‘Princeless’ creators speak out against Action Lab’s 2023 Free Comic Book Day issue

Jeremy Whitley and Emily C. Martin say they were just as surprised as fans to see Action Lab solicit new ‘Princeless’ material.

Princeless creators Jeremy Whitley and Emily C. Martin are speaking out against publisher Action Lab Entertainment, specifically about the solicitation for the publisher’s Free Comic Book Day issue for 2023.

In a statement, they said the release of “brand new” Princeless material was a surprise to them, especially considering they are engaged in “a protracted legal battle with Action Lab regarding a number of issues that we feel should have voided our publishing contract.” The statement goes on to say the creators have stopped working on new Princeless material and have not been asked to approve any pages for the FCBD release.

“This is the latest in Action Lab’s continued policy of putting their personal profits before creators and we strongly disapprove,” the statement says.

Whitley and Martin are both part of a class-action lawsuit filed against Action Lab earlier this year. The 46-page complaint “contends that although Action Lab promised to print, promote and market creators’ works, report quarterly sales and income numbers, properly maintain social media accounts, and generally make a reasonable effort to sell comics, the company has largely done none of these things and even failed to inform creators when its office shut down ‘without reason.’”

Announced last month, the solicitation for the FCBD issue says the issue will have “exclusive original material” and serve as the kickoff for the 10th volume of the series:

Princeless Is Back! And to kick off the tenth volume, Action Lab is giving you the first issue for free! Join Adrienne as she kicks off a new adventure where it all began-her homeland!

Princeless, which was created by Whitley and Action Labs has published since 2011, is an all-ages series-of-miniseries that has been collected into nine volumes. It’s about a Black princess who defies the typical princess stereotype, instead opting to go on adventures. It’s been nominated for two Eisners and won three Glyph Awards.

Here’s the statement from Whitley and Martin in full:

It has come to our attention through the excitement of our fans that there is “brand new” Princeless material being offered by Action Lab Comics for Free Comic Book Day. To say that this is a surprise to us is perhaps an understatement.

The creators of Princeless (Jeremy and Emily) are currently in a protracted legal battle with Action Lab regarding a number of issues that we feel should have voided our publishing contract with Action Lab. As detailed in the original complaint, these issues range from non-payment of royalties, late payment of artists, late delivery of books to the distributor, and Action Lab completely shutting down business and payments for a large chunk of 2020 without informing us or other creators. Jeremy and Emily have currently stopped working on Princeless and have not received any request to approve or finalize comics pages for a Free Comic Book Day release, nor have they approved any new work to be published in a format such as this which would not offer royalties or recompense to the creative team.

This is the latest in Action Lab’s continued policy of putting their personal profits before creators and we strongly disapprove.

Perhaps even more worrying is Action Lab’s claim in their Previews solicitation that this is meant to “kick off the tenth volume.” Not only was this done without our approval, but the team has only finished the first issue of the volume and the implication that the rest of this volume is coming soon is misleading to retailers, consumers, and the distributor. Those books have not been drawn and Action Lab has not attempted to settle our current legal issues in any meaningful way. The only possible explanations are that either Action Lab is trying to force the creative team into feeling pressured by the expectations of our fans and community or that Action Lab means to continue the book without us. We are not okay with either of these instances and we do not think the fans of Princeless will be either.

Princeless was never a cash cow, but that was never what it was about. It was about creating an important comic with a message that we could be proud of and the stories we wanted young comic fans to read. It is also important to create the book under ethical work practices where freelancers can expect the pay they are promised in a timely and uncomplicated fashion. Until this legal issue is settled, we would ask that Princeless fans not support this Free Comic Book Day book and that they make their voices heard to Action Lab, their retailers, and their distributors.

Thank you and we look forward to bringing this book to you in the future under better circumstances,

The Princeless Creative Team

Jeremy Whitley and Emily C Martin

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