PAUL D. STORRIE
Conducted and transcribed by Allen W. Wright
AWW: So, how did the idea for Robyn of Sherwood come about? Was it initiated by you or Caliber Comics?
PDS: Robyn of Sherwood has a somewhat tangled genesis. Caliber publisher Gary Reed was looking to do a Robin Hood title, and I was in the right place at the right time to pitch him a couple ideas. The first was to do a "From Day One" retelling of the Robin Hood legends, leaning heavily on the ballads. The second was much more radical, an alternate history version of Robin Hood in the modern age. Gary liked both ideas, but didn't feel either was quite what he wanted to try. He suggested doing a son or daughter of Robin Hood. My thought on that was that a son of Robin Hood story has two basic directions it can go. 1) He's very into the role and the legacy. 2) He's a reluctant hero, following in Dad's footsteps out of obligation. There are other permutations, of course, but those seemed the two big directions you can take the concept. With the DAUGHTER of Robin Hood, however, there is much more that you can play with, including the attitudes towards women in the middle ages. After writing up a new proposal with Robin and Marian's daughter, Gary Reed gave me the go-ahead and Robyn of Sherwood was born.
AWW: What was your first exposure to the Robin Hood legend?
PDS: Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Great stuff. The language is a bit tough to get through, particularly for a young, young kid, but the illustrations and the stories were terrific. It is still my touchstone for Robin Hood to this day.
AWW: What are your favourite Robin Hood tales (books, ballads, movies, etc.) and why?
PDS: As far as *versions* of the story, Pyle is a big one, of course. The Errol Flynn movie. I found the Richard Carpenter series interesting, but never got to see as many episodes as I would have liked. When I started researching for Robyn, I found it fascinating to actually read the ballads and compare them to the stories as they have filtered down to us. Oh, and Robin and Marian with Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn and Robert Shaw was an excellent flick.
AWW: What do you feel is at the heart of the legend?
PDS: Not an easy question, since there have been so many iterations of the legend and of Robin Hood himself, but for me the heart of the legend is Justice and Injustice. Robin Hood is the prototypical Outlaw Hero, the guy who stood up rather than roll over when the society he was living in proved to be unjust. I think that thread has been fairly constant, down through the ages. Robin Hood is really about standing up for what's right, even if that means you have to go outside "the system" to do it.
I hope that doesn't sound too simplistic!
AWW: The protagonist of Robyn of Sherwood, of course, is Robin Hood's daughter. The Friends of Lulu [a non-profit organization which encourages female readership and participation in the comic book industry] said of the series: "you can't do much better in terms of strong and complex female characters against an interesting backdrop." What are your thoughts on creating such a strong heroine?
PDS: To paraphrase a pal of mine who has been writing comics almost as long as I've been reading them, I don't worry about writing a strong woman as I do about writing a strong person. I focused on Robyn's background and feelings as a person. Obviously her gender plays into that on some levels, but I think that men and women are motivated by the same sort of things -- family, experience, exposure to certain philosophies / ways of thinking, that sort of stuff.
I really appreciate that readers in general and women readers in particular have responded so strongly and so positively to Robyn. It tells me that I've done my job. Now, if only MORE readers had found the series!
AWW: Although Marian's often been softened in the last century or so, for the traditional adventure genre, she was a very strong figure. How does Robyn differ from both her parents?
PDS: The softening of Marian sort of irks me. In fact, because my main exposure was through Pyle and the Flynn movie as a kid, I wasn't even AWARE as a kid of the legend of Marian coming to Sherwood disguised as a page and fighting Robin to a standstill with a sword! Of course, Marian was an add on to the legend, so it's probably not surprising that she has fluctuated more over the years.
How does Robyn differ from her parents? That's a tough one. To start with, she had to deal with losing both her parents at an early age. She actually saw her mother die violently. That affects you deeply and forever. She also had to keep her heritage secret most of her life. That's a hard thing to deal with -- keeping a background you're proud of to yourself. Plus, she has to live up to that heritage that she's so proud of. Robin and Marian ended up as outlaws, struggling against oppression as a result of circumstances that happened to them. Robyn ended up fighting the good fight as a matter of pride, duty, and responsibility. She is carrying on a brave tradition and is acutely aware of that.
AWW: Robin Hood's daughter Deering was the main character in the 1950s B-movie The Son of Robin Hood. And two TV projects have come out since the first issue of Robyn of Sherwood was published. Back to Sherwood features Robin Hood's modern-day descendant Robyn travelling back in time to team up with the children of the Merry Men. And this year, the Wonderful World of Disney aired a TV movie called Princess of Thieves which featured Robin's daughter, Gwyn. Have you seen any of these? If so, what do you think of them?
