WRITER COMMENTARY on Robyn Hood #1
Robyn Hood: The Ongoing Series #1
Written by Pat Shand
Art by Larry Watts
Colors by Slamet Mujiono
Letters by Jim Campbell
I used to do these with every single issue I wrote. However, when I started editing, I got waaaay too busy and didn’t want to force half-assed commentaries, “Check out how great this art is! Cool page. Thanks for reading! SUBSCRIBE.” But now that I’ve calmed down to the relative non-craziness of writing three to four comics a month, I’ve got the time to indulge my admittedly self-indulgent whims and dissect the issues I’m doing. And what better issue to start on than ROBYN HOOD: THE ONGOING SERIES #1.
On that note, I can’t wait until #6. Then I could just say ROBYN HOOD #6. We’ve been using “the ongoing series” almost as a subtitle, because the first volume of the original trilogy was, like this, untitled. We only had five issues in that one, though, so once we get past that, no more fake subtitling.
One of the big ideas Larry and I set out to do with the ongoing was to make it stylistically different from the trilogy. It’s a new beginning, new story, new look. I wanted glossy, in your face, modern, punk, pop, riot girl comics, and Larry was eager to embrace the more designy sensibilities that have been popping up in some of our favorite comics.
I love the intricate, strange panel layout here. It’s beautiful.
A risk we took is starting out the series with a blatant political statement. Senator Roger Matthews is obviously a parody of the worst kind of conservative, and we’re not really beating around the bush with the commentary there. I figure, though, anyone who reads this comic and gets what we’re doing is already onboard with Robyn’s view of people like this. I don’t want to alienate the readership, but scenes like this are an integral part to Robyn Hood (and Robin Hood, actually) and what I’m trying to say with the character.
Ales Kot (whose work I love, whose work you should read) posted this wonderful quote on Facebook recently, and I so agree:
I love that Slamet’s color palette matches the Tina Valentino/Leonardo Paciarotti cover that depicts the same scene. Larry and I have had a lot of colorists, and some really sung on our work together, but the reason Slamet has become the definitive color of Robyn’s world is because he goes that extra step, he creates her world as much as Larry and I do.
PAGE TWO and THREE
Now, we’re getting sexy.
This was super uncomfortable stuff to write. I hate “Bad kitty likes it rough” more than any other thing I’ve ever written, which is kinda the point. He’s supposed to squick us hard, and fast.
What I think readers understand – what I hope I did a good enough job with – is that placing Robyn in an inherently sexual situation here, and leading the reader the believe that she is an escort, only to quickly pull the rug out from under that and go in a radically different direction is a statement. That statement is: This book is not what you think. So many readers see the covers and have a preconceived idea of the book as either outright sexual or exploitative, and I’m doing everything I can to acknowledge the divide between what’s depicted on the cover and the actual story inside, while also subverting those expectations.
I bungled that with the first ROBYN HOOD #1, I think, and spent most of the trilogy trying to build her up and show why she’s a hero.
Love Robyn’s sneer. She just hates this guy.
During Calgary Expo, Larry was lamenting that I never wrote him splash pages, never wrote him double page spreads. The confines of the trilogy – and honestly the style of it – didn’t lend itself toward those moments.
The ongoing does.
The text around the insert bubbles here, deconstructing Robyn’s attire and gear, as well as the reader’s assumptions about her attire, was added after the first proof. I thought it needed something extra, stylistically, and suggested these to Jim. He really brought it home, and it’s perhaps my favorite image of the character thus far. The words around her dress say a lot about Robyn, and Larry continually shows that he’s just the dandiest.
Tegan and Sara poster!
I wanted to give Marian the build up and release of what I refer to as the “sitcom entrance.” We know the character is going to arrive, and when she does, it’s that nice burst of familiarity. Or, for new readers, it’s their first time seeing her.
I also think Larry draws Marian just beautiful. I want her haircut and I love her ears!
Placing Robyn and Marian in St. Marks was an easy choice for me, because I love the area. I used to go there for theatre. A company called Amios produced a bunch of plays of mine back when I lived in New York, and I’m very, very fond of the area. I was recently devastated to learn that my favorite cupcake shop in the area, Crumbs, had closed down. (Helsing’s cupcake date with Hades takes place there.) That has absolutely nothing to do with the issue, but c’mon, cupcakes.
I just now noticed (and love) the annoyed face Marian is giving Sam for complimenting Robyn.
PAGE NINE and TEN
If you told me two years ago that someone would let me write a story about roller derby wiccans addicted to magical meth, I’d have probably cried happy tears right there.
In even the most dire of moments, selecting the proper Chinese delivery is key.
Because of the obvious parallels (supernatural PI, the monster dive bar later in the story) between Robyn Hood and Angel, the property that began my career in comics over at IDW, I just had to end this page with a wink at folks who have been with me from the start: “Let’s go to work.”
