Ted Naifeh has long been known as the talent behind Courtney Crumrin. But in his latest book, Ted plows forward not with a tween who’s battling alienation and angst. He is instead writing about a barbarian princess who doesn’t quite fit in with the Disney princesses of the world. This juxtaposition of brawn/beauty power now gives us Princess Ugg! (APR141284), Ted’s latest book that should tickle tomboys silly, and make them head to comic shops for this new ongoing series.
PREVIEWSworld: Ted, tell us a little bit about yourself and this new project Princess Ugg!
Ted Naifeh: I've been drawing comics for 20 years, and got into writing just over 10 years ago. I've always been most interested in neglected niche markets, especially the kind that have huge audiences that get almost no attention. There's more of a chance to break ground in those fields. I think there are enough stories of stubbly-faced men trying to steer the destiny of the world. Comic books actually aimed at kids and teens seemed thin on the ground. So I created Courtney Crumrin, about a tween witch dealing with the terror and alienation of growing up. Lo and behold, it caught a wave, and become a pretty big success for an indie comic. I followed it with a story about a teenage pirate girl, and now I'm doing a new series about a barbarian princess. It seems like a pretty good corner of the market, with a built-in audience starved for this kind of material.
Princess Ugg!, my latest book, is about a barbarian girl who finds herself going to princess finishing school. I was curious to explore the whole princess construct, the assumptions and expectations around what it means to be a girl and "special." Though mostly I thought it would be hilarious to put Conan's daughter among a bunch of Disney princesses, dragging her battle axe around, not knowing how to battle with words the way they do.
PREVIEWSworld: Many people might assume that this is just another princess comic, but what sets your series apart from other comics? Why do you think that new readers (and existing fans of your works) should pick up the first issue coming out this June?
Ted Naifeh: Well, I suspect the minute readers look at the cover, they'll get the idea. She's not Sailor Moon. Sparkly girliness gets a lot of celebration. I wanted to create a princess icon for rugged, outdoorsy tomboys. I wanted to play around with the princess concept. Why does "princess" mean one specific set of behaviors, styles, even colors? What happens when you take all the traditional signifiers and turn them on their heads? I also wanted to create an aggressively feminist princess character who's genuinely relatable to male readers as well. In fact, I feel she's even more feminist because she's appealing to both genders.
PREVIEWSworld: You always do a fantastic job of creating such strong female protagonists and building interesting and extravagant worlds that readers can absorb. What inspires, and continues to inspire you to create such wonderfully (different) series?
Ted Naifeh: I love this phrase "strong female protagonist." Sometimes it means "Character with no weaknesses, who's better at everything than anyone else," like a blaxploitation hero without the ironic smirk.
Sometimes it just means "female character with a personality."
One reason I like writing female protagonists is because there's so much untrodden ground there. It's actually ridiculous how few stories center around women that aren't mostly focused on finding a boyfriend or saving the children. It's a bit of a sacrifice, because there are a lot of readers out there who automatically dismiss a female-lead comic, assuming it's not for them. But to me, that's a small price to pay for the opportunity explore fresh ideas, present unexpected paradigms, ask questions no one else has.
I think it's important to create unique worlds for my characters to inhabit. One thing I've noticed is that a book depends on how strong the protagonist's personality is. With Courtney Crumrin, I managed to create a very personality-driven character, and that's mainly what readers connect with. But I think the same thing is true for the character of the world the stories take place in. I like creating worlds that I'd like to visit, and I think readers like exploring them. A unique world is just as important as a unique character.
PREVIEWSworld: Is there anything else that you would like to add about Princess Ugg? Any exciting things and events readers can look forward to from upcoming issues?
Ted Naifeh: Well, I'm going to be doing a big convention tour this summer, including Comic-Con, Heroes Con in Charlotte, Denver, and Dragon-Con in Atlanta, not to mention my issue #1 release party on the 7th here in San Francisco at Isotope Comic Lounge. In the book itself, issue #3 will have a glorious 8-page watercolor sequence I painted myself. I don't know if everyone would consider that an event, but I sure do. Might be enough to break the whole issue 3 slump problem.
Click here to see the preview!