PDS: I would REALLY like to see The Son of Robin Hood! Haven't ever run across it. In fact, I wasn't even aware of it until I started research for Robyn. I saw an episode or two of Back to Sherwood and was a little disappointed. It came across a bit too much as Xena-lite to me. In other words, the period was treated very casually / history didn't figure much into things (like Xena), and the character development wasn't as strong as I would have cared for (that's the "lite" part -- Xena was a lot better on that score). As for Princess of Thieves ... I very, very much wanted to like that film. Unfortunately, Gwyn seemed really ineffective to me. The fictional son of King Richard ended up being as much or more the hero of the piece. In fact, the "princess" took a back seat to almost everyone. The real shame is that I think Keira Knightley is a terrific actress and could have done a great job portraying a tougher, more competent character.
Then again, maybe I'm not in the best position to judge. After all, I'd love to see a Robyn of Sherwood movie or series.
AWW: I gather that Robyn of Sherwood was originally intended to be an ongoing series. Why did you stop doing the series?
PDS: Let's just chalk that up to the state of the comics industry. Unfortunately, there's not much room for smaller publishers doing black & white books in this day and age. The general comics readership is looking for modern day action/adventure in full color, not historical adventure in black & white. Sales just weren't there.
AWW: Is there a chance that you will return to chronicle Robyn's adventures some day? Who owns the rights to the character?
PDS: I would LOVE to write Robyn again someday. As things stand now, Caliber and I share the rights to the character.
AWW: Now you're working on a new series of Robin Hood adventures for Moonstone Books. The first is due out in October and is billed as a "director's cut" of Robin Hood and Alan a Dale. What sorts of things go into making a "director's cut" of a ballad?
PDS: The reason Robin Hood & the Minstrel is billed as a "director's cut" is because the actual ballad is a pretty sparse story. Plus, there isn't any real danger involved. Robin meets Allan. Allan tells his plight. Robin and the Merry Men intervene in Ellen's wedding and the young lovers are reunited. To make it into an interesting comic, I had to expand the background and introduce a bit more action and danger. Readers expect adventure and daring deeds when reading a Robin Hood story.
AWW: Will the other volumes in the series follow this format?
PDS: Somewhat. A lot of the stories will be based on ballads, but there will be "Storrie originals" (as my editor calls them) in the mix. Also, when I tell the various tales of how the main characters come to be outlaws, there's LOTS of room for expansion. Who were these people before they were outlawed? What was their family situation? Who did they have to leave behind? That kind of thing.
AWW: What are some of the "Storrie originals" stories coming in the Moonstone run? What do you think are the ingredients of a good, original Robin Hood story?
PDS: Oh, wait. I didn't mean you should ask me the TOUGH questions!
Sorry, I'm a chronic smart aleck.
The first "Storrie original" is the third issue, a tale I call Robin Hood & the Jailer. It focuses on a new Jailer the Sheriff appoints to the Nottingham dungeon, deals an awful, awful lot with Marian, and also serves to show the downside of Robin's occasionally cavalier attitude towards the persons he robs. (By the by, it occurs to me that "cavalier" attitude is anachronistic when applied to Robin Hood, but it's the right phrase to describe what I mean. It's sometimes strange to write historical fiction!)
Since the books are coming out quarterly (every three months), I haven't gone too far ahead in my writing and planning. Thus, I can't tell you too much else about other original stories I'm cooking up. The next one, which may be issue four, will deal extensively with the Sheriff, his background, his motivations and his role as Robin's primary antagonist.
[Robin Hood and the Jailer was packaged with a black-and-white reprint of the Minstrel story and the script to Robin Hood and the Knight in 2004. Future publications are uncertain at this time.]
As to the ingredients of a good, original Robin Hood story --
There has to be high adventure. Action, excitement, intrigue. As I mentioned earlier, Robin Hood is, to me, primarily about Justice vs. Injustice. Ultimately, I think a good Robin story has to be about making someone's life better. Evening up the scales of justice to aid someone who has been dealt a bad hand.
AWW: Women have few roles in the ballads. And while Marian is prominent in most versions of the legend, she only appears in a few ballads. What roles will women play in your "director's cut"?
PDS: Women will have a role in the new series, though the most prominent to start will be Marian. We introduce Allan-a-Dale's sweetheart Ellen in the first story, but she will only appear occasionally thereafter.
I'll try to be a bit more even-handed than the ballads in including women and making their roles and actions integral to the stories. I'll also be trying to avoid relegating them to the status of hostages (or at least no more so than the occasional Merry Man or Robin himself).
While Marian isn't an original part of the legends, I think she has become an essential part. I'll be trying to portray her as a strong, competent, vibrant character who is inspirational to the men around her, both in spirit and in deeds. Also, I'll be showing her as the woman who could (and did) give birth and raise an exceptional child like Robyn of Sherwood. While the two series aren't quite linked, I'll be trying not to contradict the backstory I laid down in Robyn. In my mind, the Moonstone series could very well be the history of the Caliber one.
AWW: What special challenges exist in doing Robin Hood in comic book form? What traditional elements do you think work well as a comic? And which elements don't work as well in this medium?
PDS: I don't know that there are any special challenges to doing Robin Hood in a comic. It's a legend that cries out to be visualized. Although, as I mentioned, a direct retelling of most of the ballads would be fairly short and lacking in action.
