WC11: Cosby Helms "Jim Henson's The Storyteller"

With the announcement today at WonderCon, one of former Marvel Comics editor Nate Cosby's first- post Marvel projects has been announced. It is apt, given Cosby's clear appreciation for the craft of storytelling, that Archaia Comics has tapped him to helm "Jim Henson's The Storyteller." In this CBR News exclusive, we spoke with the writer/editor to learn more about his plans for the 100-page hardback, set to go on sale in September 2011.

During his time with Marvel, Cosby was known for having a friendly and engaging rapport with his creative teams, almost as strong as his ability to connect with readers through his use of social media. His continuing relationships with a variety of creators clearly shows when you look at the list of contributors he has gotten to commit to "The Storyteller."

"This is a 100-page hardcover from Archaia, based on the amazing show from the Jim Henson Workshop," Cosby said. "Basically, I've given free rein to my favorite creators and asked them to give their own spin on classic myths/tale tales. I'm producing and editing, as well as writing a story adapted from an original, never-produced screenplay by original screenwriter Anthony Minghella. The creators I've secured so far include Roger Langridge, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover, Francesco Francavilla, Brian Clevinger, Tom Fowler, Marjorie Liu, Evan Shaner, Jennifer Meyer, Katie Cook, Chris Eliopoulos, Ron Marz, Jim McCann, Janet Lee -- and a few more."

Cosby was happy to divulge to CBR News what stories some of the creators will be tackling, as well as what drew him to working with Archaia in the first place.

CBR News: Explain the depth of how much Jim Henson influenced you as a storyteller. Judging by this tweet, I'd say a hell of a lot. "Happy Birthday Jim Henson! Without your willingness to put your hand up a frog's ass, I don't know where I'd be."

Nate Cosby: Jim Henson was a huge voice in my early years and to this day. I watched a beta tape of "Muppet Treasures" -- just a quick collection of "Muppet Show" greatest hits -- over and over and over. The tape got old and worn, the top of screen was all black and green. I didn't care.

Henson had the fortitude to be told "no" at every turn, and he just shrugged and said, "Well...OK, I'll just do it anyway." Being a gentle man with a frog puppet is not the stereotypical success story in mainstream entertainment, but he made it work for him.

Before taking on this project, how familiar were you with the work of the late Anthony Minghella?

Minghella's great. I love "English Patient," though you can't watch it too much without getting bummed out, and "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was an amazing film. It really affected me even weeks after I saw it. He had a way of playing with your emotions, making you feel like you're in a safe environment, before showing you really uncomfortable things lurking just beneath the surface.

That's what made his "Storyteller" script so great. They're amazing mini-plays that use classic tales as metaphors for the problems in everyday life. "Storyteller" had a profound effect on me when I was little. Because it was a Jim Henson project, I was expecting bears throwing pies and karate-chopping pigs. But the craft and care, and decidedly adult nature of the storytelling really showed me that you can use "silly" stuff, puppets and fake noses and still tell a story that speaks to all audiences.

You're collaborating with some of the folks you edited while at Marvel -- how odd did it feel to be working on non-Marvel projects with these folks?

Doesn't feel all that different. I call/email the creators I like and ask if they wanna do a thing, they say yes, I edit 'em. I like working with talented, enthusiastic, smart people, and I happened to get to know plenty of those kinds of creators while working at Marvel. Made sense to see if they wanted to play in a different sandbox.

I think it speaks volumes to your talents as an editor that so many respected names signed on this project. How do you treat creators that you think earns you such loyalty?

It's important to beat your writers. They can still type even if they have concussions. With artists, you have to rely mostly on psychological punishment, because they have to lean over a drawing board all day, and it's difficult to do that with broken collarbones and such.

I am (probably) kidding. I dunno, I just try to make sure the people I work with know that they're appreciated, and that we're in it together to make the best project possible. No matter who comes up with the best idea, our credit and paycheck remain the same, so we might as well all work together to create something people want to read.

How many seconds into managing a Jim Henson-related project before you realized: "I must get Roger Langridge."

It cannot be measured by standard time measurements. Roger was an absolute no-brainer for this -- he's a modern-day Henson to me. He jumps genres and styles with the greatest of ease. I'm in awe every time I see new art or script from him. And he seems to like working with me, so that's nice.

The list of folks working on this 100-page project is a fairly impressive one. Do you care to divulge the particulars of any of their tales?

Just like the original TV series, these are re-imaginings of classic stories. Marjorie Liu's crafting her own take on "Puss In Boots" with Jennifer Meyer, Jeff Parker's got an "Appalachian Jack Tale" with Tom Fowler, Chris Eliopoulos has a Romanian folktale, Colleen Coover's doing an Aesop fable, Roger Langridge is working on a Scandinavian folk tale. We're taking stories from all over the world and having them all told from The Storyteller's perspective.

Given the list of talent you've already attracted, how hard is it to limit the project to 100 pages?

hard. I wanted everyone to have whatever page count they wished, but space started filling up and some compromises had to be made. Luckily, I'm working with masters of the comics medium, so everyone's been able to tell their story in their limited page counts.

Other than getting the chance to work with a Henson property and getting to give "free rein to my favorite creators" as you recently characterized it to me, what attracted you to work with Archaia?

Stephen Christy (Archaia's Editor in Chief) and I were both interns at Marvel. We've stayed in touch over the years. I think we both share a passion for doing great, sometimes-unconventional projects. Archaia's an incredible place for creators to go when they want to try something different...there's nothing on the shelves like "Return of the Dapper Men," and it's a credit to Stephen and all the peeps over at Archaia that they're getting so much mainstream love right now. The relationship has been so much fun that I recently signed on to edit another 100-page anthology. I like places that encourage individual thought and organic collaboration. Archaia's been a blast.

What have been some of the biggest challenges to adjusting to the life of a freelancer?

Getting my secretary to stop barking while I'm trying to write (my secretary's a bulldog named Daffodil).

I don't really see freelancing as a "challenge," but as a huge opportunity to use the skills and reputation I've acquired over the years, and really see what I can get done. It's been scary and hard and weird and difficult, but so exciting.

Two tweets of yours recently caught my attention "Treat people well. Start with positive notes before delving into the negative. Suppress your inner asshole," and, "Learning how to deal with assholes is the most invaluable asset a writer/artist/editor/colorist/letterer can have." That seems like fairly logical advice to me, but why do you think such logic eludes some of your contemporaries?

Those two statements, which weren't about specific circumstances, just something that occurred to me at the time, can be used for any profession or relationship. I wouldn't attempt to work out the thought processes of others, I just really believe that if you're able to get along with someone, make them feel empowered and give them a voice, don't degrade them, good stuff happens. Sure, you can call a writer/artist and rail on them that they've made a mistake, but why? It makes them insecure and you end up being an asshole. I've got no problem being an asshole when it's necessary (believe me), but only use that bullet when you need to. Be a bright shiny person and people'll be shiny back to you.

What else is creatively on the horizon for you?

Well, on top of "The Storyteller," I'm also editing a big anthology for Archaia's Black Label, based on the "Immortals" movie out in November. I'm co-writing a new book with Ben McCool for Image called "Pigs," that'll be out later this year. And I'm working on a book with Chris Eliopoulos, that's no doubt the best thing he's ever drawn. There's six other projects I'm working on in various stages of development, but even I'm getting a kinda sick of me right now, so I'll tell you about those later...

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