GeekMom Exclusive Interview: Robyn Hood Writer, Pat Shand

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Robyn Hood  Image: Copyright Zenescope
Robyn Hood Image: Copyright Zenescope

Last year, I picked up my first 17+ rated comic book by accident. After the first issue, I was uncomfortable with some of the things I saw and was unsure if I should continue reading it. I decided to give the series the benefit of the doubt and I picked up issue #2, determined that if the same things that upset me in issue #1 reappeared, I would drop it from my reading list. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the character and get excited every time she succeed as a hero and eventually get her justice on those who wronged her.

I’m happy to say that I not only fell in love with the series, but I’m dying for more of Robyn Hood’s spirit and attitude. To top it off, I was given a chance to have an exclusive interview with Pat Shand, then man behind Robyn Hood’s voice. This is by far the deepest interview I’ve done and it was a pleasure learning more about the comic book world from him.

GeekMom: In terms of what Robyn Hood experienced as an adult (the attack from Cal in issue #1), were there any other scenarios that you looked at before deciding on the final scene?
Pat Shand: Absolutely, yes. Without copping out, the assault was in the original rough outline that Raven Gregory, my editor, gave me. He and I broke it apart piece by piece and restructured the whole thing so I could really use this to build Robyn’s world the way I wanted to, and the first thing I said I wanted to get rid of was the assault.

I was picturing a sort of swash-buckling, quipping Robyn Hood and the assault felt a bit incongruous to that. Raven, though, he listened to what I had to say but then mapped out the idea behind why it was included. The two of us just made sure that it wasn’t there for shock value, but instead it was used in effort to not shy away from the fact that people like Cal exist and are far more evil than the run of the mill “Mwahahaha, I shall rule the world” villains.

It was a complicated idea and I totally understand those who were put off by the inclusion, but I don’t think it in any way defines Robyn as a character or Robyn Hood as a book.

GM: When planning out a character and what they will go through, do you decide in the beginning how they will get their justice at the end of the story or do you let the story take you where it wants to take you as you write it?
PS: I wrote the first issue while Raven and I were still restructuring the outline, and I just wasn’t seeing space for the revenge story. I already knew we had to jump ahead a year between #2 and #3 for Robyn to make sense as the hero of Bree, so I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to tell my Bree story and then get her back to Earth for her revenge.

I assumed the Earth revenge story would be the entire second series, if we got to do one. But then I was told that I could go up to forty pages in #5 instead of twenty-two, which was a huge load off. After I knew that, I plotted the rest of the series and was able to let Robyn gradually build toward what I wanted her to do on Earth rather than rush her up to it.

GM: What is it about Robyn Hood that made her the coolest thing you’ve done in your career so far?
PS: Her strength. Even in the face of all of the terrible things that happen to her, she never compromises her own integrity as a person. There is a scene in #5 when she commands one of the (many) villains to crawl away from her after she’s beaten him – and he does. The idea behind that is that he was the exact inverse of Robyn. She was in situations worse than that, and she never did that. It’s not who she is.

That, and her voice. I love her voice. It really just writes itself.

GM: Is there anything in your personal life that affected the story you told in the series?
PS: Very much. I can’t really take a gig if I can’t get invested in the story, and for me, that means tapping into a part of myself. Whether it be my views on the world, making a statement, or putting my experiences right into the book, I think that is important for any story.

Robyn Hood vs Red Riding Hood  Image: Copyright Zenescope
Robyn Hood vs Red Riding Hood. Image: Copyright Zenescope

GM: I heard that Robyn Hood will be crossing over into Red Riding Hood’s territory. Will we get to see her have her own standalone series, or will she just be a really cool guest character for other stories?
PS: Both Robyn and Red will shine together and separately. In March, as you said, Robyn is going to appear in Robyn Hood VS. Red Riding Hood. The next month, I’ve got a one-shot comic called Realm Knights, which takes some of the most interested characters from the Grimm Fairy Tales line and puts them together into a team of superheroes. Robyn and Red are both on the team along with Sela and Shang from Grimm Fairy Tales, Heather Angelos from Godstorm, and Hook from Neverland.

But neither Robyn or Red’s individual stories are done. As you saw in the last page of Robyn, the story I’m telling isn’t just that first five issue miniseries. I’m going for the big picture.

GM: Is there anything about the character that makes her unique compared to other characters you have written?
PS: Absolutely. Her experiences are the very opposite of most of the characters in Grimm Fairy Tales. It does still come back to what I said before, though, about finding yourself in the characters. Two of the characters I love writing the most are Zeus from Godstorm and Robyn – both of them are very much me, but seen through two very different lenses. Zeus is the embodiment of regret and sorrow and anger and hope.

This is a bit personal, but I have never wanted children – when writing Zeus, I put myself in the shoes of an ancient god who has made all of these mistakes and fathered all of these demi-gods. In the fallout of that, he has to grapple with the fact that he is a man who never wanted children, never should have had children, and has rejected his sons and daughters. Centuries later, he sees what he has done to their lives and regrets all of this immensely, so begins trying to piece their lives back together.