AWW: Robin Hood comics have been appearing for decades, but none of them seems to have a lasting success. Most seem to boom around famous non-comic works, such as the 1950s TV series and the 1991 Kevin Costner movie, and fade away when those works are gone. Have you read any of those comics? If so, what did you think of them? And do you have any thoughts on why Robin Hood doesn't seem to have a regularly published comic?
PDS: To answer your last question first, these days most non-superhero comics have a tough time maintaining any kind of following. As for the lack of long-term success for earlier Robin Hood comics, that's a tough, tough call. Perhaps the problem comes in because there are so many versions of the character and everyone has a favorite, a definitive version. If the Flynn movie is your touchstone, then anything that deviates from it isn't going to satisfy. Likewise for the Richard Greene TV series. As for the Costner movie ... what? There was a Costner movie? (I kid. I think that they tried really hard, but that the comedic touches spoiled the film in general. Frankly, I would have rather seen Alan Rickman play a straight-forward villainous sheriff, rather than the "cancel Christmas" guy.) Then there are the devoted fans of the Richard Carpenter series. They'd love to see a Robin of Sherwood comic, I'm sure, but aren't necessarily going to be accepting of something very different. To the credit of the Robin of Sherwood fans, they were very accepting and supportive of Robyn when I attended the "Weekend in Sherwood" convention. Then again, it wasn't about Robin, but his daughter. Thus, it doesn't contradict their favorite version per se.
When I first pitched Robin Hood to Gary Reed at Caliber, I said, "People don't know the real story of Robin Hood." Gary replied, "But everyone THINKS they do." I think that's what you fight against when you do a Robin Hood comic book -- the expectations of the readers.
AWW: Robin Hood is an iconic figure, but you've also worked on another iconic hero -- Batman? What's it like to write an icon? And what are the differences between working on a comic book hero like Batman and working on a character like Robin Hood who began life outside of comics?
PDS: I don't really think there are all that many differences between working on a comic book hero vs. one who began life outside of comics. At least as far as how I approach them. In both instances, it's a matter of thinking, "What kind of story would be appropriate to this character?" There is one MAJOR difference -- with a character like Batman you have to worry more about the other stories that have been told about him recently. How does what you want to do fit into what other writers have done? With Robin Hood, since there aren't multiple comics coming out about him, you don't have those kinds of concerns.
AWW: Robyn of Sherwood uses some lesser known characters from the legend (like Red Roger of Doncaster) and some elements from real history (a reference to King John making England a papal fiefdom). How do you feel about incorporating history and legend into your tales? Will we see more historical references in the new series?
PDS: Since the legends were originally contemporary stories, I think that a solid grounding in the time period is pretty essential. Of course, the generally accepted time for the Robin Hood stories now, the time of King Richard, is a fairly recent development. A king is only referenced by name once in the ballads, and that's Edward ("our comely king"). If I remember correctly, Sir Walter Scott first placed Robin in the period of King Richard, in Ivanhoe. Pyle, of course, followed that in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
I'm going to try to make historical references in the Moonstone Robin Hood series, as appropriate. I think it lends an extra touch of verisimilitude.
AWW: What sorts of research did you do for the series?
PDS: I started out by reading Pyle again. Might as well start with your roots, right? Bought a copy of the Flynn movie for inspiration. Picked up a few Robin Hood reference books -- Holt's Robin Hood and Knight's Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw. Also bought a fascinating book titled King John by Ralph V. Turner, which helped a lot with gaining historical perspective. Then I read a bunch of more recent versions of the legend, novels mostly, to try and avoid covering territory that others had already explored. Along with all that, I tracked down a lot of stuff on the web, including your excellent site and the text versions and commentaries on the early ballads (thank you Project Guttenberg!)
AWW: How would you sum up your new series of Robin Hood adventures?
PDS: Exciting new stories of Robin Hood and intriguing retellings of the traditional tales, told with the passion of a lifelong Robin Hood fan. If you're a Robin Hood aficionado or someone with only a passing interest in the character or the time period, there's something here for you, including some truly terrific sequential artwork.
Hopefully that doesn't sound too much like hype.
AWW: Is there anything else you feel we should cover?
PDS: Offhand I can't think of anything! You were exceptionally thorough.
AWW: Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to these questions.
PDS: My pleasure!
Interview (c) Copyright 2001 -- Allen W. Wright
For more information on these series, including ordering information, please visit:
If you're interested about the role of women in comic books, visit The Friends of Lulu website.
ROBIN HOOD TPB written by Paul Storrie, drawn by various artists. Moonstone Books re-issued Robin Hood and the Minstrel in black-and-white, also included is previously unpublished Robin Hood comic story, and the script to another.
ROBIN HOOD: OUTLAW OF SHERWOOD FOREST, An English Legend by Paul D. Storrie and Thomas Yeates. It's another "Classics Illustrated" style graphic novel version of the Robin Hood legend featuring some of Robin's most famous adventures. Good for younger readers.
Interview, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2004.
Please ask for permission if you plan to quote more than a small segment of the interview.