Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell are the creators of the new serialized online comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) Demons of Sherwood which was featured on the ComicMix website. In December 2009 IDW published it as a paperback graphic novel.
Bo Hampton has written, drawn and painted comic books for over 25 years. Among his comics work has been Viking Prince: Viking Glory and Batman: Other Realms for DC Comics, Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Tundra and Sight Unseen (with Robert Tinnell) for Image Comics. He has also worked in animation on Extreme Ghostbusters, Superman and Batman. He has also provided storyboards for live-action shows such as Powers.
Robert Tinnell is a comic book writer and screenwriter/director. He co-wrote The Black Forest, The Wicked West and wrote Sight Unseen (the latter illustrated by Bo Hampton) for Image Comics. He also wrote and directed films including Frankenstein and Me and Kids of the Round Table. The reprint collection of his online comic strip (with Alex Saviuk) Feast of the Seven Fishes won an Eisner award, and Tinnell later adapted it into a 2018 film.
These interviews were conducted via e-mail on December 16, 2007.
AWW: What is Demons of Sherwood about?
Bo Hampton: An older, not wiser, alcoholic Robin is prevailed upon to rescue Marian from a Witchhunter.
Robert Tinnell: DOS revisits Robin Hood's world about thirteen years or so after his "glory days." Time has not been kind to Robin. He hasn't seen Marian in all that time, he's a falling down drunk, and he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with an arrow. But when Marian re-emerges after all this time - and as one of accused of witchcraft - Robin wastes no time in rescuing and reconnecting with her. Unfortunately for both of them, there are true demonic forces at work, pursuing them through Sherwood...
AWW: Who initiated the project? Who decided it would be a good idea to do a Robin Hood comic?
BH: That was me. I asked Bob Tinnell to co-write it because I like working with him and he is superb at the craft of screen and comic book writing. I had been interested in doing Dark Horse's Solomon Kane book but they were dragging their feet; so I looked at other characters that were in public domain which could be both fun and frightening and fortunately Robin fit the bill.
RT: That would be Bo Hampton who for some reason was generous enough to invite me to a wonderful concept.
AWW: What working methods do you use on Demons? Is it drawn before it is dialogued?
BH: The bit which starts tomorrow [Dec. 17, 2007 - issue three] is the first scene that was done. I wrote and drew it while giving Bob some time to clear up another project and jump in. I like this bit because it introduces the reader to the swashbuckling character of Robin who, in his own mind, is still a legendary figure. Of course it's pure self-deception; so, it starts us off relating to him as the man and not the myth. And I like drawing swordplay in medieval taverns.
RT: We script pretty thoroughly before Bo draws - although we do rework dialogue frequently once pages are lettered. Very rarely does Bo need to make changes to art after the fact.
AWW: When did you first encounter Robin Hood and what do you think is the appeal of the legend?
BH: Somewhat. The Adventures of Robin Hood [the 1938 film starring Errol Flynn]. The wonderful notion of benevolent outlaws who struggle using guerilla raids against tyranny. I guess they were Terrorists, really. But everything is relative. And the idea that Robin was originally one of them- (aristocracy) is all to the good.
RT: I was a pretty advanced reader as a child - by the end of first grade I was reading on a sixth grade level. I vividly remember reading a collection of Robin Hood stories. As for the appeal - I guess it's the "little man versus the system." At his core Robin Hood appeals to us for the same basic reasons as, say, George Bailey, in Ir's a Wonderful Life. He's one of us - albeit with extraordinary prowess.
AWW: What Robin Hood tales of the past influenced you the most? Were any of the artists (such as Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth) an inspiration?
BH: Pyle and Wyeth both have influenced my art style to a degree. Ivanhoe (movie and the Classics Illustrated comic) and Richard Greene's TV show [also called The Adventures of Robin Hood, first broadcast in 1955] also crawled into my awareness early on.
RT: I'd have to say the Errol Flynn movie. I loved it as a kid. Pyle and Wyeth? Huge in general with me...With everyone if they're being honest!
AWW: Who is Robin Hood to you?
BH: Who is Robin Hood to you? Now he's a pathetic drunk who better get his act together.
RT: I'll stick by what I said earlier - he's Sparatacus. Zorro. Batman. The man who says "no" to corruption and oppression. He's the man we all aspire to be...
AWW: Demons features an older Robin Hood which -- aside from the film Robin and Marian and some "children of Robin Hood" stories - is something that's rarely done. What's the appeal of an aging hero?
BH: From a character standpoint you might have a lot more sympathy for a has-been who may find redemption. From an art standpoint the slightly haggard face is much more interesting to draw than the fresh faced kid. More wrinkles-angles-expression. That's why an earlier book I did for DC called Viking Glory had less appeal visually for me. I wanted to draw Kubert's Viking Prince who looked to be about 30 and instead had to draw him around age 21 for the story. Cross-referencing Mike Gold here, since he edited that book in 1990 and Demons of Sherwood now. He provided a lot of help with the plot direction on this book. Great editor!
RT: Personally what we're doing here represents a couple of concepts that fascinate me. Firstly, there's revisiting legends and attempting to "ground" them in reality - even with supernatural beings (I'm a fan of M. Night Shymalan - he does this brilliantly). I like to look for situations that might give rise to the legends we know today. King Arthur is an example of my obsession with this sort of thing. The Mary Stewart novels about Arthur and Merlin - The Crystal Cave and so on - affected me greatly as a kid. My first film as a director, Kids of the Round Table absolutely reflects that aspect of my interests. If you look at my work in totality I think you'll find this sort of deconstruction - or at least re-interpretation - present a great deal.
