Comicbook / Princeless

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"Don't let the dragon hit you on the way out"

Princeless is an Eisner award-nominated comic book series written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn by M. Goodwin. Set in a relatively standard fairy tale setting, the series stars Adrienne, a young black princess who has, since childhood, thought that the tradition of sticking princesses in towers to be rescued is stupid. She especially hates that the princesses are all helpless and can't help themselves. Adrienne swears she will never be one of those pitiful princesses stuck in a tower to wait for some guy to "deserve" being her husband by slaying a dragon.

Her parents, however, overrule her and uphold tradition. Finding herself in the tower, Adrienne decides that she is not sitting still for this. She befriends her dragon, tells her what her role in the tableau is, and that she is done being a Damsel in Distress. Escaping from the tower where she is being held prisoner with the aid of the dragon that was guarding her, and donning armor left over from the dead previous suitors, Adrienne sets out to rescue her sisters from the prisons they are being held in.

The series takes delight in taking many fantasy tropes and turning them on their heads, while also telling a tale about love and family. The series also boasts a diverse cast, lampshading the fact that most mass media versions of fairy tales, despite coming from all over the world, are made with white people.

The series is currently available in trade paperback, and the first issue is available for free in digital form.. A new series, Princeless: the Pirate Princess, began in 2015, in which Adrienne and her Sidekick Bedelia befriend and rescue Raven, an Asian pirate princess.

After parting ways Raven decides it's time to start her own pirate crew and take back the title of Pirate Queen. That adventure is covered in a spin off, Princeless: Raven - The Pirate Princess

