Crema blends coffee and romance with the supernatural.
BY MADELEINE DELIEE
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos provided by Madeleine Deliee courtesy of comiXology
If you’ve ever experienced the buzz of a perfect cup of coffee, the decaffeinated high of falling in love, or perhaps even coffee and love simultaneously, then you might relate to Crema—the recently released graphic novel created by Johnnie Christmas. Johnnie is best known for his sci-fi series Tartarus and his collaboration with author Margaret Atwood on the Angel Catbird graphic novel. The novel was also illustrated with the help of Dante Luiz, an award-winning Brazilian artist, editor, and illustrator. Crema is a combination romance/ghost story/ode to independent coffee shops, told in three coffee-centered parts: The Last Roast, The Grind, and Brew. It is the story of Esme, a coffee-addicted barista whose long-standing habit lets her interact with the dead. Johnnie believes that the universal languages of coffee and love fit together perfectly.
“Coffee has a universal appeal that feels second only to food, shelter, and longing,” Johnnie says. Particularly now, after restriction of coffee’s social elements during the COVID-19 pandemic, this resonates deeply. “Coffee holds an important place, typified by the place cafés have in society,” Johnnie explains. “Since the 1500s, they’ve been meeting places, places to exchange ideas,” and, of course, now are now widely regarded as the preferred location for a low-commitment date.
The passionate connection between Esme and Yara in Crema is perhaps a touch ironic, given our expectations for “let’s get coffee.” But both characters are deeply connected to coffee; it is in their blood. Esme depends on it to manage her demons. Yara knows it as her family’s history and legacy. Johnnie touches on the complex relationships between agriculture and industry, American-Brazilian trade relations, and independent and corporate businesses, all through the relationship of Esme, Yara, and coffee.
The story is, as Christmas describes it, “full of skeletons and ghosts, much like the history of coffee farming itself.” Coffee is their introduction, it brings them together, but it also ultimately challenges their bond. The past is never simple, especially once the ghosts of the past start making demands on those living in the present. This blend of what was with what is, ultimately producing what comes next, is yet another parallel between the book’s characters and the complex legacy of coffee growing.
Crema’s dark humor and magical realism consider what it takes to reconcile the complications of love, coffee, history, and progress. You don’t have to see ghosts to understand the book’s message. Johnnie puts it plainly: “The only way to a less haunted future is to make peace with the ghosts of the past.”
Crema is now available for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited at no cost, and for purchase on Kindle and comiXology.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Madeleine Deliee writes about everything from sexism at comic cons for Playboy to stories about stuntwomen for SyFy to burlesque lingerie recommendations for Glamour.