They say truth is better than fiction. But who says you can’t have both?
In the upcoming graphic novel The Outlaw Prince from Dark Horse, its swashbuckling story puts fictional characters in the all-too-real world of 13th Century Britain in a time of strife called the Second Baron’s War. Just as the story is based on real events, the comic is based on a story told by legendary writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. With exactly 100 years passed since it’s first publication, writer Rob Hughes and a dynamic artistic pairing of Thomas Yeates and Michael Wm. Kaluta are taking this Burroughs tale and putting it into a new light.
For this unique story, Dark Horse is coming out with two versions of the graphic novel – a limited edition hardcover signed by the creators and a standard softcover. For more, we talked with the book’s writer Rob Hughes.
Newsarama: Rob, what can you tell us about The Outlaw Prince?
Rob Hughes: Well, The Outlaw Prince is a graphic novel which was adapted from the pulp story The Outlaw of Torn, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1911 and originally published as a 5-part serial in New Story Magazine from January to May of 1914. It is a very rich and complex epic medieval saga that unfolds during a period of time that has become known by historians as The Second Barons' War.This tale centers around a most nefarious revenge as Young Prince Richard is ruthlessly abducted right out from under the protective care of his royal family by the French sword-master named Jules de Vac. De Vac takes the young boy into the rugged mountainous region of Derbyshire in central England and completely brainwashes the boy to forget his very heritage, indoctrinates him to loath all Englishmen with a frightful passion and trains him each and every day for 12 full years to be the greatest swordsman the world has ever known. The lad grows into his teen years, renamed Norman of Torn and eventually becomes the most dreaded name in all Britain.
Nrama: Norman of Torn seems like a lively character - tell us about him.
Hughes: Norman of Torn is a super strong and fascinating central character, one who is both good and bad, with both vying for dominance of his heart and mind throughout the story. A struggle that each one of us have to face and overcome even today. He was born Prince Richard of the House of Plantagenet (second born) to King Henry III and Queen Eleanor of Provence. From a young child he possesses a good and noble heart, as seen through his close relationship with his royal guardian, the lovely Lady Maud and his powerful uncle, Simon de Montfort. Young Richard's childhood innocence and raw dignity of his very spirit is overshadowed by the frightful psychological attack of the villainess De Vac--an wicked, all-out onslaught upon his impressionable psyche that warps his sense of good and evil, bending his young mind and will to the dark indoctrinations of his mentor.
Nrama: What about the other characters in the book?
Hughes : I feel that every great story needs a great villain and De Vac certainty fulfills that role in spades. His views upon the world and people are very black and white, ranging from love and complete loyalty (as he had for the now deceased King John) to utter contempt for all other Englishmen and all things English. This attitude he tries, without restraint, to pass unto his young pupil whom he will eventually pit against his own father, King Henry III. There really is no arc or development in De Vac's character whatsoever throughout the entire story, which makes for a very real and exciting adversary who will stop at nothing, even full-blown murder, to see his will accomplished. With De Vac, there is no compromise, no compassion, no mercy and no quarter! He will see his revenge done through hell and high water.
Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, is another leading supporting role and an actual historical figure that played a very significant role in the history of England. He has become known as the "father and founder of English Parliaments" since he was very instrumental is setting up the first meeting of Parliament, which would eventually lead the way to a more democratic type of rulership in the Kingdom--a radical new concept at that time which the monarch's fought ferociously against. His fateful argument with King Henry at the beginning of the graphic novel not only reflects the major subplot (i.e. the Barons' War), but also causes the main plot (revenge of De Vac) to ignite after Henry unjustly slaps and humiliates the Master-of-Fence De Vac because of his anger and frustration toward the defiant De Montfort.The beautiful Lady Maud is another important personality in Young Prince Richard's life, his guardian and trusted friend whom he spends each day with the plush Westminster Gardens. His failure to save her from being murdered would haunt his fractured and damaged mind for the next 20 years. It was this tragedy, in my opinion, that would lead Norman of Torn to decree to his outlaw band that no woman or child were to ever be harmed or molested in anyway during their many raids and castle sieges upon the rich lords and barons. The consequences of violating this direct order would be instant death!
Nrama: Although it employs fictional characters, it's set in 13th Century England and has some allusions to historic figures. Can you talk about that at all?
