Drone Warfare Re-Imagined with Humans-As-Drones in Image's HARDCORE

Hardcore #3
Credit: Dan Panosian (Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment)
Credit: Dan Panosian (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Imagine the government being able to slide into a person’s body and use them as a gun, bomb, or being able to get secrets as an impersonator. This is the Hardcore Program and it is our best line of defense.

This week, Andy Diggle and Alessandro Vitti's Hardcore debuts from Image Comics' Skybound Entertainment banner. This is a reboot of the 2012 Top Cow Pilot Season Hardcore one-shot by Robert Kirkman, Marc Silvestri, and Brian Stelfreeze, reimagining that idea into a fleshed out, modern limited series.

Newssarama spoke with Diggle and Vitti about rebooting this one-off idea by Kirkman and Silvestri, and making it their own thing in 2018 and beyond.

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Newsarama: So Andy, when did Robert and Marc approach you for Hardcore?

Andy Diggle: I’d been having a lot of fun writing Thief of Thieves for Skybound, and I guess Robert must have liked what I was doing because he asked me to develop his and Brian Stelfreeze’s Hardcore pilot one-shot into a series. That would have been in early 2014, so it’s nice to see our book finally reach the light of day.

Robert gave me free reign to reinvent the series as I saw fit, but to be honest his pilot issue ended on such a perfect cliffhanger, I didn’t want to mess with it too much. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Nrama: Alessandro, how did you get involved with the project?

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Alessandro Vitti: I kept in touch with Skybound editor Sean Mackiewicz and when I became available, Sean proposed me to work on this project. It was a double pleasure because I had the opportunity to meet Jon Moisan again.

It was an incredible experience and I love to work on concept designs for projects. Every time, it's funny and challenging to study for the locations, vehicles, weapons, suits and characters.

Nrama: Let's talk about Agent Drake here because there's this line about how he's just a soldier and sees the Hardcore program as an improvement but where does his moral compass lie when we first meet him?

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Diggle: Hardcore is essentially a “human drone” program whereby the U.S. government can remotely take control of another person’s body from half a world away. It’s primarily used as a means for assassination.

To me, that evokes huge moral and ethical implications, but to Drake, it’s is morally equivalent to a traditional drone strike - without the collateral damage. For him it’s black and white. He’s a soldier with a mission, just following orders. But of course, real life is a bit more complicated than that. This time he can’t just step away and wash his hands of responsibility for the fallout of his actions.

This time, Drake is the collateral damage, and he’s going to have to clean up his own mess for once.

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Nrama: How did Drake get involved with the program?

Diggle: He was recruited from U.S. Special Forces. There’s a pretty strict screening process - psychological as well as physical (we meet a psych dropout in the first issue). Plus the pilot needs a well-developed corpus callosum for the neural interface to work. Drake fits the bill and follows orders. At first.

Nrama: What visual aesthetics were you both going for? This feels like Pacific Rim and Johnny Mnemonic on the surface.

Diggle: In my mind it’s a little closer to the present than that. Call it thirty seconds into the future. The Hardcore device itself is bleeding-edge classified technology cooked up by DARPA, but everything else is pretty much present-day.

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Vitti: My visual aesthetics inspirations were Pacific Rim to do the interior of Hardcore capsule, but for the rest of work I had for all the time on my desk one my favourite comics: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the art of Travis Charest.

Nrama: Walk us through the hierarchy of the program: who's at the top of this? Where does the funding come from?

Credit: Alessandro Vitti/ Adriano Lucas (IMage Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Diggle: It’s run by the Defense Operations Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Defense. The DOA Director is Armitage, and you’ll meet her later in the series.

Nrama: Things move pretty quickly these days with comic books being adapted for multimedia deals, are there plans in place for any sort of adaptation as of yet?

Diggle: I’m sure Skybound is on it.

Nrama: With only 72 hours to save his own life, it feels like this story is very finite, how you do you yourself feel about these more compact stories?

Diggle:I like compact. A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Without those things, it isn’t  a story, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. But once this story has been told, I’m sure there will be new stories to tell about Drake and his relationship with this technology. It’d be interesting to drop him into a more diverse range of characters and have him walk in other people’s shoes for a while. And when I say “walk," obviously I mean run, fight, and dive out of the way of exploding helicopters.

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