This comic provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Adrienne, who busts out of her castle prison by befriending the dragon who's supposed to be guarding her, mind you, her sidekick, Bedelia, and Princess Raven.
  • The Alcoholic: Bedelia's dad, confirmed at the end of "The Smiths", to the point that her mother was planning on leaving with Bedelia to get away from him. He spends most of his time in the pub nowadays and hasn't made armor in years.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Adrienne's dad will likely evolve into this, though he doesn't yet know that she broke herself out, and Adrienne at least considers him the Final Boss of her quest.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Ashe Family, they might be somewhat dysfunctional but they are at the end of the day a loving family.
  • Badass Princess: Adrienne to a core.
  • Benevolent Monsters: The dragons breathe fire and eat knights because it is the cultural expectation of the humans that they will protect the princess until a worthy suitor comes to slay it and rescue the princess. The dragons are intelligent and generally don't realize that they're supposed to just die for the sake of the hero. Adrienne actually befriends her dragon and informs her of this. Sparky is naturally horrified to dscover that the plan is for her to die and is happy to change the status quo.
    • It turns out many monsters come from a monster farm up in the mountains run by Bedelia's mother. Most of the other princess guardians are from there, as is a swamp monster the goblin president hired in order to terrorize the locals to make his platform more popular.
  • Berserk Button: Adrienne's shaping up to be something of a Grammar Nazi. She especially hates it when people misuse the word "fair" to mean "beautiful" rather than "pale," which her family definitely is not.
  • Black Comedy: Adrienne asks Sparky if she's eaten both of the knights already in issue #1. The dragon sits against the tower, picking her teeth with a sword and a satisfied grin, surrounded by the remaining armor of the knights. Adrienne worries that Sparky maybe gets a stomach ache.
    • When Adrienne later fetches armor pieces from the dead knights to wear, she picks up a gauntlet.
    Adrienne (disgusted, but still calm): "Eewww! This one still has a hand in it."
  • The Blacksmith: Bedelia. Her father taught her the craft and she's the one creating the shop's armor. Unfortunately, due to double standards (with dwarves only men can smith), nobody would buy it if they knew, so she keeps this fact hidden. When the truth is known, her dwarven grandfather states that as a half dwarf she should not be bound by such customs, and he goes on praising her craftsmanship.
  • Book Ends: Mr. Froggy starts and ends with Prince Wilcome talking to a frog - the first when he was a child playing outside in the mud, the latter as a prince trapped in the dungeon.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Several of the suits of "armor" Bedelia tries to sell Adrienne fit this trope.
  • Cool Old Guy: Bedelia's grandfather.
  • Cool Pet: Sparky, Adrienne's former dragon guard.
  • Damsel in Distress: By the story's nature, this trope is explored, lampshaded, subverted, invoked, exploited and played with in other ways.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Adrienne knew she'd be locked up when she turned sixteen, and her father had her food drugged so she could be taken off without resistance.
    • She wants to save her youngest sister Appalonia first, since she isn't sixteen yet. Unfortunately, Devin declared a few days ago to his father he would run away with Appolonia from him. The next day, King Ashe has his daughter taken and locked away somewhere.
  • Double Standard: The story points out the setting's gender restrictions imposed on both females and males, like the iconic imprisonment of princesses in towers, guarded by dragons, until princes slay the beasts and marry the princessess. A humorous short comic depicts that a special school forces princes into this system. It also shows society distinguishes between young men "ready" to be princes and these who actually are going to battle for their country.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: There are several characters who sparkle. Some do it naturally and some when they're emoting powerfully about something.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The first issue begins with the story of a typical blonde, blue-eyed princess who finds happiness after being rescued by a man. This is quickly revealed to be nothing more than a story being read to Adrienne, which she is quick to criticize.
  • Faking the Dead: By burning her tower, Princess Adrienne misleads everyone who'd be looking for her into think she was burned as well.
    • Everyone believes Bedelia was inside the shop when King Ashe's men burnt it down. The comic shows her eager to go with Adrienne, without any thought to leave a message for her father, so Bedelia is probably fine with that.
  • Fantastic Caste System: In Dwarven society only men are allowed to be smiths, so most of the women are warriors.
  • Fantastic Racism: King Ashe's men burn down Bedelia and her father's blacksmith shop as revenge on Bedelia and Adrienne, not knowing the latter's identity, for fighting them. They want to blame it on Sparky and think that nobody would believe the word of a dwarf.
    • Elves are also considered dangerous man-eating monsters. Sunshine and Tempest both usually have to explain that, no they are not going to kill everyone they see.
