If you haunt Kickstarter, you may have already noticed The Princess Who Saved Herself, a children’s book interpretation of Jonathan Coulton’s song that has some other amazing talent involved, including Action Comics and Batman / Superman writer Greg Pak,  Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane artist Takeshi Miyazawa, colorist Jessica Kholinne (Voodoo, X-Treme X–Men), and letterer Simon Bowland (2000AD).  Greg Pak, Jonathan Coulton, and colorist Jessica Kholinne answered a few questions about the upcoming book.

Tell us about The Princess Who Saved Herself, both the eponymous character and the story.

Greg Pak: The book 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 — which greatly annoys the classical guitarist witch who lives down the road. It’s based on the classic Jonathan Coulton song and written by yours truly with art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colors by Jessica Kholinne, and letters by Simon Bowland.

This question is for Jonathan Coulton. What’s it like to see your song come to life?

Jonathan Coulter: It’s always exciting to see someone else riff off of one of my songs and expand it into a bigger thing. And in particular I think Greg really got the princess character just right – she’s totally rock and roll, but she’s also got this compassion and positivity that saves the day. And I love the witch as a kind of hipster grownup who plays classical guitar. You don’t always have time in a song for more than the suggestion of a few details, so it’s great to see these characters fleshed out, and taken in directions that I didn’t imagine they’d go.

Speaking of unimagined directions, now that the world of your song has been fleshed out in this way, would you ever write a sequel to the original song?  Do the characters have a future, or do you consider their story finished?

JC: Nothing’s impossible, but for me the idea of writing a sequel to a song doesn’t make a lot of sense. The form of a song is so particular – you have to be very efficient when you’re building them, because there’s not a lot of room. It’s all very indirect, and it’s really about creating a small thing that reflects a larger universe of characters and ideas. So once it’s built, I feel like I myself have figured that larger universe out already – it exists in my head, so it’s hard to want to get back in there and build it again. When you talk about a song sequel, really what you’re talking about is more like a musical, where the same characters exist in several songs, and where those songs all together describe the universe and the story. As far as that goes, who knows, maybe someday!

You mention in the attached video to the Kickstarter that you’re exploding the princess myth. A good bit of young peoples’ literature and children’s animation concerns the fortunes of princesses rising and falling due to the involvement of princes and other male heroes. Is this ancient formula for stories just antiquated, or is it becoming completely irrelevant to today’s readers?

GP: I just think every kid deserves great stories about characters who are the proactive heroes/heroines of their own stories.

In your interviews with CBR and thenerdsofcolor.org, you mention that she’s a multiracial hero as well, and that you wanted to “throw stereotypes out the door.”  So while the title of the story is The Princess Who Saved Herself, when you say that “every kid deserves great stories,” do you mean not only girls but also all diversities?

GP: Heck, yeah. Comics are for everybody; books are for everybody. The glory of fiction is that it puts the reader into the minds and hearts of others. So kids of all backgrounds can identify with characters of all backgrounds. Of course, there’s something very special and affirming when a kid who’s never seen anyone who looks like him or her as a hero in a book, which is a huge reason I’m an advocate for diversity in casting. It sends the message that everyone belongs. But diversity in casting is also important for people who aren’t of the same background as the characters in question. For example, I hope tons of parents read The Princess Who Saved Herselfto their little boys. Little boys need to read stories with girls who are heroes, too; we all need to identify with heroes of all kinds to grow into the kind of human beings we can be.

In addition to the explosion of the princess myth, it seems that there’s some deconstruction of what it means to be a monster as well, with cute cuddly monsters in the vein of Maurice Sendak, Miyazaki, or “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Can you tell us what it means to be a monster in the world of The Princess Who Saved Herself?

GP: Yeah, I’ve guess I’ve got a kind of soft spot in my heart for monsters. I like that in the original song and also in the book, the princess doesn’t put up with bad behavior at all — she stands up for herself and fights back! But then she gives her antagonists a chance to come through. I think we can all feel like monsters at times, so a story that shows a path for forgiveness and redemption can be pretty powerful.

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I’m very curious about the nuanced and lustrous color palette that Jessica Kholinne achieved in this project. I like how in the above image the colors fade into pastels in the background to focus the reader’s attention on the foreground. Also, when the dragon appears, its metallic blue hue really pops compared to the contrasting and muted colors around it. These are excellent color choices that are the perfect complement to Takeshi Miyazawa’s lines.  I’m curious as to your methods and process.

Jessica Kholinne: The team and I agreed on having vibrant colors for the book. We set the tone very early on when we made the cover and concept art. As for nuance, I try to match it with the scene. At the beginning of the book, everything is bright and warm as to start the tale. And then as the story progress, we met the witch, bee and dragon. That’s when I tried to bring intensity in the story by using more vibrant colors on some pages. And then using muted colors on some other pages to emphasise the scene but still staying vibrant with the characters (like the fire in the forest scene). I also set the scenes with the princess with a warm palette, while witch scenes have a cool palette.

Thank you all very much.  We’ll be happy to see The Princess Who Saved Herself become a reality.

The Princess Who Saved Herself Kickstarter passed its initial goal in only six hours, and having just passsed $85,000, they are working on their final stretch goal. At $85,000, a digital Spanish language version of The Princess Who Saved Herself was unlocked for all backers at the $12 level or higher, and at $100,000, all stickers will be super-sized for those who selected a physical reward. You can back the Kickstarter through the following link, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gregpak/the-princess-who-saved-herself, and a ten page lettered preview appears below.

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