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TRCH July

David Hazan Reveals Inspiration Behind New 'Nottingham' Graphic Novel Series

16 July 21 interview: George White
illustrations: Shane Connery Volk

Mad Cave Studios’ new comic book series Nottingham sees the Castle’s most famous resident, the Sheriff of Nottingham, take on the role of detective as he tries to figure out who is hunting the county’s cold-hearted tax collectors. We speak to David Hazan, writer and creator of the books, about his decision to take the age-old story of Robin Hood in a brave, unconventional direction.

Over the years, the world has been exposed to more stories about Robin Hood than Derby County have had off-field scandals, making it difficult to find unique and interesting takes on the character for new audiences. Yet David Hazan, writer and creator of brand new comic book Nottingham, came up with a striking solution to the problem - focus your Robin Hood story on, well, not Robin Hood. 

Across a fascinating five issues, this series instead follows ol' Sheriff of Nottingham - yes, the wicked villain in so many of our hooded hero’s adventures - as he becomes something closer to the Sherlock of Nottingham, tracking down the Merry Men and their lauded leader in what has been described as a ‘True Detective-style’ medieval noir. Having the traditional bad guy as the star of the show is certainly a bold move, but one Hazan says made sense for adding some originality to a well-trodden tale. 

“This was a way to depart from what everyone’s seen before,” the Sydney-based wordsmith explains. “I knew I wanted to do a noir from the beginning and this led to a snowballing thought process where I ended up with the idea of, ‘What if we do a Robin Hood story where the Sheriff is a cop that hunts down the Merry Men, who are seen as sort of terrorists stalking Nottingham’s tax collectors?’ 

“The Sheriff is really made for the role of a morally ambiguous detective. He’s a person who has to serve the interests of the upper echelons of society and keep an eye on the lower classes at the same time, which can lead to some really challenging dilemmas for the character.” 

So often in the past, audiences have seen the Merry Men depicted as dedicated defenders of the downtrodden, with Hood and his gang painted as virtuous, honourable chaps scrapping against tyranny and injustice. Hazan, however, turns the notion on its head, questioning their motives and making their ambitions less clear. This alternative angle on the characters comes from a source of scepticism, the writer admits. 

 

The messages from Robin Hood transcend different countries and languages

“That was mostly a function of my cynicism towards the original story. I looked into the history of who Robin Hood was in the tales and he is often noted as a member of the nobility who was leading a peasant rebellion. My brain couldn’t get around that idea,” Hazan says. 

“My take was that he had a clear ulterior motive, pushing the rebellion because it served his own ends of getting people to support his friend, Richard the Lionheart, against Prince John. I wanted a more nuanced approach to examining what Hood did, interrogating whether the idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor was more of a publicity stunt in a war of propaganda between two sides.” 

Despite his cynicism, though, Hazan’s desire to write these books also came from a genuine love of the characters, and the impact this long-lasting legend has had on communities around the globe. “The messages from Robin Hood transcend different countries and languages,” he says. “He’s popular everywhere because there is a powerful and attractive message about fighting for those in need. That’s what makes him so beloved by so many.” 

Across the series, Hazan’s story is told through immaculate imagery and stunning illustrations, with artist Shane Connery Volk bringing a “very nineties grunge style” to the books. While this wasn’t always how the creator envisioned the comic, he admits the final product is a gorgeously engaging work of art. 

“Shane took the story in a direction I wasn’t prepared for, but when I saw what he was doing, I thought, ‘This is it. This is how we’re doing it.’ I adore the way that each character’s physique matches their inner turmoil. It’s very Shakespearean in that way.”  

Among the detailed character designs and startling sketches, there is plenty of glorious, gruesome action on display. In issue one alone there are enemies littered with arrows, high-octane chase scenes and blood splatters aplenty. Don’t be fooled by the vibrant visuals - this ain’t no Disney flick. 

An honest retelling of a story from that time necessitates that we show a little blood and a little brutality

“Violence was a way to get things done back in the twelfth century; often the primary way to get things done,” Hazan says. “An honest retelling of a story from that time necessitates that we show a little blood and a little brutality. 

“But the violence is always infused with the storytelling. Each burst of action helps to move the story along. In comics you don’t always need to fill a page with words, you can let the art speak for itself. Sometimes you can learn way more when people hack away at each other than when they’re sitting around talking.” 

Since the first issue was released, the feedback Nottingham has received has been almost overwhelming. Every day Hazan’s Twitter account is flooded with enthusiastic readers who have been soaking up every panel of this unpredictable adventure - and in the real Nottingham, the book is prominently placed on shelves in Forbidden Planet and Page 45. 

The writer says he’s been “delighted” with the response he’s had and that he can’t wait to finally visit our great city when he gets the chance, after COVID brought a halt to his plans of joining us this year. “I was hoping to do Nottingham Comic Con but obviously the pandemic put a stop to everything,” he explains. “But it’s definitely my aim to come as soon as I can.” 

Will he have new releases in the Nottingham universe to promote when he does? Hazan stops short of committing to anything concrete, but says with a smile, “I have enough ideas for years of stories, so I’d love to continue doing it. I guess it all depends on how many more people pick up a copy!” 

More information on the Nottingham comics can be found on the Mad Cave Studios website

madcavestudios.com/nottingham

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