Interview: Jeremy Whitley

So in case you hadn’t noticed I’ve been banging on about some book called Princeless since I was writing on the old website back in the year dot. Well the trade of the first arc is due out just about any day now & to mark this occasion I interviewed the series creator & writer Jeremy Whitley where we covered his response to the response to Princeless, the book’s he’d write if ever he got given the chance & where he got the idea for that story about Women Warriors & Warrior Women…

 

So, it’s been 6 months & 4 issues since the last interview (& the first reviews). How do you both feel about Princeless now the first volume is finished compared to before it started?

JW: Honestly, I feel amazed and grateful.  I always expected that people would like Princeless, but the reception it’s gotten has blown me away.  I never expected such (nearly) unanimous rave reviews, especially from people who didn’t know I existed six months ago.  There have been a couple times with this project that I wrote to a person or a site with little more than a prayer that they might open the email, only to have a thrilled response and a squeeing review follow.  It’s enough to make a person feel as if they might be on to something.

 

It sounds like every comic book writer’s fairytale to me. Now, you had the first issue of Princeless scripted & ready to go quite a while before it was actually released, but how much of the rest of it was written  beforehand? Was it all there already or did the other chapters come together much later?

The first two arcs have been more or less finished on the writing end since before we started art on issue 1.  Now, some things have definitely changed and there’s been quite a bit of editing (mostly because I write way too much dialogue) but the story is so far intact.  Currently I’m working on writing the third arc out, but I have most of the story laid down from an outline perspective and have for a while.  I have to admit though, as I write I add a lot of material which was never in the original outline.  I believe in having some fluidity in your storytelling to allow things to open up as they dawn on you.

 

It sounds like you have a fairly organic writing process. So, do you have a definite end in mind for Princeless & has it been there since the beginning or did it develop along with the story? 

I have an end to this story in mind, but the way I see it that doesn’t necessitate an end to Princeless altogether.  It will depend if, at the end of this story, there is still a demand for more.  I could keep writing this book forever as long as there’s somebody there to read it.  The end of this story has always been more or less determined, although I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t gotten a little further away than it once was.  Adrienne’s quest has gotten a bit longer and her path a bit windier over the course of the writing.

 

In all honesty from the way you write Adrienne I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that she quite happily did her own thing & told you what to write & would say when she was done. It’s the character of Adrienne’s is one of the books biggest draws but the trade sees you hand her over to Jim Zub for a crossover with the book Skull Kickers. Were you apprehensive handing your baby over to somebody else, even if it was only for 3 pages?

I mean, you can’t help but be a little nervous, but Jim is a great writer and I love his book.  I asked that got to see the script before it went forward to art just so I could make sure it didn’t step on any future plans I had that Jim didn’t know about.  When I got the script I honestly didn’t even have any suggestions.  I think fans of both books should really enjoy this story.

 

So is there any chance of you doing a Skull Kickers story in future?

I’d love to if Jim would have me, but that’s totally up to him.  I’m sure if the critics started demanding it…hint, hint, hint

 

Hmmmm… (Starts letter writing campaign). The third chapter of Princeless sees Adrienne sharing her thoughts on Women Warriors & Warrior Women – is this something that’s always got your goat or did it develop out of writing the story? Was having the famous costumes a gag you’d had in mind since the beginning or did it come in later to reinforce the point?

It has always bothered me.  I will readily grant that there was a point when I was thirteen that I didn’t feel quite so much of a moral outrage about Red Sonja’s chainmail bikini, but it’s always seemed like stories are sacrificing real character development in order to make a character sexy.  However, what inspired this particular rant was a bit more personal.  You’re familiar with my first attempt at Princeless with a former artist that only made it to issue 1.  It should have been a sign when the first picture he handed me of Adrienne had her wearing a chest plate, her midriff bare, and a plate mail skirt.  I politely explained to said artist that that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind and then went off to write this admittedly somewhat ranty third issue.

