Princeless, Bayou Arcana, and more
January 1, 2012 12:28 PM   Subscribe

"Princeless" is a new comic book in the self-rescuing princesses genre (more page previews here and here) - perhaps a younger-audience example of women kicking back against comic-book sexism? (previously on MeFi - wik, alsø wik, alsø alsø wik)
posted by flex (18 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about comics, but I'd like to be able to buy this (online) for my niece and have it sent to her. Any ideas?
posted by k8t at 12:44 PM on January 1, 2012

Any ideas?

This online store has issues 1 and 3 available, this store has issues 1 and 2 available. I haven't seen issue 4 available anywhere yet.

You might also just go to one of your local comic books shops and talk to the staff there about getting the comics. You'd then have to send it to her yourself, but you might be able to get all four issues that way.
posted by hippybear at 1:14 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friends at the comic book store really liked Princeless and I'm glad it's getting attention. I should've picked this up while I was there today but I was too focused on trying to remain upright.

(And they should've remembered to tell me to buy it, but I think they were also trying to remain upright on top of working.)
posted by darksong at 1:22 PM on January 1, 2012

... trying to remain upright ...

What would a princess do?
posted by sammyo at 1:59 PM on January 1, 2012

Thanks for posting this! I just emailed our favourite little shop to see if they're carrying it. I know at least three little girls who'd love it. Even if they don't have it yet, it's a nudge in the right direction.
posted by peagood at 2:32 PM on January 1, 2012

I suppose that Guardian article is pretty good for mainstream press, but Jesus, "Kerpow"?
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on January 1, 2012

My daughters are only two and a half and six months old respectively, but I am getting these in preparation. Thanks!
posted by kandinski at 3:10 PM on January 1, 2012

I didn't like this preview page. I didn't like the other one either. I haven't read the entire comic book, but I found these two pages off-putting. Then I read the girls gone geek article, and while I appreciate what they liked about it, but I don't like the Adrienne character from what I saw and read through the links. But I also don't like Rapunzel from Tangled or Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and I never liked Snow White or Cinderella or any other princesses that were Disney-fied. I don't like the name-calling and sarcasm, the rude comment about pin thin arms, even if it's just supposed to be entertaining.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe little girls would just be better off reading Anne of Green Gables in comic book form.

I'd be really interested in hearing what a real little girl, independent of her parents' prompting or hopefulness that her daughter be a precocious and feisty protester of pink princess marketing, would think of Adrienne. I have this gut feeling that some little girls are pressured into looking up to certain kickass females and feel pressured to be remarkable and all-seeing. The little girl in the video obviously knew what to say to get approval from her dad and mom. Little kids do that all the time. Children, small children, really want their parents to love them and think well of them. Big thirtysomething children too (unless your parents think Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are tops, yuck).

I don't know if other women did the same, but when I was a little girl, I really hung onto female characters for guidance. In retrospect, Anne Shirley was the best role model, because she was always making mistakes,and endeavoring to improve herself.

In short, I suspect maybe I need to read the comic books to really get it and understand Adrienne better.
posted by anniecat at 3:17 PM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Rod Espinosa's The Courageous Princess is an excellent example of this.

Phil Foglio's Girl Genius probably fits here as well.
posted by SPrintF at 3:20 PM on January 1, 2012

Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius. If you look at Phil's earlier work his handling of women is much less... nuanced. I don't think he could have written that story on his own.

(And I say this as someone who is a longtime fan of Phil and cites his work as a major influence upon her own stuff.)
posted by egypturnash at 4:24 PM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm starting to wonder if maybe little girls would just be better off reading Anne of Green Gables in comic book form.

Ohhhh. Done well, I would buy this without a second thought and treasure it forever. They're marvelous books and, now that I'm thinking about it, well suited for a comic adaptation. Has there ever been one? I'm aware of the Ghibli series, but that's the closest thing I can think of and it's a completely different medium...

