❉ Writer Richard Dinnick on his ren-punk comic series, making its debut on the Webtoon digital platform.
“People will, hopefully, recognise all the regular players in the Robin Hood myths, but they might not be who – or what – they’re used to. They’ve got different origin stories and characteristics, different genders and races. But all the merry “men” are there!” – ‘ROB’ creator Richard Dinnick.
Legendary Comics and WEBTOON, the world’s largest digital comic platform, launched today the original comic series ROB. The re-interpretation of the Robin Hood mythos created for a new generation comes from acclaimed British screenwriter and novelist Richard Dinnick, best known for his work in the revered Doctor Who franchise. Rob is a new and original adventure taking our hero and his band of friends away from the familiar territory of Sherwood and out into a brand new, old world. This thrilling tale is brought to life with art by Magda Price and Miguel Sepulveda, colorist Enrica Eren Angiolini, letterer and designer Tyler Smith, and is accompanied by an original score from composer Andrew M. Edwards. The first three chapters are now available, with additional chapters debuting every Wednesday. Readers can download the official WEBTOON app by visiting the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Rob is set in a “ren-punk” world far in the future where the Earth’s resources have been plundered. Bows and arrows collide with scavenged modern technology. In a desperate bid to protect his home country of Albion from the devious French Gauls and their invasion plans, Rob, his mentor Sir Dido and her niece, the trainee druid Blondel, embark on a perilous sabotage mission across the English Channel. When this goes horribly wrong and Sir Dido is injured, Rob is forced to take matters into his own hands and risk everything on a quest across his broken and bizarre world to seek a fabled weapon that may not even exist. Rob is joined by friends that those familiar with Robin Hood’s origins in medieval “gestes” will recognize and has deadly and mysterious enemies at his heels. Rob is an exciting roller-coaster adventure into a world strange yet familiar, visually stunning and creatively astonishing.
“I am delighted that Rob found such a wonderful home at Legendary Comics,” said Dinnick. “It has been a constant joy to work with Robert at Legendary and David at WEBTOON to bring together such a talented group of collaborators. Creating comics is by no means solely about the writer, and I have been blessed by such an excellent editorial team of Nikita and Jann, as well as the amazingly skilled and visionary artists, colorist and letterer: Magda, Eren, Miguel and Tyler. All have made Rob a truly incredible and positive experience, and I cannot wait to unleash the exciting and unique ‘Ren-Punk’ world that we have created on an unsuspecting public! If the passion and hard work poured into the project are anything to go by, I believe it’s going to be a huge hit and readers will want to say they were there when it first took off!”
“Legendary has a great working history with Richard from our Lost in Space graphic novel series, and we jumped at the chance to work together again on one of his own original creations,” said Robert Napton, Senior Vice President of Legendary Comics. “Rob is a fun adventure that layers the tale and existence of Robin Hood in a really cool way. With some royal conflicts and dangerous missions to keep you on your toes, the story takes you on a journey far different from the legend that we all know, and we are excited to bring this comic series to such a large audience on WEBTOON.”
“We are happy to continue our partnership with Legendary, one of the publishers that we have worked with longest,” said David Lee, Head of Content at WEBTOON. “We are particularly excited with Rob, as it really embraces the vertical-scrolling format while keeping the heart of traditional comics.”
Richard Dinnick is no stranger to readers of We Are Cult (Read more here in our Q&A with Richard from 2017). Here, Richard explains in his own words everything from ROB‘s conception, evolution and influences, and taking a more inclusive approach to Ren-Punk world-building, to the contributions of the art team who helped bring ROB to life and collaborating with Legendary Comics and WEBTOON on the project…
Richard on… Getting started:
“I love the research part of any project. It’s always fun to find out new stuff, right? I wouldn’t say I was a “history buff” but I am into military history and had always been drawn to the dark side of the Crusades and I had grown up watching Erol Flynn as Robin Hood – still one of my favourite movies – And, of course (!) the seminal TV show, Robin of Sherwood. So, the mixture was not something I found arduous.
“When I started working on this project – before I pitched it to Robert at Legendary – I was thinking that it would be a very straight historical piece. I read a huge book about King Henry II by W.L. Warren and found it fascinating! There was all this internecine rivalry between him and his four sons – including traditional Robin Hood stalwarts, Richard the Lionheart and “evil” Prince John – and their mother.
“It was a very cool backdrop and I learned a lot about my own country’s history that I hadn’t known before. But all that went out the window as we developed the idea, but many of the underlying facets of life in those times remain because the world we have here in ROB has reverted to feudalism.”
Richard on… The process:
“We went through several iterations of ROB. We initially looked at the “pure” historical and there is even a “pilot” script for the first issue of that. But Robert and the Legendary team are great at eking the best out of a writer and they challenged me to make it that bit different. We discussed mobile phones, but ultimately settled on radios. That one change had a huge knock on effect, like a tiny pebble thrown in a pond sending out waves that reverberate back and forth. I like everything to make sense. So, I had to rationalise why they would have radios. And the idea that came to me was that the Library at Alexandria was never destroyed and thus the Dark Ages never took place and humanity continued to develop.
“So far so good.
“The work began on this version of the story and we got a fair way into that before we decided it still wasn’t quite right, there was something missing. It was Nikita [who put her finger on it. The whole thing was – because of its historical setting – a bit “whitewashed”. We had a couple of characters who were people of colour, but it didn’t feel truly representative. This was before Black Panther came out and the likes of Bridgeton on Netflix cast black people in roles not normally associated with costume drama. So, kudos to Nikita! She was very prescient and very right that we should be inclusive.
