Basil is an ordinary princess, but her creator, Cassie Anderson, is anything but. A freelance artist from Portland, Oregon, she's got her name on not one, but two new books from Dark Horse Publishing this year. The second volume of Lifeformed, which features Anderson's art and lettering, will be out in September, and her own
Basil is an ordinary princess, but her creator, Cassie Anderson, is anything but. A freelance artist from Portland, Oregon, she’s got her name on not one, but two new books from Dark Horse Publishing this year. The second volume of Lifeformed, which features Anderson’s art and lettering, will be out in September, and her own original work, Extraordinary: The Story of an Ordinary Princess, is out this summer.
Extraordinary began as a webcomic that tells the story of a princess gifted by a fairy godmother to be ordinary. While her sisters shine in every spotlight, Basil seems to be forever surrounded by shadows, but there’s so much more to her than it seems as she ventures off to find her purpose. This is a young reader book with a lot of heart that any reader can appreciate.
When did you first read The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye and what was it about the story that inspired you to create a webcomic based on it?
I first learned about M.M. Kaye’s novel back in college. One of my teachers assigned a project where we had to take a fairy tale and make a four-page multimedia comic based on it. I was having a really hard time finding a story that resonated with me. I was tired of the usual “prince and princess meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after” narratives. After a bit of searching, I stumbled on a brief synopsis of The Ordinary Princess. I loved the concept and used it as the base for my four-page comic. When it was done, something about the characters and story really stuck with me and I started developing my own take on it. However, I decided that if I was going to make my own version, I didn’t want to be overly influenced by Kaye’s. So I didn’t actually read The Ordinary Princess until I finished my story in 2017, a decision I’m glad I stuck with. Her story is delightful and sweet, and by not reading it before writing mine, I was able to make something unique to me.
Do you see yourself in Basil or any of the other characters?
Originally, I didn’t think Basil and I had too much in common. But one day as I was writing it hit me that I put a lot of myself into her without realizing. Basil suffers from a deep feeling of inadequacy, which is something I also struggle with. Getting to write out her arc and see her accept who she is, especially the “ordinary” parts, was really cathartic for me. People definitely drew the connection between her and me before I did though, especially as my hair got longer after being cropped short for a couple years.
A picture of me entering the week. pic.twitter.com/sRG5hFwr29
— Cassie Anderson (@CassieDoesArt) June 25, 2019
Your original work was in watercolour, which you share in the backmatter of this collected edition. What prompted the change in medium?
As I was developing the story in college, I experimented with a few different ways to best tell it. At one point, I was working on turning it into a pitch for animation. I even made a series of storyboards for one of the scenes to include in my pitch packet. This particular rendition of the project helped move me towards a digital approach. When I graduated college, I got an internship at a comic studio in Portland, where I learned about a new program for creating digital art called Clips Studio. Extraordinary became the perfect excuse to not only learn the program but to finally get my story into the world. I missed using traditional media, for sure, but I was able to create pages much faster. Working digitally also gave my comic an animated movie feel, which I think fits the story well. The bright colors and cartoony designs would have been a lot harder to achieve with watercolors.
How did you determine the design elements that would make Basil appear more ordinary than her sisters?
Way back when I was originally designing the characters, I doodled Basil in the margins of my notebook for another class (art history maybe?) and gave her little dot eyes. Something clicked. I loved the idea of representing her “plainness” with overly simple eyes while her sisters would all have big, animated eyes. From there, I took it one step further and knocked her color palette’s saturation way down. I wanted it to seem like she would fit in better outside adventuring than in a colorful ballroom, where her sisters are clearly right at home.
How did it feel to bring the series to a close? How does it feel now to see and hold your work as a published book?
It was so surreal to finally finish this series. From the time I started working on it in college to when I drew the last page about 7 years had gone by. This just made it even more special to hold the final, printed and published version in my hands. I felt so nervous pulling it out of the envelope my editor sent me! But I feel really proud of what I made, and I truly hope people of all ages can enjoy Basil’s story.
Are there more adventures planned for Basil and her friends?
I don’t have any current plans, but who knows! It would be fun to someday continue her and Hudson’s story.
While Basil’s continuing adventures might not be at the top of Anderson’s to-do list at the moment, she is still keeping very busy thanks to a new found love of slice of life journal comics. Check out her Patreon to find out more.