In a twisted medieval noir retelling of the Robin Hood stories, the Sheriff of Nottingham hunts a serial killer who targets tax collectors in the aptly-titled upcoming series Nottingham. This investigation puts a bullseye on the sheriff's back from some of England's most nefarious power-brokers. a group of individuals known as the 'Merry Men,' who are led by a man known only as 'Hood' - and nothing is going to get in their way of robbing the kingdom's wealthiest people.
Writer David Hazan and artist Shane Volk are the individuals creating Nottingham, as the winners in a talent search organized by the publisher Mad Cave Studios.
With Nottingham #1 (of 5) going on sale March 3, Newsarama caught up with Hazan and Volk about the concept, this novel twisting of a famous bit of folklore, and how they got together in the first place.
Newsarama: David, Shane, there's been countless iterations of Robin Hood over the decades from tv, movies, to comics... but this really isn't about Robin, as the title suggests. What is Nottingham all about?
David Hazan: Well, this is about Nottingham, its many denizens, and our Sheriff, Everard Blackthorne. We follow him as he hunts a serial killer who is targeting the King's tax collectors in Nottinghamshire... but naturally, he finds himself embroiled in much grander, and perhaps even more nefarious designs as Prince John's loyalists clash with the Merry Men, the mysterious terrorists who stalk the trees of Sherwood Forest.
We meet many of the notable players, from Maid Marian (who has plans of her own and will do whatever it takes to achieve her goal), Alan ('A') Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and Sir Guy of Gisborne.
Nottingham, despite its setting, is a noir in its truest sense - everybody is hiding something and nobody can be trusted. Be prepared to be surprised by what you find within these pages.
Nottingham #1 preview
Nrama: How'd this project come together? Have you been friends long?
Hazan: Shane and I were both winners of the Mad Cave Studios 2019 Talent Search. Mad Cave (correctly) figured a noir fit both our talents and set us off on this journey together, but, we've been working on this book since October/November 2019.
Shane Volk: As David said, we were put on the book after winning the Mad Cave talent search. It was really cool to work with someone I'd never met. It put the ideas ahead of everything else, then we (along with the rest of the team), formed a great friendship!
Nrama: Talk us through the designs, because it's such a departure from everything we kind of collectively see when we think Robin Hood.
Hazan: I sent the character descriptions in very loose terms to Shane and the outlines and what he came up with was spot on, and more so, he injected a lot more than I anticipated into each of the characters. I'll let him take the reins on this one but suffice it to say the outward appearance of each character reflects their inner turmoil.
As for the Merry Men mask, all I gave him was an example of a mask from that era, a note that it needed to be 'Merry' (in a creepy way), and a suggestion that it reference a Guy Fawkes mask in some way. He iterated on that and gave it an Errol Flynn twist as well and, well, you've seen the cover. The result is scary and evocative and gets at the heart of the book in a way I could never have imagined when I started writing.
Volk: I'm an avid student of History, so it was important for me that the costume designs had some basis in the time the books are set in. When it came to the characters themselves, I really wanted each character's outward features to reflect their soul (there are a lot of damaged souls in this book!).
My favorite design is the Sheriff. He's large and intimidating, but dour and always stooped over. Weighed down by the hardships of his life. I wanted him to be recognizable even in silhouette, so I gave him the huge fur cape so he looked almost grotesque. He was an absolute blast to draw!
Nrama: How would you describe Robin and Marian's relationship here?
Hazan: I don't want to give too much away here, but what I will say is, I didn't want Marian to be a damsel in distress. I think the difference in our take is almost entirely in the characterization of these characters...and naturally Marian takes the femme fatale role. Her and Robin interact in a way that, I think, gives way to the social and political forces of the time.
It's, for the most part, a relationship of convenience (and don't take that as a capital 'R' relationship because it's most definitely never what you'd expect). They both use each other for their own ends, be they secrets, status or otherwise.
Volk: Yes, Marian and Robin's relationship could best be described as 'complicated.'
Nrama: Will you be playing up that Will is sometimes Robin's brother in the legend?
Hazan: In our story, Will and Robin are definitely not related.
I think the best part of so many iterations of the legend is that you can pick and choose what works for you in the story (and I have done this with the history as well, though I'm sure the timeline works pretty well). Marian's backstory, particularly with her relationship with her father is picked from one version of the legend. I also felt free to mess with some characters entirely, and you'll see that come to the fore around the middle of the series.
Volk: Though Hood and Scarlett aren't brothers by blood, they are brothers in their fraternity and beliefs. Like all extremists, their actions come from a belief that they are actually doing good. As the Rolling Stones put it in 'Sympathy for the Devil,' "Every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints." In other words, good and evil might just come down to your point of view.
Nrama: With Robin Hood being in the public domain along with famous characters like Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and the like, what made you want to do a story about Robin?
Hazan: It all came from me not wanting to write a noir with a conventional setting. As soon as I started thinking about how I could call back to the origins of the noir genre in post-World War II anxiety, the pieces started to fit together. And so the avatar of that specter of war in our story is the Third Crusade. It also helps to shortcut a lot of storytelling and worldbuilding when you have a cast of established characters to play with.
You can leap right into the action, which is great when you only have five issues to tell a story. Once you have that cast, you get to use them to surprise people by subverting their expectations.
Nrama: Who else from Robin's story will we see later on? Are you using somebody who hasn't really been featured in adaptations before?
Hazan: I can't reveal too much... but suffice it to say there'll be some familiar characters appearing as the story unfolds. Familiar in name at least, but their personalities and actions may surprise you.
Nrama: So what's next after Nottingham for the both of you?
Hazan: For me, I have some short-form stuff coming in anthologies coming later on in the year, as well as a Kickstarter once Nottingham's all wrapped up, but the year will be coming to a close by the time the trade is out. You know how it is with comics though, you don't want to say too much until the thing is real.
Volk: I'm doing some more work for Mad Cave as well as some possible other comic book projects. I'm also a full-time musician so I'm putting things together so I'm ready to get back to that as things open up!
Nottingham #1 (of 5) goes on sale March 3 in comic shops and on digital platforms. For the best digital comics experience, check out Newsarama's list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.