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What do Comic Books Have to Say About the Robin Hood Legend?

In summer time, when leaves grow green,
When they doe grow both green and long,
Of a bould outlaw, calld Robin Hood,
It is of him I sing this song.
When the lilly leafe and the elephant
bud and spring with a merry good cheere,
This outlaw was weary of the wood-side,
And chasing of the fallow deere.
‘The fishermen brave more mony have
Then any merchant, two or three;
Therefore I will to Scarborough goe,
That I a fisherman brave may be.

From a 14th Century English Ballad called The Noble Fisherman or Robin Hood’s Preferment

“…puts a brilliant spin on the traditional tales of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.”
School Library Journal on The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate

It’s July and that means it’s almost time for San Diego Comic Con! (Please wait here for a minute, while I go breathe into a paper bag). Yes, it’s exciting! SDCC is an event I look forward too all year. And if you’re going to be near San Diego (and by near I mean within 600 nautical miles) you need to make it out to the show. If you have a ticket that is! And if you don’t well… I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

Just kidding. Of course San Diego Comic Con is not just about comics anymore. Far from it. It has become the premier celebration of American Popular Culture. You’ll find comic book artists, sure, but you’ll also see movie and television stars, people in funny costumes, writers, artists and tons of other creative people and t-shirts you can’t even get off of that thing they call ‘the internets’.

And while regular readers of this blog know I am a comic book geek, today I thought I’d discuss a couple of comic book interpretations of the Robin Hood legend.

green-arrowAs I’ve mentioned before, the DC Comics hero Green Arrow, is a modern day version of the Robin Hood legend. Interestingly enough, GA was created by the immortal Jack Kirby to compete with Batman. In the earliest incarnations, GA had an “Arrow Cave,” drove “The Arrow Car,” had a young sidekick named “Speedy,” and instead of a utility belt had a quiver full of ‘trick arrows’ like the ‘handcuff arrow’ and the ‘boxing glove arrow.’ (The boxing glove arrow was always a personal favorite and brought many a criminal to their knees!) Oliver Queen was also a multi-billionaire, like Bruce Wayne, and took up the mantle of Green Arrow to fight crime with his exceptional archery skills.

Perhaps to tie-in to the new movie this summer, DC comics has started a new Green Arrow storyline which takes numerous elements of the Robin Hood legend and spins it for a modern audience. Star City, Green Arrow’s home, been destroyed months ago, by Prometheus, and all of sudden a mythical, magical forest has grown up in the middle of what was once a ruined wasteland. Feeling guilty, alone and angry, GA takes to the forest like his idol Robin Hood, and protects the people who use it to survive in the new Star City. He robs from the rich (stealing the food intended for a high-society banquet and delivering it to the homeless) and gives to the poor. And at the end of the story, a prominent superhero shows up to check on GA and finds that in this mysterious Star City Forest he has lost his powers! What? Could more superheroes be on the way? Could GA soon have his own band of ‘Merry Men?’ I think so. Anyway, it’s a good story, so if you like Robin Hood and you’ve never checked out the Green Arrow, it’s a good place to start.

robinhood-comicAlso, out on the racks this month is a retelling of Robin Hood in comic form. Robin Hood comes from Antarctica Press and tells the story of the Outlaw of Sherwood in verse. The art is quite nice and the story is the traditional one we’re all familiar with. However the verse is a little clunky at times. But still, if you are a teacher or a librarian looking for a way to hook a reluctant reader and get them interested in the mythology of Robin Hood, either one of these books would be an excellent place to start.

After all, reading comics as a kid were a big part of developing my love of reading. One of my first introductions to the Robin Hood legend was through the Classics Illustrated version. I used to keep a dictionary handy, so I could look up all the big words used by “The Beast” in the X-Men comics. It’s true!

So if you are a teacher, educator or a concerned parent, I would love to know: have you ever tried using comics or graphic novels to get your son or daughter or student started on reading? If so, what are you success stories? If now, why not? I’d love to hear back from you!

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