From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.128: Interview With Jeremy Whitley of Princessless
Hello readers! You’ll notice we had so much great stuff this week, we cut it into two columns! One column has all the reviews, but this one has one of the coolest interviews you can find! Eisner-nominated Jeremy Whitley of Princeless fame from over at Action Lab took some time to let us pick his brain on an array of questions; read on for the coolness!
JEREMY WHITLEY: Princeless is the classic tale of a girl who is locked away in a tower by her parents in order to attract the most qualified (read: strong and manly) suitor. The way it’s supposed to go down is that a prince comes along, slays the dragon that’s protecting Princess Adrienne, and then they live happily ever after. However, Princeless is about a girl who decides that she doesn’t need anybody to rescue her and she certainly doesn’t need a prince to be happy. So, she recruits the help of her guardian dragon and the two team up to rescue Adrienne’s sisters, who all got the same raw deal.
However, in the first book not everything went as planned. Adrienne couldn’t find her first sister and instead ended up falling head first off the side of a castle. By the end of the story, rather than saving any princesses, she’d ended up recruiting a girl blacksmith who was ready for adventure!
CA: How did the creation of Princeless come about? What was that certain spark that said “I have to create this”?
JW: The spark that set it off was discovering that this type of thing didn’t already exist. I wanted a story like this to share with my daughter (even more importantly, a comic to share with my daughter). When I went looking for something that I would want to read with her, there was nothing that had all the elements I was looking for. So, I created it. Luckily, it turns out other people were looking for it to.
CA: The title has caught the attention of a lot of folks in the industry, it even received an Eisner-nom in 2012. Did that put on the pressure for the second mini-series?
JW: I guess it’s a little more pressure that what we had before. The fact is though, I always feel pressure to produce something great with this book. The award nominations and the industry attention are nice, but what I really want is to keep giving people something that 1) they crave and 2) they can’t get anywhere else. I think we’re still doing it, but I’d love to hear from anybody who feels otherwise when the new volume comes out.
CA: Each volume of Princeless is its own arc, but do you already know how the overall story is going to end, or did you create this with an open road map in mind?
JW: I had a definite road map of where I want the story to go. It will occasionally take the scenic route and we’ll make some stops I hadn’t originally put on the road map, but I feel that’s the nature of great stories. You have an outline, but sometimes when you put the characters into a situation, they react in a way that isn’t always expedient. Then, sometimes, you get incredible opportunities. For example: this May Princeless will be sharing a Free Comic Day comic with Molly Danger. I really wanted to give fans of the series something new, so I wrote a new short and I think people are really going to enjoy it.
CA: There was almost a year gap in publication for Princeless between the first volume and this new one. Will we see the third arc sooner than a year from the time this one wraps up?
JW: YES! Absolutely! If there is anything I regret about the way this book has come together, it’s the wait. There were a lot of changes and a lot of problems that needed to be solved between volumes. However, it gave the book a chance to really find its audience AND gave me the amazing opportunity of producing “Princeless: Short Stories for Warrior Women” with a crew of amazing up and coming artists. The amount of talent I’ve gotten to work with on that book is downright startling. My life is too full of amazing artists and incredibly talented women.
CA: 2012 also saw the micro-series Princeless: Short Stories For Warrior Women; what was the creation for that born out of?
JW: I wanted to get more books out there and while Emily was slaving away on the new book, we don’t like to launch anything without having a significant headstart on the publication schedule. I had some more stories I wanted to tell outside of the main narrative and had met some amazingly talented artists while I was running around the country with volume 1, so I worked out a way to team up with them and give people more Princeless before volume 2 was ready to go.
JW: I have another micro-series of shorts pretty well ready to go after this arc, so that is definitely happening. Beyond that, there is of course the new story for Free Comic Book Day. Now, that story will introduce a new character. If that character makes the splash I hope she does, I’d like to tell more stories about her as well. But that’s up to those who order the Free Comic Book Day book.
CA: Aside from Princeless you also write The Order of Dagonet. Having two fantasy based stories from your pen, would you say that’s your favorite genre as a writer or is this by chance?
