How's this for a pitch? Shane Berryhill, the writer behind "Sherwood, TX," describes his biker epic as Robin Hood through a Quentin Tarantino lens. If there's one way to sell a re-telling of a classic, Berryhill has certainly found it. "Sherwood, TX" replaces merriment with grit, and outlaws with bikers. It is dark, imaginative, chock-full of fast-paced action. And with colorful characters named Rob Hood, L.J. and Padre Tuck, it's impossible not be drawn to such a magnetic retelling of a familiar story.
With the first issue debuting today, featuring a special cover price of $1.00, "Sherwood, TX" is the blood-soaked spaghetti from 12-Gauge Comics you probably didn't even realize you were waiting for. The 5-issue miniseries drawn by Daniel Hillyard features noir sensibilities, biting dialogue and plenty of badass, mean-machine characters. The story follows biker Rob Hood and his not-so-merry band of men as he seeks justice against the crooked sheriff of Nottingham, Texas. With a concept as wild and imaginative as this, we had to know more. CBR News spoke with Berryhill, along with cover artist /character designer Andrew Robinson about everything that went into this modern re-invention of a folklore legend.
CBR News: Shane, tell us about "Sherwood, TX." What do you have in store for readers?
Shane Berryhill: "Sherwood, TX" is Robin Hood rebooted as a Quentin Tarantino-style biker epic. It's a 12-Gauge Comics title, so you can expect action, intrigue, betrayal and great character moments. There will also be lots of beer, bows, and bullets (and motorcycle jousting!).
Nice! What type of research did you do to nail the right atmosphere and characters for "Sherwood, TX"?
Berryhill: Quite a bit, actually -- though I probably threw out as much as I kept. I think it was Joe Hill's famous pop [Stephen King] who said, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." Anyway, the most valuable research I did wasn't really research at all, but a novel I read a few years ago for pleasure before "Sherwood" was even a glimmer in my eye: "Under and Alone." It's the nonfiction account of William Queen, an undercover cop who infiltrated the Mongols MC. Beyond that, I did a lot of research online regarding Texas border towns and their colonias, the human-trafficking epidemic, drug cartels, etc. And, of course, I reacquainted myself with Robin Hood lore. Any Robin Hood scholars out there should pick up on several Easter Eggs we've planted for future story arcs. Lastly, I wanted "Sherwood, TX" to play like a modern-day spaghetti western, so I revisited a lot of films by Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. Never let it be said I don't suffer for my art (that's me being sarcastic, by the way). But, in truth, it's the team of Andrew, Daniel Hillyard, [colorist] Charlie Kirchoff, [cover artist] Eben Matthews, and [letterer] Ed Dukeshire who've breathed life into this comic and created its roughneck, neo-noir look and feel.
What's the fascination with biker gangs?
Berryhill: When transforming the legend of Robin Hood into an American tale (told through the medium of comics), I asked myself, "What is the American equivalent of Robin Hood's romantic, medieval band of outlaws?" The answer was, "cowboys." But the story gnawing at my brain wanted to be a contemporary one. So, again, I asked myself, "What's the modern equivalent of cowboys?" The answer was readily apparent: bikers. I realized instantly how well motorcycle club culture -- with its outlaw mentality and various warring factions, symbols, logos, etc. -- lent itself not only to the conventions of the classic tale of Robin Hood, but also to mainstream comic books in general. Ergo, the "patch" on a biker's back might as well be a superhero/villain emblem that identifies them as either an outside-the-law X-man or an outright member of the Legion of Doom. All that to say, bikers are our modern day antiheroes. They do what so many of us wish we could: work hard and play harder, living free just outside the confines of civilized society. It's the basis of American culture -- especially Southern culture. Our natural instinct to buck authority is both our greatest weakness and our greatest strength.
Andrew, how did you get involved in the story?
Andrew Robinson: I think we spoke about this project last year at Heroes Con. Basically Keven [Gardner, 12-Gauge's publisher] just asked me if I'd be interested in designing characters and illustrating covers for a new book about a modern day, Robin Hood inspired story with bikers. I liked the challenge of starting from scratch and visually revamping these classic characters.
Let's talk more about the character designs. Can you walk us through that process?
Robinson: We began by discussing the physical attributes of the main characters. Next I read over Shane's notes and script. We did some research for biker vests, club logos and actors and actual bikers to get a feel for how our characters should look and act. After soaking in all this visual inspiration, I began sketching on typing paper with a red sketching pencil. Once I got the right shapes, attitudes, attire and facial features, I refined my red pencil sketch with an HB lead. Next I did some shading with Copic sketch makers and lastly laid in some black ink. The last step is scanning and adding some Photoshop colors. Then, BAM! I send 'em to Keven and hope it's what he's looking for. He asked for a few alterations, but basically we were on the same page.
That's a hell of a process. What's your studio look like?
Robinson: It's a decent-sized room in an artist's building a few blocks from my home. Wooden floors, one wall of exposed brick and a beautiful view of the mountains. I have an Italian drafting table which was given to me by a friend. Love that table. I've got a few bookshelves with art books, design books and some of my favorite comics. There's an acoustic guitar on a stand by the wall. Playing it badly helps me relax when I'm frustrated with a drawing. Sometimes my studio is clean, usually right before I begin a project. Then the creative hurricane hits and books, art supplies and papers end up everywhere. And I usually clean up again when I know someone, a client or a friend, is coming over to visit.
Shane, how did this comic end up at 12-Gauge?
Berryhill: I'd been trying to get into comics for years (my prose novels being my resume), devoting a lot of time and money into networking with little-to-no return. HeroesCon 2013 (an awesome Con for diehard comic book fans) was coming up, so I made a deal with myself: either I land a true hit in the field of comics, or I focus entirely on writing prose. The pressure was on, and I had to produce. So I gave myself the best chance to do so, researching the publishers and editors who would be at HeroesCon. I saw that 12-Gauge was a guest and was familiar with their good work. So I arrived at HeroesCon and did exactly what the pros tell you not to do: I went up to 12-Gauge Publisher Keven Gardner (and writer/editor Doug Wagner) without having exchanged the first e-mail or phone call and started talking. Quite early on in the conversation, I pitched "Sherwood, TX." Keven, being the awesome gentleman and visionary that he is, was kind enough to listen. Our phone calls and e-mails continued after HeroesCon, and "Sherwood, TX" became a reality.
Have either of you been to Sherwood? If not, what's your favorite Texas stereotype?
Berryhill: I had no idea there was an actual Sherwood, Texas until I started googling the title to see what, if any, press there was for the comic in regard to its then imminent Free Comic Book Day release. You can imagine my surprise when an actual town popped up. I mean, I'd never considered the possibility. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. But, from I what I read online, the real-world Sherwood is a Middle Texas ghost town of a few dozen people. In a perfect world, I'd love to see the comic take off and the good people of the town start a so-themed festival like the one in Metropolis, Illinois -- maybe a biker rally in this instance -- something that would help the town financially. As far as Texas stereotypes, well, I've been lucky enough to trade a few e-mails with East Texas author Joe Lansdale ("Bubba Ho-Tep," "Jonah Hex" "Son of Batman"). Based on our exchanges, he strikes me as a rough-n-tumble, no nonsense fellow with a heart of gold. In other words, a true Southerner and Texan. In all humility, I like to think there's a little of "Papa" Lansdale's influence in "Sherwood, TX."
Robinson: If I have been to Sherwood I was just driving through it. Well considering Texas could be self-sustaining... ahem... is this mic on? "Don't mess with Texas."
The $1.00 "Sherwood, TX" #1 is on sale now from 12-Gauge Comics.