If you thought I was skipping a Indie Comics Month day just because I launched that Guide to Star-Lord earlier today, you thought wrong! Just like I launched my new Guide to Lumberjanes last Friday after a significant X-Men guide update, I’ve got a list of some favorite all-ages series and smaller indies to launch alongside my major Marvel guide launches and updates for the rest of this month. Today I bring to all Patrons of CK I guide to the only princess I’ve allowed onto our bookshelves (other than Diana!) – and that’s because she’s the self-saving kind! Yes, it’s a Guide to Princeless & Raven The Pirate Princess from the always-brilliant Jeremy Whitley!
If Lumberjanes is my #1 all-ages comic recommendation, Princeless is a very close #2. Princeless every bit as witty, silly, and thought-provoking as Lumberjanes and with a terrific concept.
And, I only found it because I am incredibly stubborn and an absolutely voracious comic-reader!
You may recall my story about how most of the comics-reading internet decided that the utterly brilliant Unstoppable Wasp was terrible, which meant it took me a while to get to read it. Once I did, I wanted to read everything by author Jeremy Whitley, who seemed to have a real golden touch when it came to writing dynamic, empowered, but also flawed young women.
In looking up his other credits, I noticed he was writing a book I had never heard of: “Princeless” for Action Lab Comics. I had Action Labs on my “publisher quota” list for 2019 to force myself to sample at least 10 issues from them on my way to reading 4,000 comics that year, but I was hesitant. I had read one semi-acclaimed title from Action lab’s “Danger Zone” adult-oriented line and it was one of my most-hated books of the last decade. Maybe of all time!
If anyone had the goodwill to get me to give them another shot, it was Whitley.
That’s how Princeless came into my life, and immediately after reading the first issue I gathered up my then-five-year-old kid to read all of the first series aloud to her. Then we read the second series the next month. And the third a month after that. Reading Princeless to her remains one of my favorite memories of 2019 – a year that was otherwise pretty crappy (and that was before we were in a global pandemic!)
What’s so special about Princeless? In short, it’s about a self-saving princess named Adrienne. She gets such a rush from saving herself from a life stuck in a tower waiting for her prince to come that she decides to go on a campaign to save all of her elder sisters from similar stuck-in-a-tower situations.
That’s the basic premise, but there’s so much more to the story than the girl-power of no longer waiting for your prince to come.
Adrienne’s means of escape is by convincing her fierce guard-dragon to become her personal airbus. But, that means that her father – a rather wicked and sexist king of the country – assumes she has been kidnapped and puts a bounty on her kidnapper’s head. Except… she’s her own kidnapper! That means Adrienne is now saving her sisters while avoiding bounty-hunters. Along the way we get witty observations about meeting your parent’s expectations, terrible designs for women’s armor, and caring for black hair.
Meanwhile, Adrienne’s sole brother is not into the idea of being the sort of gruff knight who goes and liberates his own princess to marry. Plus, her mother goes missing. And, some of her sisters are not as keen on being saved as she was – some of them don’t need saving at all!
Each volume of Princeless covers another 3-4 issue round of sister saving (she has a lot of sisters), with one volume devoted to their own solo stories. There’s also a short-story collection that helps fill in the details of the world and its supporting characters, and a later set of digital charity shorts. Plus, in the course of her third sister-saving adventure, Adrienne also liberates Raven The Pirate Princess – who spins off into her own middle-grade comic series stuffed with swashbuckling and romance that cuts across all orientations.
There’s one big tragedy in the world of Princeless, and it’s not a part of Whitley’s fairytale story. Instead, it has to do with publisher Action Lab.
Action Lab stopped paying creators in 2021, and after a flurry of social media comments and articles from both sides the situation turned into class action lawsuit. Some perennial Action Lab titles, like Zombie Tramp, retained their rights and headed to Kickstarter.
It seems Princeless is not so lucky. Not only is no tenth and final volume forthcoming, but Action Lab solicited what little material from that volume they had available as a 2023 Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) issue without the consent (or even awareness!) of creators Whitley and Emily C. Martin.
Of course, I want to read a final installment of Princeless with my daughter while she’s still a (relatively) little kid! However, my desire for more entertainment doesn’t take precedent over Whitley and Martin’s rights as creators. Plus, they haven’t even drawn the whole dang volume yet – just the portion of the first issue solicited for FCBD!
Whether Princeless ever sees completion, it doesn’t change that it’s an incredible, delightful, and wholesome comic reading experience for fans of all ages and genders. You can still pick up paperbacks and digital editions, or if you don’t want to buy Action Lab’s products just reserve it at your local library!
My Guide to Princeless links to all of the volumes of both Princeless and Raven the Pirate Princess in order, plus explains the contents of the Princeless short-stories collection. That might not sound like much, but some of the early Princeless volumes are unnumbered, and there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO information on the web about the short-stories collection – I had to go through it page by page to confirm its contents. Unsurprisingly, Action Labs’ solicit text is as bad as their track record of paying creators.
This will be available to all readers of CK in the coming months as I continue to expand my indie and licensed comics coverage, including several of my favorite all-ages comics! Keep reading CK daily for more indie announcements – and if you want access to them as they launch, consider becoming a Patron of CK. For as little as $1 a month or $10.20 a year, Patrons currently have access to…
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