Imagine you have been trying to expand your resume. You have worked in animation and art and have an innate talent for teaching. Not to mention a love of the culinary arts. So, when the chance arrives to create your first graphic novel, how can you combine all of these myriads of skills? Well in Victoria Grace Elliotts case, it was to create a graphic novel history book. Dealing with a subject that is generally a favorite on most people’s food list: Desserts. Working with Random House Graphic, Victoria created Yummy: A History of Desserts. Done in such a whimsical but educational way to appeal to young and old alike. After being introduced to the book, it was only natural to want to talk to the creator. So, let’s welcome Victoria Grace Elliott to GVN’s Talking Comics.
GVN: Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your time Victoria. So, let’s start with a bit of your history. What got you interested in art and who were your inspirations that pushed you into that direction?
VGE: To be honest, my family! My mom is a painter and interior decorator and was an art teacher for most of my childhood. Likewise, on top of all their other work, my dad’s a musician, and my sister is a writer. There’s a lot of crossover in interests and hobbies–we all love singing, for example–but we all struck out on our own paths artistically. So since I was young, it’s always been a lot of movies, music, books, and art. And because my mom taught, she had easy access to education resources, particularly those “How To Draw Manga” books. As soon as I started showing interest in comics and manga, I remember her bringing that one home!
GVN: You have worked mainly on animation projects before you started on your new project. These include such diverse projects as The Adventures of Kid Danger, Castlevania (one of my favorites) and True Terror with George (Takei). Was animation work your main ambition starting out and how did you get your foot in the door?
VGE: All these projects were when I was working at Powerhouse Animation! I worked there for only four years, two as an office manager, and I eventually transitioned into the art department as a pre-production artist, and that’s where a lot of these credits come from! There’s so much more I helped with too, but those have either been unreleased or are under NDA or both, which is just par for the course with animation, haha. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work there. I’m mostly self-taught, so the directors there helped push my work to the next level, and I learned a lot of really practical skills I didn’t have before.
GVN: So, you started as an Office Manager. Was that just a means to an end to get into the art and animation side?
VGE: Really, though, animation wasn’t really my goal! I was doing a lot of independent stuff before working at the studio. While I was at the University of Texas, I was on the comics staff at the Daily Texan and eventually took over as the editor of the comics page for a bit. While studying I wrote a lot of papers analyzing comics, and after I graduated, I worked on a webcomic and independent publications up until working on “Yummy.”
In truth, working at Powerhouse was really a lucky break in making art full-time. For that, I have to thank my friend Rachel Citron, who reached out to me to interview for the Office Manager position, and Megan Kluck and Sam Deats, who really helped with my transition into the art department at the studio. After having that experience, and also just developing practical skills with money and file management, I finally had the capability to focus on making comics.
Yummy: A History of Desserts
GVN: Sometimes all it takes is the right break at the right time. Your wonderful book Yummy: A History of Desserts is both whimsical and instructive. What was your inspiration for the book and what made you decide to go the Graphic Novel Route?
VGE: When I finally felt like I wanted to pursue comics full-time, that was right around when Gina Gagliano started up the Random House Graphic imprint. She reached out to me pretty early on to invite me to pitch a book, but I had no idea what to do! Or, rather, I had too many different ideas and wasn’t sure which one to follow. As I mentioned before, I wrote a lot of research papers in school and had written a few different nonfiction comics that were kind of essay format. And up to that point, I’d already been doing historical food research for my webcomic at the time, which featured a witch learning to bake without magic.
My agent, Steven Salpeter, met up with Gina, I think over ice cream (very appropriate!), and she mentioned being interested in a food history comic. That’s when everything coalesced into Yummy! Steven and I talked it over, and I immediately had a million ideas for it–what foods I was interested in, how to write it, what it would look like. I brought all kinds of influences to the work, from Sanrio-inspired visuals to my essay writing background. It was really, incredibly intuitive!
GVN: Part of what I love about the book is that you are imparting so much historical knowledge about the creations of these desserts, but you almost don’t realize it as you are reading it. Getting so wrapped up into the charm of how its presented. It’s almost subliminal instructions, which is quite the feat. How did you balance the instruction with the presentation? Its masterfully done. (Of course, you had ME with Ice Cream).
VGE: Thank you so much for this!! I was worried it came across as a bit pedantic, so I’m glad it didn’t seem that way to you! I mentioned studying at UT before…I really loved academia, but one of my frustrations with it was always how inscrutable a lot of the language used was. And it was frustrating that there was so much history I didn’t learn until going to college! I really appreciated the teachers I had who went the extra mile to teach with a lot of humor and personal touches.
I think this is really the root of why it might feel natural in Yummy–even back then, I was trying to make my essays and other projects accessible. And having a cute narrator like the food sprites, who add charm and character to the story, allowed me to balance the history with funny moments between the characters. Since they’re talking to each other and the reader, there’s moments where I can easily break the fourth wall and make the book feel really personable.
“Yummy” in Animated Form?
GVN: With your expertise in animation and the almost animated quality of your book, could you ever see it adapted into an animated form? I could easily see it.
VGE: Yes! I’ve honestly thought of this since I started working on the book–I mean, like you point out, I was just coming from animation at the time! I remember doing the earliest character sheet for Peri, the main food sprite, and I did it like the character sheets I’d been doing for my job, with standout expressions and color swatches on the side. I’d be so curious about how a studio would do it, because it’s something that would work fully animated or with a mix of animation and live action. It’d be a lot of fun to see, but who knows!
Another “Yummy” Book in the Works
GVN: It would really lend well to that type of treatment. Perhaps in the future. But in the present, if Yummy: A History of Desserts is as well accepted as I believe it will be, do you have any other types of foods you might focus on in a follow-up? (And where do I sign up for any possible food tasting opportunities?) 😊
VGE: I’ve been really lucky, and Random House Graphic already bought a second “Yummy” book from me! This one is called Yummy: A History of Tasty Experiments, and it focuses on food that make you wonder: who thought of that? So younger foods like sodas, cream cheese, gelatin, instant noodles; and older foods like cheese and pickles. A lot of the interest came from questions that naturally started coming up as I researched the first book. As I’d eat my favorite foods or watch food videos, I kept being like, wait, what about this? What about that? Where is this from? Things like kimchi or hard cheeses or even my holiday favorite, green bean casserole.
What it’s About
VGE: Turns out, we’ve always had a lot more food intuition than people realize! The process of pickling or making cheese may seem confounding to many modern folks, but historically, it was just necessary to make fresh food last longer. Then, as time goes on people got really creative (and wanted to make money), so we start getting canned soups and boxed foods and things. That’s how we end up here today, where everyday people are so far from the food-making process that something like making goat cheese just seems totally out there. …As you can probably tell, I really love making this second book, haha. Ahh, having a “Yummy” tasting would be so fun! You could have a cute dessert tower full of sweet foods and a charcuterie board for the savory ones! Now you’ve got me daydreaming about it!
GVN: Thank you so much for sharing your new book with us, Victoria. Before I let you go, do you have any other projects you can share with our followers and where can they go to follow you on social media or on the web?
VGE: If you like this book, the second installment, “Yummy: A History of Tasty Experiments,” comes out in 2023! For behind-the-scenes “Yummy” videos, I have a small TikTok @YummyHistory where I’ve posted some timelapses and explain a bit of my process. And for my personal work, I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @fridayafternoon. Thank you so much!
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Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.