Back in the days when I was a much smaller Hodapp, I engaged in that time-honored practice of kiddom: reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be doing something more useful, like sleeping. Even at that age, I reckoned, there’ll be plenty of time for sleep when you die. Mad Magazine, comics from Stan Lee or the DC guys would always land me in the preadolescent version of the slammer, but there was always one line of comics sure to save me from a late-night bawling out: Classics Illustrated. This line of comics did just what it sounds like. They took classic stories (The Three Musketeers, House of the Seven Gables, War of the Worlds, and more than a hundred others), splashed them in full color across kid-friendly pages, and kept me far more interested than any of that malarky about some self-appointed do-gooder in tights from Krypton.
Author Stephen Dafoe has written about the Knights Templar from almost every conceivable angle over the years—as straight history (Nobly Born), as speculation (The Warriors and the Bankers), and most recently, the origins and growth of the Masonic Knights Templar Order (The Compasses and the Cross). Now, he and artist Bob Prodor’s new comic book treatment of the medieval Knight Templar, Outremer, presents the Order in a way no one has done before, and it brings back my fond memories of those Classics Illustrated of my youth, for all of the same reasons. It tells the legendary story of the origin, rise and fall of the Templars in the Holy Land, and it does it with action-packed style. Issue One: Origins introduces Hughes de Payens and Geoffroi de St. Omer in the hills outside of Jerusalem, protecting pilgrims from attacks by Arab bandits. Through their eyes, the history of Jerusalem and the First Crusade to capture the Holy Land from the Infidel unfolds.
Outremer effectively illustrates the historic troubles of Jerusalem and the religious multi-culturalism that came and went over the centuries before the arrival of European pilgrims and knights. And it weaves the most famous “must-haves” of the Templar tales into the story, like the iconic image of two Templar knights sharing a horse, and the crowds whipped into a crusading frenzy, shouting Deus le volt! (“God Wills It!”). But best of all, it achieves that delicate balancing act of education and entertainment. Outremer is just plain fun to read. It puts forth the true story of the Crusades and the beginnings of the Order in a compact and exciting way, and is over much too quickly. Dafoe and Prodor have a real winner with Outremer. Four issues are planned in the series, and I’m already impatient for Issue 2, even if I know how the story turns out in the end.
I even got bawled out by the missus for reading by flashlight under the covers.
The first issue is available at www.templarcomics.com as a stand alone book, electronic download or in a limited edition collector's set that contains a few extra goodies.