Not to disparage the comic, or heroine-centered princess stories in general, but I don't quite understand things like this. They usually seem born from a desire to involve more girls in comics/literature/whatever (or, cynically, cater to an underserved market) which is good, but--there's always a big fuss over writing female protagonists in certain mediums, and a lot of people seem to think good female protagonists are basically inversions of stereotypical female protagonists.

I don't really share that view, and am left somewhat cold by "butt kicking princesses." I'm more affected by characters like Lyra Belacqua, many of Miyazaki's protagonists, the above mentioned Anne Shirley or Gaiman's Endless. Characters who might have bits and pieces of common tropes, but aren't made to fit into any mold; they're just interesting people, who are allowed to change within the scope of their respective stories.

I feel like telling good stories that aren't made to appeal to specific demographics is the way to really get more girls involved in fiction, but I may just be weird about this. And of course, you can tell a good story by inverting the common princess tropes, so maybe my thoughts don't even apply to this.
posted by byanyothername at 7:01 PM on January 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm frustrated I can't just order these off Amazon. I guess it's one way comic shops are staying alive, getting these deals with publishers to take the first bite of the apple, but I don't think it does a new series any good.

I have to admit I hate that we're taking this one title that not many people have read yet and trying to discuss its place in correcting comic book sexism, while at the same time appealing to little girls. It certainly is one attempt. Hopefully many more are forthcoming, because there's so much to counteract. Not just the old stuff we know is backwards, but all the crap being put out today.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe little girls would just be better off reading Anne of Green Gables in comic book form.

So white heroines only, then? ...I kid, I kid. It's just that I took a look at the preview page that turned you off, and probably a panel or two later, Adrienne was going to explain that the use of "fair" is a poor descriptor for her dark complexion. If she continues to be a stickler for grammar and genre savvy, I could forgive her for chewing out the knight.

I'm aware of the Ghibli series, but that's the closest thing I can think of and it's a completely different medium...

NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind was adapted into a manga that goes deeper into the world -- the first two volumes (out of the entire seven volumes) covers the events of the movie. I seem to recall it was quite dense, both visually and story-wise, so I'm not sure how young readers might take it.
posted by vaghjar at 3:34 AM on January 2, 2012

anniecat, I showed these preview pages to my almost eight year old daughter with a neutral "Here, look at this - what do you think?" as I always do when I think there's something she'll be interested in, or when I'd like her to explore something. This was my question not long ago, and we've since compiled quite a collection. We walked into a bookstore, and she made choices as much from her own browsing and was also offered some of the suggestions she might not have been initially attracted to as options. Some she chose, some didn't catch her interest. I've also made a wish list from responses to others' questions requesting YA reads over they years, and can't wait for her to get into more chapter books. We'll use the same method - we'll go to bookstores, and while she's browsing, I'll also pull out some that might be up her alley. Some will be waiting on the shelves for a rainy day, if I find them at thrift stores or second-hand shops in the meantime.

The minute she saw Adrienne pull out the sword, she was all "SCHWING!" This is a kid that wants to spend her Christmas money on rusty old fencing swords at the antique market, and who, while enjoying these Make Up Model books, turns the characters into goths, aliens and rock stars more often than she does princesses.

Take the Lego Friends sets. She was aware of them and talked about them with her friends as that discussion was hitting the internets - they go on the Lego site to play games. (I supervise/eavesdrop on playdates, and before Christmas, wishes were the main topic of conversation.) Some girls were enthusiastic, others not interested at all. She explained to me that not only was there "not enough to build with them" and "a lot of little things to clean up" (It's true - in many of the more neutral sets, when you build something, it stays put together and doesn't have as many little "accessories)"; and that she can "bake and design clothing in real life, and creates potions using real things in the kitchen all the time anyway" - but she can only fly a spacecraft in her imagination - and she spent her own money on this. She's said she has all the other stuff from things like Polly Pockets when she was younger, and she's grown out of them and "doesn't need them from Lego". I could also apply that to books - many of the picture books and early readers are full of feisty girls dealing with personal politics outside of the fantasy realm - everyone from Ladybug Girl to Judy B. Moody and Clementine and even Beezus and Ramona. She's up to her eyebrows in them, and wants other options for fun and relaxation - after all, she's dealing with real people every day.

