In the medieval noir graphic novel series Nottingham (Mad Cave), author David Hazan takes a decidedly unique approach to Robin Hood lore. Instead of casting the classic hero as the protagonist, the series instead focuses on the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. Hazan follows-up Nottingham Vol. 1: Death and Taxes, with Nottingham Vol. 2: A King’s Ransom.

Hazan, who was a winner of Mad Cave Studios’ 2019 Talent Search, an annual event designed to discover aspiring writers, illustrators, letterists, and colorists, spoke to PW about his fresh take on the Robin Hood legend, his inspiration, and his creative process.

What appeals to you (and your readers) about the Robin Hood mythos? What made you initially decide to create a series based in this universe, and why did you choose the Sheriff of Nottingham to be the protagonist?

Robin Hood is one of the most enduring myths in the western world. It’s interesting that what captured my young mind’s imagination now captured my adult mind’s cynicism. At its core—the idea that Robin as a nobleman would actively upend his life to engage in class warfare on the part of the lower class…it just didn’t sit right for me. Beyond that, I saw interpretations in various media that frustrated me and decided to make the version of Robin Hood that I would want to read.

The idea to center the Sheriff came from Mad Cave’s request for a noir, which set me on a path to what would eventually become Nottingham. The Sheriff really made sense as a hard-boiled detective come tragic hero, as did Marian as the femme fatale. The moment I viewed the world of Robin Hood through that lens…it all just clicked.

How did you originally connect with illustrator Shane Connery Volk? What can you share about your collaboration?

Shane and I were both winners of Mad Cave Studios’ 2019 Talent Search. The simple answer is that Mad Cave saw overlap between my writing style and Shane’s art and decided to put us together. As a collaborator, Shane is incredibly easy to work with. He’s the best kind of “yes and” artist, who takes your ideas and just enhances them through the lens of his art and worldview…and that’s to say nothing of the immense hours of work he puts into every single issue. Each of our characters has this Shakespearean physical manifestation of their inner turmoil and it’s so perfect, and all Shane.

From the first volume to the second volume, what have you learned about the project? Have you made any changes in terms of your creative approach to character development?

I’ve learned so much more about these characters as I’ve gone. They’re so easy to write and they really just flow onto the page. I also have a much better idea of how to cater to the things Shane wants to draw, and how to make sure he’s having a good time, even if he’s drawing hundreds of figures on a page. Ultimately, if Shane is having a good time, then it will show in the art.

Beyond that, I knew we needed a change in scope with this volume. So, I broadened the story, forged new relationships between characters who hadn’t interacted all that much, and really let those relationships blossom before pulling the rug out from under them. Vol. 2 also has echoes of westerns and adventure stories, while still calling back to the noir genre, which was a fun twist. I took a lot of cues from The Empire Strikes Back for the structure of this sequel in terms of scope and ambition. Other than that, I followed the breadcrumbs of the history that led me to this second chapter of the story, and hopefully the next as well.

What are a few of your continuous sources of inspiration?

The history is really my continuous source of inspiration for Nottingham. I really wanted to set it against an honest interpretation of the time, including major historical events. As it happens, this has been the greatest source of new plot threads and stories, and the art of dancing between the raindrops of established history, and forging character arcs from it, has been one of the greatest joys of this project.

I also think, especially in comics, you draw as much inspiration from the things you love as the things you don’t—those stories that irk you because you see wasted potential. Beyond that, I consume a lot of media, so anything from great comics, both old and new (currently on a kick of anything written by Tom King), to trashy ‘90s fantasy novels, to copious amounts of television.

What do you love about Mad Cave Studios?

Mad Cave are true collaborators. They’ve given me so much freedom to operate and really build out the world of Nottingham. There’s an implicit trust, which I think is such a reassuring and supportive framework for writing, especially as a newer creator.

What's next for the Nottingham series?

A great many things! For starters, we have an anthology series starting early next year which takes the winners of Mad Cave’s 2021 Talent Search and brings their talents to bear in the world of Nottingham. I got the chance to write a story of my own, as well as provide story ideas, guidance, and mentoring for a very diverse group of newer creators, each with their own perspective, which has been a uniquely rewarding experience. Each issue of the anthology will involve a new creative team, telling an untold story in Nottingham that will really matter, ground the characters, and affect the story going forward.

Then, (likely) in 2024, Nottingham will return for a third volume! Shane and I are hard at work trying to really excite and surprise readers with plenty of new twists and turns.