Comic book author talks about the creation of a brave, independent female hero

Rise & Shine scholar Nichelle Stanton interviews Jeremy Whitley, author of her favorite comic books, featuring a princess who is "not like a typical princess."

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Comic book author talks about the creation of a brave, independent female hero

Jeremy Whitley with his now two-year-old daughter, Amara, when she was a newborn baby.

Jeremy Whitley with his now two-year-old daughter, Amara, when she was a newborn baby.

Jeremy Whitley with his now two-year-old daughter, Amara, when she was a newborn baby.

Jeremy Whitley with his now two-year-old daughter, Amara, when she was a newborn baby.

Nichelle Stanton, Staff Writer

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I like Princeless comic books because the main character, Adrienne, is not like a typical princess who waits for a prince to rescue her. I can relate to these books because the princesses in them are not white like in so many other stories. Adrienne is strong and independent. She cuts off her hair with a sword and doesn’t care about it. She is also a sister who will walk for many days just to find her sisters. She wants to do things her own way. She wants her own adventure. Words that describe Adrienne are “short,” “brave,” “triggered” and “funny.” I also love how the books are short and easy to understand. 

’’(In) princess stories there’s a stereotypical look that a lot of them have. A lot of them are white and blonde and a very specific size. They could basically trade clothes with each other and nobody could tell the difference. Not only are Adrienne and her sisters black, but they have different body shapes and different abilities so you couldn’t just swap clothes and not tell who is who,” said Jeremy Whitley, the author. 

Besides publishing seven volumes of Princeless stories, Whitley, 35, is also known for his work on Marvel Comics’ “The Unstoppable Wasp” and “Thor vs. Hulk: Champions of the Universe.” He currently lives in Raleigh with his wife, Alicia, and two daughters, Zuri, 8,and Amara, 2. 

I had the chance to interview Mr.Whitley recently and talk to him about his books. 

What comics did you read growing up?

I was always a big fan of X-Men comics. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, they were a big deal. They were the outcasts and sort of the weirdos of the superhero universe. The X-men had to stick together and do their own thing. I like those stories about the weird kids all sticking together and making sure everybody was safe.

(He related to this because) a lot of my extended family lived on the other side of the country for a good chunk of my life. I had two parents who both had jobs and worked all kinds of crazy hours, and we all depended on friends and extended family. It’s always been an important thing, those sorts of relationships where people who aren’t necessarily born into the same family take care of each other. 

What inspired you to write?

I always loved writing. I had teachers who were really into writing. I got very into acting when I was a kid. I liked getting to decide what the characters said rather than saying what was already written down. I really enjoyed coming up with characters and telling stories. I always feel that there are stories out there that nobody’s written yet. Those are the best stories to tell.

How do you come up with your characters?

The next character who really started to take shape after Adrienne was her brother, Devin. He likes to be creative and tell stories. He would be a great princess, but that’s not his job. He’s supposed to fight and rule and do all these things. My next thought was about (King Ashe). From the point of view of Adrienne and Devin, he really seems like a jerk. He really seems like this dad who’s interested in making kids do things they don’t want to do. He’s just so mean and inconsiderate. A lot of this comes out of things he’s disappointed in himself.

I wanted to take some different types of princesses that everybody knows and do some different things with them. Angelica (is the) most beautiful princess and she’s obsessed with her looks. Adrienne tries to rescue them. They have these roles that people expect of them and that to some degree they expect for themselves. Adrienne is showing them that these are roles they have fallen into and they don’t have to be that way. They can be their own heroes in their own ways.

Where you shocked about how your first book sold so well?  

If it sold that well when it first came out I probably would have been. When it first came out, it did not sell particularly well and we had no idea how long we were going to be able to keep going on with it. But once we had a collection we could show to book stories and libraries, it really started to sell well. It’s been a very slow process.

 How much money do you make on each book?

Hard to say. It’s a property and a story that I own, so nobody is paying me up front, so what I make on Princeless depends on how much it sells. . . . It’s much easier to figure out how much I make for Marvel Comics. I get an actual paycheck.