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Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless is the story readers they want: a kid-friendly tale of a strong girl who defies authority and has swashbuckling adventures. Centering on Adrienne, a princess who breaks out of her tower, befriends the dragon who is supposed to be guarding her, and heads off to rescue her sister princesses, it’s funny and well written, and it was nominated for two Eisner Awards, best publication for kids (8-12) and best single issue (for Issue 3, which sends up superheroine costumes). Yet its small-press origins and limited distribution meant that it took a while to reach its audience.
Now publisher Action Lab comics is reissuing Princeless, first in single-issue format (starting with Issue 1), and then with a new Vol. 1. After that, the publisher will focus on new content. I spoke with Whitley, who also handles publicity for Action Labs, about why he wrote Princeless and why he is reissuing the series. (Jeremy’s essay on women and comics is also well worth a read.)
Robot 6: First of all, why are you relaunching Princeless?
Jeremy Whitley: Well, due to the low initial print run, Princeless has been out of print for a while now. First the individual issues sold out, then the trades. Since they launched, we’ve moved to a bigger, higher-quality printer, we’re better able to handle larger print runs, and we’ve really wanted to get a full sized trade out there.
So, we figured the best way to reintroduce the series was to offer the first issues at a lower price point, starting with Issue 1 for only $1, releasing #2-4 at $2.99 each, and following up with a full-sized trade for the first time and at a lower price point. We want to make it as accessible and affordable to everyone as possible. The first time around we just didn’t have the funds or the contacts to offer what we can now!
In the past, it was broken into several four-issue arcs, if I remember correctly. Going forward, will you continue that format or will it be an ongoing story?
Well, it’s both in some respects. We’re going to try and have new Princeless stuff out every month for the next year, but we want to keep each volume to a self-contained story. Each tale is one of Adrienne’s rescue attempts, but the whole story is building to a larger overall arc.
You presented Princeless as an alternative to other comics that treat women poorly or unrealistically. What do you think a story has to have beyond that, though, to engage readers, and how do you give your characters depth?
The biggest thing is to have solid and well-rounded characters. Just having them be “strong” is hardly enough. I strive to make characters that readers can relate to and are interesting to read. I also think that there is an art form to making stories truly all ages accessible. Writing just for kids or just for adults is fine, but finding a way to write a story where parents can read to their kids and everyone can enjoy it is a challenge I really enjoy.
Will the new issues be different from the originals?
The issues we’re releasing starting in November will essentially be the same as the original volume 1, though they may have a few added bonuses. However, right after this volume is released the brand new Vol. 3 will be hitting the stands.
Single-issue comics for kids are a tough sell in the direct market. Why are you choosing to go that route?
There is some resistance, yes, but there is also a need. I want my daughter to be able to walk into a comic shop and pick up books like Princeless. I want comics to shake this stigma that they’re only for boys or worse yet that they’re only for 30- to 40-something men. There are some great all-ages graphic novels out there, but sharing the world of comics and single issues is a beloved one for me and one that I’d love to introduce to young girls.
Who is your audience? Is it kids or their comics-reading parents? I’m asking because Princeless sometimes skewers comics tropes that the kids wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.
I like to think it’s both. I aspire for Princeless to be like the best Pixar movies, where parents and kids can sit down and watch it together. They might get different things from it, but they can all love it and share it with one another.
Do you plan any creative changes or will the team stay the same?
The current team from Vol. 2, with Emily Martin on pencils and Brett Grunig on colors, will stay intact. We have some surprises coming up though in that the team is getting a little bit bigger.
Any digital presence?
Action Lab offers all of our issues as unrestricted PDFs through our website, www.actionlabcomics.com, and we always have. I know some larger publishers have recently made a big deal about doing this. In addition to that, we offer our books through comiXology and Comics+ and several e-reader programs.
How about collected editions? How are you planning to market those?
We’re offering them at a lower price point than we previously could. Just as we’ve recently lowered the price of our single issues, we’ll be lowering the price of the trades to match. And now that we have a new printer and new book market contacts, we have the ability to keep our trades in print all of the time. We want each issue of Princeless to stay on shelves and in stores as each volume comes out.
Princeless Encore Edition #1 arrives Nov. 13. You can read a preview at Comic Book Resources.