The tumblrverse tends to get into these creative-concept hiveminds every four-to-six weeks: early this winter it was adorably grotesque monster girls, last month was “murdermaids,” and now, with Game of Thrones season 4 looming on the horizon, it appears the internet is going gaga for women warriors and kick-butt queens and princesses. I am very, very okay with this.
Besides dogbomber’s lady knight generator, which The Mary Sue’s Rebecca Pahle has already covered, a slew of indie web- and short-comics featuring lady knights and action princesses have been going viral or been reintroduced into our collective consciousness. In between binge-watching old Xena: Warrior Princess episodes on Netflix and digging out your childhood copies of The Paper Bag Princess and The Song of the Lioness, here are three webcomics featuring heroic courtly women you should absolutely read and support.
Princess Princess by tumblr user strangelykatie follows the adventures of Princess Amira (a heroic, adventure-loving princess who can generate her own shoujo flowers), Princess Sadie (a self-conscious sassmaster), and Prince Vladric (who hates being expected to fight monsters) as they take on high towers, low self-esteem, ogres, gender roles, and a seriously nasty evil sorceress. It should not be confused with the manga of the same name. This 44-page short-comic has amassed a fan-following on tumblr with the official Princess Princess Comic page filled with fanart as well as the occasional character art bonus from strangelykatie herself.
As of right now, the comic is available to read for free here on strangelykatie’s portfolio website. Along with four other short-comics, her portfolio site includes several Princess Princess related illustrations and character sheets. A retouched version of the comic, as well as an exclusive 7-page epilogue comic and a selection of art and sketches not found anywhere else, can also be bought for $2.50 on Gumroad. She’s also confirmed on the comic’s tumblr that she has plans to release a print run of the short-comic at some point in the future, and those interested in acquiring a physical copy of the comic should look out for future updates.
Help Us, Great Warrior!
Help Us, Great Warrior! is an absolutely hilarious webcomic that combines important fashion tips with the bloodthirst of battle to help you get in touch with your fierce and fabulous side. In fact, Madéline Flores has some really great battle fashion tips in general, not just the ones she dishes out in HUGW. The Great Warrior in question is a sassy blob with an adorable hair bow and a mean swinging arm who enjoys pizza, cute guys, overkill, designer weaponry, and butts. It can be read on its website and updates twice a month on average.
Flores also has swag for the comic for sale on skreened and society6 as well as the first print volume of Help Us, Great Warrior! She has also drawn and written a 100-page graphic novel called The Girl and The Gorilla and recently began working with Nickelodeon’s animation studios on a show called Bad Seeds, which will premiere next year. Congrats Madéline!
Sometimes it’s hard to stand up to your parents, especially when your father happens to be an evil necromancer overlord like Princess Mildred’s. Sick of being forced to stay inside while he conquers everything, she runs off to join brave warrior Lady Beatrice, find the Sword of Legend, kick her dad’s butt, make out a little, and get an awesome new ‘do in Sara Goetter’s short-comic Haircut. Sixteen black and white pages, Haircut is a great little comic about striking out on your own and finding the things worth fighting for.
Haircut can be read here on Goetter’s art tumblr or purchased for $2 on Gumroad in a PDF version which includes the original comic, updated cover art, concept sketches and, for the first 50 purchasers, a personal thank-you doodle. Her other short-comics Eddy and Good Dog are also available to download, for free and for $1, respectively. Goetter also draws a fantasy webcomic about wizards and friendship called Boozle which updates every week on Friday.
Of course, these aren’t the only comics out there. The subverted trope of princesses taking back their freedom and saving themselves is one that’s been done and re-done a thousand times. Comics like Princeless, published by Action Lab Comics, have been popping up on the sidelines for years — so why does this shtick keep appealing to us as readers? Why do we keep coming back again and again to a dynamic that eye-rolling critics might point out has already been done?
Quite possibly because it needs constant repeating. Despite the story being told, and told well, numerous times, the self-saving heroine is still widely treated as a gimmick rather than the given. In a story culture where a woman critic can receive rape and death threats just for pointing out how the Damsel in Distress trope has “already been done” to death in video games, like Anita Sarkeesian did upon starting her Tropes v. Women in Video Games segment, sometimes it just feels good to subvert the assumption that a lady knight’s a gimmick and a male one’s the “default,” original or not. And really, there’s just something satisfying about reclaiming the Lady-and-Knight archetypes.
The old classics can sometimes be the best to revisit. Sometimes we just need the reminder we can fight for ourselves. We can tell and support the stories that make us the heroes: whether we choose to fight with swords or with words, or both; to wear armor or dresses, or both; to rescue our prince, or our princess, and ourselves. It’s our choice. It’s our story, and we’ll keep reading and writing variations of it because it’s a great one.
Got another awesome lady knight or action princess webcomic to add to the list? Tell us all about your favorite dashing heroines in the comments!
Alana is a freelance writer and editor who loves reading and supporting small-press and self-publishing artists and writers. She’d love to hear your indie recommendations at alanamancuso.com or talk shop with you via @AlanaMancuso on Twitter.