Of Pirates and Self-Rescuing Princesses
When we first met Princess Adrienne, she was trapped in a dragon-guarded tower, until she decided to take her fate into her own hands to save herself. Princess Adrienne boldly confronts the prejudices that plague her kingdom — prejudices that happen to plague our society as well. Reading Action Lab Comics‘ Princeless: Save Yourself with my daughters was a refreshing change from the usual comic book stereotypes. Through Princess Adrienne, we had the delightful opportunity to see a person of colour as a main protagonist and fully clothed females in a story that we could all enjoy. Now Princess Adrienne and her companions, Sparky the Dragon and Bedelia the half-dwarf blacksmith, are back with a whole new adventure — and a whole new princess! Bringing Jeremy’s words to life this time are the creative team of Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt, who took the time to chat with me about the upcoming Princeless: The Pirate Princess.
Raven Xingtao first appeared in a Free Comic Book Day story. Were plans already underway to make her a more permanent part of Princess Adrienne’s self-rescuing princess adventures?
Jeremy: Honestly, when I first wrote that story the idea was to create a story that exemplifies what Princeless is about without just delivering people another chapter of the larger story for Free Comic Book Day. So I came up with this story where Adrienne and Bedelia would rescue another princess and expose a new audience to the story of Princeless while still giving existing readers something they hadn’t already read.
The thing is, I had to come up with a new princess and I wanted her to be fun and interesting. So I started creating Raven. By the end of the story I was so attached to Raven that I decided I wanted to do more with her.
And I’m sure that, like my daughters and me, lots of other fans were eager to learn more. Tell us a little about Raven and her piratical background.
Jeremy: Raven’s father is the Pirate King. For years Raven was his first in command. She was the best archer in his fleet and being trained to take over the fleet after he retired. However, thanks to her younger brothers, Raven’s father became obsessed with legacy. He decided the only way to get others to treat him as a king was to treat his legacy like the kings treated theirs. So, he locked his daughter away the same way the kings did.
How many issues will there be in this story arc? Will we see more Princeless after that?
Jeremy: This story will be four issues. After this story is over it will be right back to the main story that everybody knows and loves. Hopefully, we may also see more Raven as well.
Rosy and Ted, how did you come to work with Jeremy on Princeless? Were you reading the series before you got to work on this new storyline?
Ted: I was aware of Princeless before we started; I had seen the pages floating around on Tumblr, but am ashamed to say I hadn’t actually read the book. But when I saw Jeremy’s post that due to unforeseen circumstances he was looking for a new art team for volume 3, I was instantly interested, and went straight to Comixology to buy all the issues so we would be familiar with all the material needed to get a good grip on it. We got in touch with Jeremy, offered our services, and, amazingly, he took us up on it!
Rosy: I hadn’t read the books either, but I was aware of them because Ted had mentioned them to me before. When we found out about the opportunity to work with Jeremy I did the same as Ted and read the previous volumes and thought Princeless was a really worthwhile and fun-looking project to be a part of.
What other artistic projects have you worked on previously?
Ted: Professionally, not much. Really, my only pro credit was a small comic sequence for an educational textbook by the publisher MacMillan. It’s just another reason why I’m really grateful to have this job!
Rosy: Again, my answer is pretty much the same as Ted’s, just with a different educational publisher. We’re real newbies at the whole professional biz!
Looking at the fabulous artwork for the upcoming issue, I think Jeremy has made an excellent choice. What was it like to step into the role as the new artists for Princeless?
Ted: It’s been as intimidating as it has been thrilling, really. Despite having two separate art teams for the previous two volumes, Princeless still has maintained a clear identity of its own, and it was a big challenge to move into that, and nerve-wracking, from the point of view of not wanting to disappoint existing fans.
Rosy: It’s been very exciting, like Ted says, but also very exhausting. This is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever worked on, not only in terms of it being an actual published comic, but also in just the3 sheer amount of work that it entails. It’s been a very steep learing curve and I’m very grateful for the chance to learn from it.
How do the three of you work together on Princeless? What is involved in the process and how long does it take to put an issue together?
Jeremy: Well, I put the scripts and stories together, at least for a first pass. Then I hand them over to Rosy and Ted who put together designs for the characters. We go back and forth a little on the designs. Then Rosy and Ted take over their part of things. Occasionally we have to bang out some details on fitting things into space or reworking the action, but for the most part Rosy and Ted post some amazing work and I just sit back watch amazing art pop up in the dropbox.
Ted: I’m not sure you can say we really have a process yet; as it’s been our first volume together, and the first professional volume for Rosy and me, we’ve been feeling our way through, and adapting as we went. Originally, we thought we had a clear system: once we received the script from Jeremy, I would do the layouts, Rosy would pencil, I would ink, Rosy would colour, and I would letter. Like the saying goes, though, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and Rosy and I have collaborated on virtually every stage of the art production.
Rosy: The way we’ve been working involves a lot of juggling to produce the best work for the comic, but I think it’s settling down a bit. How long making an issue varies. We’ve learned a lot since we started and so have sped up quite a lot. Of course, when you have to add in large cast of extras that can cause you to slow down a bit again.
Princeless delivers a pretty significant message of empowerment. Did that have an effect on you as you were designing and drawing the characters?
Rosy: The most important characters were already pretty well-defined through the previous volumes aand Jeremy’s script so it was really just a case of translating them into the way we draw. The two most important factors to the character designs, for me, are the matters of ethnicity and individualism. Giving the girls their own distinct body types and making sure their features reflected their backgrounds where the main concerns.
Ted: As far as the storytelling went, it definitely had an effect on my choices for choreographing fight scenes; the big challenge was to create compelling action that was an effective showcase for the skills of the girls.
Princeless is one of the comics leading the charge in a slowly changing industry. How does it feel to be working on a book that is helping to shape this positive change in how we view women and people of colour in comics?
Ted: It feels great! Comics stories are definitely starting to benefit from the change in homogeneity: Princeless, Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, the Wicked and the Divine, and many more, are all great books and such a wonderful breath of fresh air.
Rosy: It makes me wonder why this kind of thing wasn’t produced earlier. When you open up to other types of people you open up so many more possibilities for stories. Having variety makes everything that much more interesting and I think that’s fantastic.
If you haven’t met the pirate princess Raven Xingtao and the other not-so-lady-like ladies of Princeless, you’ll have the opportunity to do so in January 2015, when issue one of this new story line hits the stands. Pre-order now using the code NOV140910.