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We Talk Princeless: The Pirate Princess with Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins, and Ted Brandt

PL_V3_1_SMALLPrincess Adrienne is back! This time Adrienne and Bedelia have found another young princess locked away in a tower and decided to rescue her. But Princess Raven is more than meets the eye and Adrienne may have finally met her match.

After a bit of a break writer Jeremy Whitley returns with a new volume of Princeless adventures, Princeless: The Pirate Princess! Joining Jeremy is a new artistic team, Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt.

The new adventure is in the latest issue of Previews out this week, so you can make sure to pre-order it for its January release. Until then, we chatted with Jeremy, Rosy, and Ted, about the new series, what we can expect, and the new art team.

Graphic Policy: It’s been a bit since we last saw Princeless. How long has this latest volume been in the works?

Jeremy Whitley: This volume has been in the works in one for or another since May of 2013. I wrote a portion of issue 1 for our Free Comic Book Day issue. Originally that was all I had planned, but when I got to the end of the story I discovered I had a lot more to say about Raven. So we put together this volume, which is all about the adventure Adrienne and Raven have together.

GP: The comic is just hitting Previews now. How long is this volume supposed to go for? How is it broken up?

JW: This volume is another four-issue story, just like the first two volumes of Princeless. It will run in January, February, March, and April. Hopefully the trade will be out shortly after this. Much like the first volume, the first two issue work separately and the last two issue tell one piece of the story together. When you put it all together you get a full story.

GP: In this new volume you introduce Princess Raven bringing our heroines from two to three. Did you have an idea you’d be adding more in the first volumes?

JW: No. Raven wasn’t planned. When we discovered last year that we would be doing a Princeless book for Free Comic Book Day, I didn’t want it to be a reprint. I wanted something fresh that would let new readers know what Princeless was all about. So I wrote what was supposed to be a short story about Adrienne rescuing another princess. As it turned out, I made Raven too interesting to just leave at that. She had her own story that I wanted to tell. And along with the continuation of Adrienne’s story, we get that here.

GP: You also mix in pirates to the fantasy setting mixing things up a bit. Those are two genres that I don’t normally think together historically. How are you bringing the two worlds together?

JW: Really? I remember that after you open up the first bridge to leave you homeland in the first Final Fantasy game you go across a river to a port city. That city is overrun by pirates, whom you have to defeat in order to get a boat so you can get to other lands. It never dawned on me that pirates didn’t fit into fantasy.

Now what I do like is that adding pirates adds a whole separate set of mythologies into the world. As a guy that didn’t learn to swim until I was twenty and has never actually swum in anything deeper than a pool, I find the open ocean mysterious and terrifying. Sea creatures fascinate me. The idea of doing more with the open ocean in Raven’s story gets me really excited.

GP: There’s a new art team in Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt. How did they come aboard?

JW: We found each other through Tumblr! I had another artist I was planning on working with who had done some work on the FCBD book. Unfortunately, life got in the way and the story kinda got set adrift. I made a little announcement about it on tumblr, letting people know the schedule would have to be rearranged. Then Rosy and Ted hit me up, asking if they could take a crack at it. They whipped up some character designs and I was sold. Their style fits great with the overall style of the Princeless books while having a distinct style and flavor of its own.

GP: Rosy and Ted, obviously you’re coming into an existing series which has had a look, and a look that’s important to its message. How did you approach mixing the existing look with your own style?

Ted Brandt: For me, the most important part of a book’s design is its central messages and themes: the design needs to speak to that at every level. The thing that was motivating me throughout my work on this volume was ComicsAlliance’s quote that Princeless was the book “Disney should have been doing for the last 20 years.” Of course, I wasn’t really the designer here, it was more Rosy’s job, and she hit the nail on the head.

Rosy Higgins: Honestly, when it came to designing our versions of the characters I just read the previous volumes and then drew the characters. There wasn’t a huge amount of mental preparation in that. I think that reading the story so far, and also the scripts for the current volume, gave such a clear depiction of who the characters are that it wasn’t really that difficult to put our version of them onto the page. The most difficult character to translate was Sparky, and as a result, she’s probably the most visually altered aspect in this volume.

GP: The comic is very empowering and positive for women and minorities in both story and look. As artists, is the something you think about while designing the characters and drawing the comic?

RH: When drawing the characters the main thought in my head was that they are people. I know that probably sounds pretty obvious, but I think a lot of people can brush over that when creating stories – particularly when it comes to female characters. I wanted to make everyone as distinct from each other as I could, no cookie-cutter people going on here; different faces, different body types, different ethnicities. The ethnicities were very important to me to get right – so I hope I didn’t do too bad a job at it.

GP: When it comes to comics, especially fantasy comics, you think of large-chested, big muscled, skimp outfit characters. Princeless not only thumbs its nose at it, but has addressed it in previous issues. In a lot of ways, it throws the book out the window. How does that feel as an artist? Do you put your own spin on that in a way with what you design?

RH: Well, I’d never really drawn that sort of stuff to begin with, so really it was a relief that our first job was one where I didn’t have to!

GP: How do you two work as a team? Who handles what part?

TB: I’d love to give you a straight answer, but there isn’t one. When we started, it seemed like our respective strengths gave us a really straightforward system: I would do the layouts, Rosy would pencil, I would ink, she would color and I would letter. It really didn’t work out that way at all, though.

RH: Yeah, one particular job overlap was due to time constraints and so Ted also became my assistant flatter for the colours. He was also very helpful when it came to correcting some of my anatomy mistakes, because sometimes you need someone else who hasn’t been staring at the page to notice when something isn’t looking quite right.

TB: It’s also worth pointing out that Rosy also often fixed layouts for me, and picked up on inking mistakes. It was a pretty fluid process.

GP: Princeless is a pretty important comic, won numerous awards, lots of prestige, how does it feel to step onto a comic like this? Any pressure?

TB: Pressure? Absolutely. The awards weren’t the biggest pressure for me, though, it was more that we were coming onto an established book, with a hardcore fanbase. It’s a lot to think about to make sure you aren’t going to disappoint readers who already love the book, you know?

RH: Oh yeah, disappointing the fans is way more of a concern. Sure, the previous volumes have gained a critical acclaim, but it’s the readers that are the most important part of this whole thing.

GP: Jeremy, with Princeless you were out front of what is a wave of female and minority lead comics. How does it feel to see the market changed so much in the short time Princeless has been around?

JW: It feels so incredibly good. Part of why I chose to write this book is because there were no books like it. While it’s still quite distinct, I now have plenty of books I can read to my daughter. We read Lumberjanes and Ms. Marvel together every month. Personally I love that books like Captain Marvel and Rat Queens have a place in the current market. Even though my daughter is not ready for those books, I’m glad the larger companies realize the need to make these books.

GP: What else can we expect from everyone?

TB: We can’t tell you just yet, unfortunately, but I can say we’ll be working with Jeremy for a little while yet!

RH: It’s gonna be fun!

JW: Well, I have two other books in the November previews – both licensed books from IDW – and I’m hoping there’s a lot more of that in my future. I’m really having a ball playing in someone else’s sandbox for a while. But as soon as this volume of Princeless wraps up, Emily Martin will be returning to art duties for Volume 4, which is our swamp based super-moody goth story involving goblins, vampires, swamp monsters, and maybe even a few zombies!
Other than that, as you know, Heather Nunnelly and I are hard at work on our Kickstarted project “Illegal”. I’m also pitching some more projects that I’d like to see find a home in the next year. It’s going to be a wild 2015!

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