Saturday, January 5, 2013

Princeless #2 Cover Talks to the Industry About Exploitation

Anyone who's been keeping up with this blog in 2012 and into 2013 knows that I am a big fan of Jeremy Whitley's ongoing story, Princeless, about a young woman who refuses to let her father treat her like a second class citizen and takes matters into her own hands.  With the second issue of the second volume, that activist stance is moving not just from the story itself, but right onto the cover (see below).

Princeless Vol 2 #2's cover takes on the ones it shares shelf space with.

I wouldn't normally post about a cover, but I think it's interesting that Whitley and Emily Martin, the book's artist, have chosen to do this.  It's a bold statement that usually is reserved for blogs and not those within the industry itself, partly because those in the industry don't want to possibly endanger their ability to get paying work.  (I do not blame them for this, since they are freelancers and burning bridges ala Chris Roberson's comments last year is dangerous to someone whose only income may depend someday on the goodwill of a large company.)  While I never judge a comic by its cover, I have noted on Twitter more than once that certain companies do themselves more harm than good by having exploitative covers that, while selling copies to a certain part of the fanbase, definitely alienate potential readers.

Princeless and its publisher Action Lab, are starting to gain a bit of traction and reader attention of late, with the former gaining award nominations and the latter making it onto the major digital distributor Comixology.  I give a lot of credit to both Whitley and Action Lab for spending some of that notice on an issue that definitely turns off a huge batch of potential readers (even if it's a bit ironic that Action Lab is creating a mature reader line at the same time this cover is in Previews).  Pointing out the elephant in the room while using your book that counters that problem is a bold stroke.

At the same time, however, I'm not sure Princeless is the best place for this, at least not as a main cover.  I'm curious how parents who have been used to giving this book to their kids explain what this cover means.  It's not directed at kids, certainly, but their parents, who now might hesitate to buy the book so they don't have to explain why a mostly naked teenager was the "original" cover drawing.  I also wonder how this is going to play to the library crowd, where the slightest thing can remove an otherwise good book from the shelves.

I certainly applaud the idea of bringing up the "why are there so many skeezy comic book covers" discussion, but I have to admit, I don't think Princess is the place to do it.  This is a book I want to give to a 12 year old and say, "Look, here's a heroine just like you" the same way I would with Smile or several of the late Minx books.  This cover has shock value, but I think ultimately, the sensation was misplaced as a cover to what should be an all-ages book, not a book that's talking to the adults reading it to their children.

Princeless' issues are available in Trade and single copies at your comic book store, as well as digitally on Comixology.  The second issue of volume two is in the current issue of Previews.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Rob!
    Thanks for the article about the book. I completely see your point and the choice is not something I take altogether lightly. Allow me to offer another perspective on it.

    This cover is aimed for the comic book buying crowd and will be in the hands of those who buy floppy books. Therefore, if you're in a comic book store, it's pretty easy to point to an example of what the cover is talking about...which is of course the point. Is it in your face? Maybe a little. But while that's new for the cover, it certainly isn't new for the series. Issue 3 of volume 1 is an extended commentary on a very similar issue and, realistically, that should be more confusing to younger readers than this cover.

    Now, on another note, I am considering the library crowd, and as this cover (decidedly) has nothing to do with what's going on in the comic, this will not be the cover to the trade. For that we're using Vol 2 Iss 1.

    Finally, I get the argument that this may not be the place to make a statement as it is an all ages book, but I reject it squarely. Princeless is all about people (especially women) who are unwilling to accept or for that matter, let slide, the things that are an issue. If it makes parents or kids think or solicits questions, than I'm all for that.

    Of course, by comparison, next months cover will be much less controversial.

    Thanks again for the piece and I hope the book continues to impress.

    Jeremy

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  2. When I was in the target age for Princeless (8-10), I was already aware of sexualized images of women. I may not have understood why they existed, but I knew they made me feel uncomfortable and alienated. Kids are more aware than I think people give them credit for. I would've understood this message and appreciated it.

    And if this cover creates a discussion between a child and a parent about what this cover means, I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

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