Pirates, Ponies, Vampires And More: Jeremy Whitley On Saving Raven The Pirate Princess
by Tony Thornley
If you haven’t heard the name Jeremy Whitley in the last few years, you probably have had your head in the sand. Jeremy has made a name for himself on creator-owned, licensed and work for hire series all across the industry. His credits range from My Little Pony, to the Avengers, from The Unstoppable Wasp, to his own Princeless universe.
I got to sit down with Jeremy and discuss his work, especially Raven the Pirate Princess, and how you, the reader, can help save that series.
Tony Thornley: Jeremy, thanks for sitting down to talk with us about what you have going on!
Jeremy Whitley: Thanks, I appreciate you having me.
TT: First of all, let’s talk a little bit about Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess. For those who haven’t heard of it what’s the series about?
JW: It’s a high seas adventure series about Raven, the daughter of the Pirate King, who was betrayed by her brothers and cheated out of her birthright. Now, she’s on a quest for revenge with an all-female pirate crew. It’s also largely about the relationships of this pirate crew out on the high seas, particularly the romantic relationship between Raven and two of her female crewmates.
TT: What was the inspiration for creating this story?
JW: Raven herself was created for a Free Comic Book Day story we were doing for the original Princeless series. I wanted to give the Free Comic Book Day audience an introduction to the series that they could follow without having read the previous two volumes, but would also provide a new original story for folks who were reading the series. So I introduced Raven as this girl that Adrienne found locked in a tower and decided to help get loose.
What Adrienne didn’t realize and I think to a lesser degree, we didn’t realize, is just how formidable Raven would prove to be. That story ended up expanding into what would become the entire third book of Princeless, in which Adrienne found Raven to be a match for her both physically and mentally, which is something she wasn’t used to. As in all good comics team-ups, they end up fighting each other and then eventually working together. But Raven had her own quest and motivations and it didn’t seem right to tie her to Adrienne permanently, so she ended up spinning out into her own story.
TT: Can you tell us a little more about the characters?
JW: Absolutely. In at least two ways, Raven was envisioned as a character who could take on two big issues I was running up against in Princeless that Princeless wasn’t really equipped to take on.
The first of those was violence. When you create a fantasy world and give your heroine a sword, at some point there will come a time in a story where she ought to stab somebody. However, even though I gave Adrienne a sword, that wasn’t really the kind of story we were telling over there. Raven, on the other hand, is on a quest for revenge and frequently face to face with bloodthirsty pirates. She can really use a sword and can be put in situations where stabbing is an appropriate thing for a hero to do.
The other question was sexuality. A lot of fans of Princeless had questions about Adrienne’s sexuality even from the first book. And while I have no interest in pairing Adrienne up with a romantic interest of any sex or gender, I felt like there was a great adventure story with a queer protagonist to be told in this world and Raven seemed like the person to tell that story with. I had known she was gay from the first moment she showed up in Princeless and we very strongly suggested it there, but since Princeless is essentially told from Adrienne’s point of view and Adrienne is clueless, we don’t really discuss it there. It is, however, a very important part of who Raven is and especially in her relationship with Ximena, she has her natural instinct to pirate clashing up against this desire she has to be with Ximena. Ximena is a pacifist and refuses to fight. If Raven were to let her vengeance go and walk away, her chance of having a happy relationship with Ximena would be much better. But she’s just not built to do that.
TT: Why was it important for you to create a series like this and get it on the market?
JW: When I started Princeless it was because I was looking for a book that didn’t seem to exist. Once I made it, it became clear that there had been a lot of other people looking for a book like that. It also brought me close to a lot of fans who, whether they said so explicitly or not, were looking for a book like Raven – a high seas adventure with a dashing heartthrob of a hero who is a queer woman of color. I really wanted to get this book to the kids that might need it the same way I knew my daughter needed a book like Princeless. The number of people I’ve seen fall in love with the book on their first interaction and in many cases wish they had a book like this when they were struggling in their own youth has been proof enough for me that it’s doing what I hoped it would do.
TT: Since you’ve entered comics, have you seen an improvement in more accessible comics?
JW: Oh, absolutely. I mean, at the time we started making Princeless, Kamala Khan didn’t exist, Riri Williams didn’t exist, Lunella LaFayette didn’t exist, America Chavez did, but not as the lesbian latinx powerhouse she is now. Books like Lumberjanes have sprouted and flourished in the time we’ve been around. It’s much easier for me to find books to share with my daughters than it was when we started.
TT: Now, you’ve been really vocal the last few weeks about the future of the series. First of all, why is it important to you to continue the series?
