Nate Cosby Talks Pigs, Immortals, Jim Henson's Storyteller - And The Transition From Marvel to Freelance

Former Marvel Editor, and current Bulldog enthusiast Nate Cosby is editing two anthologies for Archaia, and writing an ongoing series for Image Comics with newly hot scribe, and all around charming Englishman Ben McCool. The former are both anthologies, a collection of stories inspired by Jim Henson’s Storyteller, and one inspired by the upcoming movie Immortals. The latter is a thriller about what happens when a KGB spy sleeper cell is awakened, and charged with overthrowing the American government.

To find out more about all these projects, how he got there, and how many times his bulldog Daffodil will show up in these books, we chatted with Cosby:

MTV Geek: For those who don’t know you, give ‘em a little introduction – what’s your background?

Nate Cosby: Hello. I’m Nate Cosby from Columbus, Mississipi. I was an editor at Marvel for a while. I oversaw THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, PET AVENGERS, MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN and SUPER HEROES, SENSE & SENSIBILITY, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, FRANKLIN RICHARDS, MINI-MARVELS, DAMAGE CONTROL aaaand like a bazillion other things. I was Associate Editor on also worked on AGENTS OF ATLAS, WORLD WAR HULK, INCREDIBLE HERCULES, WHAT IF…? ?…and I edited the Custom Publishing projects (tie-ins to the Iron Man and Hulk flicks, the Eminem/Punisher project for XXL Magazine, etc).

I’ve also been a producer/writer for children’s television on PBS, and written a few storybooks/movie novelizations for Disney. These days…I write and edit other stuff while my bulldog (Daffodil) sleeps beside me.

Geek: At Marvel, what I always heard from people was this surprise that this “dude” was in charge of the All-Ages titles… Did you ever wish you were a cuddly old guy with glasses on the end of your nose and beard? Or were you fine with that dichotomy?

NC: I dunno, I can embrace my inner Comic Book Geek when I need to (I can ’ll talk about The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck for hours). I’m passionate about a lot of things that don’t necessarily mix… Hip-hop, college football, romantic comedies, long-distance running, accessible storytelling, meat…When I started at Marvel, I actively worked to be placed in the All-Ages department. All-Ages books are really important to me… You’re making something that can entertain young people whose perception of a narrative is still developing, as well as veteran fans with experience in entertainment absorption. It’s a strange, tricky, fun thing to do, especially when you’re trying to make it personal and clever, not dumbed-down.

Geek: Skipping ahead, it seems your new projects are playing to all your strengths: the “dude” side, and the strong love for all-ages projects. Yes? No? Maybe?

NC: I love playing with genres and projects with different demographics. If I hit a wall on an adult conspiracy project, I’ll jump over to a book for kids. Or if I’m feeling too sappy and sugary on a romantic story, I’ll hop over and tinker with a crazy action script. I don’t feel the need to limit myself to one genre or demographicspeed. It’s all storytelling to me.

Geek: You also seem to really be easing into things. I know you have a lot of projects in the works – which we’ll get to in a second – but rather than saying, “Here I am, I’m launching my own solo projects right off!” You’re editing two anthologies, and co-writing a book. Was that the plan, or is that just how things worked out?

NC: I was offered an offered an opportunity to help develop a couple projects for TV, which kept me busy at first. But after a couple months, my comic itch got to tingling, so I started scratching out a few ideas in my spare time, talking to people I knew at other companies, listening to a few offers. Everything I’m doing, both announced and still-being-developed, has grown pretty organically. Taking a little time off comics was good for me, let me clear my head, get off the never-ending comics-production carousel and , make a long-term plan. It’s been really positive so far.

Geek: When you left Marvel, how much of this was in motion, or was it all vague plans?

NC: All three of the projects announced at WonderCon started after I left Marvel. Stephen Christy (Archaia Editor-In-Chief and Future Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt model) and I were interns together at Marvel, and we’d talked for a while about me being involved with Archaia somehow, which turned into Storyteller and Immortals. With Pigs, Ben McCool and I knew we wanted to co-write something together, but we didn’t put any real effort into it while I was editing him at Marvel.

Geek: It’s also a bit of a surprise that you didn’t make a hard left turn into just writing… Why keep with editing? What draws you to it?

NC: I’d consciously opted to not edit for a while, and just focus on writing. But The Storyteller was a childhood passion of mine, so there was NO WAY I could turn it down. Plus I get to write one of the stories, so it’s a hybrid project.

T’be honest, I don’t see a huge distinction between editing and writing. There are different facets to the jobs, but they can both be about world-building, story-shaping, confidence-instilling, and project control and quality controlassurance. Whether I’m the one that comes up with the story and write it myself, or a writer and I develop a project together that I oversee…I’m about making good stories, no matter what my credit is.

Geek: Let’s talk chronology… As far as I understand it, you set up Storyteller first, and then based on having a good time with that, took on Immortals – is that correct?

NC: Yeah. You have to understand, Stephen Christy (Archaia Editor-in-Chief) is a gorgeous piece of man. How can you say no to someone whose smoldering eyes seem to dance and glisten by firelight?