Completely on the other side of the spectrum, Robyn is this character who is full of self-worth and yet still refuses to pity herself even after she’s gone through hell. She, like Zeus, is about making things right, but she’s got an unhealthy distaste for people as a whole. She sees that people, when put together into large groups, lose their individuality – and she uses that in Bree, and then punishes it on Earth. She’s always questioning whether she’s in the right, and she’s very much still trying to find herself.

So the TL;DR of it all is that Robyn is unique from the others, yes, but each of the other characters I’ve written are also unique in both great and terrible ways.

GM: As a reader, some of the scenes were emotionally hard to take in. As the writer, how difficult were some of the scenes and the miniseries as a whole to write?
PS: It was both very easy and very difficult. Robyn’s voice is very close to my own, because I often just have this internal monologue of sarcastic quips that I try to filter and keep to myself. Robyn, though, she has no filter, which I love about her. That was the easy stuff.

The hard parts were the big tragic beats of the story; I got emotional more than once while writing the series, especially in #5. There is a quick character death early in the series that I almost asked my editor to take out, but I ended up keeping it in because it made both me and my artist regret doing it – and that’s the kind of loss that matters.

There is also a page after Robyn’s revenge on Earth that was just the easiest thing to write, because there was almost no movement in the scene and only two lines of voice-over  but it was crippling for me after I’d written it because I’d come to care so much for the character that, in a way, her pain is mine and mine is hers.

Robyn Hood Issue #1. Image: Copyright Zenescope

GM: Is there another character in the Zenescope universe (or other universe) you think it would cool to see Robyn Hood interact with? Personally, I’d love to see how she would fair up against Hawkeye or Green Arrow.
PS: In the Zenescope universe, sure. I’d wondered how she’d interact with Sela, and I got a bit of that in Realm Knights. I mostly want to see her interact with The Being (the villain from my upcoming Unleashed event which Robyn isn’t in) and maybe Van Helsing. Oh, and Hades. Hades also has no filter, but he’s a lot darker than Robyn, and his acid wit is what cloaks his pain. He and Robyn has a lot in common, so they’d probably loathe each other.

Outside of Zenescope, though… I think I’d like to see Hawkeye, as you said, but maybe also Batman and Thor. Separately, of course, there are only so many Universes that can exist at one time without the whole of existence imploding. I’d also like to write a crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote a short comic for the Angel series, and I’ve been hungry for more of that world ever since.

GM: When you are given a story / book to write, who decides what the rating will be or is that something that is given after the book is written?
PS: Is there a rating on Robyn Hood? I really had no idea there was, so that is way over my head and completely out of my hands. I just write the characters and try to be true to the situation, to the point where, when writing some of the gangster scenes in Godstorm, I got an e-mail from Ralph Tedesco (editor in chief) that was just like, “Shand, we can’t say ‘f—‘ in our books. Even Godstorm.”

That made me go back and look at the book and realize that there were a lot of curses – I didn’t even realize, because I like to just lose myself in the scene. I know some of the uber-violence, especially in #5, can be limiting to the audience, but I am of the Tarantino school of thinking. The violence here isn’t objectifying – it’s cathartic and it’s earned. I remember reading someone say that #5 has Eli Roth levels of brutality, and of course everyone’s opinion is valid, but I don’t think the series is at all like that.

I can’t watch films like Hostel and Saw for that very reason (though obviously no disrespect to those films, they have a big and loyal audience). I was just very careful to make sure all of the violence came from character as opposed to letting the violence dictate the plot. I know that’s a roundabout way to pseudo-answering your question, but hey.

GM: I’ve talked with victims of sexual abuse, so reading some of the material hit really hard with me. When deciding what Robyn would experience before and after, how much care went into the situation to make sure it was handled right?
PS: Immense care. I don’t have final say over the art, whether it be covers or interiors, but I took big measures to make sure that Robyn’s journey, especially Cal’s assault, was handled without being exploitative.

While the moment in question does lead to the cathartic violence at the end, I wanted to be absolutely sure while writing that we weren’t going to spend much page time on showing her abuse. I made sure that we showed the bare minimum to let the reader see into what was happening, while letting the real page time go to Robyn’s brutal revenge scheme.

I am very okay with elongated scenes of violence that is earned from plot and character, but I am not okay with needlessly long scenes of abuse or violence toward women that a lot of films and some comics show. I don’t read those books or watch those films and I would not want this to fall into that group. I strived to be tasteful and respectful toward the character I love, to the point where a lot of readers were unsure of the truth of what had really transpired when Cal beat her.

It’s revealed later, in a scene where we really establish through dialogue how much of an evil guy Cal is, but I would never show something like that in one of my works. I’d much rather show Robyn kicking ass and being awesome.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Pat Shand for taking some time out to answer my questions and give us all some insight into the comic book world!

Robyn Hood is a five-part mini-series that ended last week. You can check out the full mini-series available on Comixology and at your local comic book. Stay tuned for more news about Robyn Hood as she makes her mark in Robyn Hood vs. Red Riding Hood and Realm Knights 

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