Another example: This was the number one thing on her wish list, and with her hooded bathrobe, she's been playing that she's Thorn. She's read the entire series now, and completely gets the structure of the world, the humour and the characterizations. The thing is, as much as she'll enjoy Anne of Green Gables (which is waiting for her on her bookshelf for whenever she chooses it) - it's not hugely exciting. It's not active. It's not much of a fantasy. Even when I was a kid, if I was playing "Little House on the Prairie", in my imagination, I was not making head cheese with Ma - I had to use the rope to find the barn in the blizzard or be lost forever. And now, what resonates after all these years is Laura's excitement at finding a full flour drawer in her married home, and her struggles with authority in teaching. Assuming that little girls would do better with Anne of Green Gables in comic book form is also limiting what they'd physically like to pretend when they take what they read into active play. Sure, Anne's feisty, but what does she do? So, let's pretend it's quiet, old-fashioned Avonlea - is it really as fun to pretend verbally spar with the Pye Sisters (which was, in the period, is no more sassy than what Adrienne's character says in the preview page for Princeless), or to pretend to accidentally get your friend drunk, or to accidentally dye your hair green? It doesn't help that options like this for younger consumption aren't really options. And she's not about to find stories about Suffragets exciting either, though I tried. I don't have much to do with my daughter's imagination, really, beyond the fact that I, too, was an only child with a rich interior life. She is waaaaay more interesting than I could ever influence her to be, when left to her own devices.

The little girl railing against pink and proscribed playthings in the video is not unlike my daughter, who, about two years ago, walked into the Disney store (formerly a favourite place to poke around) and came over to me with a disturbed look on her face. She looked a bit shocked, and confused. She said, when asked what was wrong "For the first time, there's nothing I want in here." That little girl is, I would say, not pleasing her parents - she's right on schedule as far as eye-opening goes. She's properly fed up. We might wander down the pink aisles, but lately our purchases come from across the gender divide.

Of course, in general, parents prompt and expose and influence our kids toward what we prefer - but most of us have to be trusted to also be responsible about, and to support our children in making their early independent decisions. And to understand their abilities and interests at certain ages. The thing is, only one kid in her second class is reading at the level to appreciate Anne of Green Gables as a chapter book. In the meantime, every literacy lecture we've had at our school encourages us to have our kids read everything and everything they can, as long as they're reading. My kid's not old enough yet to have read His Dark Materials, byanyothername - that's about two years off at this point. She'll love them when she gets to them. We've read the Chronicles of Narnia together, and she wanted to be Lucy the Valiant, not Susan the boring and beautiful. Comics like this are an excellent bridge toward books like those for young readers. If we want them to choose chapter books with strong female protagonists, they need to develop their palate for them beforehand. They're not going to understand why something is insipid unless they've experienced something flavourful. Nuances come later.

I'd just as easily generalize that adults often lose their perspective about what's really going on in the minds of kids in that demographic - our nostalgia for what we now recognize as quality surely takes precedence over all the mindless crap that washed over us and fell by the wayside. Sure, as adults we can appreciate Gaiman as much as SpongeBob, but I'm not going to make a value judgment about Princessess either. The Disney Princesses suit the fantasies of three, four and five year olds, and movies like The Princess and the Frog and Tangled were beautiful and enjoyable, and serve their purpose as much as reading Anne of Green Gables does. Anne Shirley is redeemed from her childhood antics because she goes on to excel in her education and makes a personal sacrifice dependent on Gilbert's choice and consideration for her? To an eight year old, that is nowhere near as cool as pulling a mysterious sword out from under your bed. Books like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles will be sitting on the bookshelf right next to the other classics, but I know what my kid will choose first when it's time and at the rate she's going, she'll read everything she can get her hands on. But for now, and for her, it's time for Princeless.

Thanks again, Flex!