(kidding)

(probably)

Archaia’s been great. I’m working with creators I love working with, they let me handle day-to-day stuff in the way I feel most comfortable, and the whole Archaia team’s super-positive and supportive. Neither Storyteller or Immortals feels like work… Hell, I got to shake Henry Cavill’s hand a couple dayswhile ago. Archaia let me meet Superman!

Geek: Okay, let’s start off with Storyteller... How many times have you watched, “Hans, My Hedgehog?” Because I’ve watched it approximately three million times.

NC: I’ve seen every Storyteller episode at least six times by now. Love ‘em all. My personal favorites are Sapsorrow and A Story Short. The Soldier & Death STILL creeps me waaaaaay the hell out.

Geek: To those who haven’t watched Jim Henson’s Storyteller, what makes this character, and this take on stories unique?

NC: Every episode of the first season was overseen by Jim Henson himself and written by the great Anthony Minghella. There’s a real texture and world-weariness in The Storyteller, brought out by the scripts and John Hurt’s playful-but-ominous performance. He begins telling you a little something, then doubles back, then reveals a tidbitsomething he shouldn’t have…or did he? And his Dog is the perfect foil, a skeptical character that’s always telling the Storyteller to skip the details and get on with the story, but the Storyteller paces his stories just so, for maximum effect. Each episode is a little morality play, spinning and interpreting arcane tales for maximum present-day effect…and t. That’s what each creator on thise book’s shooting for. going to be doing as well.

Geek: You’re adapting a script from Anthony Minghella – other than, “Hey cool, it’s an unproduced script!” why start with that, rather than, say, tackling a public domain story?

NC: Adapting one of Minghella’s never-before-seen scripts is both a tribute to him and an absolute no-brainer. It’s of the sameequal to the quality of as the produced episodes. We’re going to have plenty of unique interpretations of the Storyteller (by some of comics’ greatest creators), but why not begin the book by showing you what made the show SO great, by the man that helped create that world and these magnificent characters?

I’m thrilled and humbled to be able to adapt Mr. Minghella’s script. I’m doing my best to get out of his way and let the story be told, the way he saw it.

Geek: What are the challenges in being your own Editor on this? Do you keep sending yourself nudging e-mails to get things in on time?

NC: Ask around…I am a Professional Guilt Distributor. I use guilt as a weapon, to attack the nigh-invulnerable evil that is Missed Deadlines. And so, in a cruel twist of fate, I am consciously using my own guilt against me… If I don’t turn stuff into myself EARLY, what right do I have to tell other creators on the project to turn things in on time?

Geek: And talk about getting the team on board… There’s a huge level of talent here; what drew you to them, other than a clear proven track record of quality? What made them right for this book?

NC: I wanted writers and artists that want to push themselves, to craft yarns and slowwwwwwwwly pull you in, then yank the rug from under you. I wanted a big mess of different guys/gals with unique points of view bringing their best, to show how versatile The Storyteller concept can be. You can’t go wrong with peeps like Roger Langridge, Marjorie Liu, Ron Marz, Jeff Parker, Jennifer Meyer, Craig Rousseau, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Jim McCann, Mike Maihack, Janet Lee… I’m SO lucky that all these amazing people agreed to work on the project; it’s been SUCH a blast.

Geek: You have some teams that work together well, like Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin, or Katie Cook, and, er, Katie Cook. But how about the other teams – did you throw people together to see what they’d come up with, or was it more calculated than that?

NC: Actually, Colleen’s writing/drawing her own tale, and the ever-bald Mr. Tobin is working with oh-my-GOD-how-is-he-so-GOOD artist Evan “Doc” Shaner.

But for every story, I’ve tried to empower the writers to figure out what kind of story they want to tell, and who would be the best fit for art. I’ve helped put a few teams together, but it ultimately came down to what was best for the writer and their yarntale.

Geek: Let’s talk about Immortals… Clearly, you’ve worked a lot with Greek Mythology, what makes this take different?

NC: The Immortals movie is, no lie, HARD. CORE. Violent, nasty, vicious. The screenplay, the photos/footage I’ve seen…this is a HARD-R interpretation of Greek Myth.

The cool challenge of the hardcover that complements the film is taking classic Greek myths, lining them into a chronology, and then figuring out how to adapt them into a pseudo-realistic world. The Minotaur isn’t a bull-man, he’s a massive human with an ominous bull helmet mask. Pegasus isn’t a winged horse, he’s a strong steedhorse with considerable astounding leaping abilities. It’s been strangely satisfying to think of myths in a grounded way. And let me be clear: This is an ADULT book. The story I’m helping Jock’s developing (he’s drawing, coloring AND writing!) is gonna give you nightmares.

Geek: Both this and Storyteller are 100-pg hardcovers… What’s it like editing in this format? And from the editorial perspective, what are the different challenges for each?

NC: Anthologies are big-ass editorial puzzles. All these different elements, questions, concerns, schedules...how do you transition from tale to tale, what’s the correct story order. But I love doing it, because A) I love hard projects and B) I’m a fan of anthologies. A big book of short stories by talented people. What’s better than that?

