ComicBook.com: Alright, so this is a great book - is there a story behind how the concept came to you?
Jeremy Whitley: My goal was to create a comic that I could share with my daughter. I wanted a heroine who was both strong and relatable, but at the same time a great role model. It bothers me that so many of the "heroes" girls are encouraged to look up to are these Disney princess types who have no agency and can't do for themselves.
ComicBook.com: Obviously, these characters are archetypes that show up again and again. What do you think of something like Greg Pak's planned children's book, which a lot of folks have said looks and feels a bit like Princeless?
Whitley: Well, the resemblance is undeniable, but personally I think in all the best ways. They both champion a princess who becomes her own rescuer and own hero. They both include a girl of color in the design. And they both hearken to the fantasy design from which the negative types that they oppose spring. I applaud Mr. Pak and Mr. Coulton's Kickstarter and honestly hope that someday Princeless can have half the success that they've had already!
ComicBook.com: Obviously in this book you've got a central character who's both female and non-white. Either one of those things is considered a liability by the bigger publishers, let alone both. What do you think separates the indie market from the Big Two in that regard?
Whitley: I think there are a number of factors, not the least of which is that Princeless is one of a limited number of properties that both I and my publisher am working on. I don't think that female or minority let books are unsustainable. I just think that the larger publishers have developed a "traditional wisdom" which tell them what is going to sell. They then spend their time and money promoting the book that's "going to sell".
Then, of course, they are proven right. The books where they put the superstar writers and artists and all the promotional dollars succeed and the book that they didn't have the time or money to promote doesn't make it and is eventually cancelled. It's the great self-fulfilling prophecy of publishing. The same conventional wisdom used to apply to movies until Will Smith started absolutely destroying the box office. The audience is there, the books just haven't risen to the challenge. Yet.
ComicBook.com: Gender issues are really front and center in this book not just because of the basic plotline, but because the King is...kind of a huge jerk. What motivated that?
Whitley: Ummm...is "life" too much of a smart aleck answer? I mean that seriously though. Some of my sexist princes are a little over the top, but I think the King's level of sexism is firmly grounded in reality. There are tons of men (many of whom are fathers) who think exactly like him. To his eye the girls have become a means to an end, not potential rulers themselves.
As for the larger role of gender issues in the book, well, I've known a lot of female comic book fans who have been pushed to the margins for thinking and saying the things that this book says and I think it's time that somebody gave voice to that in the medium. I love comics...but we're so weird sometimes...
ComicBook.com: Is it wrong that everytime someone shouts "Adrienne!", I get a Sylvester Stallone flashback?
Whitley: I think it's only natural. Just wait till I introduce you to her arch nemesis, Stella! "Adrienne!" "Stella!" "Adrienne!" "Stella!"
ComicBook.com: How's it feel to get the Free Comic Book Day spotlight? Especially sharing covers with Jamal Igle, that's got to be a bunch of new sets of eyes on the book.
Whitley: It feels fantastic. It's been a joy and an honor to get to know Jamal and I really believe in his book. He's said some really nice things to me about mine, too. Being at my store, Ultimate Comics, on Free Comic Book Day and actually seeing the stacks of my comic get picked up and carried away boy swarms of boys and girls was an amazing feeling! Thanks to the joys of social media, I've already had a few people tell me that as soon as they read it they headed out to the store of ComiXology to pick up the rest of the set! It's a fantastic feeling.
ComicBook.com: If there's one thing you want fans to know about Princeless by the time they finish their first issue, what is it?
Whitley: That I love comic books and while this may be a book that picks on them quite a bit, it's designed to be in many ways the ultimate comic book. If comics are about giving a voice and power to the little guy (or girl) or the person who hasn't been told that they can fight for themselves in real life, that's what Princeless is all about. It's an escapist (literally) power fantasy. But hopefully, for a lot of girls, it's quite an attainable one. Princeless is about being able to control your own destiny, no matter who you are...even a princess.
ComicBook.com: Do you have a favorite supporting character in this book? It's one of those rare titles where everyone who moves through it seems to be more fun than the last. There aren't many straight men.
Whitley: That's true! Even my soldier thugs in volume 1 get some fun lines! Personally, my favorite supporting characters so far are ones the readers haven't even met yet. There are some great characters and great moments coming up in volume 3. Hopefully people will stick around to meet them!