Comic books are a much larger industry than some people realize. While the “Big Four” of DC Comics, Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse do dominate the market, there are plenty of other publishers who create fascinating comics all their own. One such comic is called Raven: The Pirate Princess, which is actually a spinoff of another comic called Princeless. Both comics have helped change the game in terms of diversity and representations of both female and LGBTQ characters. But now, Raven is in trouble, and its creator, Jeremy Whitley, needs your help.
I got to chat with Mr. Whitley about his comics, and how you can help Raven: The Pirate Princess continue on as a series at Action Lab.
Me: For those who don’t know, what is Raven The Pirate Princess?
Jeremy Whitley: “Raven: The Pirate Princess” is the YA sister book to my all-ages series “Princeless”. It follows Raven Xingtao, the daughter of the Pirate King, who was betrayed and had her birthright stolen by her brothers. It’s a story of her seeking revenge on her brothers and seeking to take back what’s hers. Beyond that, it’s also a story about a diverse group of women learning to live together in an isolated community on the high seas. And for many of them, particularly Raven, it’s a story of self-discovery and queer romance.
Me: What was your motivation for doing this spinoff? Did the idea just seem like a natural fit given the story you created in Princeless?
Jeremy Whitley: The initial motivation in creating “Princeless” was to create a heroic high-fantasy comic in which my daughter could see herself. It was important that Adrienne (the protagonist of Princeless) be a young woman of color and that she, as a princess, saved herself and became a hero to others. As Princeless grew, it began to gather a following among a number of queer women. I got several questions about Adrienne’s sexuality. While I didn’t have any particular problem with the idea that Adrienne might be perceived as a queer character, that idea did muddy the waters of the feminist message we set out to establish in the early issues of Princeless. The point of what we were saying was that Adrienne was self-sufficient and didn’t NEED a man to save her, not that her sexual preference was the reason for not wanting a man to save her. But having created Princeless out of a need for something to exist that hadn’t, I recognized that same need from these fans and it was definitely a story that I’d like to see too.
So when it came time to write our story for Free Comic Book Day, I was looking to do a story that would serve as a solid introduction and entry point. It seemed like the perfect time to introduce this new character whose story I wanted to tell. And I instantly fell in love with Raven. That story ended up being the third full arc of Princeless. Once that was done, I loved Raven even more and couldn’t stand the idea of letting her sail off into the sunset without more of her story being told. So I decided to make Raven the slightly older book, something that fans of Princeless could graduate to as they got older. It was the answer to a problem I created in the first issue of Princeless, when I gave Adrienne a sword and then couldn’t allow her to stab anybody.
Me: Easily one of the most important things about Raven: The Pirate Princess is the diversity of the women in the cast. You have several queer characters, one bi character, and even an asexual character. Was this something you knew you wanted when blocking out the series?
Jeremy Whitley: Absolutely. I think one thing comics overlook quite often is the idea of an “LGBTQ Community”. In Raven, I wanted to have that. The crew is a group of characters who all have their own unique features. There are a variety of sexualities, personalities, races, ethnicities, religions, and abilities. There are confirmed lesbian, bi, asexual, and queer characters in the group. There are also characters who view their gender expression differently within those groups. Cid is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language. Jayla is autistic and often has difficulties communicating with the rest of the crew. Ximena always wears dresses, Quinn refuses to wear dresses, Amirah always wears a hijab.
Me: You made a very heartfelt post on Tumblr about how Raven wasn’t selling well, and based on what I’ve seen on Twitter, people are responding to it. And moreso, they’re not just saying it’s a good comic that should be read, but also, that it’s something that the LGBTQ community can behind and be proud of. Are you happy with the response you’re seeing so far?
Jeremy Whitley: I’m thrilled. It means a lot to me that the LGBTQ community has embraced this book. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that it’s gotten the support it has. I don’t like to pat myself on the back too often, but the fact that women who share much more in common with Raven than I do recognize this book as working very hard to get things right means the world to me.
Me: You mentioned it in the Tumblr post, but for those who haven’t seen it, how can they help keep Raven: The Pirate Princess alive?
Jeremy Whitley: Okay, so there are a handful of things and I really appreciate anything that people can do. I realize that not everybody has the resources or the comic book shop to do everything on the list, but anything they can do is appreciated:
1) Go to your local comic book shop and subscribe to the monthly comic. This is the item that allows us the most constant support and income and insures that the next time a book comes out, you’ll have a copy whether you remembered to order it again.
2) Purchase the trades. There are four trades currently available and then one more available for pre-order. You can either order them from your local comic shop, local book store, or go online and pick them up there. I’m not saying you have to buy from Amazon, but Amazon does have a handy “series” page which shows you all of the books and their reading order: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B01BF7U91Q
4) Recommend the books to your library. If your library carries them, then they have the chance to reach other people at your library, get to other branches, and lead other people to buy.
5) Review books where you bought them, at Amazon, on Goodreads, at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else where you can.
6) Talk them up. Word of mouth makes a huge difference and if working in and loving comics has taught me anything, it’s that a casual rec from a friend can lead you to your new favorite thing.
Me: As a fellow writer, I can understand wanting to continue a story you have created. But what about Raven: The Pirate Princess made you want to make your plea on Tumblr and other social media platforms? Was it the stories you still wanted to tell with her and her crew? Was it the characters you didn’t want to stop writing? Or something else entirely?
Jeremy Whitley: Well, specifically with Raven I have a story I want to tell which is nowhere close to over. My experience online has taught me that there are people that want this book, this kind of story, and this kind of hero. The same audience has been supportive of this book, of Princeless, and of Unstoppable Wasp online and specifically on Tumblr it is very easy to share things that are meaningful to you. And as with all things for humanity, sometimes all you need is a little prod to get you up and moving in support of something you want to see succeed, but maybe didn’t realize wasn’t succeeding. I think we’ve all had the experience of feeling like a comic or show was doing well, only to discover too late that the thing you cared about is in danger. Knowing that there was a real danger, but that it was still on the horizon, I wanted to reach out to everybody who I thought would want to know.
Me: What can you tell readers and potential readers about the future of Raven: The Pirate Princess if it gets to continue?
Jeremy Whitley: Well, the current arc will wrap up the story of Raven tracking down her first brother and bring that to an action packed conclusion. But what we have planned immediately after that is something very different. It’s called “Date Night” and will give the crew a chance to relax from all of the action and turn this book into a full fledged romance comic for four issues. And after that…well, after that we’ll be turning everything upside down.
Me: Final thoughts?
Jeremy Whitley: I really appreciate you and all your readers taking the time to look it up and hopefully support the book.
So, if you’re looking for a special new comic to read, go check out the links above and support Raven: The Pirate Princess!