A couple of weeks ago, the first issue of the eagerly anticipated ANOTHER CASTLE went on sale from Oni Press.
The series is the brainchild of writer Andrew Wheeler and artist Paulina Ganucheau and takes the form of a sword and sorcery save-the-princess comedy starring a damsel-in-distress who doesn’t just wait around to get rescued.
It follows the story of Princess Misty of Beldora, a young lady who longs for a more exciting life, but who inadvertently gets more than she bargains for when she is captured by Lord Badlug, the ruler of the neighboring kingdom of Grimoire. Together with the long-suffering citizens of Grimoire and a certain bumbling prince, Misty must fight to protect her kingdom and free both realms from Badlug’s tyrannical rule.
Claire took a look at the first issue for us, calling it “incredibly refreshing” and adding that ANOTHER CASTLE “sends out a positive message for young girls that is sometimes sorely lacking in today’s world”. Naturally, we wanted to find out a little more about this unique story, and were extremely fortunate to be able to sit down and have a chat with both Andrew and Paulina about the story, the message behind it, and the “power of pink”.
BIG COMIC PAGE: How did the idea for the series first come about, and how did the pair of you end up working together on it?
ANDREW WHEELER: ANOTHER CASTLE was born out of the realization that, whenever we’re following along with the ‘hero’ in a damsel-in-distress video game, the princess must have her own thing going on too. Well, what if her story is more interesting than just waiting to get rescued? I pitched an outline to Oni, and they realized that Paulina was the perfect artist to bring that story to life.
PAULINA GANUCHEAU: I would say we make a pretty great fit!
BCP: Did you have a specific target audience in mind when you were putting ANOTHER CASTLE together?
AW: I guess my primary audience is people who love princesses, which I think is a pretty big audience, and I think there’s a lot of very different stories you can tell them! But my hope is that this is also a smart, funny, action-packed story, so even if princesses aren’t your thing, I think it has a lot to offer!
PG: I think ANOTHER CASTLE will definitely span audiences. It’s so fun and so smart. There’s something there for everyone!
BCP: Tell us a little about Princess Artemisia. What’s her situation at the start of the first issue?
AW: As the story opens, Misty is facing the possibility of being married off to a prince, and a future of dances and carriages, and while she’s not averse to dances and carriages, she wants more. She wants to fight monsters and save the kingdom. Misty is headstrong and confident, and she doesn’t want anyone putting limits on what she can be. And then she gets kidnapped and locked in a cell, so that’s not cool.
BCP: When people read “princess”, they tend to automatically think of a helpless Damsel in distress waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince. How important was it for you guys to shatter that preconception with this series?
AW: Yeah, that’s the cornerstone of the story, really. Anyone who has read issue #1 now will know; it turns out Misty has a reason to stay captive and wait for the handsome prince, and it has nothing to do with being helpless or afraid. From the point of view of the prince, Pete, he’s the hero – and we play with that in the story. He has no idea that everything he’s doing is really in service to Misty’s story. The damsel is driving the action.
BCP: One of the things that seems to be most important to Misty is the wellbeing of her family and friends, which really takes her heroism to a whole new level rather than just having her kicking ass and getting herself out of danger. Would that be a fair assessment?
AW: Yeah, I think heroism is a very specific ideal; it’s the willingness to sacrifice yourself for the good of others. So turning the damsel-in-distress into a hero couldn’t just be about showing that she can save herself. It had to be about showing that she could save herself and then choose not to, for the good of others. And we will keep throwing that choice at Misty. Should she save herself, or put other people first? What would a hero do?
BCP: In terms of her character design, I know it was important that you guys still keep Misty pink and girly in her appearance alongside her strong, ass-kicking approach. Why was that?
PG: There’s this constant misconception that anything that is feminine or girly is “weak.” So often if a female character is portrayed as “strong” she’s outfitted to look more like a man would. I think that’s rubbish. There’s power in femininity. Pink is powerful! So we wanted to reflect that in Misty. She’s very feminine. She loves jewelry, looking good and flowing gowns, but that doesn’t mean she’s weak! That doesn’t mean she can’t take down a demonic overlord! That doesn’t mean she’s not a beast with a blade!
BCP: Paulina, for the visual side of the series, were there any specific influences you drew on, and did you make any efforts to differentiate it from your previous work on the likes of (the fantastic) Zodiac Starforce?
PG: My main go-tos when I was working on concept work for this were artbooks from Disney princess films (of course), Dragon Age: inquisition concept work and 80s fantasy manga. I definitely approached this differently than Zodiac Starforce, but I think my visual “stamp” shows on this the same as it does on ZS. Just in a different light!
BCP: It’s a little disappointing that strong, well-written female protagonists still seem to be the exception rather than the rule in world of comics. While things are definitely moving in the right direction, at what point do you see it no longer being an issue or a “novelty”, and what role do you hope to play in that transition?
AW: I don’t know when we’ll get there, but we’ll get there, and it’s nice to feel like we’re part of that. The industry is changing, and just by acknowledging that the audience is out there for books like Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, and Zodiac Starforce, we should expect to see publishers do more to reach that audience.
PG: What he said! I think we’re in the pulse of a big change currently. I think pubs just need to take more chances reaching audiences that desperately want to be reached.
BCP: ANOTHER CASTLE has a terrific cast of supporting characters in the first issue. Do you each have any particular favourites that readers should be looking out for?
AW: Thanks! Issue #1 introduced readers to our jailors, Gorga and Fogmoth, and I’m delighted that they’ve been so well received. They’re good people in a bad place, and readers are really connecting with that. Misty is a tough nut, so those two are the sweetness in the pie. Issue #2 introduces another favourite, the witch Zurrd, and she adds some saltiness to the mix. Paulina’s design for her is the best.
PH: I love all the supporting babes. Ohh yeah! Zuurd is the best. I love drawing her so much.
BCP: And finally, if you could say one thing to undecided readers to help them make up their minds about picking this one up, what would it be?
AW: Issue #2 features a bank heist, so there’s probably more to this story than you’re expecting! Also, we have a rat-headed minotaur. He’s called the verminotaur.
PG: There’s also a bar scene full of lady Ogres. If that’s not a draw I don’t know what is.
BCP: Sounds fantastic! Thanks to both of you for your time, and all the best for the rest of the series.
ANOTHER CASTLE #2 goes on sale April 13th from Oni Press