RT: Secondly, I'm interested in the way we tend to romanticize our own pasts - create our own legends. What really gets me excited about that is the opportunity to force characters to confront their own "rose-tinted" memories. You know that girl or guy from high school? The one you remember as being the "one?" I bet she really wasn't. But in any event it would be fun to put the two of you together and find out.
AWW: Working on this project, which characters developed the most? Did anything surprise you?
BH: Oddly - besides Robin- Little John is getting a lot of play. Older and very patient with his still immature boss but as we come to learn John also has a vicious streak of superstition. Not good since Sherwood may be haunted.
RT: Marian. Hands down. She's gotten richer the more we've gone along. She's really surprising me because she's emerging as the clear-eyed "narrator" of the group. The person who really understands Robin and the others and what really happened in their youth.
AWW: Both of you have experience working on horror/fantasy in past projects (such as your collaboration on Sight Unseen), what are your thoughts about combining horror/fantasy with Robin Hood? Are you familiar with the previous attempts?
BH: I'm not aware of any straight out horror influence on Robin Hood stories but there certainly may be some. With Sight Unseen we established a way of working that employs my Storyboard training for TV animation on shows like Extreme Ghostbusters for Sony. It breaks the horror moment down and allows it to unfold as it would in film which heightens suspense. So, I get to do that and contrast those scary scenes with the character driven narrative that is at turns quite funny, sad and full of resonance for people who actually have gotten a second chance but may have been too stupid or scared to make the most of it.
RT: I think Star Trek: The Next Generation did a Robin Hood thing. But I'm not really aware of other attempts although I'm sure there are many. Combining the two allows us to play with characters we love in a way that's hopefully fresh. Plus it's always fun to try and scare people...
AWW: It's interesting that you've chosen 1327 as the setting. It's close to early ballads (where an Edward is mentioned as being king) and near the time of a king's porter actually named Robyn Hood (1323-4) - one of the candidates for the real outlaw. Why did you break away from the King Richard/Prince John setting of the 1190s which is the standard for Robin Hood stories these days? Will you be incorporating historical events into the story?
BH: Okay, you got me Allen. I actually culled the idea of the 1327 Robin from your amazing website. It psyched me up even more than I had been for doing the project because I realized we could rationalize an early repersentative of the Inquisition and witch-burning with a time in which Robin could have lived. And it also allowed a few years for his earlier exploits to have made their way into local legend. Edward as king was apparently a strange character who had a truly horrific demise and that fell into place for us as well. Other than that and a couple of smaller references it is less of a treatise on history or legend and more of a horrific , Hell-for-leather love story that tends to be funny. Princess Bride [ the novel] was my primary influence in that regard but I must say Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of Black Pearl was constantly engaging which is the most we can hope for with this project. Keep hitting that button. Or turning that page.
RT: I can't lie - I'm more interested in pushing the story where I want it to go - I'm not a slavish researcher. Bo and our editor, Mike Gold, are far more demanding on that front than I am! On the other hand, if I'm very familiar with something I do strive for authenticity - I guess I just copped to being lazy!
AWW: What about Robin Hood works well in the comic medium? What needs adapting?
BH: I think all aspects play well in both comics, books and film.
RT: The cast and locale just look so pretty. Seriously, Bo is a natural to follow in the paths of Wyeth, Pyle, Hal Foster. There isn't much of a leap to make. The character and setting lend themselves naturally to the medium.
AWW: What projects are you both working on next?
BH: I want to do a straight-out horror story called Ghostkiller-hopefully co-written by Bob as well. He is so adept at making the reader care about the characters and always zigs when he's expected to zag. I'm learning a lot. If he bails I'll probably go it alone.... Brrrr.
RT: I'm in pre-production on the move version of my graphic novel, Feast of the Seven Fishes - which is an Italian-American Christmas romantic comedy. No demons! I'm also working with Mark Wheatley on EZ Street also running on ComicMix.com. It's way different than Demons of Sherwood, but I'm enjoying it immensely. The Fraim brothers are currently illustrating a relaunch of Kids of the Round Table as a comic which will be geared to a younger audience. In general, I'm busy and having fun.
AWW: What else should people know about Demons of Sherwood?
BH: It appears at weekly at a www.comicmix.com site near you. It will run 148 pages and costs nary a farthing.Then it will be released as a Graphic Novel. Thanks Allen, again for helping so much behind the curtains even though you weren't aware of it! [This interview was originally published during the comic's original online run. Since then the comic has been taken offline, although a graphic novel was published in 2009.]
RT: We're bringing a lot of passion to the project and I think it's reflected in the work. Demons of Sherwood is filled with action, scares and genuine emotion. Plus - it's free! Anyone can read it for free on www.ComicMix.com. How can you pass that up?
Special thanks to Martha Thomases for arranging these interviews.
DEMONS OF SHERWOOD by Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell. Originally serialized online, this tale features an older 14th century Robin Hood encountering witch hunters and possibly the supernatural
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SIGHT UNSEEN by Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell. A tale of supernatural horror by the creators of Demons of Sherwood.
Buy Sight Unseen on Amazon.com
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