ERBzine #1 Tell us a bit about yourself, Rob. What is your writing
Rob: Sure thing. I began writing professionally for an industry
magazine called The Comic Book Marketplace in the early '90s that
featured a bi-monthly column of mine and another comic dealer about comics
and their investment potential. I wrote my first feature article titled,
"When the Bat Flew Alone," which explored the first year of Batman from
1939-1940. I then went on to write some more feature articles such as "Dawn
of the Golden-Age" for Collector’s Showcase and "The Avenger of
Blood" for the Marketplace as well.
ERBzine #2 I know that your Torn
project has been brewing for quite some time. Would you give a bit of the
history of the project?
Rob: Of course. I began researching and writing the first draft
of the screenplay for The Outlaw of Torn back in the summer of 2003.
I figured that it would provide a good “practice run”, if you will, for
which to hone and develop my skills for the film medium. I had just completed
The Outlaw of Torn for the third time and the novel was
still laying just to the side of my computer… waiting. I was looking to
get back into the movie industry and thought that writing a screenplay
was my best chance since my contacts were basically zero at that point.
And so, as I was sitting at my desk on that sunny summer afternoon, I asked
God, “What should I do? What should I write?”
As I was reminiscing about various novels I had read in the past, which
ones would be good movies, which ones wouldn't and which ones had already
been done, I looked down to the side of my computer where Outlaw
was staring right back ay me with a silent beckoning call. I thought, "God,
that would be a GREAT movie! Is this it? Is this what you want me to do?"
There was no booming Voice from Heaven. I did not receive a phone call
or a fax or an email from the Lord. What I was experiencing was an inner
and most intimate burning passion in my heart to embark upon this task
to adapt this wonderful story that I had absolutely loved since boyhood.
I had no clue what I was about to step into, the amount of research, time
and extreme effort that would be required to see the project through, but
I was game. I figured that I would just do a test run and see how I did.
No big deal, right? Kinda like a newborn babe sitting down at the table
and trying to eat a full 9-course meal.
At any rate, I was doing my research and reading Outlaw for the
fourth time; going through the novel sentence by sentence and word by word,
checking names, places, historical facts, characters and what not, writing
usually late at night from 11 pm or so until 6 am in the morning and getting
about one page per hour done on average. About a third of the way through
the screenplay I discovered that Outlaw had passed into the public
domain and thought to myself, "Now this has become much more than just
a test run."
I contacted two gentlemen in England who were Burroughs aficionados,
Westwood and Rod Jackson who I felt might be able aid me in
my research since information on Outlaw seem few and far between.
Frank publishes the ERB Fanzine The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs
and I had discovered that Rod had written a superb three-part article on
the novel entitled, "In Search of the Outlaw" that I desperately wanted
to get and read. Frank sent me the corresponding issues and put me in contact
with Rod and our friendships and mutual love for Outlaw has grown
ever since. They were the first two to know about my adaptation of the
story into script.
The initial first draft took me from August 2003 until just before Christmas
of that year and came out to 330 pages. I remember that the person at the
Guild had to put the script into two envelopes. It then took me about
another year and a half to do revisions, add historical details and do
further polishing. I was fortunate to be able to visit England and Wales
in the summer of 2004 to meet Rod and his wife Monica and have them show
me around Derbyshire (Torn) where much of the story takes place. It was
a sure delight to visit and see many of the places I’d been writing about.
ERBzine #3 What drew you with such passion
to this 100-year-old novel which was not one of Burroughs' major successes
in his writing career?
Rob: I absolutely loved the novel ever since I first read it
back in 1978-79 as a boy. It was the fantastic Frank Frazetta cover that
first prompted me to open the book and then the beginning where Burroughs
“HERE is a story that has lain dormant for seven hundred
years. At first it was suppressed by one of the Plantagenet kings of England.
Later it was forgotten. I happened to dig it up by accident... It is very
interesting -- partially since it is a bit of hitherto unrecorded history,
but principally from the fact that it records the story of a most remarkable
revenge and the adventurous life of its innocent victim -- Richard, the
lost prince of England.”