“As soon as we said that, I immediately realised the sky was the limit and we could have anyone be anything. So, the first thing I did was to make the British Royal Family people of colour. The king was still called ‘Henry’, but in my head he was going to be played by Idris Elba!
“But, again, I wanted a world where everything made sense. I wrote a long document that outlined how and why things were like the way they are in this newest, best iteration of ROB. It outlined how our story world was now in the very far future and the Earth’s resources have been entirely plundered. Nothing left in the ground to mine or dig up, nothing under the Ocean. And because we were so far in the future, I figured those that could afford to, would just leave on advanced starships heading for other planets light years away. This left the poor, the uneducated, the dispossessed who had to build a new would from scratch without any of the resources that their privileged forebears had. Hence the return to feudalism but with solar power, radios (known as “Criers”) and even Visi-theatres where the people can go to see the news. And airships? Who doesn’t love an airship? Only, here they are called LiftShips.
“The Ren-Punk world we had before had become an uber-Ren-punk world and I could think bigger and more boldly about everything from our starting point of ethnicity to encompass architecture, travel, political power and it meant we could incorporate some magic!”
Richard on… His creative team:
“Our art team is a fantastic one. All comics are collaborations. With Magda and Miguel they have brought so much to the table. Although I explain specific things that are peculiar to this world along with characters and places in it, I try not to be too prescriptive when I’m being descriptive! It’s really funny that we had a zoom meeting and each one identified with a different character and Magda really brough out the best of what Blondel – our trainee druid – was like and how she would dress. She was the one who came up with the amazing looks and outfits of our lead characters.
“Miguel managed to bring in his own vision for one character who is key to the plot and I had never seen him the way he drew him but the moment I saw it, I loved it.
“And let’s not forget Eren our amazing colourist. She came up with some great ideas and kept me on my toes when it came to continuity. It’s been truly wonderful – a privilege. Really! – to work with such a talented and giving art team. ROB would definitely not be as good as it is without their input.
“I also had amazing support from Legendary and Webtoon. Robert Napton has been a fantastic support and a clear and calm leader during the project’s inception and journey to fruition. I cannot sing his praises highly enough. And David at Webtoon has been a stalwart champion of the project, never wavering and always here with alight hand on the editorial tiller. I’ve also got Nikita to thank for her crucial input and the quite literally legendary/Legendary Jann Jones.
“Finally – and by no means least – because this project will debut on Webtoon’s digital platform we get to have music. I am over the moon to be working with Drew Edwards again. He provided the sound design and amazing incidental music for The Wanderer one of my Doctor Who Companion Chronicles from almost a decade ago! He’s written an awesomely cool theme tune for ROB and each chapter that is uploaded will be accompanied by its own score. The theme will have its debut over a trailer that is coming very soon now!”
Richard on… Why he wrote the story?
“I guess I had three main aims, three ideas I wanted to convey in ROB.
“I wanted to really get under the skin of our lead character, to tell a story that took the outlaw away from his forest setting and see how he fared in the big, bad, wide world; a world that he doesn’t know. He’s running around like a kid in a candy store to begin with. Because that’s often how the character is portrayed in other riffs and retellings: as a somewhat arrogant man-child who is good at everything and pretty much everything goes his way. I wanted a flawed hero, a young and inexperienced one. One who has to grow up and grow into the role he’s suddenly found himself in. Luckily, he’s got patient friend for the most part! I also kinda wanted to go back to the original “gestes” in which he is actually not the best fighter and is often bested by the rest of his band. And he’s a great shot, a great bowman. Now, of course our Rob is a good bowman, but he can miss.
“Secondly, I wanted to take the other characters and situations we know and love from those old legends (and all those retellings) and give them a bit of a twist. People will, hopefully, recognise all the regular players in the Robin Hood myths, but they might not be who – or what – they’re used to. They’ve got different origin stories and characteristics, different genders and races. But all the merry “men” are there! And the checkbox of Robin Hood moments are there, too (the splitting of the arrow, the fight between Robin and Little John with quarterstaffs) but they happen a very different way.
“And finally, I wanted to make sure that the idea of Rob putting his neck on the line to save the “little people” – not just the kings or dukes, or what have you. That idea of taking from the rich to give to the poor is central and I really wanted to accentuate it. It is after all a very revolutionary idea! No other hero does that. Some outlaws take stuff, but they don’t do it for altruistic reasons. Think of all those heist movies. I’m not sure I can think of one where it turns out that the gifted criminals are desperate to share the wealth with the deprived and the homeless. We see Rob giving money away because he knows what it’s like to have none. He knows what it’s like to be deprived, homeless and alone. I think because in most versions he’s a lord, his actions are more that of a rich saviour. Here he’s not a lord. He’s had a tough upbringing and so he has got the best interests of people like him at heart and not just those who would probably be ok because of the wealth and position with our without his help. Sorry! I’ll get off my soapbox now…
“Like Rob, I believe stories can make the world a better place.”
❉ The first three chapters of ROB are published today by Legendary on the Webtoon platform. There will be a new chapter uploaded every week now until the summer and a physical release in 2022. The link to the first three chapters is here: https://www.webtoons.com/en/fantasy/rob/list?title_no=2479
❉ James Gent is the editor of pop culture webzine We Are Cult, and has previously contributed to volumes such such as 1001 TV Shows You Must Watch Before You Die, Blakes Heaven: Maximum Fan Power, You and 42: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams and Scarred For Life Volume Two: Television in the 1980s. He is the co-editor of Me And The Starman (Cult Ink), available to buy from Amazon, RRP £11.99. UK: https://amzn.to/30ZE8KE | US: bit.ly/starmanUSA ISBN: 9798664990546.
❉ News source: Legendary Comics.
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