  • Funny Afro: Adrienne's hair turns into this if she doesn't tame it regularly. Word of God says that this will be a recurring theme.
  • Gender Flip: The story itself is a gender-flip of the usual prince/princess dynamic in fairy tales, although it's meant to be a traditional one with the King imprisoning his daughters so that only worthy suitors get to them.
  • Girl in the Tower: Royality in the story's setting deliberately invokes this scenario with their daughters.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Averted. Adrienne and Bedelia fight with a sword and a hammer respectively up close, while Raven shoots with a bow.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Adrienne's polka dot underwear gets exposed after her first set of armor's belt gets slashed in a fight.
    • Prince Wilcome's heart underwear shows from where Sparky took a bite from the seat of his pants.
  • Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Bedelia's father is a dwarf while her mother is a human, and she takes mostly after her mother.
  • Goth: Adrienne's sister Angoisse. For bonus points her name can literally be translated as angst.
  • I Have No Son: Devin's father went as far as saying that.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: How Adrienne's twin brother Devin is seen by their father.
  • Ironic Echo: In the first issue and the short comic that follows it:
    "Did you see that girl's arms? They're pipe cleaners! She's not climbing down anything."
    [...]
    "Your princess can't climb down she's got tiny delicate pipe cleaner arms."
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Adrienne's father and Devin have this sort of dynamic going on.
  • Jumped at the Call: Bedelia. Adrienne, a real princess, requests her to make functional armor to buy - she goes at the task with manic laughter. Adrienne then asks her to help her fight the soldiers that barged into the shop - Bedelia fetches a hammer whose head is bigger than her torso and lays the smack on the men. After they have booted them out, the soldiers start a fire on the outside of the shop, and they flee upstairs - here Adrienne crashes through a window to jump to a different house's roof to escape, followed by the awed Bedelia. To top it all, she blackmails Adrienne to take her with on her quest or strip off her armor - since the payment for it was inside the blacksmith when the princess got it burnt down.
    "OHMIGODOHMIGODOHMIGOD! That was so much fun! Forget making things, I just wanna do that all day!"
  • Lady of War: Adrienne.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The comic's first page with the Fake-Out Opening illustrates not only the formula of what many expect the general fairy tale to be, but also to which characters and tropes they are restricted. The blue-eyed, blonde, helpless princess trapped in a tower; the equally good and pure and white prince who saves her; the marriage between them, because he saved her. As soon as her mother finished the story, young Adrienne points out the various flaws, including the question why anyone would want to imprison the princess in the first place.
    Adrienne: "That story is complete hogwash."
  • Letter Motif: All of the girls in Adrienne's family have names starting with the letter A.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Adrienne and her brother Devin.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Adrienne is one of seven girls, in addition to their brother.
  • Missed Him by That Much: When flying on Sparky's back after Bedelia joins Adrienne, they pass by a cottage in the forest under them where King Ashe has imprisoned Appalonia. Ironically, Adrienne is talking about her this moment while she wonders where she could be.
  • Mistaken for Racist: In the first issue, a bumbling prince tries to compliment Adrienne by telling her she looks "fair". Adrienne is quick to point out the racial implications behind referring to her as "fair", rendering the prince quite embarrassed.
  • Mood Whiplash: The short comic Mr. Froggy. Wilcome, the unfortunate prince we saw in the first issue, narrates how he entered "Prince Charming's Charm School for Future Kings" as a boy. He had to fight helmet hair, train easy smirking while sword-fighting and undergo the tower obstacle course (read: save a princess who has pipe cleaner arms from a tower after killing the cut-out dragon). The bright colors and the drawing style of faces and expressions enhance the silliness. Unfortunately, he approaches Adrienne's tower, Sparky chases him off, and lands in the dungeon. Even the colors shift to a darker tone once King Ashe appears.
  • The Muse: Angelica serves as one to a whole village of artisans camped outside her tower.
  • Oh, Crap!: The bumbling prince's reaction when she told him not to let the dragon hit him "on the way out". It seems nobody warned him there'd be a dragon.
    • We see Appalonia's mythical guard, a minotaur, and the chapter ends on her expression.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: Devin has seven sisters.
  • Overly Long Gag: Sometimes, such as the entire early issue spoofing the Chainmail Bikini trope, where it's treated as an earthshattering revelation when Adrienne suggests that a female warrior might wear armor with enough coverage to actually protect them. Regardless of how seriously a work including the trope may take itself, one only has to look at such an outfit to know it's purely for Fanservice.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Outspoken Tomboy Princess Adrienne and her In Touch with His Feminine Side sensitive poet brother Devin.
