Since cooking and eating are universally shared activities as well as quintessential aspects of all cultures, it's no surprise that food has been the subject of a number of comics. The ones listed here vary from the intimately personal to the wildly fantastic, but they can all make mouths water with pages of sumptuously illustrated spreads, and many even include step-by-step recipes for the epicurean reader. Here are a baker's dozen to satisfy any comics craving.
Lucy Knisley. First Second, 2013
Knisley's foodie memoir focuses on how her relationship to food mingled with her own experiences growing up. She asserts that food is never "just fuel," and that cooking and eating are indeed the spice of life. Her clean cartooning and honest storytelling make this graphic novel irresistible.
Testu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki. Shogakukan; Viz Media, 1983–ongoing
One of Japan's longest-running comics follows a food journalist who is tasked with building the "perfect menu" for his newspaper. His research takes him all over the country as he learns the proper way to create many Japanese culinary staples. The comic is immensely popular and has won numerous awards, and has also been adapted as an anime series and two animated films.
In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef
Christophe Blain. Gallimard; Chronicle, 2011; 2013
Blain shadows world renowned chef Alain Passard and describes his entire operation in a series of sketchy anecdotes. It's a privilege to witness Passard in his element, whether he's on the farm or in the kitchen, and his philosophy of food as a omni-sensory experience is fascinating.
John Layman and Rob Guillory. Image, 2009–ongoing
In a world where poultry is illegal, food crime is handled by an FDA that operates more like the DEA. Among its ranks is Tony Chu, a cibopath—someone who can learn the history of something by ingesting it—and he uses his skills to clean up the dirty world of illegal chicken. The series is a commercial and critical success, and has won the Eisner Awards for Best New Series (2010) and Best Continuing Series (2011).
Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, and Langdon Foss. Vertigo, 2013
Culinary celebrity and author Bourdain indulges in some action movie fantasies as he skewers much of modern food culture. Jiro is an ex-yakuza turned sushi chef whose skills land him in the middle of a struggle between two warring restaurants/ideologies (gourmet vs. local). The over-the-top story pokes fun at some of the industry's biggest targets, and Foss's enticing visuals look good enough to eat.
À boire et à manger (To Drink and Eat)
Guillaume Long. Gallimard, 2012.
Illustrator and cooking enthusiast Long chronicles his forays into various cuisines in this humorous French strip, serialized online in Le Monde. Along with offering recipes and tips, Long includes descriptions of his extensive travels as well as musings on food and life. Two, full-color collected editions were released in 2012, with a third on the way this year.
Iron Wok Jan
Shinji Saijyo. Akita Shoten; Comics One, 1995–2000
Jan Akiyama has a ferocious appetite for being the best in this boisterous competitive cooking manga. As the grandson of a revered chef, Jan is determined to prove his worth to the culinary world, especially Kiriko, the granddaughter of his grandfather's rival. Jan's headstrong personality and cooking style continue to clash with Kiriko's more heartfelt attitude as they enter Iron Chef-like tournaments and face new challenges.
Sara Varon. First Second, 2011
When a cupcake who runs a popular bakery and plays in a band gets the opportunity meet a famous chef he idolizes, he has to choose between his two passions in Varon's tender and sweet graphic novel. Varon's simple drawings of anthropomorphized food are a delight, and the book carries a valuable message about recognizing what's truly important in life. She even includes a few recipes from the story for readers to try.
Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant
Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey, and Grady Hendrix. Clarkson Potter, 2012
Amanda Cohen, owner and chef of the popular Dirt Candy vegetarian restaurant in New York City, shares recipes and factoids, as well as the story of how she got her start and eventually made it in the industry. The book is an honest account of what it takes to run a successful restaurant and a great resource for aspiring chefs.
Food Wars: Shokugeki no Sōma
Yūto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki. Shueisha; Viz Media, 2012–ongoing
Sōma Yukihira is the son of a successful chef and restauranteur who aspires to become even better than his father. But when his father suddenly closes their restaurant, Yukihira instead enrolls in a cutthroat culinary school and is forced to put his cooking skills to the ultimate test. The series is a fan favorite and an animated adaptation is scheduled to begin airing in Japan in April, 2015.
James Stokoe. Oni Press, 2007
With little explanation, intergalactic chef virtuoso Johnny Boyo gave up his promising future in food to become a space trucker. But every time he thinks he's out of the frying pan, he finds himself in the fire and must use his cooking skills to survive. The book is an improbable combination of science-fiction and cooking, and showcases Stokoe's abundant visual style and frenetic storytelling. The series was collected in omnibus format in 2014.
Takashi Hashiguchi. Shogakukan; Viz Media, 2002–2007
Like Iron Wok Jan and Food Wars, Yakitate!! Japan is a manga in which cooks compete to create perfect dishes, but this time focused only on baking. Kazuma Azuma is a supernaturally gifted baker whose dream is to create the perfect national bread for Japan. His ambitions take him to the renowned bakery Pantasia, where he's given a taste of the dizzying world of high class bread-making. The series was adapted into an anime which ran from 2004–2006.
Digestate: A Food & Eating Themed Anthology
Edited by J.T. Yost. Birdcage Bottom Books, 2012
Over fifty cartoonists contribute to this Kickstarted anthology about food and eating, including Noah Van Sciver, Jeffrey Brown, Renée French, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Box Brown, and many more. The stories include both fiction, nonfiction, illustrated essays and more, with contributors sharing their own personal experiences and philosophies.