Interview: Princeless

Once upon a time a few weeks ago I conducted an interview via Skype with Jeremy Whitley & Jason Strutz of Firetower Studios. Those of you that will have listened to it may have noticed that when we began to discuss Jeremy’s other book, Princeless (which he is currently writing for Action Lab comics), the sound quality of the interview deteriorated & by the end everyone sounded like they were trying to have a discussion in a vast underground cave, despite the fact that nobody was spelunking at the time of the interview. To be perfectly honest I have no idea why this happened, however Jeremy was very understanding & was nice enough to grant me the opportunity of doing a print interview regarding the book which can be found below. In the interview Jeremy discusses benefits of working with a great artist, how he feels about the range of books aimed at the female market & gives sage advice for people looking to break into the comic book industry. Enjoy.

  Jon: So, sell me Princeless. Obviously I’ve read it, so I’m sold on it already, but for the benefit of our readers out there tell me about the book

"I love seeing illustrated pages of a story I'm still writing, because those pages just add further to the inspiration I have in writing it."

Jeremy: Princeless is a story about a princess who’s tired of waiting to be rescued and decides to save herself.  It’s a book for girls who aren’t content to sit around and be rescued and want to have their own adventures.  Adrienne is on a quest not just to claim her own independence but to save her sisters as well, with the help of her guardian dragon, Sparky.

Whereas your previous book, The Order of Dagonet, is published through your own Firetower Studios, Princeless is being released through Action Lab Comics. Can you tell me how that came about & a little about how you’ve found the experience so far?

Well, a bit more than a year ago I first started Princeless with another artist and we had one issue ready to go.  I happened to sit next to Dave Dwonch of Action Lab at Heroes Con and at the end of the show we did the ceremonial book exchange.  Well, one day Dave sent me an email saying how much he liked the idea of Princeless and how he wished he got to work on a book like that.  Since then the original artist and I had gone through a falling out, so I had no one to work on the book.  I got up with Dave who hooked me up with Action Lab and a fantastic artist in Mia Goodwin.

As far as how it is working with Action Lab… I had self-published everything before so I was a bit nervous about having a company with editors and a creative director and so on, but Action Lab have been fantastic.  They have done a lot to promote the book and have been very responsive to everything I’ve wanted for the book.  Honestly, while they don’t exactly have the facilities to put out the number of books that someone like Image does, I would definitely recommend them to any creators who have something they really want to see published.

Mia’s artwork certainly contributes a lot to Princeless’ charm. While the script for the first issue has remained pretty much the same as it was before, has working with a new artist made it possible for you to explore new ideas in the book that you previously hadn’t considered?

As you say, the initial script for the first issue didn’t change much, but working with an artist like Mia has opened up all sorts of possibilities.  She brings a lot of her own ideas to the table and a lot of those are fantastic.  It’s great to have an artist who is excited about being part of the book.  Mia is never willing to settle for something that’s just ok when she can knock it out of the park.  It’s given me a lot of confidence in writing the series going forward that I have an artist who can really bring the story to life.  I love seeing illustrated pages of a story I’m still writing, because those pages just add further to the inspiration I have in writing it.

It’s always good to hear about creators upping their A game. It makes me look even more forward to what’s coming up. Now the comic book market is traditionally viewed as being for teenage boys. What inspired you to create a title that is aimed at a younger female market?

"Adrienne is better than just strong, she is strong willed and inquisitive. "

Well, to be honest it was just that.  It really sucks that there is no market for girls in comic books.  The manga market has proved that there are girls who will read the books and every day I read reviews from women working at review sites that love comics and hate that they’re not represented.  In fact, sometimes the bigger companies seem not to care about having women in comic books or having women read comic books.  I’d like to be able to pass the love I have for comics on to my daughter.  That’s a big deal for me.

Damn straight. I think James’ daughter is getting Spider-Man wallpaper whether she wants it or not. The equality issue has been a hot topic of conversation for James & myself as of late & I actually cited Princeless as a title with a positive female role model. When you created Adrienne did you intentionally set out to make her this or was she influenced by someone you knew?

It’s actually a little bit of both.  I wanted to have a character who was a strong female role model, but the best way to create that (I felt) was to take aspects from the strong women I know.  She’s a little bit of my wife, a little bit of my mom and mother-in-law, and a lot of my sister-in-law Adrienne (after whom she is named).  I wanted a character who was strong and determined, but also (by the standards of her sisters and parents) weird.  I’m a big believer in people who have the courage to be weird or different or just themselves even in the face of people saying “Who doesn’t want to be rescued by a prince and live happily ever after?”.  Adrienne is better than just strong, she is strong willed and inquisitive.

I have to say that sounds like a pretty fair trade off I could take being known as “weird” if it meant I got to be immortalised in a comic book. I think that Princess Adrienne’s inquisitive nature is part of what makes her such an authentic character though & one that readers of all ages will really be able to relate to. Now finally, Princeless is very much a book about getting out there & doing things for yourself. This is an ethos that’s very much reflected in the way you’ve made it happen. What advice would you give to aspiring creators? 

No matter how much you think about it and how much you want to be successful there is no substitute for experience.  It’s not easy to get even to this point and I’m still far off from being where I’d like to be.  If you really want to make it you have to make the time to make it happen, you have to surround yourself with likeminded, determined, and creative people and sometimes you have to grab the reins and do it yourself.  You can mail packets off to Image all day every day, but the success I’ve had I got from self-publishing and getting to those conventions and talking to the people do what I want to do.  Possibly, most important of all is to always recognize when someone is doing you a favor: whether it be advising, editing, reviewing or even interviewing you.  In the vast web that is comics, there is no one it doesn’t pay to listen to, thank, or even do a favour for yourself.