This is my very link heavy interview with Jeremy Whitley. I included everything I could to get you guys into this company Firetower Studios has some really cool stuff going on. Read the great responses I got to my newbie questions then click on some links and check out their stuff!
Jeremy Whitley’s google+ page describes him as “Husband, Father, Writer, Nerd” I can’t think of more apt description. In 2009 he and two friends, Illustrators Jason Strutz and Charlie Harper, gave birth to Firetower Studios. From the site: “Firetower is committed to producing intelligent, thought provoking, and quality comics as well as books, art, and other fine products.” and I must say so far so good. They currently produce five webcomics: Jeremy and Jason’s “Faerie Sisters”, Jeremy and Alicia’s “Hot Interracial Marriage”, Charlie’s “Crazy Normal”, Jeremy and Rich’s “Werewolf D.A.”, and Jeremy and Charlie’s “Ennui of the Dead” and two print comics “The Order of Dagonet” and Jeremy’s “Princeless” in association with Action Lab Entertainment, both of which are or soon to be availiable in trade (see below for more on that!).
On to some Q&A
CS: So Firetower is in it’s third year and it looks like Princeless has really garnered quite a significant fan base (totally deserved by the way!), did you see such a big reaction coming? Was this just serendipitous or was Princeless an answer to the cry for stronger female characters in comics?
JW: Can I say “yes and no” without that sounding like a copout? I had hoped there would be a strong reaction to the book, but I was also acutely aware that the audience we were aiming for with Princeless was not what’s considered the “core audience” of the comic industry at large. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to see more strong female characters in comics and I know a number of other people have as well. I’m a huge fan of some of the bloggers like Kelly Thompson, Jill Pantozzi, and Johanna Draper Carlson (and of course Gail Simone) who have been all about challenging the female stereotypes in comics and pushing for better representation, so it’s not like I was oblivious to it, but the real cry I was answering for better female characters was my own, which I’m sure we’ll get into in a minute.
CS: Where did the inspiration for Princess Adrienne come from? Did the constant fairy tale reading to your daughter drive you to craft this tale?
JW: Ah, there it is. Now I do want to say that I started work on Princeless before I was even aware that my wife and I were having a daughter, but my daughter was a consideration. I had always wanted to have a daughter and I had wanted her to be able to share the things that I love with me. Principle among those things were comics and fantasy. Neither of which have been particularly kind to progressive or black women. Knowing my daughter would be half-black, I wanted a character that she could look up to and relate to.
The character of Adrienne herself is actually modeled after my sister-in-law who shares her name. Adrienne has always been the girl who, even among her own sisters, is the weird one. She has the guts to like what she likes and stand up for what she believes in even when no one else gets it. Though a lot of girls may find Princess Adrienne relate-able, her sisters do not get her at all. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a pretty pretty princess swept off her feet by Prince Charming.
CS: If you were a tree what type of… No no really just kidding!
JW: Oh! Wait, that’s not a real question? I had a great answer inspired by the band Rush! Oh well, next question.
CS: As I’ve said in reviews I love this book and character, can’t wait to share it with my daughter. Do you have the full story already planned out for Princeless, will we see her grow up? Can you give us any hints as to where the story is headed?
JW: Well, as the first and fourth issues say, Adrienne’s going to be setting out to save her sisters. Now the main plan for this story is laid out, so I have some idea of where we’re headed. Perhaps the biggest surprise that Adrienne has coming to her is that her father will be recruiting some of the most dangerous men in the kingdom to hunt Adrienne down. That and not all of her sisters have the same definition of being “rescued” that she does.
CS: So the trade for Princeless is upon us! The press on it says there’s a Princeless – Skullkickers (Image comics) crossover? Can you tell us a little about the process of creating the trade and how this crossover came to be?
JW: Well, the crossover came to be because Goodwin (Princeless’ artist extraordinaire) is actually good friends with Mr. Zub of Skullkickers fame. He had heard a lot about the book and threw out the idea. Not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, I said yes without a second thought. He tossed Goodwin and I a script to approve and I gave it a once over and was thrilled with it. Goodwin should be finishing up the art on it as we speak. I think everyone who picks up the trade of Princeless or the issue of Skullkickers in which it will be featured is in for a huge treat.
