INTERVIEW: NERO VILLAGALLOS O’REILLY Talks THE POORCRAFT COOK BOOK!
Have you pre-ordered Iron Circus Comics’ The Poorcraft Cookbook, written and illustrated by Nero Villagallos O’Reilly, based on characters by C. Spike Trotman? The 200+ page cookbook is the third volume in the Poorcraft series from Iron Circus and the first comic funded on the publisher’s independent crowdfunding platform. And having tried the Bánh Mì, I know there are delicious recipes in The Poorcraft Cookbook!
Nero Villagallos O’Reilly contributed to the Ignatz Award-winning Be Gay, Do Comics for The Nib and has contributed to the satirical publication on several other occasions. He has also been published in Filthy Figments, Fortuna Media, and Iron Circus Comics. Prism Comics recently caught up with Nero over email to discuss The Poorcraft Cookbook. We talked about the inspiration behind the recipes for the Iron Circus cookbook and more! Read on Poorcraft Chefs!
Rebecca Kaplan (she/he): What are your preferred pronouns?
Nero Villagallos O’Reilly (he/him): He/him exclusively, thank you!
Rebecca: Are the budget-friendly recipes based on your personal experience? Are any inspired by your family or background?
Nero: Most of them, yes — one of the most obvious throughlines in all the recipes is that they can all be made vegetarian. When I was growing up, meat was usually out of the extremely small family budget, outside of a dollar six-pack of hotdogs or cans of spam from the church pantry.
Rebecca: How did you develop the recipes and cooking tips used in the cookbook? (I don’t know if recipes are copyrighted or how that works.)
Nero: Trial and error, mostly! I have a lot of old print-offs from websites that don’t exist anymore in my cookbook covered in pen scribbles. After long enough, the things you make hardly resemble the original recipe!
Also: recipes are definitely protected by copyright when they’re more than just a list of ingredients; this is one of the reasons so many recipe blogs have long, long intros.
Rebecca: What is your favorite recipe (other than fridge pickles) in The Poorcraft Cookbook? Why?
Nero: My current favorite is the empanadas — the recipe is really adaptable! I recently made a batch for a birthday party where I was low on filling, so I made them smaller than usual and had dough leftover. The tiny ones were still great, and I used the dough the day after to make two oversized ones for lunch. And I didn’t have to destroy my wrists rolling the dough out!
Rebecca: I used to volunteer at/go to a Food Bank and appreciated the accurate information about food safety labels and expiration dates. How did you research the food safety guidelines and tips included in the cookbook?
Nero: A combination of accumulated knowledge (I watched a lot of Good Eats and America’s Test Kitchen on repeat growing up!) and asking other friends who’re in the food industry, mostly! I do always end up having to google the difference between “best by” and “sell by” dates to remind myself, though.
Rebecca: What’s it like to approach a cookbook with C. Spike Trotman’s characters? What can this give readers a traditional cookbook cannot provide?
Nero: I’m usually so neck-deep in my own projects that it was honestly refreshing to be able to work on something with characters that already have their own personalities and histories! Having that backbone made it much easier to focus on turning all the information into a more readable comics format.
Rebecca: Poorcraft is in black-and-white, and a lot of your work is black-and-white or monochromatic. What appeals to you about monochromatic color palettes in comic book art?
Outside of the obvious cost-benefit (good color printing is way more expensive than you’d think!), there are a lot of techniques in art that work best in monochromatic environments! A lot of stippling, crosshatching, or similar texture work becomes muddied and unrecognizable once complex color effects are added.
And this may sound silly, but I also think monochromatic work is often stronger as a whole. The reader can absorb information more easily due to a lower cognitive load, and the artists have one less intensive step to worry about. (Not that b&w art is easier by any margin, but everything becomes much more complicated when color is added!)
Rebecca: Is there a significant difference between creating an 18+ cooking comic (Split Check with Iris Jay), or are the differences superficial?
Nero: Split Check is definitely less informational! There’s much more of a focus on characters and the world around food rather than the technical aspects of cooking.
Rebecca: Is there any food that helps your creative process or motivates you on a tough day?
Nero: There’s a vegetarian pizza place I love called World Pizza. It’s not open frequently, but when it is? Their wasabi and pineapple pizzas make my whole day. Trust me; it’s real good.
Rebecca: Anything else you want to add?
Nero: I hope people enjoy the book! Even if a reader gets only one recipe or one piece of advice out of The Poorcraft Cookbook, I’ll consider that a win.
The Poorcraft Cookbook! by Nero Villagallos O’Reilly can be pre-ordered at Iron Circus Comics. The cookbook is set for September 22, 2022 release. Learn more about Nero Villagallos O’Reilly at itsnero.com or by following @itsnero.