Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks celebrates the amazing female characters that abound in graphic novels. While many people still associate this particular form with a male readership, certain graphic novels empower women and combat feminine stereotypes through illustration and text. Tough chicks resist injustice, fight for their beliefs, and they don’t take flak from nobody. These women are capable of fighting their own battles, both literally and figuratively.

In this edition of Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks I’m breaking down the Glyph award winner and Esiner-nominee, Princeless Vol. 1: Save Yourself.

Princeless Vol. 1

Princeless Volume 1: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin

Genre: F, MG

Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Incorporated on May 23, 2012

Source: Library

Adrienne Ashe never wanted to be a princess. She hates fancy dinners, is uncomfortable in lavish dresses, and has never wanted to wait on someone else to save her. View Spoiler »

PRINCELESS VOL. 1: SAVE YOURSELF introduces us to Adrienne, a smart and feisty princess whose father has locked her in a tower to await the prince who will rescue her from the fearsome dragon guarding her; he who succeeds in this arduous task will become her husband. But Princess Adrienne is not about that life. When her mom tells her fairytales of princesses being rescued by charming princes, Adrienne is anything but convinced.

Image: Princeless Vol. 1 by Jeremy Whitley
Image: Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin

From the mouths of babes, people. The entirety of PRINCELESS VOL. 1 is filled with these moments of brilliance where Adrienne critiques the trope of helpless princesses who have to be carried away from doom. Regardless of convention, she knows that those princesses are silly – and unrealistic. Adrienne knows that the women in fairy tales are not accurate representations of women in real life, princesses or not.

There are many searing moments of social commentary in PRINCELESS VOL. 1, I can easily see how adults would love reading this to their little ones. One of the best and most significant panels that provided social commentary was an exchange between Adrienne and Bedelia, a blacksmith’s daughter who has quite a bit of smithing skill on her own.That’s right folks, Adrienne isn’t the only tough chick in PRINCELESS VOL. 1: Bedelia has her moments to shine, too. Even with her sexist understanding of how women’s armour should be crafted, Bedelia resists the damsel trope. She runs her father’s smithy singlehandedly while he drinks his troubles away at the local tavern, all the while knowing that if anyone were to discover that the wares sold in the shop were made by a woman she would go out of business. I really liked this acknowledgement that you can be impacted by prejudice and aware of that impact while still being complicit in the system; of course, Bedelia realizes just how blind she’s been to the plight of warrior women and fashions some pretty badass armour for our girl Adrienne. And no – it’s not a chainmail bikini.

The two women argue about the state of women’s armour, the result of which is this fabulous gem:

Image: Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin

There are also some really great moments where Whitley critiques gender roles for boys as well, challenging the conception that they have to be warriors or risk undermining their masculinity. Adrienne’s brother Devon is more interested in poetry and acting with the court players than duelling his father – which the King sees as a failure and a sign that Devon’s unworthy of the crown. When Devon suggests that one of his sisters could rule in his place, the King laughs hysterically and delivers this charming bit of wisdom:

“It is not a woman’s place to rule, but to be ruled.”

Yeah. Brutal, right? If only the King knew that his daughter was the one terrorizing his royal guard and attempting to free princesses across the kingdom…and that she was doing it all with the help of a female dragon named Sparky and a lady blacksmith. That’s right people – there’s a dragon sidekick and it’s a female dragon! I feel pretty confident that daddy dearest is going to have a rude awakening about just how capable women really are in the next volumes…

PRINCELESS VOL. 1 isn’t exactly what I’d call subtle, but it is a hilarious and heartwarming examination of gender roles for girls and boys that empowers them to go after what they really want. Perfect for an adult fantasy lover or a child reader alike, this series boldly supports the idea that no matter your gender or status, you have the agency to control your own destiny – and save yourself.