(Apologies for the length and general rant - it's really not specifically directed, though I did start off wanting to respond to comments in the thread: This novel brought to you by a holiday season's worth of discussions on this subject with friends, three cups of coffee and a kid off on a bike ride with her father.)

posted by peagood at 9:17 AM on January 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

The minute she saw Adrienne pull out the sword, she was all "SCHWING!" This is a kid that wants to spend her Christmas money on rusty old fencing swords at the antique market, and who, while enjoying these Make Up Model books, turns the characters into goths, aliens and rock stars more often than she does princesses.

Schwing? Because turning Makeup Model characters into pretty princesses is dumb girly stuff and things that boys stereotypically like are "better" or "cooler" or worthy of popping a boner over? Really?

Look, I know you're proud of your kid, and you are delighted that her tastes aren't "stereotypically feminine" but I'm more interested in market research done by toy companies. It's great (for you, I guess) that she doesn't care for American Girl Place (God that stuff is expensive jeebus), but I'm reacting against the implicit "everything stereotypically feminine is dumb" which loosely translates to me as being, "dolls and pink are for stupid girls" and "smart little girls don't like pink, only stupid little girls do." It's just color. In fact, it didn't even used to be thought of as a feminine color. The only reason it's being reacted against is because it represents something feminine, so somehow rejecting everything stereotypically feminine is cool and accepting anything that might be considered feminine is "dumb" or "stupid" or "worthless."

Sure, Anne's feisty, but what does she do?

I recall a certain someone running and winning a three legged race and attempting to walk the ridgepole of Moody's kitchen roof and pretending to be Lady of Shalott. I think someone also saved Minnie May Barry's life knowing full well how to minister to a child with the croup.

She "does" a hell of a lot, as a caring friend, a person who gained respect of everyone who thought that the Cuthberts should send her back to the orphanage because she was "orphan trash." I don't think I would have really cared for swords or riding dragons (flying horses maybe). Too bad my childhood self sipped all the Kool Aid, I guess?

Anne Shirley is redeemed from her childhood antics because she goes on to excel in her education and makes a personal sacrifice dependent on Gilbert's choice and consideration for her? To an eight year old, that is nowhere near as cool as pulling a mysterious sword out from under your bed.

I'm aware of the implication. And having attended a women's college, I think it's really faux-feminist to deny the choice Anne made as being a really feminist choice just because it wasn't totally selfish. So she gave up going to Redmond. It didn't depend on Gilbert, it depended on Marilla's eyesight. Gilbert was the one making the huge personal sacrifice by giving up the Avonlea school. She already made up her mind to commute to Carmody and come home on the weekends. That's what she really wanted to do, even if the faux superfeminist is supposed to concentrate solely on her own ambition and pretend that she doesn't need family or friends or anybody but herself, like some walled off and totally self sufficient unhuman creature. Gilbert just made it more possible for her to stay full-time at Green Gables (because he cared about her) so Marilla wouldn't have to give up the farm and she could help run the farm.

I don't believe Anne really made a sacrifice. She loved Marilla, she made up her own mind. Marilla respected it. That's what being a feminist is all about. And I was an eight year old once, who loved the story, still loves the story, and it's been a brand new read every time. And I'll confess, when I was seven or eight, I liked hot pink (and purple and blue and red and orange and green) and I probably wouldn't have cared about mysterious swords as much as I was about mysterious keys (Secret Garden) or mysterious dolls or dollhouses.
posted by anniecat at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Which are essentially the same thing---mysterious swords and mysterious keys.
posted by anniecat at 2:44 PM on January 2, 2012

peagood, I reread what I wrote and I wanted to apologize and tell you that your daughter sounds smart, unique, awesome, and amazing. She sounds like she knows her mind and that's really cool and what we can only hope little girls can be like, whether they like girly girl stuff or have unique and new interests. I wish the toy marketing machine and parents would let boys and girls play with whatever they think is interesting without trying to send any kinds of messages about what is good or bad or cool or dumb.
posted by anniecat at 5:04 PM on January 2, 2012

anniecat, I totally get your reaction.

The schwing, the sound of a sword being unsheathed and the boner, is exactly what I meant. You should see her eyes light up. And I said she does those other options as much as princesses in the Make Up Model - much as tonight she was dressed in her white satin princess dress (to make dragon stew chili) with her prince.