JW: We have more stories we want to tell. Raven’s adventure isn’t even close to its conclusion and she has a lot of revenge and romance ahead of her. I have a whole arc written at the beginning of next year dedicated just to the crew having a night off to go on dates and hang out. I live for teams with complex interpersonal relationships and we’re only just starting to get a look at who these ladies are and what they’re capable of. There’s a whole world of ocean out there to explore. I want this to continue to be a book that people who want a book like this can find and snuggle up in like the warm blanket of adventure and revenge that it is.
TT: What can fans do to help the series continue?
JW: Here are a few things that fans can do in order to help out. I know not everybody is capable of doing all of these things, but everybody is capable of doing at least one and I deeply appreciate any help people can give.
- Subscribe to the series through your local comic book store. You’ll get every issue as it comes out and having at least one subscriber encourages stores to order additional stock.
- Buy Trade Collections (aka graphic novels) of the existing chapters. There are currently four books out and a fifth one available for pre-order. You can order them directly through your comic book shop or if you don’t have on of those either at a book store or online.
- If you prefer digital comics to physical ones, you can subscribe to Raven on Comixology. All the previous volumes are available there at a discount and the upcoming issues come out day and date with physical issues.
- Ask your library to order and stock the books. Most libraries take requests and if they order for one they may order for the whole library system. That also helps get it into the hands of young readers who are looking for a book like Raven.
- Review the books online. Amazon will let any reader review them and Comixology will allow anyone who has purchased the comic on Comixology to review it there. Good reviews can help others find the books.
- Just spread the word through social media and word of mouth. If you like the book, the odds are that you have at least one friend who will enjoy it too.
TT: You’ve definitely been busy elsewhere as well. You just started a Vampirella run at Dynamite a few months ago. What’s it been like writing a character as iconic as Vampi?
JW: It’s been a ton of fun. Going in, I wasn’t sure what I would have to add, but with the amazing future landscape that Paul left for me after his run, the idea of doing Vampirella as a warrior of the wasteland was too much fun to pass up. Having the chance to reference that long rich history and add a new chapter to it was amazing.
TT: What’s she been up to in your run?
JW: She got blown up, ripped a guy’s heart out, put her fist through another guys face, ripped the jaw off of another guy, and got forced to fight for her life by her former friend who sometimes turns into a panther.
TT: Sounds like a lot of fun! You’re also writing the Sea of Thieves tie-in comic at Titan. How did that opportunity come around?
JW: They actually approached me about it. They were looking for some ideas on what to do with the series, seeing as the game itself is an MMORPG there is no central character, so we had to start from the ground up constructing a story within the existing mythology.
TT: What can you tell us about that story?
JW: We follow two competing crews, both led by the children of the greatest pirate who ever lived. They are each given a map to his hidden treasure in the legendary Sea of Thieves. It’s a race through the deadly, dangerous, and haunted world of theft, murder, and betrayal – where the winner takes all.
TT: And your My Little Pony run is continuing. Did I hear you’re wrapping up your run?
JW: Well, I’ve been writing the same limited run series for the past 13 months which follows the legendary heroes of Equestria. It’s called Legends of Magic and it concluded in the annual that just came out on April 18th. But I’m far from done. I have three issues in Friendship is Magic coming up and another mini-series which will be announced soon.
TT: Awesome, glad to hear you’re sticking around there! What can we expect to come out of your next few MLP stories?
JW: The two issue story I have running in June and July is our first chance to follow up with one of the characters from the My Little Pony movie: Tempest Shadow. She’s on a quest to make up for the bad things that she did, but her past is about to catch up with her in a very unexpected way.
TT: What’s it been like working on that title and interacting with that fan base?
JW: It’s been great. I’ve often said that I’m very lucky to have a fanbase who really love comics. The online fan base is great, but having especially young fans come to my table at conventions who are thrilled to meet me – who think I’m some sort of legendary figure that they want to take pictures with – that’s really awesome.
TT: I understand you have a few more titles in the works. Can you tease anything about those?
JW: Well, there isn’t a ton I can talk about. As I mentioned, I have another mini-series coming up with My Little Pony which is going to be unlike anything that’s been done with that series. I’m working on a series at Marvel that hasn’t been announced yet, but it has me buzzing with excitement. Then I have volume 7 of Princeless getting ready to launch later this year. Oh, and hopefully some other creator owned series, but those may be a while off still.
TT: Thanks for sitting down with me Jeremy! Do you have any message for our readers?
JW: I guess I’d say support the comics you love and make the comics you want to see.
Thank you! Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, as well as Jeremy’s other work, is available digitally via Comixology, at your local comic shop, or via Amazon.