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Jeremy Whitley is a three-time Glyph winner and two-time Eisner nominee for his Princeless and The Order of Dagonet creator owned series. But his talents don’t just rely in comics. He also stories for comics, video games and short fiction, is the Head of Marketing for Princeless publisher Action Lab Entertainment and has created a comic book adaption of the anti-bullying website GlobWorld. But why read my bio when you can read the man himself. Enjoy my interview with Jeremy Whitley!
Me: What inspired you to write comics?
Whitley: I’ve always wanted to write and aside from a brief stint where I wanted to be an actor more, I always have. I started taking writing really seriously about the same time that I stopped having a local comic shop in my area or it might have happened sooner.
As fate would have it, I went to UNC for the normal boring kind of creative writing with dreams of being a big time prose author (dreams which are not gone). I took some great classes with some amazing professors and eventually found myself back out on the street with a Bachelor’s degree and no other clamoring voices to hear my writing. I worked on this and that for awhile, before discovering my local comic shop in Chapel Hill, Ultimate Comics. It started with just a couple of books here and there and then it sprang into a $25 a week comic habit (as these things are want to do.
Anyway, at some point I put the two together and Blammo, things really started to sync for me.
Me: For the unfortunates unaware of your award-winning Princeless comic book, what is the series about and what can you tell us about the upcoming second volume?
Whitley: Princeless is about a princess who decides she’s tired of waiting around to be rescued and teams up with her guardian dragon to rescue herself. With that accomplished in the first volume, she sets off to rescue her sisters.
As for the second volume, it’s the tale of Adrienne setting off to rescue her sister Angelica, who is regarded to be the most beautiful girl in all of the kingdom. Suffice to say, Adrienne doesn’t think as much of Angelica as the rest of the world seems to.
Meanwhile, the King has gathered a group of knights to hunt the knight he believes is responsible for Adrienne’s death. Little does he know, he’s employing the strongest knights in the realm to hunt down his own daughter!
Me: Where did the idea for Princeless originate from?
Whitley: I felt like it needed to exist. I needed to have a book like this that I could share with my daughter. I love comics and want to share them with her and there frankly aren’t enough good and appropriate female characters out there. That goes double for women of color. All of the gender based marketing and helpless princess characters that line the aisles of every toy section drove me nuts. I really wanted my daughter to have a choice. And that’s what Princeless is really about, agency. The ability of girls to make their own choices.
Me: Did you expect the comic to become as popular as it did?
Whitley: Of course I always hoped it would be. Despite what others thought, I knew there was a market out there for this. Between the frustrated moms and dads like me and the comic readers and bloggers who desperately wanted to say something popular about any female character in comics, I knew it was there. Now, did I think it would win awards and get nominated for Eisners. No. I did not.
Me: What has it been like working with the artist of Princeless, Emily Martin?
Whitley: Emily is fantastic to work with and so full of ideas. Emily and I make a great team because often I know exactly what I want from a character or a scene and I’ll describe it to her in vivid detail. Then, she’ll come back with something completely different than what I had in mind, but brilliant. I’m a big believer in not trying to dictate an artist’s job to them, I love to let my artists breathe and see what they make of things. Occasionally it means we end up in different ball parks, but it always leads to a better book. Also, being an art teacher and anime enthusiast, Emily’s points of reference a infinite. Sometimes I have to just pretend that I know what she’s talking about and watch to see what shows up in the email.
Me: Are there any projects other than Princeless that you will be working on in the near future?
Whitley: Well, Princeless will continue, hopefully sooner than later. In the mean time, I am also working on my other ongoing series, The Order of Dagonet with my friend and artist Jason Strutz. If you enjoy the humor of Princeless and want to go for something a little more on the mature side, it’s alot of fun and also available through Action Lab.
I am also hoping to have another project with Jason starting soon that is slightly more on the super heroic side. Nothing’s concrete there yet as we’re still in the basic design phase, but it’s a story I’ve been sitting on for awhile and I think people are going to like a lot.
