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John Colby & Mike Applebee

John Colby and Mike Applebee are two characters in the long running Chew series created and written by John Layman and drawn by Rob Guillory. Chew is set in a world in which the US federal government has banned the farming, selling, and consumption of chicken after a pandemic avian flu breakout affects the bird population, unintentionally creating a black market. Superhuman characters in the series tend to have their powers primarily derived from or related to food. At times people are given cybernetic enhancements.

John Colby was originally the partner of police officer Tony Chu working in the vice department on the streets of Philadelphia. Colby’s gregarious personality grates on Chu and makes for an uneasy partnership despite their long years of friendship. Things go terribly awry for John during a late night bust of an illegal chicken restaurant when a he’s gravely injured by a butcher’s knife landing on his head. The bust is otherwise successful and (dubiously) fortuitous since it brings Chu and Colby to the attention of an FDA agent who “proposed” they come to work for the agency. The FDA and USDA have radically different roles in this world and are more like intelligence agencies. Colby is the benficiary of life saving surgery which replaces part of his face and head with cybernetics.

Mike Applebee has an overbearing personality filled with anger issues which he directs at the FDA employees under his management. Once Colby is fully recovered he uses his wiles to become Chu’s partner once again. Colby has keen insight with people as we learn when he matter of factly tells Chu that Applebee is a repressed homosexual orientation. As weeks pass Chu becomes more desperate with Applebee’s increasing demands and abuse towards him which has him begging Colby to do something to get Applebee off his back. The final page of the story (issue #9) is an overhead shot of a darkened bedroom with clothes strewn around. Colby sleeps soundly while Applebee stares wide eyed toward the ceiling in complete shock after having sex. Colby’s action had the desired effect and Applebee was even nice to Chu if only briefly. When Colby finally confides with his partner why Applebee is being nice he presents it as having done a favor for Chu. This confession has me wondering if Colby might be in love with Chu who is unavailable because he’s straight. In any case, Applebee is really taken by Colby and invites him to “hang out, meet up, hookup, whatever” and invited Colby for the holidays.

However, things change. Colby begins to understand exactly how Chu feels after Applebee, who’s become disenchanted with Colby’s attitude, transfers John to the USDA which is run by Director Penya, a woman who despises John as much as Applebee despises Chu. Remembering that it worked once before in a different situation, Colby has sex with Penya to get on her good side and be assigned a new partner but comes to regret it when Penya persuades him to have sex again. Colby manages to keep Penya at arm’s length once he’s got a new partner, much to her consternation.

While at an FDA convention in Las Vegas, Chu and Amelia Mintz decide to marry and reserve the hotel’s honeymoon suite. Later on, they’re surprised to return to their hotel room and discover a naked Colby and Applebee in their bed. The inference that they’ve married is born out at their wedding reception which is attended almost exclusively by Applebee’s extended family. Colby appears unhappy and a little desperate to stay in touch with Chu whom Applebee forbade to attend.

Later in the series Applebee suffers a terrible accident and is in danger of dying until USDA Director Penya, with whom Colby had sex, comes to his rescue by offering his doctors a radical option for surgery. Colby seems positively ecstatic to see Applebee after his full recovery.

Colby cybernetic enhancement was infrequently shown to interface with other technology such as when he hacked into an antagonist’s phone to stop them, as shown in issue #16.

Applebee’s characters reads as always being gay, if largely repressed most of his life whereas Colby’s sexuality seems less neatly defined by creator/ writer John Layman. This profile is based on reading volumes 1 – 5 and 8 – 10 and information regarding the characters and their relationship may not be reflected in full.

Colby’s first appearance is in Chew #1 and Mike Applebee’s first appearance is in Chew #2.

The complete run of Chew is collected in 12 volumes and other editions and can be purchased from Amazon or your local comic shop.

John Colby and Mike Applebee are created by John Layman and Rob Guillory. Art by Rob Guillory.

All rights reserved John Layman.

July 17, 2021
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