Talk About A Monster Appetite…
Brianna Jakobsson and her fifteen brothers have been issued a challenge: go out into the world to start a restaurant, each in a different city, and the owner of the most successful restaurant will inherit their father’s vast cooking empire. Brianna chooses the one place she can afford, Monster City, but quickly learns that serving monsters human food is super illegal! Can she keep her ingredients secret and pull off a win?
Who’s who in Monster City?
Sykes: Chief among the characters is our titular heroine, Brianna. She’s aided in her struggle by her friend, Suzan Fleshrender (of the New Jersey Fleshrenders), an apathetic and lazy harpy who might just have a heart of gold (or possibly coal). Suzan’s not exactly motivated to be working in the food industry…or in any industry…or to put on pants, most days, but Brianna has a way of bringing out the best in her. The girls are also helped by their friend, Kevin Park, a kind and helpful engineering intern who is the only other human in Monster City.
Espiritu: Kevin is the resident fixer, all-around-smart-guy, and cinnamon roll. He is an actual angel and it must be seen to be believed, trust me. He’s so sad and earnest. Protect him. I’m terribly excited for people to meet Madame Cron, who is—spoiler alert—Brianna’s first antagonist! Madame Cron is a Lamia, which, I was going to just describe as a “snake lady,” but Google is telling me I am being amazingly un-academic about it.
She’s kind of the big cheese in the Monster City culinary world and she’s not too happy about a human horning in on her territory.
Which character really gets you?
Sykes: I mean…Brianna’s me. I know all my characters are “me” somehow, but Brianna goes through what I go through. I struggle with anxiety, just as she does. I worry about letting people down, just like she does. Brianna doesn’t always get big wins or easy victories, sometimes she struggles, but she never gives up and she doesn’t stop pursuing what she wants. So yeah, somehow my escapist fantasy is to be a tiny girl running a moderately successful restaurant. Woah. We went deep there, didn’t we?
Espiritu: I’m Kevin, but like, if he was Prince Charmless instead of Charming. Kevin is just a super cool dude who wants to make his friends and family happy—which is something we share but have incredibly varying methodologies for; he’s friendly and I’m “not rude,” which, practically the same right? (Nope.) We also share the lowkey anxiety over being a disappointment to our parents. And failure. Now I need to talk to my dog.
How did you approach the design of Monster City and its inhabitants?
Espiritu: When there’s a character whom Sam has a specific idea of, he’s pretty descriptive about how they should look (down to tattoos!). When it comes to, say, people in the background, I’m given a lot of artistic leg room to kind of just put whatever. Though the characters I draw are usually taken from actual stories from different cultures, and I try to sneak in some Filipino ones too (I’m winking right now, ya’ll just can’t tell). Some of them are from video games and movies (haha!), and occasionally others are literally just tentacles to fill space (shhHHH).
Which of you is the next celebrity chef?
Sykes: I’m an ape in the kitchen: most of the time I just make a huge mess, but occasionally I create something pretty amazing. My favorite recipe to make is my mom’s curry. It’s a simple recipe she taught me back when I moved out of the house (she was worried that if I didn’t know how to cook, I’d either starve or marry someone I hated just because they could cook) and it has served me extremely well over the years.
Espiritu: I cook! But it’s really by necessity (since my entire family works and I work from home), and I vacillate wildly between “Yeah, I spent five hours cooking this because I love you” and “If you want your potatoes peeled, you can do it yourself—what do you think I run here? A bed & breakfast?” And it’s HARD because I like food a certain way (bland—if I could get away with serving boiled chicken breast every day that’s all I’d eat) but it’s always “Selina, would it kill you to put some salt in this” or “A piece of cardboard would have more lavor.” You know what goes well with meals other people cook for you, kids? GRATITUDE. We have a Filipino dish called tinola, which is essentially chicken and chicken liver boiled in ginger soup. It’s the easiest thing in the world to cook and my favourite dish!