I have a super secret project with Action Lab…which is in Previews now though I still can’t officially talk about it. Beyond that, I’m hammering out some pitches and looking for some collaborators for several future projects which I can’t wait to see take shape.
Me: Have you ever wanted to step-out of the comic book world and try something different, like a novel or another career all-together?
Whitley: Absolutely. I have plans on the novel side, it’s really just a matter or putting words on paper, which is going to be a matter of getting far enough ahead on my writing for comics.
Me: If you could choose to work with anyone (other than Emily of course) on a comic book project, who would it be and why?
Whitley: I have a couple folks I’d love to work with. Right now I’m trying to put together a project with Afua Richardson, whose work has absolutely amazed me from the first time I saw it. I’d also love to work with Des Taylor, Cliff Chiang, Arie Monroe, David Aja, Fiona Staples, Terry Moore, Pia Guerra, Khari Evans, Jamal Igle, Becky Cloonan, and a lot more. There are a lot of different reasons for all of these and I would have a hard time trimming it down.
However, Fiona Staples, Cliff Chiang, and Khari Evans are all for much the same reasons. Every time I see their work I feel like I can see what they added to it. They have these awesomely solid identities as artists which oozes its way onto every page. They would all work on very different stories, but I’d love to work with any of them.
Me: If you were offered a job to work on any comic book you wanted, what would it be and why?
Whitley: I have two competing answers to this that come out equally as often: a Storm ongoing or Heroes for Hire. I feel like not enough people really get Storm and that she’s just too amazing of a character to hide between the pages of the occasional team book. She deserves her own book. Also, I want to do a classic Heroes for Hire with Misty, Colleen, Danny, Luke (and Jessica) doing what they do best and leading a truly street level book.
Me: Princess Adrienne is quite an inspirational figure for young girls. Who inspired you to create her?
Whitley: Princess Adrienne came along because of a couple of women. First and foremost is my wife who is an amazing and challenging woman. If challenging sounds at all bad in this context, it’s not meant to. My wife, like Princess Adrienne, is inquisitive about everything and chronically unwilling to let things (especially the nonsensical) slide. She’s also a lifelong Teen Titans fan in a family of other girls who have never touched comics.
The second important woman here is my little sister-in-law, Adrienne. Adrienne, for whom the character is named, is the type who’s never afraid to do her own thing. She’s always creating and always creative. That’s what I wanted for Princess Adrienne. the desire to live as she sees fit, despite what others (including her own sisters) might think of her in the process.
Finally, there is of course my one and a half year old daughter, Zuri. The very idea of having a daughter inspired me to shape a character who could be an inspiration to her. I don’t think there are enough strong and intelligent female characters in comics and I certainly don’t think that enough of them are leading ladies.
Me: What is your opinion of how women are portrayed in comics?
Whitley: While there are exceptions, I think overall the portrayal of women in comics is abysmal. They’re treated with this insane mixture of delicacy and filth. Most of their outfits are ridiculous, there seems to be a shortage of working zippers, and the majority of them still don’t have the character development and depth of their male counterparts. Good series and characters disappear without explanation and those who endure are frequently treated with little to no respect.
That said, Captain Marvel is awesome, Wonder Woman has some exceptionally strong moments, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey often shine, and I have high hopes for some of the recent books announced at Marvel.
Me: What advice can you give to aspiring comic book writers?
Whitley: Do it. Whenever you have a chance, write. Whenever you’re blocked, edit. When someone is willing to read your stuff, let them. Don’t feel like you have to do what’s popular in comics right now, do what’s real to you. If you want a book to exist, make that book.
Me: Thank you for the interview Mr. Whitley! Looking forward to seeing your work in Princeless, Volume 2, issue 1, this February!
For more of Jeremy Whitley’s work, Princeless, explore the links below!