CS: You also have another ongoing title in print (and digital?) “The Order of Dagonet” – which for those of you who haven’t seen this yet is a tale of modern day Knights of England, with a twist. It’s currently at issue #6, with the first four collected in trade (available from Firetower and on Amazon). What does the future hold for this title?
JW: Jason and I are working hard to get the second trade finished by the end of the year. While I love issue 6 which focuses on Titania, the queene of Faerie, I think the next two issue we have coming up are going to be a ton of fun. Our heroes will be trying to rescue the Queen of England from the clutches of Puck, who loves nothing more than causing chaos. It’s gonna be a fun ride!
CS: Are there any other projects you’d like to mention? Any more collaborations with Action Lab or Image?
JW: Yes! I’m working my fingers off right now. The other series I’ve been working on with Action Lab, GlobWorld, is an all ages title that ties into a great kids anti-bullying website. It’s much goofier than what I’ve been doing with Princeless, so it’s been lots of fun.
Other than that I have several other books I’ve been working on for Firetower. Charlie and I are working on a sci-fi political thriller about immigration policy in the near future. It’s called “Illegal” and I promise it’s more fun than I make it sound. Rich and I are working on what will be my first superhero related book. It’s called “Skip” and it’s about a woman who works for one of the world’s biggest industrialists and opponents of super powered policing. She discovers her boss has plans to wipe out super heroes only to then find that has powers of her own. She finds herself in the middle of the final battle between good and evil. Also, Jason and I are working on a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about a girl adventurer who stumbles onto one of the last safe refuges of the human race in a world destroyed by magical war.
So, ya know, one or two things on the burner.
CS: Will (you) Firetower Studios be at any conventions this year?
JW: Yes! We’re starting with a small local con called Stellar Con in High Point, NC. Later this year we’ll be at the Boston Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, Heroes Con in Charlotte, Baltimore Comic Con, SPX in Bethesda, NC Comicon here in Raleigh NC, and I’m still holding out hope of getting a spot at Dragon Con in Atlanta, and maybe even making a pilgrimage to San Diego.
CS: On a more personal note, you write 5 (or so) webcomics, two print comics, a blog at Firetower Studios, have a day job and a wife and child. We all have complicated lives but that seems unimaginably busy, how do you find balance?
JW: Ha. I don’t. At least my wife would tell you I don’t. All kidding aside, it can be incredibly difficult and one part or another of my life usually ends up suffering when things get rough. That’s not easy to deal with, especially when I realize how little I’ve seen my wife and daughter in a given week. Is it worth it? It’s hard to tell at times but I hope so. The hope is that one day the books that I love to make will pay the bills, I can get rid of my day job, my daughter will get to be the kid at show and tell that can say her daddy writes comic books for a living, and my wife can live with a husband that doesn’t come home from work drained every day. I guess the real balance in my life comes from knowing that I am doing something that some people just think and dream about doing their whole life. That’s pretty special, right?
That definitely is pretty special, I would really like to thank Mr. Jeremy Whitley for this wonderful interview. There’s nothing better for a comic book fan than getting to hear what goes on in the mind of a creator, especially someone who explains it so well. Below you’ll find the twitter handles and links for some of the Firetower and Actionlab folks, check them out they’re a cool bunch.
Jeremy Whitley – @jrome58
Writer Order of Dagonet, Princeless, Faerie Sisters, Werewolf D.A., Hot Interracial Marriage, Ennui of the Dead
Jason Strutz – @Strutzart
Illustrator Order of Dagonet, Faerie Sisters
Charlie Harper @charlieharper
Illustrator Ennui of the Dead; Creator: Crazy Normal
Alicia Whitley – liciabadazz.wordpress.com
Illustrator Hot Interracial Marriage; Editor: Order of Dagonet, Princeless
Firetower Studios – @firetower_news – firetowerstudios.com
Action Lab Entertainment – @ActionLab
also check out the Princeless tumblr page: princelesscomic.tumblr.com