how to do the food that Jiro makes. I’m qualified enough to eat it, and in a general way, say if it’s really good or really, really, really good. But I’m not an expert. It’s an incredible testament to the work that Langdon Foss did that he got the artwork so right and so careful.

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Obeey

    What matters is what the psreident does, not what he says.Recently he called for a ‘swift, co-ordinated and aggressive effort' to help the stricken people of Haiti.An Israeli field hospital from the other side of the world is now in place in Haiti doing a fully professional job.The fact that there is no American equivalent from much closer to home is distinctly worrying.

    September 15, 2012 at 12:41 am |
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    August 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
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    August 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  5. Thousand Sunny!

    He's a good chef, not liked very much but what he does is very good. He's a great critic and maybe chef, but leave the comics alone lol. READ TORIKO if you want something about food and cooking and COMIC!

    July 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Dr Freud

    Paula Deen is a fat hog who sells swill to the masses and now is endorsing diabetic medication. So, who is the tool here? Deen, obviously.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  7. James T Birk

    Bourdain may have a great palate and a wealth of cooking knowledge, but he's also arrogant, bitter, and disrespectful. Very disappointed CNN is partnering with him. I guess providing civil, reasonable viewpoints just doesn't get the ratings it used to, so CNN is going the Fox News route.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      I could agree with your opinion, if I was an unimaginative mollycoddle such as you.

      Encourage alternate viewpoints, especially those of which you disagree.

      July 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Mel

      Happy Birthday, lady! I love your list and have no doubt that you will accomplish all of your dmares. One thing I started doing with my life lists was changing "I want..." to "I will...". That way, I have set my intention and know that someday I WILL make them happen. Hope you're having a fabulous day full of tons of celebrating.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  8. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    I think he's great and has a job everyone of us would love to have...Lucky hot man

    July 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  9. Mark

    washed up loser drunk

    July 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  10. LindaJay23

    His shows are interesting. He was right about Paula Deen, IMO.

    July 3, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  11. plenty

    Bourdain is such a egoistical jackclown

    July 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  12. Elaine Connelly

    Anthony Bourdain is an egotistical Jack Wagon. He is rude and obnoxious. I don't miss his show at all. Don't care what he has to say. Why doesn't he wear a wedding ring? He is married and has a child.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Brenda

      He does wear a ring, in his later episodes. Pay more attention before you rag on someone, hmm?

      July 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Matt

      I love bitter old women. You know what men hear when you speak, "Hey guys......blah blah blah blah."

      July 3, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Jen

      THANK YOU for this comment. AB comes off as a completely egomanaical a**bite. I didn't even bother reading this article. I just had to post about what a tool I think he is . The Ponderer was right: "He is a legend in his own mind."

      July 3, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  13. Pat in IL

    I watched a few of his shows, but each one of them ended up with him being drunk, exhausted and eating weird things in the wee hours of the morning in bad neighborhoods of wherever he was. Not appealing.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Tony's Anus

      Get a life

      July 3, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Aman

      Hey Folks .thanks!This was a 9 shot HDR that I prsoecsed, then prsoecsed a single raw as well. I then used the HDR as a layer and subtlety painted it into the Raw image. Hope that makes sense. I have a few more I haven't prsoecsed yet ..thanks again . and Ryan, that boat was part of the single raw image.

      September 15, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  14. TSRVT

    Love Tony Bourdain – His show is one of the only things on TV worth watching. I hope he keeps doing it for another 10 years.

    July 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Keylin

      I'm excited about this I've liked him for some time now I even go onto Netflix and watch radonm episodes of No Reservations while I'm eating Dinner. With his writing wit, I hope that he can keep it going for a little while!

      November 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  15. Anthony-hater

    The guys ALWAYS been a mean, self-important jerk. PERIOD.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • TSRVT

      I'm sure he lies awake at night worrying about what you think about him. LOL. You sound like a real putz.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  16. mfx3

    Forgot one...sell-out.

    June 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  17. Foodie

    I have no interest in watching a heroin addict who thinks that he is high and mighty enough to criticize others for their addictions, but wants us to give him a pass on his. People in glass houses.......

    June 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • kebyar

      Troll. Troll troll troll troll. That I am feeding. Apologies to everyone else.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • TSRVT

      You sound more like the Sandra Lee/Paula Deen type anyway.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • sb_guy

      Funny, that's exactly why I like him so much!

      July 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  18. a real mother

    Love the show – if you've watched it long enough, you definitely see a picture of the real Bourdain emerge. He's honest, funny and very real. Bravo on the next adventure, but please keep doing the show!

    June 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  19. maggie mcduh

    I really like his show. I hope he has the opportunity to make more comics if it makes him happy. Peace to you Tony!

    June 30, 2012 at 5:55 am |
  20. Sandy Storm

    Anthony who?

    June 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  21. Cal Wellander

    I love Anthory Bourdain's show, it's well done and I think we have the same strange sense of humour. I even watch the reruns.

    June 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • TSRVT

      Agree 100% – His episode from Iceland was just the funniest thing I have seen on TV in decades.

      July 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  22. Kate

    This man is so dreadfully arrogant.

    June 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • unegen

      And you are so obviously jealous of talent and success.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
      • Jim

        No, he's an a....hole, period. I did enjoy his show years ago on FoodTV, but even then, a total jerk. You think it's so cool to be arrogant and a jerk. Try showin' a little class in your life, rather than thinking guys like Bourdain are so cool.

        June 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
      • TSRVT

        Jim, you sounf like the a–hole here. You are clueless beyond belief.

        July 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • gager

      Arrogance is part of the appeal.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Terry

      And skeevy.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • The Ponderer

      He is a legend in his own mind.

      June 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • athos

      Translation: I hate people who are smarter than me. I hate people.

      June 30, 2012 at 10:00 am |
      • Jim

        But Bourdain is definitely not smarter than most.

        June 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Wendi

      Haters gonna hate... I have a complete crush on that man and even my husband understands why! But then, he and I value intelligence and multifaceted personalities. Since when are those traits synonymous with arrogance?

      June 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
      • Thomas Elliot

        @Wendi: Since America stopped being a national filled with critical thinkers and became a nation obsessed with Kim Kardashian, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, the latest electronic gadget on the market, and what the government will do for them today. Only in America would a successful author, television host, and chef like Bourdain be panned and lambasted as some of the laughable commenters on this board have chosen to do. But that's okay, because most of the world already laughs at America, as do our politicians when they create a program or pass a law designed to "help" us. Bourdain may be an arrogant jerk, but at least HE knows where Haiti, Colombia, Liberia, and Malaysia are on the map. How about you jealous Bourdain haters? How about your kids? Didn't think so...

        July 1, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • Bia

      BEST POST EVER!!!!!!!!!!! Happy Birthday, Crystal! And can I just say that it has now become my life misison to convince my BF to learn the final dance in Dirty Dancing with me. And if that doesn't work, I'm sure one of my BFFs will be able to step up and act out the part of Johnny for me. ;)I hope you have a great birthday. 🙂

      September 14, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  23. Dean

    Very cool!

    June 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm |