The Outlaw Prince is the story of a young prince who is ruthlessly abducted from his family and brainwashed to forget his identity. He is trained to become the greatest swordsman the world has ever known, and finds – not surprisingly – good use for his skills.
Set during the tumultuous Second Baron's War, it is based on The Outlaw of Torn, a 1927 historical novel by Tarzan and John Carter of Mars creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Adapted by writer Rob Hughes, who initiated the project, and illustrated by Thomas Yeates with Michael Wm. Kaluta, The Outlaw Prince is available in two formats. Published by Dark Horse Comics, the standard edition is an 80-page graphic novel, which retails for $12.99. There is also a limited, deluxe edition, which runs 112 pages ad includes pieces by Burroughs scholars.
Scoop talked with Hughes and Yeats about the project.
Scoop: What do you think is the lasting appeal of Edgar Rice Burroughs work in general?
Rob Hughes (RH): I think, as fantasy writers go, Edgar Rice Burroughs has to be one of the most famous, prolific and influential authors in American history. Nearly everyone is familiar with his most famous creation, Tarzan of the Apes--a character who first appeared in the All-Story pulp magazine way back in 1912. Tarzan was one of the earliest, if not the very first, action/adventure heroes, sort of a "Superman of the Jungle," who must have had some sort of impact and influence on other popular pulp characters as Doc Savage, the Shadow and later, Conan the Barbarian. I believe that there were a total of 27 Tarzan novels written by Burroughs and 12 novels of his second most famous creation, John Carter of Mars. So, not even taking into account the immense impact of all his other works, if you just consider Tarzan and John Carter with the myriad of mediums they have appeared in such as movies, comic books, newspaper strips, pulps, novels, animation, etc., the overall lasting appeal in perhaps, incalculable.
Thomas Yeates (TY): Burroughs' work is terrific heroic fantasy adventure. It is escapist adventure for those who appreciate the classic, determined hero who won't compromise his principals but is confident while also being self-deprecating. He created wonderful fantasy worlds like no other, entire cultures cities continents and planets, and always with an entertaining sense of humor and wry subtlety veiled social criticisms. As long as there are readers for this type of story Burroughs will remain popular.
Scoop: Burroughs has never been far from comics. With Tarzan, particularly, there’s a long and rich history of his characters in both comic books and comic strips, and John Carter has been around, too. Some great works of fiction either haven’t been tried or just haven’t resonated with comics fans when they’ve been tried. What keeps us going back adapt his works into comics?
RH: Profound question. I think that when considering any great story, whether it be pulp, novel, literature, oral tradition or the Holy Scriptures, adapting them into a visual format, ie. comic books or movies, brings a whole new dimension to them as never before since now we can actually "see" how the various characters and events are interpreted and portrayed. This can be quite dramatic and exciting since now emotion, atmosphere, mood and a ton of other important elements can be added to the written word. This can leave a very lasting impression on the reader and audience. We are a very visual people, and producing these great stories and characters in a visual medium can have a worldwide appeal. This, with the fact that Tarzan began in the pulps, which were the forerunners to the comic books, makes the Lord of the Jungle such an ideal candidate for visual storytelling.
TY: In some ways the pulp magazines he wrote his stories for were the comic books of that era. They sort of already are comics, they just need more pictures. He is also a spectacularly visual writer. His descriptions just scream out to be drawn.
Scoop: What were your first experiences with the novel The Outlaw of Torn?
TY: My first experiences were buying the paperback books when I was a teenager for the Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta covers. I read a lot in those days, including The Outlaw of Torn. I thought it was a very good story, I liked it.
RH: I first discovered the novel back in 1978 or 79, the version I had being the one with the great cover by Frank Frazetta. It was the very first novel I had ever read and I just loved every minute of it, from start to end. To this day, it remains one of my favorite novels of all time, bar none.
Scoop: What about it captured your imagination?
TY: First off I like swashbuckling adventure so that makes a good start, second I like Burroughs' writing, but also it's a great yarn, it has a great set up right in the beginning, a real good grabber. That helps a lot.
RH: First and foremost, the strength of the characters. Norman of Torn is such a complex and compassionate anti-hero, if you will, being the fact that he was trained and brainwashed to forget who he actually is (Prince Richard, second born of King Henry III) to become the most dreaded outlaw in all of Britain, eventually coming into direct conflict with his father the king. And the supporting cast is so superb as well. The various conflicts, interactions and drama between Norman and the rest of the cast, both friend and foe creates such an exciting and alluring saga.
Scoop: Rob, how did you decide on Thomas for the art on this project?
RH: I have always liked Thomas' artwork, especially is ink wash style and I thought that he could give me the classic romantic look for the book I wanted, something in the style of Alex Raymond and Hal Foster, two of the industry greats. Thomas being a huge Burroughs aficionado didn't hurt either.
Scoop: Thomas, while Rob has been around comics for many years as a well-known Golden Age and Silver Age dealer and historian, he’s not widely known yet as a writer. What intrigued an experienced hand like you to jump into this project?
TY: To survive in this crazy business you have to have an open mind, the willingness to take risks, step out of one's comfort zone and enough business sense to tell if a project is viable or not. Rob met my price, so while I was waiting for Sergio Aragones to feed me Groo vs. Conan pages I took on The Outlaw. I also had a sneaking suspicion that Dark Horse would publish it once we had a number of pages to show.
Scoop: Even among Burroughs fans, this isn’t one of his most famous pieces. Rob, what’s a succinct way to describe the story to people who aren’t familiar with it?
RH: A wonderful and classic medieval saga that revolves around a young and innocent prince who is abducted from his royal family, taken into the remote and rugged region of Derbyshire to be brainwashed to forget his very heritage and trained to become the greatest swordsman the world has ever known and the most dreaded outlaw in all of Britain.
Scoop: Thomas, you worked on just about every artistic aspect of this graphic novel. What did you enjoy the most about it?
TY: Seeing the pages get finished. Working in a different technique than usual was a kick for me particularly as I had control over the coloring. Lori Almeida did most of the coloring but I did a lot too and art directed her.
Scoop: How did Michael Wm. Kaluta work on it? Was their any conflict of styles or did things mesh together well?
RH: Thomas brought Kaluta on to do detailed breakdowns for the pages. Kaluta brought an extra dimension of cinematic flare with various angles and lighting. There was no conflict of styles since Kaluta provided the breakdowns from the script and then Thomas and I would discuss each panel in turn, making any adjustments and then proceeding onto the penciling stage.
TY: That was very enjoyable for me too. Michael did rough layouts for most of the book, and I loved seeing his sketches, they were a fantastic springboard for me and I hope to get to work with him again. No conflict from my end, of course if something didn't work for me I just changed it, with his encouragement.
Scoop: What sort of fans do you think might enjoy The Outlaw Prince?
TY: I'm hoping for the old D&D crowd. Lord of the Rings fans, Conan fans, Narnia fans. There's lots of this type of stuff out there that is popular today, lots of medieval type movies being released. So hopefully people who like that stuff will see this and like it too.
RH: I believe that anyone who loves a great story rich with wonderful characters would love the Outlaw Prince. Great stories are great stories, regardless of what genre they may fall into.
Scoop: If it goes over well enough, might we see more?
RH: Lord willing, yes. I have three more books planned for the Outlaw Prince saga. Book One tells the origin story of Norman of Torn--who he is, how he was abducted from his family to eventually become The Outlaw of Torn.
TY: Yes, you just might.