When the 2023 Free Comic Book Day reveals happened, there were some intriguing announcements. Not only were there comics to be excited about, but one stood out due to the publisher’s issues earlier in the year. 2022 kicked off with creators speaking out and a class action lawsuit against comic publisher Action Lab Entertainment. Printing, promotion, marketing, sales and income reporting, and more was listed as reasons for it. Two individuals, Jeremy Whitley and Emily Martin were listed as plaintiffs. So, that made Action Lab’s use of their comic Princeless for their Free Comic Book Day release all the more headscratching.
Whitley and Martin have released a statement, which you can read below, calling the announcement a “surprise”. They also mention the the ongoing legal fight mentioning non-payment of royalties, late payments, and more.
It has come to our attention through the excitement of our fans that there is “brand new” Princeless material being offered by Action Lab Comics for Free Comic Book Day. To say that this is a surprise to us is perhaps an understatement.
The creators of Princeless (Jeremy and Emily) are currently in a protracted legal battle with Action Lab regarding a number of issues that we feel should have voided our publishing contract with Action Lab. As detailed in the original complaint, these issues range from non-payment of royalties, late payment of artists, late delivery of books to the distributor, and Action Lab completely shutting down business and payments for a large chunk of 2020 without informing us or other creators. Jeremy and Emily have currently stopped working on Princeless and have not received any request to approve or finalize comics pages for a Free Comic Book Day release, nor have they approved any new work to be published in a format such as this which would not offer royalties or recompense to the creative team.
This is the latest in Action Lab’s continued policy of putting their personal profits before creators and we strongly disapprove.
Perhaps even more worrying is Action Lab’s claim in their Previews solicitation that this is meant to “kick off the tenth volume.” Not only was this done without our approval, but the team has only finished the first issue of the volume and the implication that the rest of this volume is coming soon is misleading to retailers, consumers, and the distributor. Those books have not been drawn and Action Lab has not attempted to settle our current legal issues in any meaningful way. The only possible explanations are that either Action Lab is trying to force the creative team into feeling pressured by the expectations of our fans and community or that Action Lab means to continue the book without us. We are not okay with either of these instances and we do not think the fans of Princeless will be either.
Princeless was never a cash cow, but that was never what it was about. It was about creating an important comic with a message that we could be proud of and the stories we wanted young comic fans to read. It is also important to create the book under ethical work practices where freelancers can expect the pay they are promised in a timely and uncomplicated fashion. Until this legal issue is settled, we would ask that Princeless fans not support this Free Comic Book Day book and that they make their voices heard to Action Lab, their retailers, and their distributors.
Thank you and we look forward to bringing this book to you in the future under better circumstances,
The Princeless Creative Team
Jeremy Whitley and Emily C Martin