 

I retweeted someone quite recently that basically said any male designing a costume for a female character should be forced to wear it first. The third issue was probably the highlight of the whole run for me as the costume gag & the message with it can be thought of differently depending on which side of 16 you happen to fall. Is writing the script in a way that has a balanced message for all ages something that takes a lot of effort or do you have a stack of ideas built up that you’re ready  to rant about?

It’s a little bit of both.  The hardest part of it is often to just keep the characters from cursing when I get passionate about something.  If not for some of the language, Dagonet would have almost been all-ages friendly.  I certainly have plenty of things lined up to rant about though, that won’t be running out anytime soon

 

Is it just the stereotypes in comics or are there other things that really get your goat. Go on, cut loose ;-)

I’m a little miffed with mainstream comics and their overuse of certain characters.  I feel like there is a saturation level even for Wolverine and Batman.  If you do nothing but plug your “Big Howevermany” you’re doing just as much to keep your small characters from growing.  The best example of letting a character shine is Iron Man.  Pre Civil War he had trouble even sustaining a book, but they let him shine in Civil War, put an excellent writer on his monthly, and now he’s a big money franchise to rival Spider-Man.  There could be more characters like that if you let them be.  Comics are too timid to take a loss in the short to win in the long.

 

I have to admit recently Marvel has been putting some pretty high quality names on some of their lesser titles & it’s really starting to bear fruit. So if you could take a six issue shot at bringing any character back from obscurity (& I don’t necessarily mean only in comics either) who would it be & why

Generally my answer to this is flat out, no doubt, Misty Knight.  I love this character and feel like she’s been under and mis-used ever since the Daughters of the Dragon mini Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti did a few years back.  I’d really love to make her as popular as she should be.

But, since you asked that question in such an interesting way, you’re going to get a more interesting answer.  Invader Zim.  With all the bizarre properties that have gotten a shot in the comic book world over the last few years, this too dark for Nickelodeon classic has never been given the shot it deserves.  Zim and Gir are two of my favourite cartoon characters of all time and I’d love to see them get the chance to tear up the pages of a monthly or mini.

 

 It’s interesting that you mention Misty Knight, because you tend to focus a lot of your writing on female characters & to your credit you write them well. Does it come naturally or have you had to work on writing female characters in order to tell the stories you wanted to?

It’s a little bit of both Jon.  I’ve always had a thing for strong women, whether they be my friends, girlfriends, or just people I admire.  But I also think that, as a writer, you need to study voices that are not your own.  There are too many books out there about whiny white male writers and as a writer you owe it to your characters to endow them with a real voice

 

I like how you say you owe it to your characters to endow them with a real voice as it’s Adrienne’s voice (& her opinions) which makes her such a well rounded character. You said in our previous interview that Adrienne was based on a number of people you knew, is that true for all of your characters? For example do Beledonia or Adrienne’s brother share a voice with real life counterparts?

Bedelia is a bit of an amalgam of some of my favorite women, including my wife Alicia and my long time friend Ashley.  Both of them are incredibly smart and imaginative women who, like Bedelia, occasionally have so many things going through their head that they don’t all come out in the right order.  Devin is based on a couple boys I’ve known and in this case I’d rather not get too specific.  Devin is in a position where he is being pushed toward glory and honour, but would really be much happier if he could just be himself.  That’s what I like about Devin, he really has a lot of what Adrienne would like to have, but he doesn’t want any of it.

 

So out of all the characters to grace your pages which one are you?

I like to think there’s a little bit of me in all of them.  I’m the cynical writer like Order of Dagonet’s Everyman.  I’m ambitious and easily frustrated like Adrienne.  I like to think I’m the protective and reluctant Sparky of my eight month old’s life and I’m I was the kid who left football practice early to get to play rehearsal like Devin.  Sometimes I’m even King Ashe, but most often than not it’s my own dreams and habits I’m picking apart.  Luckily, I’m also my own Bedelia, with another crazy idea just around the corner.