Tom King and Peter Gross Reveal What Real World Events Inspired New BOOM! Studios Series Animal Pound

Tom King and Peter Gross reveal what led to adapting George Orwell's classic story in Animal Pound.

A true all-star team is taking on one of literature's iconic stories for BOOM! Studios, a team that includes Award-winning writer Tom King (Wonder Woman, Mister Miracle), Eisner nominated artist Peter Gross (Lucifer, American Jesus), Eisner-nominated colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Once & Future), World's Finest), and Eisner-nominated letterer Clayton Cowles. Their newest creation is Animal Pound, a modern retelling of George Orwell's classic Animal Farm that will hit stores this December. had the chance to sit down with King and Gross to discuss what led to adapting such a renowned story and how they are bringing the concept and the ideas at the center of it into the modern day, and real-world events had an important role to play in bringing this project to life.

"This is one of those ideas that, where you have something in the back of your head that you need to write something but you don't know what it's about," King said. "I knew, Peter's heard me say this all before, but after January 6th, I live in Capitol Hill. I saw it personally after the sort of events, after the world sort of seemed to fall apart in the middle of all of that, and it seemed very dangerous. After it didn't quite go away, after the threat that the January 6th posed was still around, I knew I wanted to write about it the same way."

"When I did Mister Miracle, I wanted to write about how bizarre the world suddenly seemed and how it seemed like we were all locked in a dream, but I had no idea how to write about that. One day my kids were reading Animal Farm, they're 12 and 13, and I mean, that's a great book and it's a metaphor about how communism becomes fascism," King said. "But when I was looking at it and being like, That's not the threat we're facing today. We're not dealing with an ideal utopian communism and the traps we're dealing with something else, something different, something from within the system, not from without."

"So I was like, there should be sort of an Animal Farm about today, a warning as much as Orwell's work served as a warning of what could happen, another sort of warning," King said. "And that's a stupid arrogant thought, and I really should have thrown that in the trash and been like, 'Tom, you're not a good enough writer to do this.' But then I was like, 'Oh,' I got so motivated. I was like, 'Tom, you've got to do...' This is how I ended up joining the CIA. I get so pissed off about something, I was like, I just got to do something. I can't just sit in my room and I just need to do something."

"And so this idea came into my head to do something about, to use animals as an allegory again, but instead of using farm animals, because I've never lived on a farm, to use pound animals because I've grown up with cats and dogs and spent a lot of time trying to get my dog from various pounds around. So I've spent a lot of time, and to use that as a metaphor for a different kind of fascism. Fascism that comes from within, that takes advantage of the system to corrupt democracy," King said. "And it just came to me all in one single day. I literally called the editor that day. I said, 'I have an idea. It's really stupid. You'll never want it. It's too ambitious.' And BOOM! said, 'Let's try it.' And that's how it started."

(Photo: BOOM! Studios)

Gross already wanted to work with King on a project, and when he heard it was Animal Pound, that pretty much sealed the deal. "Well, first of all, they said Tom and I thought, 'Okay, I would love to do something with him.' I hadn't worked with him before and I'm kind of semi-retired or I want to be. And then when they said Animal Farm, that just appealed to me so much because I knew his take on it would be really interesting and coming from a great space," Gross said.

"And like he said, you get so mad, you just want to do something, and I just want a chance to dig into stories that have something to say about now. I mean, there's so much going on. Like Tom talked earlier with someone about having troops on his block after January 6th, and I lived three blocks from where George Floyd was murdered, and we had the same thing happen after that. We had National Guard, armored trucks roaring in front of the yard and soldiers on every corner for a week and stuff," Gross said. "And so just the opportunity to talk about what's going on in the country, even if it's in a subversive, allegorical way, is just such a rare opportunity that I was instantly on."

King and Gross are using the original story to build theirs, and there will be elements that readers will recognize from Orwell's original story, but there will also be some larger differences.

 "I mean, the first story is almost like a perfect little diamond. I don't want to in any way say there's something wrong with it, and we use it as inspiration in a way to build our story. Animal Farm begins with an inspiring speech from the Lenin pig or the Marx pig, depending on how you read it, and then flashes forward to a revolution," King said. "We start in a very similar way with a speech from a George Washington-esque dog or Abraham Lincoln dog, and then we flash forward to the impact of that and how those ideals get corrupted. So we use it very much as a model, but then we go off because just thematically, ours starts as a democracy, not as sort of a utopian farm. It starts in a different place, and so the deterioration is to a different place as well."

After the concept was cemented, it was time to create the characters that would bring it to life, but Gross wasn't sure what style would end up fitting the series. At one point they thought a more cartoony style would win out, but things ultimately ended up going a different way.

"Initially I did a bunch of sketches and we didn't know how the animals were going to be," Gross said. "Was it going to be kind of cartoony? I think we thought that. It ended up being more realistic, which I think we both think works better. And I mean, it was hard. It's all set in the same place, and I like that. I like it when comics are more like a play than cinema, actually."

"I always think of them as a play, and I like that aspect of it. I mean, I'm still filling it out. I wish I could draw two or three issues before I had to commit to anything. The way it is when you're working at something new, you realize something should be like this and you're on page 25 and you've got 14 pages with that character on before, but it's going pretty smooth," Gross said.

As for what fans can expect from the series, King said, "This will be a complete beginning-to-end story that starts with a revolution that's similar to the American Revolution. The idea of people overthrowing a king, or in this case the humans from a pound. And then we will see how American history and how the rules that are set up, as our rules were set up in the Constitution, could lead to another crisis much later on that possibly destroys the whole system. So it's about how people who have the best intentions in the world creating society based on equality and freedom, how those very ideals can be used against it to create the exact opposite, a society based on fascism and class differences and tribalism."

Animal Pound will hit comic stores on December 20th.

What do you think of Animal Pound? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things comics with me on Threads @mattaguilarcb!