Geek: And from a licensing perspective, you’ve got an older Henson property, versus a newer movie property – how does each company approach the books? What do you have to keep in mind for each as you’re getting in your writers’ and artists’ pages?

NC: They’re both (understandably) protective of their brands and characters, as am I. I’m there to make sure the creative ideas between the companies and the creative teams get interpreted and translated properly.

Geek: Tough question: did you have to leave the sound effects behind when you left that other Greek Mythology book?

NC: You’re referring to Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente’s beer opus, THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES, now called HERC (because Hercules really is an oppressively long word). We likely won’t have a lot of CRAKKABATHROOOOOOOMs in Immortals, but I might try’n sneak a few winking FXthings in.

Geek: Chris Roberson is working on Immortals, and you guys are both Superman junkies. Was this your back door into getting to work on Superman? Are you going to steal that book from him?

NC: It’s deeper than that. I’ve seen The Talented Mr. Ripley… Pretty sure I can take over Roberson’s life. Just gotta grow two or three inches and I’m there.

Geek: Seriously though, it seems like you two would be a perfect fit together… Any plans for working on something with him after Immortals?

NC: I’d be down for it, sure. It’s been fun so far. He and I have a mutual friend in my college buddy Dean Trippe, so we’ve had a few-degrees-of-separation thing going on for a few years. We’ll see if he hates me after reading my notes.

Geek: At the same time, you’ve been working on Pigs… How drunk did you have to get Ben McCool to get him to agree to write a book with you?

NC: Booze brought Ben McCool to me, and continues t’do so to this day.

Geek: How’d the idea for Pigs come about? Was it mutual, or was this a project you took to him?

NC: We were (SURPRISE!) at a bar with a few friends, including super-mega-astounding writer/ Demo artist Becky Cloonan. We were talking about terrorism (y’know, fun bar stuff), and Beckyshe offhandedly said the phrase “Cuban sleeper cell.” I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head, so I brought it up to Ben a couple weeks later at (SURPRISE!) a bar. I asked if he wanted to co-write with me, and he said “Oy ye futha!” which is “yes” in British.

Geek: What’s it like for you, tackling an ongoing from the writing perspective?

NC: It’s like adopting a new family. Ben and I plan on spending lots of time with these characters, and we care about what happens to them. It’s interesting to develop what these people are like in the present, and to see them changing as we throw different crap at them.

Geek: This is an ongoing with a very clear, specific goal in mind… Because of that, does it have an end-point? And jeez, I know it hasn’t even launched yet, but you’re definitely going to get that question at some point, so why not start now, huh? Huh???

NC: Oh, it ends. It really, REALLY ends. We’re about 30 issues deep into plotting, and we already know the Pigs’ final mission…it’s hidden in the very first issue. The fun part is seeing what else Ben and I come up with during the journey to the team’s natural conclusion…

Geek: How much have you had to steep yourself in Cuban/KGB/spy history to write this book?

NC: Dang deep. About a dozen books, old newspapers, documentaries, youtube clips…the true stuff that took place during the Cold War beats any fictional spy stories.

Geek: What’s the tone, would you say? You and Ben are both funny guys, but this seems like a more serious actiony-thriller… Do we get any humor in there?

NC: Pigs is definitely serious, full of conspiracy, dread, double-crossing, pleeeeeenty of blood. But there’s sprinklings of humor… You can’t keep it intense ALL the time. Think the Bourne movies with more cussing and blood, and a few more smart-ass remarks.

Geek: Plus, they’re kind of the bad guys, right? What’s the appeal to you of the anti-hero?

NC: They’re not “kind of” bad. They’re straight up evil. That was the biggest challenge when we were developing the characters: Could an audience relate to terrorists? It came down to taking certain bits of morality off the table and thinking about the practicality of a group of people trained from birth to kill and cause chaos. They’ve been taught to cross any line for the greater mission, no matter what… But will that teaching be questioned or abandoned when real lives are at stake?

Geek: Not officially announced yet, but you are working on a book with Chris Eliopoulos. Anything you can tell us about it? Is it just you making him neurotically nervous about stuff for 22 pages a month?

NC: Every day, my great friend Chris Eliopoulos reminds me that nobody loves him. In an attempt to keep him from whining, I’ve written something specifically for him and his unique art style. It is, without a doubt, the BEST art he’s ever drawn. We’ll be announcing it later this year, and Chris will whine to the press that I’m making him draw too much. (It’s a never-ending cycle)

Geek: In general, what’s this phase been like for you? Is it a relief to finally start talking about what you’ve been working on for the past few months?

NC: It’s the most creatively satisfying time of my life. I’m writing and editing what I want and working with some of the greatest creators in comics, and I get to do it all on my couch with a bulldog as an armrest… Is this Heaven?

Geek: And speaking of: how many bulldogs are there in each of these projects?

NC: My life is 20% writing/editing, 80% Daffodil maintenance. There’s BOUND to be some crossover effect.

Related Posts:

WonderCon 2011: Archaia Bringing Back Henson's 'Dark Crystal' and 'The Storyteller'

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