Greg Pak took a moment to chat with BGN about his latest project The Princess Who Saved Herself. Pak is the currently the author of the Marvel series Storm. Storm #9 just dropped today and let’s just say this nerd right here is super excited to see the hotness that is Gambit on the cover!
Okay. Focus. Back to Greg’s interview. Greg and Jonathan Coulton partnered to create a children’s picture book that tells the story of a princess who’s a die hard rock fan, plays guitar, and as a side hobby just so happens to fight dragons too.
Jamie: The Princess Who Saved Herself is a comic book based on a song by Jonathan Coulton. I think that’s awesome! What led you to work with Coulton on this project, and can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Greg: The Princess Who Saved Herself is a children’s book based on the beloved Jonathan Coulton song that tells the story of Gloria Cheng Epstein Takahara de la Garza Champion, an awesome princess who lives with her pet snake and plays rock ‘n’ roll all day to the huge annoyance of the classical guitarist witch who lives down the road. What I love about our heroine is that she fearlessly takes on every challenge and will kick a dragon’s butt if necessary, but in the end, she’ll always handle the problem by reaching out with compassion. That fundamental character dynamic comes straight from Jonathan’s song, and it was a gift to work with. Just sets up fun, beautiful, true little twists that I just love.
Jamie: You have made an incredibly strong effort to highlight creators of color and push for more diversity in comics. Why is diversity so important and what do you hope readers will get out of The Princess Who Saved Herself?
Greg: Diversity in storytelling matters because the purpose of stories is to make sense of the world… and the world is a wildly diverse place that makes no sense if you cut out huge chunks of the population from fictional representation. Diversity also matters because fictional representation affirms the humanity of marginalized people and can even in its own small way help change the world for the better. There’s that amazing story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advising Nichelle Nichols to stay on as Uhura on Star Trek because of the incredible impact of that character. Dr. King got it.
So with The Princess Who Saved Herself, I was initially attracted to the story because Jonathan’s song so beautifully explodes the passive princess myth and creates this amazing, non-stereotypical hero princess. I kind of imagined parents and caregivers reading this book to girls and boys alike, and those kids getting a kick out of it and imagining themselves as the proactive heroes of their own stories. Now our amazing Kickstarter backers have come through big time and we’ll definitely be printing hardcovers of the book and sending them out into the world. I can’t wait.
Jamie: Stories about crushing gender conforming stereotypes and featuring characters of color makes my spirit flip! Thanks for being a part of this comic. Do you see that more comic book publishers are seeking this path when creating new stories for comic readers? Or is there still more work to do on this front?
Greg: Thanks for the kind words! I should point out that although the book is really more of a children’s picture book than a comic book. But that being said, the creative team all comes from comics and folks who dig our work in comics should feel right at home here. We even have word balloons in a few key sequences!
So to answer your question, yes, I think you’re seeing publishers totally open to more stories from different perspectives. There’s a huge awareness in the industry right now of the growing audience of women readers in particular. Yes, there’s always more work to be done. As readers, we need to actually buy the awesome new books that are coming out and support diverse creators so they can keep making cool stuff. But the opportunities right now are pretty exciting. In my ten years in working in comics, I’ve never seen folks at every level of the industry so aware of and genuinely interested in diversity.
Jamie: How are things coming along with your other comic Storm? As a Storm fan and a current subscriber, I always have to ask!
Greg: Thanks so much for the support of the book! It’s been a total blast writing the character. Issue #9 hits stores this Wednesday, and it’s a big, fun meeting of the X-Men’s greatest thieves with Storm and Gambit teaming up for a crazy adventure with some surprising emotional impact. You’ll also see the return of Creep and some mysterious goings-on in the mansion. Big things afoot — dontcha dare miss it! Al Barrionuevo drew issue #9. You’ll see Victor Ibañez return for #10.
Jamie: You started diversecomics.tumblr.com and I LOVE it! What brought on the effort to create this site and can you tell us a little more about it?
Greg: It’s been a mission of mine to cast my films and comics diversely pretty much from the day I started making films and comics. It’s just the world I live in and the way the stories come into my head, so it’s something I’m always going to do, and I’ve been lucky to work with collaborators and editors who totally get it and have supported everything I’ve done in this regard.
But just over the past year, I think we’ve all seen a pretty amazing groundswell of diversity awareness at every level of the comics industry. I tip my hat to folks like Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson, who proved there’s a huge audience for Ms. Marvel, a great book about a Pakistani Muslim American heroine. Books like Saga also helped blow open the doors. And now there’s a huge awareness about the way the audience is growing and more and more books with diverse characters, genres, and art styles are getting greenlit. And of course folks like you have built amazing sites and communities spreading the word about all this great work — I’m totally inspired by BlackGirlNerds, VixenVarsity, BlackNerdProblems, NerdsofColor, and so many others.
So this just felt like a great time to launch a Tumblr site with a special focus on all of these diverse comic books that we’re seeing every day. The immediate response the site got confirmed my sense that the time is now. Folks are ready; the books are getting made; we just need to spread the word and buy the books and keep the train rolling.
Jamie: The Princess Who Saved Herself is currently being funded by Kickstarter and only has a few days to go, can you tell us more about your needs for a Kickstarter and what you hope to get out of the funding?
Greg: The beautiful thing is that the book has been written, drawn, colored and lettered! We’re just raising the dollars to print beautiful hardcovers and sent them to our backers. We hit our initial goal within six hours on our first day, which blew our minds. So now we’re having a ton of fun with stretch goals. Some time on Monday we’ll probably hit our first stretch goal, which will enable us to make the digital Princess Who Saved Herself Activity Book, full of coloring pages, word searches, mazes, and drawing and storytelling projects. And then we’ll have a few more fun things to announce for the second and final week of the Kickstarter campaign.
Also, let me take a minute to plug our creative team. Takeshi Miyazawa is the artist, and he just nails every nuance and funny and emotional bit in the story. Our colorist Jessica Kholinne came up with a lovely watercolor style that makes every page pop but feel totally organic and inviting at the same time. And letterer Simon Bowland found just the perfect font and vibe for the narration. Can’t wait for you to see what they’ve done!
Jamie: What would you suggest the age demographic for this comic would be?
Greg: It depends on the kid, of course. But It’s a picture book with a few lines of verse and dialogue on each page, so I think ages four and higher. Although two and three year olds will probably love it if a parent reads it aloud.
Jamie: Do you have a character that yet that you like best?
Greg: The princess. She’s just the best. I wanna be like her when I grow up.
Although I’m a sucker for the giant bee. She’s not in the song; we created her especially for the book, and she cracks me up. At a certain point, Tak draws her in the background of every page drinking a soda. She’s a bee; she needs all that sugar, I guess!
Jamie: Where can our readers go to find out more on how to support the effort to get this comic out there to the masses and any other new projects that you are working on?
Greg: An easy link that points to the Kickstarter page is www.princesswhosavedherself.com