Hughes: As mentioned above, Simon de Montfort is one of the historical characters that plays a pivotal role in The Outlaw Prince. He was a French-born knight who spent much of his adult life in England in service to King Henry III, married Henry's sister Eleanor, was grated the Earlship of Leicester and planted his main base of operations at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. De Montfort was the leader and commanding general of the Baron's Army in the Second Baron's War, victorious at the Battle of Lewes on May 14, 1264 and ultimately defeated by the much larger forces of King Henry and Prince Edward at the fateful Battle of Evesham on Aug. 4, 1265 in which Simon was killed with his body being brutally hacked to pieces. This event would echo down the centuries as "the Death of Chivalry". Nevertheless, his undying spirit and influence lived on as the formation of English Parliaments was already in the process of blooming into a full-blown government practice. You may slay the man, but not the dream!Of course, both King Henry III and his Queen consort Eleanor of Provence were both prominent personalities in English history. Henry was the first-born son of King John, and ruled from 1207-1272. He re-innovated and greatly expanded upon Westminster Abbey from 1245-1272-- the most famous abbey the world over and the site that has become synonymous with England herself. The couple's first-born son, Prince Edward would eventually inherit the throne in 1272 as Edward I or Edward Longshanks--the evil king in Braveheart.
Of special note would be the three famous theological personalities that make cameo appearances in the graphic novel; Robert Grosseteste-Bishop of Lincoln, the Franciscan Adam Marsh and Walter de Cantilupe-Bishop of Worcester. All these Godly men has a very strong and lasting influence upon Simon de Montfort, his beliefs and convictions by which he lived, which usually brought him into direct headlong conflict with the king. And conflict is the launching pad for great drama.
Nrama: Speaking of launching pads, how did this project get started?
Hughes: I first began with a 2-part screenplay, which I researched and wrote for the greater part of 2003-2004. After meeting with several production companies about producing the movies and meeting with various obstacles due to size, overall budget and creative differences, I decided on adapting the first half of the first script into graphic novel format that would give a much more vividly graphic and inspiring portrayal of how I see the movie visually, scene by scene and cut by cut. It is my prayer and hope that a brave enough producer will see the vast potential here for, not just one, but two blockbuster movies--a fantastic and enthralling story rich with super-strong characters, in-depth plot and sub-plot with historical significance to boot. Done right, this would be the next Lord of the Rings.
Nrama: What made Burroughs' The Outlaw of Torn something you wanted to tell the story of, first as a movie and now as a comic?
Hughes: Actually, several aspects. The strength of the central character Norman of Torn, wonderful supporting roles such as Lady Maud, Simon de Montfort, Father Claude and the lovely Joan de Tany as well as a superb villain in De Vac. The main plot in absolutely ingenious and historical sub-plot is completely engrossing--an terrific enhancement that perfectly completes this superb medieval saga. To this very day, this story ranks as one of the finest and most memorable novels I have ever read. And, I have done a lot of reading!
Nrama: Illustrating this for you is Thomas Yeates and Michael Wm. Kaluta. That’s an interesting pair – so how do they split their work?
Hughes: Michael Wm. Kaluta came on board to do the breakdowns for the pages since Thomas was so swamped with the penciling, inking and coloring chores. Kaluta's wild and immense imagination in the breakdown illustrations laid a great foundation from which Thomas' pencils could spring to life as it were, providing Thomas and myself with a very vivid and excellent idea of how each panel worked and interacted with each other. He was a great catalyst between the script and the penciling stage.
Nrama: Rob, yours is a new name to comics for me; can you tell us about your writing and comics background?
Hughes: Of course. My main background is in the vintage comic book industry; Golden-Age and Silver-Age comic books. I began collecting from 7-11's back in 1973 and my parents took me to The San Diego Comic Con. for the first time in 1978 when it was still held at the El Cortez Hotel. The Circle Gallery in Old Town was having a Bob Kane exhibition that year that we visited as well. There, I met and spent a good deal of time with Kane, learning all I could about the history of Batman and have been a huge Batman fan ever since.
I began dealing in vintage comic books while attending USC in 1988, and started writing feature length articles for such publications as the Comic Book Marketplace and Collector's Showcase in the early 1990's. I worked at several major auction houses during my career as Executive Investments and Greg Manning Auctions. In 2003, I decided to start working toward my childhood dream of making movies and thus, began adapting The Outlaw of Torn into screenplay format, which, as you know, developed into a the current graphic novel and have not looked back since.* Newsarama Note: GEOFF JOHNS, in his first full length interview about FLASHPOINT, exclusively Friday @Newsarama