Robert Burns: Witch Hunter – New graphic novel offers a different take on The Bard

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Burns was loved as a lyricist, farmer and even as a ladies’ man.  Now prepare to meet Burns, scourge of all evil and witch hunter in training!

Two visionary writers from Edinburgh have created a new depiction of the nation’s most loved poet, based on the epic character of the famous narrative poem Tam o’ Shanter, in forthcoming graphic novel – Robert Burns: Witch Hunter.

Burns was loved as a lyricist, farmer and even as a ladies’ man.  Now prepare to meet Burns, scourge of all evil and witch hunter in training!

Two visionary writers from Edinburgh have created a new depiction of the nation’s most loved poet, based on the epic character of the famous narrative poem Tam o’ Shanter, in forthcoming graphic novel – Robert Burns: Witch Hunter.

In the style of works like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it’s a different take on a familiar story.  The story asks what if the events of the narrative poem Tam o’ Shanter, Burns’ most famous work, were actually based on something that happened to Burns himself.

The Graphic Novel, due to be published in summer 2013, follows a young and still anonymous Burns, after an unfortunate encounter with the boyfriend of his latest farm-girl conquest, drunkenly making his way home late at night, clumsily trying to compose the beginnings of a new poem (“My love is like….the moon in June..?”).

Like his later fictional creation Tam o’ Shanter he mistakenly takes the wrong road and ends up stumbling upon a full-blown witches’ sabbath being held in the ruins of the haunted old Alloway Kirk.  Like Tam, the hot-blooded young poet is entranced by the sight of the dancing witches, and especially the beguiling form of the lead witch Cutty Sark.

He is saved by the sudden and dramatic intervention of the pair of witch-hunters, the old veteran McKay and his young apprentice Meg.  And so begins Burns’ education in the ways of witch-hunting, as McKay and Meg struggle to keep him out of the clutches of the demonic Cutty Sark and out of trouble with witches, demons and local farm girls.

The writers describe the story as a ‘bawdy romp’ – something writer Gordon Rennie says is a depiction the Bard himself would likely approve of.

Rennie, who has written for globally successful computer games such as Call of Duty, Killzone, Star Wars and Aliens vs Predator, and is one of the main writers of the Judge Dredd, said:

“It’s a fun depiction of him becoming the great poet we know him as today.  It’s very much inspired by his poems. Burns was fascinated by all things supernatural – ghosts, bogles and di’els are in many of his works.  He also loved to tell a bawdy tale himself, and anonymously wrote many very rude poems, even by today’s standards.”

His co-writer, Emma Beeby added, “Tam o’Shanter was an ideal starting point for this – it’s full of action and monsters.  We want to keep it faithful to Burns’ depiction of that night.  For the page where Burns arrives at the kirkyard, we give Tiernen the description from the poem itself as we wanted it to capture as much as possible from that famous scene.

Ms Beeby is herself an award-nominated script writer whose previous works include: Doctor Who audio plays for Big Finish productions, console game Risen2: Dark Waters, and is currently writing comic strips for 2000AD and digital comic The Alienist for VS Comics.

“We both love Burns’ works, and it’s been great to have an excuse to get to read them again and research his life. There’s going to be lots of little nods to his different works throughout the book.” she added.

The artwork for the 60-page graphic novel was provided by Tiernen Trevallion who is one of the UK’s most promising new comic artists.  His previous work includes Judge Dredd, horror police-procedural strip Absolam and an animated Doctor Who story for the BBC.

Robert Burns: Witch Hunter will be published by Renegade Arts Entertainment.