An Interview With SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME’s Natalie Riess

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME is an ongoing comic from Oni Press. This series follows Peony, a young pastry chef who is selected to participate in an interstellar cooking competition. Recently, ComicsVerse had the opportunity to sit down with the creator of this out-of-this-world adventure, Natalie Riess. Riess, who is also known for her webcomic SNARLBEAR, let us in on her process and what makes this sci-fi/culinary comic book come to life [ed. note — this interview has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity].

ComicsVerse: Can you tell me a bit about the origins of SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME and how it came to Oni Press?

Natalie Riess: SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME started as a joke comic idea I made up for my college roommate. She was really into cutesy shoujo manga (I think she was reading KITCHEN PRINCESS at the time), as well as gross sci-fi horror (her favorite movie is ALIEN).


Image courtesy of Oni Press.

I designed some characters for fun and then started taking it seriously when I had some opportunities to pitch new comic ideas. Oni Press, in particular, was doing a round of open submissions and I submitted, and then a few months later I got an email saying they wanted to pick up my book!

CV: All of the characters from Peony to Neptunia have some level of depth that really made me care about them. Do the inspirations for these characters come from people you know?

NR: When I write, I try to connect a character to a piece of myself so I can understand them better when I’m writing them. So at some level, they’re all just me. If a character is based on or influenced by someone I know — I honestly tend to figure this out after I’ve written the story. Design-wise, Meatabax was specifically designed to appeal to the friend I made the original comic concept for and some of the background characters I designed to be sort of alien-sona cameos for friends of mine.

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CV: You have a wonderful style of writing, but also your art is very distinct — I see it and I know you created it. Can you tell me about any of your personal influences?

NR: I went to school for illustration, so I try to pull from that a lot — I love very cheesy 80s/90s fantasy illustration. I also really like old biological/natural illustrations from the 1600s-1800s (Audubon, etc.). A whole bunch of webcomics and basically any weird animated movie from the late 20th century.

My favorite comic artists are Emily Carroll, Gigi D.G., Kerascoët, Sam Bosma, and Juanjo Guarnido. My early comics influences, which I still really love, are Jeff Smith’s BONE and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SCOTT PILGRIM. Also, Studio Ghibli movies are a big touchstone for any person trying to draw beautiful cartoon fantasy food.


Image courtesy of Oni Press.

CV: Any inspiration from other works when creating this sci-fi/culinary world?

NR: I consumed a LOT of weird, slightly goofy sci-fi as a teen. THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY was a strong favorite. Along with Ray Bradbury/Kurt Vonnegut-type work and some FUTURAMA sprinkled in. I was interested in that kind of story but prettier and with more girls, colors, and cute aliens.

Food TV-wise, I watched a lot of Food Network growing up. I also started after I’d finished writing the series, but while drawing pages I listened to so many podcasts. One of my favorites would update pretty late on Thursdays (or very early on Fridays) and that definitely helped with some late painting nights!

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CV: During the series’ zero gravity challenge, Peony says “I have to be careful about the ingredients for proportions so the altered gravity doesn’t mess up the cake texture.” That line really stuck with me. Was that more for fans who you thought might be nitpicky or just you writing for you?

NR: I wanted to think about what unique challenges there would be for a zero-gravity cooking challenge besides floating and things not staying in bowls. The chemistry of the baking process is really fascinating! It’s always felt a little like alchemy to me personally, but I wanted to acknowledge that that’s a thing Peony would have to adjust for and would be able to figure out how to adjust for.

CV: Neptunia, one of Peony’s competitors, mentions her old job but never really explains too much about it. Can you possibly reveal more about this mysterious occupation?

NR: Nep lived on Pluto for a while and worked as part of a mercenary group. They used a restaurant as a front for their activities. She realized she liked cooking much better and decided to quit and pursue it full-time.

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CV: Is this the end of Peony’s printed journey or are there more adventures ahead? A food truck showdown in space?

NR: More adventures are planned for the future!

CV: What is your favorite dish to make?

NR: Hmm, probably beef stew! It’s a very easy and tasty comfort food.


Image courtesy of Oni Press.

CV: Is there a SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME cookbook in the works?

NR: Probably not. I like baking but I’m not good enough to invent recipes from scratch. Illustrating one would be a lot of fun, though!

CV: I like to ask everyone this — what title(s) are you currently reading?

NR: It’s not comics, but lately I’ve been really enjoying Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY trilogy.

CV: Lastly is there anything about SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME you’ve never been asked about that you would like to mention?

NR: There’s a character that dies in volume 2 that I felt bad about. I retconned and had them getting taped back together in the epilogue. I made this decision very late in the process, but I’m glad I did.


Image courtesy of Oni Press.

Want More Information on SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME and Natalie Riess?

Volume 2 of SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME is available wherever you buy comics! To see more of her work, make sure to follow Natalie Riess on Tumblr! Click here for more awesome titles from Oni Press!

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