When Tyler Capps decided to share recipes on Reddit, he didn’t take the usual route, posting simple, bland directions. Instead, the 27-year-old Asheville, North Carolina resident posted vibrant digital photos of each step in the cooking process—and illustrated them with a snappy, stylized stick-figure.
The result? He became a Reddit sensation. And he’s now on his way to a book deal.
Capps’s recipes, gathered at cookingcomically.com, are extremely easy to read, but time consuming to produce. Each step is accompanied by more than a dozen photos, illustrated with his Intuos3 tablet, and shaped it into a coherent comic using Photoshop and OpenCanvas.
His first and most famous post was “2am Chili,” a simple chili recipe he and his brother used to make. The name comes from the fact that Capps used to visit his brother far away and they wouldn’t end up fixing dinner until late in the evening.
Capps, a fine-arts student at his local community college, came up with the idea of turning a recipe into a comic this spring when he got a homework assignment to tell a story in a few short photos.
He took a series of five pictures of himself messing up trying to make a meal.
“With those two things on the brain, I decided I would cook my chili and take pictures and I threw the first [comic] together on a whim,” he said in an email interview with the Daily Dot.
Capps posted a link to Reddit and went to bed. By the time he woke up, it was a hit.
“The timeline has been extremely fast and borderline overwhelming,” he said. Not only did it make Reddit’s front page, it got half a million hits and it was quickly cross-referenced with other memes. It inspired “[fixed] posts, ice soap crossovers and it was being crossposted to blogs all over the place,” Capps said.
Given that Capps studies art, and that he used to draw a Web comic in high school, the design element of his comics was always assured. But the actual contents of his recipes haven’t come so easily.
“I am not a chef,” he said. “I’m not sure I would even call myself a cook.”
Not surprisingly, some Redditors have been critical of his cooking skills. “I like how you throw out the McCormick seasoning packet… then rebuild the McCormick seasoning packet, using the exact same McCormick spices,” said digitalchris about 2am Chili. “Then he goes on to use canned ingredients for everything else,” meowmix4jo said.
“And a lot of people positively hated,” Capps said. Though 2am Chili garnered almost 25,000 upvotes on Reddit, it had over 22,000 downvotes as well. He doubted whether he should make a follow-up. “I thought ‘I’ll make one more. If it hits again somehow, I’ll run with it. If not, oh well.’”
That was the spark for his second comic, a recipe for a banana-and-ice-cream frozen dessert.
“The response was again substantial and far more positive than the chili, so at that point I realized I had stumbled into something really fun and with real potential,” he said.
Since then Capps has posted four more recipes, with plenty more planned. His site now is, in part, a dry run for a planned book of comic recipes. In September, a literary agent contacted Capps to help him write a book proposal.
“I looked up his company and some of the things he had represented,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘Shit just got real.’”
He’s working on the proposal now. The book will have the same style as his comics, only it will read from left to right, rather than of top to bottom, and will have somewhere around 45 recipes.
“That’s still kind of where I’m at right now,” Capps said. “Shit-level is currently ‘real’, I’m working on the proposal, more strips and keeping up with a full load of classes.”