    • Adrienne's twin sisters Andrea and Antonia also try to be this, including dyeing their hair different colors.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: All of volume three takes a break from the quest at hand to introduce Princess Raven and her story for the spinoff. Bedelia is almost completely sidelined after the first issue and the issues could almost be skipped entirely plot-wise.
  • Prince Charming: Parodied in Mr. Froggy.
  • Princess Classic: Appalonia, Adrienne's youngest sister, is the clearest example, crossed with The Pollyanna.
  • Pure Is Not Good: One of the knights sent after Adrienne is Zachary "The Pure" who has bishie sparkles around him at all times and claims there's a place in the world for everyone while he charms animals with his touch. Turns out he means everyone has a preordained role in the world that they must follow and is actually a misogynistic jerkass since a woman's role is not to fight.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The knights assembled in the second volume by the king to find the "princess killer." Adrienne generally faces off with one per volume.
    • Sir Rocks the Mighty, who shows up at the end of the fifth volume with Sir Walsh, indicating they will jointly be problems for rescuing the twins.
    • Sir Gahiji the Hunter, who is an antagonist in the second volume. He leaves after discovering Adrienne's identity and is strung up by the Black Knight when he tells them about it, to prevent him from going to the king.
    • Sir Raphael the Handsome, a charmer who is the antagonist once they reach Angoisse's castle, as he is Angoisse's boyfriend. Also a vampire. After Adrienne traps him in a tree, the Black Knight exposes him to sunlight to get rid of him for good.
    • Sir Walsh the Braggart, who shows up at the end of the fifth volume with Sir Rocks.
    • Sir Zachary the Pure, who is fought at the end of the second volume/the start of the third in a repeated battle. He makes a poor showing against Adrienne, spending more time complaining about her not knowing her place and only fighting when she enraged him. Thanks to Raven stopping his men from interfering, he is forced to yield and is locked in Raven's tower.
    • The Black Knight, who is seemingly revealed as a Sixth Ranger Traitor when it looks like he kidnapped the queen. But "he" is more heavily foreshadowed to actually be the queen.
  • Rebellious Princess: Adrienne, naturally.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Happens several times in the first few issues, first when Devin realizes who she is after she breaks into the castle and then again when Bedelia makes her remove her helmet.
    • It's been pretty heavily implied that the Black Knight is in fact Adrienne's Mother, AKA, The Queen.
  • Shout-Out: A maze and a minotaur guard Appalonia.
  • Stripperific: Mercilessly lampooned during the armor shop sequence in issue #3.
  • Symbolic Baptism: In Book 5, Chapter 0, Adrienne and Bedelia fun in a lake, swimming around. As they play, Adri talks about her experiences with her hair and how she was insecure about it and how it hindered her. She convinces herself to cut it all off and feels much better about herself and her journey.
  • Take That!: A loving jab comes in issue three, where Bedelia shows Adrienne three wildly impractical suits of armor designed for female warriors. They strongly resemble the costumes of Wonder Woman, Xena, and Red Sonja respectively, and a major source of humor comes from Adrienne pointing out how little protection they'd actually offer in battle.
  • Tempting Fate: Young Adrienne warns her mother that she and her father better not lock her in some tower once she turns sixteen. Next panel and a Gilligan Cut later, she's sixteen and locked in a tower.
    • Adrienne decides she's going to save Angelica first instead of Appalonia, since she doesn't know yet where her youngest sister is. So their next destination are the grasslands. Bedelia wonders if creatures like "rhinogs" and "elegators" truly exist there, which Adrienne voices her doubts about. She says next time Bedelia will tell her that centaurs and minotaurs exist. Some panels later, we see a massive specimen of the latter - and he's Appalonia's guard, the meanest of the bunch according to King Ashe.
    • "What are you going to do? Hit me?" Is not something Ximena should ask a bad guy.
  • Tomboy Princess: Adrienne, who is sarcastic, direct, easily annoyed; who doesn't wear pink clothes, prefers to be clad in armor, begins sword-fighting, and fights her supposed role as a Princess Classic.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Bedelia's father is a dwarf (the fantasy kind) and not the attractive kind. She's quite thankful that she takes after her mother instead.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Adrienne's sister Angelica is described as this. So much so that the first spiteful witch tried to curse her at age three, and she got her first marriage proposal from a besotted knight at age six.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Some knights are more hesitant to fight Adrienne upon realizing she's a girl, usually with a misogynistic edge to the trope. Gahiji stops because he recognizes her as the thought-dead princess and leaves to claim his reward for finding the truth.
    • Would Hit a Girl: While Zachary initially refused to battle Adrienne, after she used her sword to smack him on the ass he flew into a rage and attacked. Raphael planned to drug her and cart her off without trouble but was willing to fight when that didn't work.


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