The reason the ongoing is about Robyn and Marian, rather than have Robyn start over alone, is best displayed in this page. Robyn is cynical. She looks at the world, and she sees everything wrong with it leering at her from its darkest corners. She is wary of people entering her life, she is aware of the looming patriarchy of white, cis-gender, heterosexual men who, and she thinks “fuck this.” Marian, while not at all naïve, is in love with this world. She is a gay witch from a realm of swords and sorcery akin to England during the Middle Ages, and that was not a world for her. She comes into this world and she is introduced to music. To Broadway. To movies. To Tumblr. To this subculture of acceptance and love and, even in the face of everything that Robyn is cynical about, everything that Robyn should be cynical about, Marian sees the hidden wonders.
But she just can’t figure out chopsticks.
I labored HARD over naming the bar. I’m decently content with the choice of “the Silent Lamb.”
Robyn’s lack of communication skills, while useful here, will be a plot point later in the series.
PAGE FOURTEEN and FIFTEEN
I wanted this set some time after Robyn and Marian return from Myst at the end of the trilogy, so I figured everything with fangs and a bloodlust would be scared shitless of her at this point.
The idea behind having a monster bar here worked for the series, but it was also done to show continuity between some of my older Zenescope work and this series. In the chronology, it’s been about two or three years since the Being – the god-like antagonist of Unleashed and, later, Ascension – opened up a portal to a hell dimension that brought the classic monsters (werewolves, vampires, demons, zombies, etc) back to our world. The Being later slaughtered a good portion of them, but I figured the remaining survivors would head to New York, LA, Vegas… places where dark things can thrive in the darkness left by the city’s shadow.
And Peter follows Robyn out of the bar. I’ve been planning Peter for a while, and I won’t talk much about him because his character arc is long-game, but this isn’t his first appearance. I introduced him in Grimm Fairy Tales #98, my one-shot story that showed a human perspective on this strange universe. He was the librarian at the school at which the lead character, Chris Halton, taught.
Peter’s brief stint as a brunette in GFT #98.
I went back on Robyn and Marian’s exchange in panel four, because Marian is being cute but I didn’t want her to seem silly, and I didn’t want Robyn to seem mean. I think it’s a fine balance to walk with these two, but I think the scene works.
PAGE EIGHTEEN and NINETEEN
The church is based off of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. On a youth group trip (yes… I was a member!), I stayed in this place overnight. It was surreal and creepy and warm and interesting. I’m sure they wouldn’t love the fact that this scene takes place there, but I do.
I wrote a post on this scene earlier:
I do like that, even though Peter is depicted as an ass for telling Robyn how to do her thing, he looks in awe of her in Panel 1.
And the Priest. I don’t want to talk about him much, because he’s a mystery for now. Someone who professed to be the biggest Robyn Hood fan ever was offended by my use of a priest, saying that it’s “intolerable.”
I disagree. Not that I believe I or the book have formally asked to be tolerated.
We don’t know much about the Priest. Is he a real Priest? I don’t feel that it’s spoilery to point out that he is harvesting the souls of witches who play roller derby, so it’s very unlikely that any organized religion is sanctioning this. However, his attire and his name are very purposeful and I wouldn’t have depicted the first villain of the ongoing any other way. The Priest is a metaphor and, when you read the second and third issues of the series, I’d let you, the readers, decide for yourself if the metaphor works. If a Priest taking advantage of his station offends you, good. It should.
That’s it! ROBYN HOOD: THE ONGOING SERIES #2 (sigh) is out September 24th, and #3 is still available for pre-order before the final FOC cut-off in the comic weeks, and #4, which begins the second story arc, is also available for pre-order. Let your local comic shop know that you want your Robyn and Marian fix!
Joss Whedon: The Biography
Just finished the Joss Whedon biography by Amy Pascale. It was an enthralling, funny, and moving celebration and analysis of the life and work of the man who, I’m convinced now more than ever, is the greatest living storyteller.
Joss Whedon changed my life.
I know, that’s true for a lot of folks. I was going through some books I’d stored to keep safely for Hurricane Sandy, and came across the book pictured above. ANGEL: YEARBOOK from IDW Publishing. It was the final Angel comic before the rights transferred to Dark Horse… and my first ever published comic book is in there.
A year and a half later, I’ve published twenty comics. This year alone, I’m going to do triple that number. I have a career because of a two page short story in an Angel comic.
It was a dream come true then and remains one now.
Thank you for this and for your stories, Joss Whedon.
