I’m Simon Birks, co-founder and chief writer of Blue Fox Comics, a small indie comic book publisher based in the UK. I wanted to talk about Robyn, and how we learned positive lessons about gender swapping characters.
Robyn is the story of an intelligent, skillful and capable girl, who lives on her own as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest, struggling to survive. To make ends meet, she runs errands for a monk named Tuck, a shady character, who knows more than he’s letting on. The comic follows Robyn as she decides to investigate the rumours of a monster in the crags nearby.
The reviews for Robyn have been fantastic. I’ve felt extremely proud, reading about their love of the art, of the characters, of the comic as a whole. It’s a real affirmation of everything we wanted to do with the story.
One of my favourite comments, however, was from Starburst Magazine, who wrote:
“the gender of the lead protagonist isn’t a gimmick. The character isn’t overly sexualised, there’s no cheesy ‘woman doing a man’s job’ approach or any of that nonsense. What we have is a young person who lives in a medieval world trying to be the best by their own conscience.”
We took a risk by taking a well-known male character, and making them female. It’s a pitfall many haven’t survived. We didn’t want Robyn to be a poor imitation of Robin.
How did we avoid it?
My wife and co-founder, Marielle, sums it up well. “We captured the Robyn character at a completely different stage in their life, which has never really been explored, boy or girl. Robyn, because of her age, has the opportunity to grow and develop, and that’s the key; she is going to develop her own character, and through our own unique story, will face completely different characters and challenges. All of this, will shape Robyn into the person she becomes.”
Robyn isn’t simply re-treading old ground, it’s creating a new legend, with a character whose core values and skills we know something about. It’s a chance to see how some of these values came to be, a chance to understand who she is.
As the series progresses, we’ll meet other recognisable characters, too, both from the Robin Hood mythos, and from other legends. Each will be familiar, yet unique; people you know, yet don’t know.
If creators aren’t offering anything new to a gender-flipped character (whether it be boy to girl, or girl to boy), they must ask themselves why they are doing it, at all. Consumers want to be surprised, and entertained. I know I do. Creating Robyn has been one of the most gratifying projects to date, and I look forward to many more adventures with her.
I’ll leave you with another quote from Starburst Magazine:
“[Robyn] takes an old idea and makes it new. It subverts our expectations and demands that we re-think our assumptions.”
Robyn raised funds on Kickstarter for printing. The campaign was fully funded, and we hit several stretch goals.
Blue Fox Publishing Limited
As well as comics, Simon writes plays, poetry, (award winning) film scripts. He also acts, directs and produces films, too, because why have any spare time…