25 June 2012

25 June 2012–Long Overdue Updates and a Review


My gosh, has it been two months? Man time files when you’re preparing for the biggest event of your professional life.

I’m talking of course about the Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom (and the 1st Annual Denver Comic Con). I met many, many cool people, made some new friends, and learned lots of new things.

(If things look different, I was having major problems with my computer, so I had to start from scratch. I’m still not back to where I was.)

Regardless, The conference and subsequent convention was a huge success (I have a huge write up of the events forthcoming over at the digital magazine The  Spot – I’ll post a link to it when it’s up), and that’s what I’m talking about today. At the convention, I finally got to meet Jimmy Gownley (a long time dream come true) as well as Jeremy Whitley.

Those of you who are familiar with my work know how much I adore Jimmy Gownley’s works. His series Amelia Rules! is one of my first round picks when people ask me what their kids should be reading. I can now add Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin’s work Princeless to my suggestions. Before I get too far gone, let’s make it official.


Image Courtesy Action Lab Comics

Written By Jeremy Whitley, Illustrated by M. Goodwin

Action Lab Comics, 2012.

ISBN: 978-1-45079-894-5

$14.95, Ages 8+


Princess Adrienne is mad at her parents. Even after making her parents swear not to lock her in a tower with a dragon as a guardian when she turns 16, they do it anyways. Tired of being stuck in her tower, and tired of her dragon eating every suitor that comes along, Adrienne decides to do something about it, and rescues herself. Knowing her sisters have all suffered the same treatment, she sets out with the dragon, Sparky, and her half-dwarven friend Bedelia to rescue her sisters and prove to her folks that she doesn’t need a suitor to rescue her – she’s doing fine on her own. The only problem? Her dad, the king, thinks the warrior riding the dragon has killed his beloved daughter, and is throwing his entire kingdom behind the effort to kill the dragon and its rider.


The twist on the fairy tale has become quite popular in recent times, and the princess in a tower has been done many times (Shrek, Tangled), and the idea of a strong female lead has been around even longer. However, in the hands of a capable writer, these concepts can feel fresh and new; and that’s exactly what Whitley has done. Not only is Adrienne a strong, yet likable heroine, her discovery of “women’s armor” becomes not only an homage to those memorable articles of clothing from famous fantasy series, but a subversive, biting commentary on the stereotype of women warriors. The best part is that Whitley doesn’t come out and beat the reader over the head with this, but instead lets the characters reveal the absurdity of these concepts. Since this is still a “new” series, there are some rough patches, but that’s to be expected with any new series. While the main characters are off to a good start, the possibility for the supporting characters to slip into one-dimensionality seems to loom. Hopefully, we’ll see more character development of these supporting players soon.

Final Thoughts

Princeless is shaping up to be a great series – and I’m not just basing that off of my own take on the book. It’s already up for several Eisner Awards this year. Bolstering this fact is that not only is the protagonist female, she’s also African-American, which is a criminally overlooked character type in comics of any kind. Adrienne is one of those characters that needs to have more exposure – not just because of those two criteria, but because she is also empathetic, intelligent, caring and driven. Girls will like this book because the characters are ones they can identify with, and boys will like it for the fact that it’s got the staples of any good male-oriented fantasy. Princeless is one of those books that may not be good for teaching in class, but a few copies around the classroom for free reading will make a huge impact (especially on reluctant readers), libraries would be well advised to keep at least two copies on-hand, and it’s also a good book to have in the house. Definitely one worth hunting down.

As a side note, there is not a link to the TPB of Princeless as of yet. You can purchase individual issues (eBook or Dead Tree) over at Action Lab Comics website. In fact, I suggest you – I met Jeremy and his lovely wife, Alicia at Comic Con, and I’ve got to tell you – they are great people. I hope to run into them again, because they are a blast.


Now, as I stated previously, I finally got to meet the awesomely talented (and talentedly awesome) Jimmy Gownley at Denver Comic Con. In and of itself, that would have been a huge deal, but he let me know that he’s working on a new series due out next year. This new series “The Cartoonist” is autobiographical and details his first efforts at the age of 14 to self-publish comics. He’s also been working on a web strip called “Gracieland” with Ellen Toole Austin that is an absolute treat in and of itself as well.


Image Courtesy Jimmy Gownley

(note: cover is from a different edition)

Written and Illustrated by Jimmy Gownley

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-41698-607-2 (Atheneum TPB)

$10.99, Ages 8+


The fourth volume of Amelia McBride’s trials and tribulations takes us on a dizzying array of situations – from getting Captain Amazing to spy on her mom out on a date, to examining her family history, to her very first dance with a boy(!), Amelia proves once again that it can be extremely tough, yet rewarding, being a kid.


Gownley’s fourth book doesn’t sugar-coat the issues the characters face. From the terror and fear of a parent beginning to date again, to the potential loss of a loved one, or dealing with the realization that our heroes are no different from us, Amelia tackles these problems as any kid would. Is it painful to experience? yes. Is it forced or contrived? Absolutely not. There is a depth and warmth here that is honest and true. It’s been a long time since a story has moved me the way “The Things I Cannot Change” did, and I ‘ve never had to experience those events, but the way it is handled actually had me reaching for a tissue to dry my eyes. This is one of those books that will stick with you for the rest of your days.

Final Thoughts

Gownley’s characters have always been a fun read, and this book is no exception. His entire Amelia Rules! series is highly recommended, but When the Past is a Present should be considered required reading for any family that is going through deployment. A powerful, powerful book that needs to be read. In fact, the entire Amelia Rules! series is on my all time greatest reads list. If you haven’t read any of them yet, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.

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