Angel & Faith #1, Flashpoint #5, Justice League #1
Comic Book Wednesday
For years, I ran a site called Buffyverse Comic Reviews. I figured I’d stop when I knew I was going to be writing a story for IDW’s Angel: Yearbook, as it’s tacky to write about comics that you know you’ll be writing soon. If it’s a positive review, it just seems as if you’re kissing ass so you can write more in the future. If it’s negative, you come off as a dick to the other people working on a book. Well, as I have absolutely nothing to do with the current Buffy/Angel comics, I figure… well, why not? Also, this review will also cover with finale of Flashpoint and, really, the DC Universe as we know it… and the birth of the new DCU with Justice League #1. I also picked up another comic at the shop, but I’m not going to review this one… because I am in the middle of writing an issue of the series as we speak. I’ll give more info on that when I can, but I’ll tell you this… it’s a blast. And now, the reviews! Man, it’s a good week. Angel & Faith #1
Live Through This - Part One
Written by Christos Gage
Pencils by Rebekah Isaacs
Dark Horse Comics
Coming from someone who was extremely skeptical about Angel co-starring in his own title, someone who wrote for IDW’s Angel and wants the title to himself (once you get a taste of writing Whedon characters, it’s hard to stop - it’s like crack or Pringles… it’s like crack flavored Pringles), and someone who was more than slightly dubious about the Twilight plotline… the first issue of Angel & Faith is a damn good comic. First and foremost, Angel as a character isn’t sidelined at all. Every page is about him. Every page is about Giles. The comic is really about the two of them, and how Faith has become the level-headed slayer. She’s not only playing the role of savior like Angel played for her in the television show… she has become a mentor for other slayers as well. She’s grown, but she’s still the same snarky, dark, powerful woman that she was in the show. And Angel… as I said, the book focuses on him more than anything else. His time as Twilight casts a dark shadow over this comic (rightfully so), but you don’t have to really buy his motive in order to enjoy this book. In fact, Faith even says, “Y’know what? Your whole Twilight phase makes about as much sense as a David Lynch movie.” This isn’t the creative team shrinking back from Buffy: Season Eight, though - Angel goes on to give more explanation as to his Twilight persona, though he never excuses himself or attempts to make sense of it. He knows that he was under the thrall of Twilight, but admits his fault in all of his actions. He’s after redemption, and his end goal makes so much sense for who he is as a person. Angel is a fan of the big, sweeping actions (his plan in Not Fade Away, his plan in After the Fall #16, his time as Twilight), so of course he wants to bring Giles back to life. It’s a heroic, sad, and misguided decision that I can’t wait to see play out. Whistler appears, and his role suggest that we might finally get some backstory for this character. Is he who he says he is? Besides balancing the scales of good and evil, what stake does he have in all of this? That scene also introduces Pearl and Nash, a pair of human/demon hybrids who seem to be the Big Bads of either this arc or the whole series. It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds, but from what we’ve seen, these are some creepy, brutal beasties. With one issue, Angel & Faith has already swept away my reservations and a bit of my jealousy (I’m a writer and a fan, so I want to write everything - it’s a thing). It gets the voices pitch perfect, introduces the villains, and kicks off character arcs for Angel and Faith that already have more purpose and clarity than the entirety of each of their Season Eight storylines. Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs hit this one out of the park.
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils Andy Kubert
I’ve enjoyed all of Flashpoint, and I didn’t expect anything less than excellence from this issue. I love everything I’ve ever read from Geoff Johns, I’ve found the storyline compelling, and I’ve been anticipating finding out how this will kickstart the New 52 for months. What I did not expect was for this issue to be as utterly moving as it was. For those who read the preview, the opening reveals that it isn’t Reverse Flash who is responsible for the hellish world of Flashpoint, but Barry Allen himself. The rest of the issue brings the battle between Flash, Reverse Flash, Thomas Wayne, Aquaman, Wonderwoman, and the Resistance to a dramatic (but brief) climax. The action is quickly gotten out of the way for the real emotional meat of the comic… and I sobbed. Literal tears and all that. This is some of the most emotionally powerful storytelling I’ve read all year, and it moved me more than any comic book I’ve read since Brian Lynch’s After the Fall (read my review for the finale of that series here). Geoff Johns’ love for these character is obvious in every panel of the books he writes, and this one just sings. Big character moments, gripping action, and a moving final scene, this sets the stage for many great stories to come.
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Jim Lee
And the New 52 begins here. While I understand and agree with the intention, it may have not been smart to release this issue the same day as Flashpoint #5. I obviously thought that the finale of Flashpoint was excellent, so it was a bit jarring to see how… let’s say dialed back the premiere of Justice League is. It’s made up of three long scenes, beginning with Batman running into Green Lantern while on the run from the authorities and in pursuit of an alien creature. Most of the issue (let’s say 70%) is Hal boasting and Bruce making him look like a jerk. The rest of the issue shows football player Vic Stone dealing with daddy issues in his pre-Cyborg days and the bickery duo of Green Lantern and Batman trying to find and confront Superman. It’s a quick read that puts action before story. The action is good, though Jim Lee’s explosions are a bit chaotic and sometimes take some effort to follow. It’s a decent introductory issue, but I expected a bit more meat for the big start of the New 52.
TOMORROW: Kevin Smith’s The Bionic Man #1 review & Batgirl #22-24 review