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.