"Pigs" are back in fashion! No, not the delicious swine that gifted mankind with bacon and ham, but the ongoing Image Comics series of the same name co-written by former Marvel Comics editor Nate Cosby and Ben McCool with art by Breno Tamura and covers by Jock, Francesco Francavilla and more who have yet to be announced. "Pigs," announced during Image's WonderCon panel this past weekend, follows the exploits of a second generation Cuban sleeper cell that gets activated now. Their mission is no small order: overthrowing the United States government.
CBR News had a chance to speak with the co-writers about "Pigs." The duo remained tight-lipped about most of the nitty gritty details, but did explain that the story will jump around in time. We also discussed the book's origins, their writing process and the matter at the heart of the book: how actual people respond to such daunting political machinations.
CBR News: We know "Pigs" is about a terror cell being activated on American soil, but what can you tell us about the series beyond that simple one-liner description?
Nate Cosby: The book asks the question: How would a sleeper cell go about taking down America, and how far are they willing to go to carry out this mission?
Ben McCool: However, some members of the group are more willing participants than others. At least one sees this as a dream come true, while for another it's the start of a living nightmare!
Can you share any details about the main characters in the book?
Cosby: They're…complicated. Without spoiling too much of the fun, "Pigs" is about the practical application of long-term terrorism. Spies are people too, so when you assign a spy to a suicide mission, but that mission might take 30, 40, 50 years -- what does the spy do? Do you make friends with the people you're supposed to eventually kill? Do you hide in your house for half a century? It's a dark, fascinating concept to Ben and myself, the idea that you train people to willingly sacrifice themselves for a greater cause, but then make them wait…and wait…and wait…
McCool: No two members of the cell are the same, and there's some very intriguing conflict between them. Again, we don't want to give too much away, but the stark contrast in attitude, aggression and dedication to the missions really bring the cell to life.
What was it that initially drew you to the idea of playing with Cold War elements in a modern day setting?
Cosby: I'm a Cold War nut. Shadowy government conspiracies, everyone running around with secrets…old school USA vs. USSR is the stuff I was weaned on growing up. And not to make light of any current world events, but a lot of international and domestic news over the past few years has reminded me of the times when I was a kid in the '80s, watching the news, listening to world leaders say one thing, then [seeing them] do the complete opposite. I didn't understand all of it, but there was a rudimentary sensation that everyone was preaching peace, but pushing a much darker agenda behind closed doors, a "win at any cost" kind of mentality. We're hoping to explore those kinds of cloak and dagger conspiracies with "Pigs."
McCool: I've heard some fascinating stories about the Cold War and the shadowy governmental workings that fueled it, and to be able to use them as a backdrop for this multi-layered tale of mystery and conspiracy is an absolute delight. Just like the actual Cold War, nothing is ever quite as it seems, and the sense of paranoia and fear of the unknown amongst the characters is as prominent as it was between the US and Russia!
You mentioned you're dealing with several different time periods when telling your story -- can you tell us specifically which ones we should expect to see in the series?
Cosby: Now, then and later. You'll see what's currently happening, while flashing back to the story's roots in the Cold War-laden 1960s. And then, very occasionally, we'll let you glimpse into the near future, just to mess with your head and make you try to work out how everything got so fucked up.
McCool: Yeah, it'll be akin to the structure of "LOST" in some ways, with stories taking place at various time points that eventually tie together. That said, the lion's share of the action is present day: the real meat and bones of the story.
Was it difficult keeping track of all those different elements?
Cosby: It was, and still is, haaaaaaaaaaard. Ben and I have had marathon story meetings where we stick notes up on the wall, all the characters and big story beats, working out the story arcs, cliffhangers, reveals. We figure it out in a linear fashion, then start cutting and pasting, figuring out a way to add texture to the present by putting a past tale right next to it. It's intense and fun. After a full afternoon of this, we usually head straight to the bar to un-pretzel our minds.
McCool: One session in particular had my brain sizzling like Paris Hilton's credit card. Here's hoping the strain was worth the effort!
Finally, aside from the in-person, sticky note sessions, what is your collaborative process like?
Cosby: It's been really organic so far. I've got lots of experience editing comics and writing for TV, but I haven't written a ton of comics. Ben and I work out the plot together, then I write the dialogue and a few little notes for the scenes, pass it to Ben, then he goes in and adds pacing and important scene descriptions, tweaking stuff as he sees fit. Then we bat it back and forth through emails and calls and eventually hammer it into a draft we're both happy with. We're good friends, but we're not shy about giving each other notes. It's all about putting your egos in a drawer and doing what's best for the book, y'know? Ben's been really patient with me as a writer -- I'm still a rookie scripter, and the dude's already knocked it out of the park with "Memoir" and "Choker," so it's been really fun to see how he works, and the adjustments he's made for us to work together.
McCool: Yeah, I'm actually quite surprised how easy it's been to make the transition from solo writer to collaborator. This is my first time plotting out a book with somebody else, let alone scripting one, but it's been smooth sailing so far. And some of the ideas we've come up with together have been fabulous -- can't bloody wait to get 'em out there for you to read!