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,Â tell us about “Sherwood, TX.” What do you have in store for readers?â€¨
Shane Berryhill: “Sherwood, TX” is Robin Hood rebooted as a Quentin Tarantino-style biker epic. It’s aÂ 12-Gauge Comics title, so you can expect action, intrigue, betrayal and greatÂ character moments. There will also be lots of beer, bows, and bulletsÂ (andÂ motorcycle jousting!).
Nice! What type of research did you do to nail the right atmosphere and characters forÂ “Sherwood, TX”?â€¨
Berryhill: Quite a bit,Â actually — though I probably threw out as much as I kept. I think it was JoeÂ Hill’s famous pop [Stephen King] who said, “Never let the facts get in the way of a goodÂ story.” Anyway, the most valuable research I did wasn’t really research atÂ all,Â but a novel I read a few years ago for pleasure before “Sherwood” was even aÂ glimmer in my eye: “Under and Alone.” It’s the nonfiction account of WilliamÂ Queen, an undercover cop who infiltrated the Mongols MC. Beyond that, IÂ did aÂ lot of research online regarding Texas border towns and their colonias, theÂ human-trafficking epidemic, drug cartels, etc. And, of course, I reacquaintedÂ myself with Robin Hood lore. Any Robin Hood scholars out there should pick upÂ onÂ 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 filmsÂ by Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. Never let it be said I don’t suffer forÂ myÂ art (that’s me being sarcastic, by the way). But, in truth, it’s the team ofÂ Andrew, Daniel Hillyard, [colorist] Charlie Kirchoff, [cover artist] Eben Matthews, and [letterer] Ed DukeshireÂ who’ve breathed life into this comic and created its roughneck, neo-noir lookÂ andÂ feel.
What’s the fascination with biker gangs?â€¨
Berryhill: WhenÂ transforming the legend of Robin Hood into an American tale (told through theÂ medium of comics), I asked myself, “What is the American equivalent of RobinÂ Hood’s romantic, medieval band of outlaws?” The answer was,Â “cowboys.” But theÂ story gnawing at my brain wanted to be a contemporary one. So, again, I askedÂ myself, “What’s the modern equivalent of cowboys?” The answer was readilyÂ apparent: bikers. I realized instantly how wellÂ motorcycle club culture — withÂ its outlaw mentality and various warring factions, symbols, logos, etc. — lentÂ itself not only to the conventions of the classic tale of Robin Hood, but alsoÂ to mainstream comic books in general. Ergo, theÂ “patch” on a biker’s back mightÂ as well be a superhero/villain emblem that identifies them as either anÂ outside-the-law X-man or an outright member of the Legion of Doom. All that to say,Â bikers are our modern day antiheroes. TheyÂ do what so many of us wish we could:Â work hard and play harder, living free just outside the confines of civilizedÂ society. It’s the basis of American culture — especially Southern culture. OurÂ natural instinct to buck authority is both ourÂ greatest weakness and ourÂ greatest strength.
Andrew,Â how did you get involved in the story?
AndrewÂ Robinson: I think weÂ spoke about this project last year at Heroes Con. Basically Keven [Gardner, 12-Gauge’s publisher] just asked meÂ if I’d be interested in designing characters and illustrating covers for a newÂ book about a modern day, Robin Hood inspired story with bikers. IÂ liked theÂ challenge of starting from scratch and visually revamping these classicÂ characters.
Let’s talk more about the character designs. Can you walk us throughÂ that process?
Robinson: We began byÂ discussing the physical attributes of the main characters. Next I read overÂ Shane’s notes and script. We did some research for biker vests, club logos andÂ actors and actual bikers to get a feel for how our characters shouldÂ look andÂ act. After soaking in all this visual inspiration, I began sketching on typingÂ paper with a red sketching pencil. Once I got the right shapes, attitudes,Â attire and facial features, I refined my red pencil sketch with an HB lead.Â NextÂ I did some shading with Copic sketch makers and lastly laid in some blackÂ ink. The last step is scanning and adding some Photoshop colors. Then, BAM! IÂ send ’em to Keven and hope it’s what he’s looking for. He asked for a fewÂ alterations, but basically we were on the same page.
That’s a hell of a process. What’s your studio look like?â€¨Â
Robinson: It’s aÂ decent-sized room in an artist’s building a few blocks from my home. WoodenÂ floors, one wall of exposed brick and a beautiful view of the mountains. I haveÂ an Italian drafting table which was given to me by a friend. Love thatÂ table.Â I’ve got a few bookshelves with art books, design books and some of myÂ favorite comics. There’s an acoustic guitar on a stand by the wall. Playing itÂ badly helps me relax when I’m frustrated with a drawing. Sometimes myÂ studio isÂ clean, usually right before I begin a project. Then the creative hurricane hitsÂ and books, art supplies and papers end up everywhere. And I usually clean upÂ again when I know someone, a client or a friend, is coming over toÂ visit.â€¨â€¨
Shane, howÂ did this comic end up at 12-Gauge?
Berryhill: I’d beenÂ trying to get into comics for years (my prose novels being my resume), devotingÂ a lot of time and money into networking with little-to-no return. HeroesConÂ 2013 (an awesome Con for diehard comic book fans) was comingÂ up, so I made aÂ deal with myself: either I land a true hit in the field of comics, or I focusÂ entirely on writing prose.Â The pressure was on, and I had to produce.Â So I gave myself the best chance to do so, researching the publishers andÂ editors who would be at HeroesCon. I saw that 12-Gauge was a guest and wasÂ familiar with their good work. So I arrived at HeroesCon and did exactly whatÂ the pros tell you not to do: I went up to 12-Gauge Publisher Keven GardnerÂ (and writer/editor Doug Wagner) without having exchanged the first e-mail orÂ phone call and started talking. Quite early on in the conversation, I pitchedÂ “Sherwood, TX.” Keven, being the awesome gentleman and visionary that he is,Â wasÂ kind enough to listen. Our phone calls and e-mails continued after HeroesCon,Â and “Sherwood, TX” became a reality.
Have either of you been to Sherwood? If not, what’s your favorite TexasÂ stereotype?â€¨
Berryhill: I had noÂ idea there was an actual Sherwood, Texas until I started googling the title toÂ see what, if any, press there was for the comic in regard to its then imminentÂ Free Comic Book Day release. You can imagine my surprise when anÂ actual townÂ popped up. I mean, I’d never considered the possibility. Truth is indeedÂ stranger than fiction. But, from I what I read online, the real-world SherwoodÂ is a Middle Texas ghost town of a few dozen people. In a perfect world,Â I’dÂ love to see the comic take off and the good people of the town start aÂ so-themed festival like the one in Metropolis, Illinois — maybe a biker rally inÂ this instance — something that would help the town financially. As far as TexasÂ stereotypes, well, I’ve been lucky enough to trade a few e-mails with East TexasÂ author Joe Lansdale (“Bubba Ho-Tep,” “Jonah Hex” “Son of Batman”). Based on ourÂ exchanges, he strikes me as a rough-n-tumble, no nonsense fellowÂ with a heartÂ of gold. In other words, a true Southerner and Texan. In all humility, I likeÂ to think there’s a little of “Papa” Lansdale’s influence in “Sherwood, TX.”
Robinson: If I haveÂ been to Sherwood I was just driving through it. Well considering Texas could beÂ 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.