Paul Storrie, a lifelong Robin Hood fan, was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He began his professional comic book writing career with the series Robyn of Sherwood from Caliber Comics in 1998. Since then he has contributed to the Moonstone Monsters: Werewolves! anthology, developed a light-hearted superhero series for Lone Star Press, and created a new Robin Hood title for Moonstone Books that debuted in October of 2001. He has also written several stories for DC Comics, including the Gotham Girls mini-series.
In 2004, Robin Hood and the Minstrel, Robin Hood and the Jailer and the script for Robin Hood and the Knight were published in a new trade paperback collection. In 2007, Paul returned to the Robin Hood legend with Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest, one of several graphic novels intended for younger readers from Lerner Books. He adapted additional legends for the Lerner Books series. In 2012, Paul and artist Rob Davis returned to Robyn of Sherwood with a redrawn graphic novel version of the story.
He continues to write comics and in recent years has crafted many new adventures for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, for Moonstone Books. In 2018 Source Point Press released The Viking Queen -- written by Paul Storrie with art by Kevin Caron.
Learn more about Paul Storrie at Storrieville
This interview was conducted via e-mail on July 12, 2001. And now I have added a follow-up interview from July 5, 2019. (Yes, 18 years later.)
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?
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.
[In 2012 Paul Storrie re-issued his original mini-series as a graphic novel with partly new art. Read below in the 2018 interview up for more details.]
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!
There's more to come. Below is my new 2019 interview with Paul where we discuss what he's been working on
AWW: What was the genesis of your return to the Robin Hood legend for Lerner Books?
PDS: That’s kind of a funny story. I’d done 3 or 4 books in the first wave of Graphic Myths & Legends for Lerner. One of which, Hercules: The Twelve Labors, was a Junior Library Guild pick. They were happy with my work, so when the second batch rolled around, they asked me to do a few more. One of which was a King Arthur legend. I offhandedly mentioned that I had more affinity for Robin Hood than King Arthur. The editor said the Robin Hood book had already been assigned. Turned out it was slated to be written by my pal Jeff Limke, who is much bigger into Arthuriana than I am. I asked if I could check with Jeff and see if he wanted to swap. The editor ended up handling it herself, but the end result was the same. Jeff did another terrific Arthur book and I went back to Sherwood.
AWW: Why did you select the specific ballads you used? And what was the inspiration for how you expanded the tales and connected them together?
PDS: One of the major goals of the Graphic Myths & Legends line was to work from the source material as much as possible. As such, I went back to the ballads (not necessarily the earliest versions, but the earliest available in many cases). As I was poring over them, I noticed how many hinged on an archery contest. I felt like that would be a good element for stringing the various stories together and emphasize what most people associate with Robin: he’s the greatest archer ever (or the greatest English archer ever, depending who you’re talking to). So, each contest was supposed to demonstrate a little more each time how great his skill was. Then I just looked for the best way to string them all together into a coherent narrative without going too far from the ballads.
Artist Thomas Yeates was a bit disappointed there wasn’t more swashbuckling adventure in the script, which I totally understand, but I was a bit constrained by the source material mandate and the fact that the script was written and approved before it was assigned to an artist. Still, Thomas did an amazing job with the story we told! And now he’s doing the Prince Valiant newspaper strip, so he gets a lot of opportunity for daring do there.
AWW: Were there any restrictions imposed on this edition? I notice that unlike the original ballad or the much-tamer Howard Pyle version, Robin Hood does not kill the foresters?
PDS: I didn’t find myself bumping into a lot of restrictions, but I think that’s because, as I was writing, I kept in mind that my audience was approximately 8- to 12-year-olds (and, perhaps more importantly in terms of violence/gore, their parents). So, I wrote things in a way I thought would be approved. In the case of the foresters, I think it did cross my mind that it would emphasize the unfairness of Robin’s being outlawed if it was strictly due to killing one of the king’s deer, rather than a batch of foresters.
I did something similar in my adaptation of Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the Sun. In that tale, her brother skinned her favorite pony and threw it through the roof of her sewing hut. I decided to skip the skinny and even the result. Ron Randall did a fantastic job of showing the terrified animal smashing through the roof, but we left it up to the reader to decide what happened after. Not 100% authentic, but more in keeping with modern sensibilities for what’s acceptable for kids to read/see.
