Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Robin Hood (1955 - 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age)


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By Deejay Dayton
Nov 24, 2016 - 15:09

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Robin Hood gets the first entry under 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age, because the character had a short lived series in Adventure Comics back in 1936, so he appears on the list before Superman.

This period was definitely the heyday for the character in the DC universe.  There was a very popular tv version of Robin Hood airing during these years, which explains why he wound up with two ongoing series.  Robin Hood joined the line-up of the Brave and the Bold, but would also be featured in a solo book, Robin Hood Tales.  Robin Hood Tales had begun under the Quality Comics imprint, but when DC took over that company, it kept that book going as a DC book, starting with issue 9.

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The first Robin Hood story in his series in Brave and the Bold appeared in issue 5, and it’s a fairly traditional tale. Evil Prince John has captured the Merry Men, and challenges Robin Hood to perform three feats in order to have them released.  In the style of many of these stories, Robin Hood openly goes to meet with Prince John, who is clearly more interested in humiliating the man than in actually capturing him.

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Of course Robin Hood completes the first two challenges, capturing a stag and fighting on a log bridge.  So Prince John ups the stakes for the final challenge, making him shoot arrows while blindfolded. Robin succeeds at this as well.  Only then does John try to have Robin captured by his men.  But by this point, the Merry Men have gotten free, and help Robin to escape back to Sherwood Forest.

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The traditional supporting cast get introduced in the tale in Brave and the Bold 6. Prince John holds a tournament at which all are welcome, which of course means Robin Hood shows up.  Maid Marian is also in attendance, and Robin is accompanied by Friar Tuck and Little John.  Prince John expected Robin to attend, and has a new jester, Malvio, who will run the tournament, presenting Robin Hood with seemingly impossible challenges.

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So once again this is a tale in which John seems far more concerned with humiliating Robin Hood, as opposed to capturing him.  But as usual, Robin prevails.  Really great Heath art on a lot of his tales in this book.

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Robin Hood’s origin is told, oddly enough, in the final issue of his solo book, Robin Hood Tales 14.  In this version we see the Earl of Huntingdon discover that Prince John had seized his lands.  He has a ring given to him by Richard as a sign of devotion, but this will later prove problematic, when it falls into John's hands, implicating the Earl as the hooded outlaw. Since the Earl can no longer be himself, he rides around openly aiding damsels in distress, and calls himself Robin, when one lands on his shoulder.

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The Earl knows that if John discovers his true identity, he will be in more trouble than...well, no, he'd be in about the same amount of trouble that he is in for being a hooded outlaw.In the end, he takes the last name Hood, for his hood.  It's all fairly absurd, considering the amount of stories in which John is able to see Robin Hood's face quite clearly, and there is no big secret identity.

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Not too many stories deal with Robin’s true identity.  One of the few appears in Robin Hood Tales 11. In this tale, to maintain a tradition that apparently goes back to the time of King Arthur, Robin has to ring the bell of his family castle as Earl of Huntingdon, and present flowers to the monarch. 

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Robin allows himself to get imprisoned in his own rightful home, so that he can break out and ring the bell.  At the end, he tosses Prince John a rose stem, with all the flowers gone, and just the thorns remaining.

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The final Robin Hood story in Brave and the Bold, in issue 15, also gives some insight into the man, with a flashback to his youth. In this story, Robin Hood’s first name really is Robin.  It doesn’t tie in too well with the continuity from the tales I just mentioned, but continuity, even as basic as how Robin Hood looked, was never a concern for the strip. Robin loves to practice archery, which his father disdains, feeling it is not suited for a knight. Robin shows his later fidelity to the poor by protecting Hugh, an old man in the forest who has been training him in archery, and then secretly aids his father when his enemy, Osric of Dragonmoor, brings troops to attack him.

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Robin takes down a number of Osric's knights with his arrows, but does not let his father know of his achievements, apparently preferring to be on his dad's bad side.  Still, it's not a bad story.
Many of the stories stay comfortably within the normal realm of Robin Hood legends. 