What we are constantly fighting for is for there to be options. She knows the history of the colour pink. She's come through the pink gauntlet. It's what little girls have to do these days - to have their fill so they can choose more. Not better - more. It's like how she can eat as much Halloween candy as she wants the night she gets it, so that she can understand what being full of crap feels like. She can enjoy it without guilt or compromise and then decide what's worth having more of and what's worth passing on. Just as today when we went grocery shopping she begged for soups and green stuff after a week of holiday indulgences. It doesn't mean that it's anything more than a different type of food than we've had lately (as if fancy pizzas and stuffed manicotti dishes are so bad), and I'm grateful she's choosing it.

And, again, she mostly just wants more. She's run three legged races, and today walked along the rockiest part of the beach and balanced on rebar, and spent all of October in the hospital with us and her grandmother as she died - that's real life for my kid. But it's not fantasy. She's a kid who has callouses on her palms from working for ages to master the monkey bars until she was teaching fourth grade boys how to use momentum to make it across skipping two bars at a time. She asked my folks for a week at Circus Camp again for Christmas and her birthday presents. She's a hugely active kid, and the fact that she hungers for action ought not to diminish your childhood preference for quieter and more introspective adventures. She has dollhouses and pink things galore - it's just that tonight, the Barbie in her bath was swimming with sharks.

And, she's older now - she's starting to look critically at her dolls. Like most little girls, there's a point where the Barbie's hair gets cut and coloured and ears pierced and clothes are made for her because there's always boundary pushing; but there's even more as she's moving away from being a little girl (and closer to my chin height).

Anne's admired pretty much universally and in every inarnation by adults - but from an eight year old's perspective, they admire the Anne that gets into trouble, and gets herself out. It does bear re-reading, but that's why comic books like Princeless suit a different purpose; one that's more transitional. She may not remember it but for an Ask a decade from now, where she begs of the green "What was this thing I read..."

I do not have any college or university education. I have no feminist education beyond reading whatever I read; but my friends who majored in Womens Studies always bring theirs into the equation, and I know I can't argue to any effect there. But this is the problem we face - it seems that feminism no longer means political, social and economic equality. If feels like it has become about how some women are more equal than others. All I can say is that it's not meant to be about Anne's or any woman's ambition - she achieved what she wanted and that's admirable - to an adult. To a kid, it's like, "That's all?!" Reading the series as an adult was different that reading it as a kid - on a recent re-read of some of the, to me it's about the responsibilities of parents and children and how they're in conflict as our lives wind down and theirs are gearing up. For me it was a bit of a let-down, because it's mostly about sacrifices and less about adventures, and even more about neighbour relations and that's just a quaint version of the every day. By the time I got to Anne of Ingleside, it's like what happens in real life: It's more about the kids, and less about the adult in question, and that's where I left off, again.

Thank you for your last comment - this isn't meant to be purely exposition on my kid's awsomeness. But she is what you asked for in your first comment - someone who can and does make her own choices. I was wrong to assume she'd not enjoy a well-done graphic novel about Anne Shirley's exploits, because it doesn't exist yet. She's not either end of the extreme as far as little girls go - and I don't believe the extremes end a particularly broad spectrum either, but she is constantly aware that there are choices. Tonight her choice to read was another chapter of Harry Potter, and then some Ivy & Bean on her own. All around her are other great little girls - one who hacked her Easy Bake oven yesterday to make pizza with naan who face the same choices, and I'm glad for the options for their sakes too. But adults have to stop thinking we know best what kids want too. We know what's good for them, but not necessarily what's best, even when they're ours.

My husband actually works for an agency whose major client is one of THE toy machines. At one of the recent events for one of the obviously boy-oriented products, my kid was the first to tell any rep when they solicited feedback that their assumptions that the product was mostly for boys was wrong. Sadly, what they'll probably do to remedy that is to make some in pink.

I think the only answer in this is de gustibus non disputandum est! Thanks for the discussion!
posted by peagood at 9:15 PM on January 2, 2012

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