AWW: What hoops did you have to jump through in order to reissue Robyn of Sherwood as a graphic novel with largely new art?
PDS: To be honest, there weren’t a lot of hoops. The book had originally been published by Caliber comics and a few years before the new edition, publisher Gary Reed offered to turn the full rights over to the original creators. In the end, we spit them between myself, Michael Larson, and Rob Davis, who had drawn the final original issue.
I don’t think any of us were too excited about the prospect of simply collecting the series as originally published: 3 artists, 4 inkers, and a few letterers. Since Michael has mostly stepped back from comics (though he’s working on a big graphic novel of his own), I suggested that we have Rob work from Michael’s layouts for the first two issues, then draw the third from my script, and touch up his issue, the fourth, as he thought necessary. I haven’t been in touch with Glen Szoloski, who drew #3, for years, so I didn’t want to repurpose his work without his approval.
Inker Bill Williams (currently writing & inking Punchline at Antarctic Press) helped out with a few pages, but ended up having schedule problems, so Rob took over the full art chores.
AWW: I notice other than a couple of minor omissions -- such as the recap early in issue 4 -- the text was unchanged from the original. Was there a temptation to go back and rewrite the story?
PDS: The temptation was tremendous! The main reason I didn’t rewrite the whole thing was that it might make remastering the artwork more difficult. The secondary reason is that I didn’t want to spackle over my first published work, which I was proud of despite any newbie-writer weaknesses it might have.
AWW: Even if the dialogue didn't change, there were shifts in the character. Rob Davis is a master at facial acting, and his interpretation of the characters acted a bit differently than in the original. Did you have a hand in that or did you leave the artists to craft that aspect of the story?
PDS: Most of the time, I describe what characters are feeling in the panel descriptions. Maybe give a suggested expression: smirk, smile, grimace, what-have-you. But the artists are really the ones who make it work. Rob is exactly what you say: a master at facial acting. Though, to be fair, Rob had much more time to devote to the new edition and was, for the most part, inking his own work. Michael produced his issues on a monthly schedule (even though the book never came out monthly) and was working with inkers chosen by the publisher.
I know that Thom Zahler (now renowned for his Love & Capes, Warning Label, & work on My Little Pony) had to ink the second issue on a ridiculously tight deadline. I imagine something similar might have happened with the first issue. As such, I think some of the subtleties of Michael’s pencils might have been lost in process through no fault of the inkers.
AWW: Is there any chance of you revisiting Robyn again in the future?
PDS: Absolutely. The only real hold up is that Rob and I have to sync up our schedules. Oh, and I have to finish a script (as opposed to compiling copious notes, which I’ve been doing for years). Rob’s really busy as the art director and artist for Airship 27 Productions.
AWW: What can you tell us about your latest project The Viking Queen?
PDS: The Viking Queen is an old-school sword & sorcery tale set in a mythic version of 10th century Norway. It’s got monsters, magic, and mayhem, plus a little bit of Lovecraft thrown in. Because it’s not really sword & Sorcery without a dash of eldritch horror. Elgven is the Queen of a small kingdom in the far north. She won it by force of arms. She stands over 6 feet tall and has a shock of blue hair. Rumor has it she’s the daughter of a Frost Giant.
The story itself deals with an evil sorceress whose berserker horde is sweeping north through Norveg and heading straight for Elgven’s kingdom of Svellvollir. It’s up to Elgven and a hand-picked band of warriors to stop them.
AWW: What's next on the horizon for you?
PDS: Next on the horizon is more Viking Queen. The second issue is getting the final touches to solicit in Previews at the end of the year. I’m also working on a light-hearted retro sci-fi project with Denver Brubaker and developing an Action Horror Romantic Thriller. I’ve also got several superhero ideas I’d like to do, but I’m not sure where to take them, other than self-publishing via crowdfunding.
And thanks again.
AWW: Thank you, Paul.
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.
Click here for an interview with Paul Storrie.
Buy Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest on Amazon.com
Buy Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest on Amazon.co.uk
Buy Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest on Amazon.ca
ROBIN HOOD 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.
Buy Robin Hood by Paul D. Storrie on Amazon.com
Buy Robin Hood by Paul Storrie on Amazon.co.uk
Buy Robin Hood by Paul Storrie on Amazon.ca