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In Brave and the Bold 11 Robin winds up pitted against his Merry Men. Robin Hood gets knocked out and winds up with amnesia.  He is captured by Prince John's men, and John convinces him that he is Captain Robin of his guards, sending him out to round up his former comrades.  They do not believe Robin could have turned on them, which makes them easy pickings.

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Another blow to the head restores his memory, and Robin pretends to still be working with John, but gets access to his imprisoned friends, freeing them and earning their trust back.

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Other stories get a bit more preposterous.  In Brave and the Bold 13 Prince John makes Robin Hood king for a day, and though Robin is wary, he accepts the honour.  John has promised that Robin Hood can do whatever he likes, as long as he performs three orders John has written, collecting a tax on air, battling one of King Richard's supporters, and capturing the Merry Men. 

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Robin finds ways to obey the letter of the commands without actually doing what John intends. Robin Hood then leads his men against a horde of "barbarians," who appear to be Vikings, in defiance of historical logic. 

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Then there are the stories that go really far afield, taking their inspiration from such tales as the Man in the Iron Mask, Rip Van Winkle, or the Gordian Knot.  In Robin Hood Tales 10 a mysterious wizard shows up and gives Robin Hood some magic arrows.  The references the wizard makes to King Arthur and Excalibur make it very obvious that this is Merlin, though that is not actually revealed until the very end of the story.

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Robin uses the magic arrows to pull off amazing feats as he tries to recuse Richard II from some Normans.  These guys never read a history book in their lives. Anyway, it turns out to be Marion that Robin rescues, not Richard, and saves the jewels that she has been collecting to pay off Richard's ransom.

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Two of the stories give focus to Maid Marion.  The first appears in Robin Hood Tales 9. Marion decides to take a more active part in the Merry Men's adventures, and to prove herself, she challenges Will Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck and even Robin Hood himself to tests of skill, and beats every single one of them.  She then declares that she will single handedly attack Black Castle and rescue the Queen. 

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I'm not sure which queen this can possibly refer to.  Richard's queen never set foot in England.  Perhaps they mean Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Queen Mother. Anyway, Marion assaults the castle, and gets quickly captured.  But then Robin Hood and the rest of the Merry Men show up to free her and rescue the mystery queen.  Marion figures out that they let her win the challenges, and Robin admits that it was a plan to use Marion to distract the guards so the rest of them could properly assault the castle.

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The story in Robin Hood Tales 13 is a bit better. Robin gets a request for help from the beautiful Anne of Locksley, and despite Marion's misgivings, heads to see what he can do. Anne is due to be married, but her groom has gone missing.  She asks Robin Hood to stand in for him at the ceremony, which was actually pretty common at the time.  He agrees, while at the same time hunting for her real fiance. Of course, the guy has been captured and held prisoner by John, hoping to prevent the wedding so that he can steal her land. 

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Robin Hood gets help all along the way with this case from a masked fighter, who is revealed at the very end to be Marion.  That's not much of a surprise, given her appearance at the top of the story.  But it is a much better use of her than the tale in which they all let her think she beat them.

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The final Robin Hood story from his DC run appears in Robin Hood Tales 14, and sees Prince John lock up the town of Shrewsbury. Robin Hood is given clues by John as to the location of bits of the key, and of course has to fight off soldiers to retrieve the pieces.

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Marion appears in this story, although she doesn't get to much.  But she is garbed as an ally, not a victim.  Robin uses his arrow to substitute for part of the key and opens the gate.

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While this ends Robin Hood's last ongoing DC series, the character would continue to appear in cameos and guest shots in other DC books for years to come.

Robin Hood: Brave and the Bold 5 - 15(April/May 56 – Dec/Jan 57/58)

Robin Hood Tales 7 – 14 (Jan/Feb 57 – Mar/April 58)

Next up – Superman!


Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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