Interview: Jeremy Whitley Returns to the High Seas with PRINCELESS

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing a severe lack of all-ages lesbian pirate adventures in my comic stack lately. While Raven, the Pirate Princess — and her older sister title Princeless — have been on a little break from Action Lab Entertainment, the titles are ready to come roaring back this fall with new stories from creator and writer Jeremy Whitley. Whitley sat down with Comicosity to share how the books will be hitting shelves in October and November, respectively, and what fans can expect to see from their favorite ladies as they swing gallantly across the page once again for readers old and new!

Cover art by Xenia Pamfil

Matt Santori: It’s been a little while since the last issue of Raven. Can you bring readers up to speed on where we left off with the Pirate Princess?

Jeremy Whitley: Yes! In our last volume (#3), we had a whole adventure where Ximena was gravely injured, and Raven was trying to get her healed by this mysterious, mystic healer, who is simply called “The Lady.” She was of course refusing to help them because they are pirates. This resulting in her and Raven going toe-to-toe, and Raven coming to terms with her feelings for Ximena. This led to eventually getting Ximena cured by the end.

We also got a peek inside Sunshine’s mind. She has very strong feelings for Raven and sees this inevitability of Raven and Ximena getting together. And she’s less than pleased about it.

Interior art by Xenia Pamfil

MS: And this leads directly back into the first new issue. You have all the pirate women back together in something of a celebration.

JW: It’s the first time in awhile they’ve had something worth celebrating — coming out on top, but getting their butts handed to them in the process by Raven’s brothers. And they’ve just had to scrap to make it through Volume 3 in one piece.

So, they’re having a big celebration in this book. We get to catch up with everybody and see what they’re up to, but at the same time, get some pretty dramatic motion forward on the story.

Interior art by Xenia Pamfil

MS: Getting back to this love triangle that you’ve been building, what are Raven’s feelings about that scenario?

JW: Raven has a history with Ximena. She’s had somewhere between a crush and infatuation with her since they were both young. She sort of lost her for awhile, but now has gotten her back and is determined that this is where she wants to go: Ximena is who she’s interested in being with.

But at the same time, she’s had this thing with Sunshine pop up that she didn’t expect. Sunshine is a little more like her. She’s a rogue and a pirate at heart, unlike Ximena, which appeals to Raven a great deal. Especially since she’s often at odds with Ximena about the pirate side of things.

It ends up being a pretty interesting triangle that she didn’t expect. I mean, Raven started off her relationship with Sunshine by being mugged by her and getting into a fistfight in the middle of the street. That’s not your usual meet-cute.

But Raven’s got this one side that she’s really invested in, and then this other side that’s really a fresh and new option that she’s intentionally denying herself, because she’s got this shot on something she’s been wanting a really long time.

Interior art by Xenia Pamfil

MS: So, Raven has been through about a year of stories, what’s been the reaction? There are some books with women of color leads and books with queer leads, but very few if any books with queer women of color leads — especially written for all-ages. How’s the atmosphere for the book been for you?

JW: It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been overwhelmingly well-received by the people I care about it being well-received by, if that makes any sense. There’s a certain percentage of people who are never going to be interested in this book, and I really don’t care what they think — even though they’re glad to tell me.

But it’s been really nice to have a large number of readers — especially queer female readers — who are excited about this book and really love it. They’ve really gravitated toward it and sent me “threatening” twitter asks about when it’s coming back, where is it, and what am I doing? [laughs]

That’s really nice. Because something I was really focused on in doing the book is getting that representation right. It’s important to me to make a book that wasn’t this sort of ready-packaged, Big Two book. “Oh here’s a queer character, but that has nothing to do with the story we’re telling.” That’s not the kind of book I wanted to have. I wanted something that was engaged, and at the same time, isn’t weird or fetishy about it, especially since it’s an all-ages book.

I’ve been thrilled with how it’s been received, and especially the number of people who are really engaged with it.

Interior art by Xenia Pamfil

MS: You also have a new artist coming on with Year Two: Xenia Pamfil.

JW: Yeah! She’s this really fantastic European artist and has done some other stuff for Action Lab. She is able to do what was the most important thing Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt were able to do with Year One: keeping the emotionality of the characters a big part of the book. If you lose that, it’s not the same book anymore.

Cover art by Emily Martin

MS: You’re also bringing back Princeless for a sixth volume this November!

JW: It’s going to pick up exactly where we left off in volume 5, because the story we’re telling here is a little big bigger than what we’ve done with previous volumes. We had to stretch it across two.

We pick up with Adrienne looking for her older sisters, the twins, who are locked up together up in the mountains. She doesn’t have her usual group though. Bedelia is off being reunited with her mother, who she hasn’t seen in years. Sparky is with Bedelia, at the Monster Farm where Bedelia’s mother works, and is also being reunited with her mother: a very large and very scary dragon.

Adrienne is accompanied by Benna, Bedelia’s cousin on the dwarf side. She’s a dragon-slayer and tour guide, helping to get Adrienne up the snowy mountains of the rim, where all the dwarves live.

Emily Martin, our regular artist at this point, is doing this volume and is well into illustrating volume 7 at this point.

Interior art by Emily Martin

MS: You’ve been collecting the volumes in hardcover as well, correct?

JW: Right. We’ve got the first two volumes out in hardcover, and hoping to get the third out — where Raven gets introduced — by the end of this year.

That’s something I’ve been wanting to get out, as well as a giant hardcover for the first 12 issues of Raven, the Pirate Princess. I love having those, because we talked to a lot of librarians at the American Library Association meetings the last couple of year. Every librarian said the same thing: the trade paperbacks don’t hold up for anything in libraries.

They want hardcovers. They want them now. And they’ll buy lots of them.

Interior art by Emily Martin

MS: That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Looking at my shelf, I have your Princeless hardcovers sitting right next to a few Lumberjanes hardcovers, which would also be huge for libraries, I assume.

JW: I need to get the hardcovers for Lumberjanes. My daughter is destroying the single issues from reading them over and over and over.

Anyway, once Raven comes back in October, it will be monthly. I already have the next 13 issues written. We will be back to regular schedule.

And this volume of Princeless is going straight to trade collection in November, so that volume will be the whole of six. Volume 7 will be going back to single issues starting in January.

Interior art by Emily Martin

MS: What motivated that decision to go straight to trade?

JW: You know, we’ve had it done for awhile and got held up with getting it out, because of stuff involving the movie rights. So, the publisher suggested going straight to trade. I floated the idea to fans and everyone thought it was a great idea! So, I said OK!

That’s where we sell most of our copies as it is, anyway!

When it rains, it pours, I guess!


Raven returns to the monthly shelf with Raven, the Pirate Princess #1 on October 18. Princeless Volume 6: Make Yourself Part Two will be available in a comic book store near you on November 8.


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