From paragraph one I was hooked! The haunting question that was rolling
around in my head was, “How much of this story is true?” And the characters
in the story are fascinating — from the super strong central hero (or anti-hero)
of Norman of Torn to the historical Simon de Montfort and his beautiful
daughter Bertrade de Montfort to the lovely Joan de Tany and the Godly
Father Claude and, of course, the superb dark villain Jules de Vac, all
these players were fabulous in their own right. And then, throw all of
them into the tumultuous time of the Second Baron's War and you have an
ERBzine #4 How would you explain the
ongoing popularity across the entire entertainment spectrum of Edgar Rice
Burroughs - an author who wrote the Outlaw of Torn, John Carter
of Mars, and Tarzan books 100 years ago - and who died in 1950? What do
you feel is this lasting universal appeal?
Rob: First and foremost his amazing characters in his stories.
In my opinion, character(s) are supreme when it comes to storytelling —
even more important than story and plot. This is because, even if you have
a good storyline, if the reader or audience do not care and relate to the
characters, they probably will not care about the overall story then.
This seems to be a recurring theme in many of Burroughs' novels — a strong
central character such as Norman of Torn or Tarzan or John carter of Mars,
who he then surrounds by a solid supporting cast and then places them in
great peril and conflict.
This is great drama in any medium. The reader must CARE about the character
or characters and then he/she will pay close attention to plot and storyline.
Character is king and everything else is secondary to me. Burroughs creates
great characters and then places them in fantastic settings and situations,
the key element to the success of his stories as well as being a very talented,
prolific and exciting author.
ERBzine #5 What is the storyline
of The Outlaw Prince… and what characters really stand out in this
tale and what is it about them that you feel will be appealing to today's
Rob: The Outlaw Prince follows the main plot of The
Outlaw of Torn.
The French sword master De Vac is humiliated by King
Henry after a mock sword duel and carries out a nefarious revenge by abducting
his second-born son, brainwashing the boy to forget his heritage and then
training him to become the greatest and most feared outlaw-swordsman in
all of Britain. Eventually he pits him against his own father -- with a
great deal of subplot additions and further character development.
It is a faithful adaptation to the novel as a whole or the "spirit of
the story", but with a good deal of the history placed back into the saga
(which Burroughs says he deliberately left out) and delves deeper into
the main and supporting roles by enriching the various characters; exploring
motivations and arcs as the tale unfolds and as they interact with one
another. For me, this is the main and most significant element of Outlaw
and why it has had such a lasting impact upon me personally.
Obviously, the character that stands out the most is Norman of Torn,
a very heroic but tragic and troubled figure throughout the saga. Because
of De Vac's frightful and nearly complete indoctrination of the boy, he
is both good and bad, being led to believe that all Englishmen are, "naught
but filthy pigs" to be easy disposed of. If not for his ever haunting memory
of his childhood friend and guardian, the beautiful Lady Maud, and the
timely intervention of the Godly priest Father Claude, the tale of Norman
of Torn would have been a much grimmer one for sure without any hint at
redemption for the outlaw down the road.
Two other key supporting characters that add historical flavor are King
Henry III and the idealistic Simon de Montfort, the powerful Earl of Leicester.
Their fateful argument at the very beginning of the story sets the stage
for the rest of the saga by laying the foundation of the main plot while,
at the very same time, reflecting the main sub-plot which would fully erupt
later on as the Barons' War; two powerful personalities whose volatile
relationship would thrust the kingdom of England into full blown civil
And, of course, there is the master villain of Jules de Vac and his
sinister scheming behind the scenes and who will stop at nothing to see
his dark revenge carried out. With De Vac, there is no arc, no changing,
no compromise and no gray area whatsoever. He just loves to hate, destroy
relationships and murder anyone who may even remotely get in his way. I
think that great stories need great villains, and De Vac fits this mold
ERBzine #6 How did you decide on artists
Thomas Yeats and Michael Kaluta to work on this project. And how did these
great artists split their work on the assignment?