JW: In a way, it was by chance. I have other books that I want to get out there that are not fantasy, but my two fantasy books just happened to be the ones that have come together. They’re also very different books, as Dagonet is a modern fantasy farce following a group of modern knights and Princeless, though rarely described as traditional, is more a part of the high fantasy tradition.
All that said, I grew up reading Tolkien and playing D&D, so I love fantasy in a way I’m only starting to learn that not everyone does. For instance, did you know there are people out there who don’t know what a barrow wight is?
CA: Are there certain freedoms or constraints for you writing in a fantasy-based world?
JW: Well, both of those in a way. I tend to take my cues from whatever justifies what I want to do. The world of Princeless actually thrives on what some people have termed “anachronism” but I call “it’s not a real time and place. it’s a fantasy world that I made up and I can do whatever I want to”. So, Adrienne for example has a very modern and easy to read cadence to her speech as compared to the high-fantasy early-modern English that so many of us are used to. I also feel entirely free to go cross cultural with the characters and threats that face Adrienne. You’ll see a lot more of that in coming issues.
CA: What are some inspirations to you as a creator; any comics, movies, etc., or do you try and avoid these things while creating?
JW: I used to try to shut it all out when I was writing for fear of it bleeding over, but I realized that some of that is unavoidable and some of it is actually healthy. I think my two biggest influences as a writer have been Joss Whedon and Brian K Vaughan. Both of them tell incredibly interesting and sometimes enormous stories that at the end of the day are still about people. No matter the scope of something like Saga or Avengers, it’s really about the characters in the end. Oh and both of those guys write absolutely stellar women in their books.
Other things that are really making my creative life awesome right now are: Captain Marvel (and Kelly Sue in general), Hawkeye, Wonder Woman (who, when Cliff Chiang draws her, I feel like I’m seeing for the first time), Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger, Doctor Who, Young Justice, Justified, Louie, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, Hunger Games, Sesame Street, My Little Pony, Questionable Content, and Netflix (which lets me find all this strange stuff I would never see otherwise.
JW: I think it’s a reflection of the creator owned comic movement that we’ve seen take such great root in the past few years. It used to be that the major all-ages titles that were on the shelves were just watered down versions of the Big Two properties. However, when you give creators the reigns, you’re naturally going to see the diversity of the creators reflected in the books that come out.
Also, the easy answer is that the mainstream books have just gotten darker. People don’t feel as comfortable handing their kids an off the shelf DC book as they did a few years ago.
CA: Digital versus Print has been the hot debate for over a year now. Recently Action Lab joined the ranks on comiXology, helping expand access to your titles. Do you favor one form over the other? Do you think digital is important for titles like Princeless?
JW: Okay, lots of questions embedded in there. First of all, for my personal reading, I still prefer physical books. I go into the comic shop every couple weeks and pick mine up. As a creator, I want those to still be available. However, digital distribution (especially through an entity as wide reaching as Comixology) makes our books available to so many people who would never see them otherwise. Some people prefer to get their books that way and I’m sure that if you asked my wife she would rather I did than taking up a whole closet with longboxes. I believe in meeting people where they are if you want them to check out what you have to say. Digital goes a long way to that. There are a lot more people in a day who do business in the iStore or Android Marketplace than will walk into a comic shop.
CA: Fun question: let’s say the opportunity for Princeless comes about where it can have one those industry crossovers with any other title. What world would you like to see these characters collide with in that scenario?
JW: Well, we have already done a small one with Skullkickers and that was certainly a plus.
Just from a pure comedy and fun perspective though, I would love to have Adrienne encounter Marvel’s Asgard. I’d love to see her trade blows with Thor and train with Sif. I even think she’d be a match for Volstagg at the kitchen table.
CA: Finally, as we wrap up, any final thoughts for our readers?
JW: If you love all ages comics, support them with your purchase and your recommendation. If you know you want an upcoming book, let your retailer know to order it for you. Indie comics don’t get ordered unless the retailers know they will sell.
And if the book you really want to read is not on the stands, go make it. Who better to do it than you? You already know what it should be.
If anybody has any questions or comments for me (about anything) you can hit me up on twitter @jrome58. Also, if you want to talk to me about Action Lab stuff, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, of course, [for] the latest Princeless news, check out the Princeless tumblr at princelesscomic.tumblr.com
CA: Awesome! Thank you so much for your time!