Rob: Thomas Yeates
is a very talented and respected artist in the comic industry, one whose
style is sort of a "throw-back" to the classic work of legends such as
Raymond and Hal Foster. And, being a huge Burroughs aficionado
in his own right, I thought he would be an ideal fit for this medieval
Michael Kaluta came on the project very early on at the behest
of Thomas when it was clear that, because of the scope of the story, he
wanted to have another artist do the breakdowns from which he could springboard
his pencils. I recall when Thomas called me and said that he wanted Michael
Kaluta to come on board to help him. He then went on to explain to me who
Kaluta was and his various past works. At this, I kinda chuckled since
I had been an avid comic book collector since 1973, and was of course,
very familiar with Kaluta. I remember saying to Thomas that, “Yes, I know
who Kaluta is -- a legend in the industry and his involvement would be
And so, this began a collaboration by which Kaluta would take the script,
do a detailed breakdown with various notes and suggestions and then Thomas
and I would discuss each and every panel and move onto the penciling stage.
It worked out very well.
ERBzine #7 Your Outlaw Prince
brings together many different elements: an adaptation of a classic novel
by the Master of Fantasy Adventure - ERB ~ romance, action and intrigue
from old England ~ actual historical events ~ striking colour illustrations
by two greats artists of comicdom, etc. All of this promoted in a beautifully
put-together book by a major publisher of vintage and contemporary comics:
What do you feel your main reading audience will be?
Rob: I think that anyone who loves great storytelling loaded
with great and memorable characters would really enjoy The Outlaw Prince.
As you stated, it is a saga that incorporates a myriad of key and alluring
elements that every exciting action and adventure epic should have such
as romance, love and loyalty with exciting sword duels, dark intrigue and
murderous schemes and captivating historical events, all of which revolves
around super strong characters and their dramatic developments and interaction
throughout the story. What more could one ask for?
ERBzine #8 Why did you change
the title to The Outlaw Prince?”
Rob: My dad was the one who came up with the title The Outlaw
Prince. I remember him brainstorming, “He (Prince Richard) is an outlaw…
and he is the prince. He's the Outlaw Prince!” After discussing this with
a producer who thought the title would appeal to a much wider audience,
especially those who'd never heard of the book, I decide to go with it.
ERBzine #9 You are issuing two
editions - regular and a deluxe versions. What are the differences between
the two editions?
Rob: The Regular Edition ($12.99) is a soft cover book that includes
an introduction and the graphic novel story -- a total of 80 pages. The
regular edition has a painted cover by fan favorite Esad Ribic who has
done a good deal of work for Marvel Comics.
The Deluxe Hardcover ($49.99) is a very Limited Edition book with a
fantastic painted cover by the super-talented Alan Lathwell, has 112 pages
that includes full-length features by two Burroughs experts; an introduction
to The Outlaw of Torn by Frank Westwood and the article
"In Search of the Outlaw" by Rod Jackson.
Both are superbly researched and written with many illustrations and
images to complement the work. This edition is also signed by myself as
ERBzine #10 THE OUTLAW OF TORN
has a rather long and complex storyline which obviously cannot be covered
fully in THE OUTLAW PRINCE Vol. I. How many volumes have you planned in
your adaptation of the whole novel?
Rob: Hopefully, if all goes well, I plan on having a total of
four volumes which would encompass the entire saga. The first book covers
the time from the fateful argument between King Henry III and Simon de
Montfort up until the time when Norman rides forth from the castle as the
Outlaw of Torn. This first book introduces many of the key personalities
in the epic, Norman of Torn, De Vac, Simon de Montfort, King Henry III,
Queen Eleanor and Lady Maud. Because I love this story so much, I have
set a very high standard for the quality of every aspect of this project.
And, of course, this means a great deal of time, money and patience is
required for this monumental task to be completed.