These DAMSELS Can Save Themselves, Thank You

 

Despite what most fairy tales tell you, men aren’t the only ones who can save the day. And in the upcoming new series Damsels from Dynamite Entertainment, the famous females of fairy tale lore are taking up arms and fighting the fight.

Written by the team of Leah Moore and John Reppion and drawn by newcomer artist Aneke, Damsels sees heroines like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Snow White and more banding together – or trying to – to find off an evil that threatens all of their homelands and kingdoms. Delving into the darker side of folklore and fairy tales with a more realistic bent, Damsels could be described as a Disney Princesses’ version of Expendables, but in a way Walt Disney would never let you see.

With the series set to kick off next month, Newsarama chatted with Moore and Reppion about this new take on these classic fictional females.

Newsarama: You two have quite a group of characters here – Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and the Little Mermaid. How do they get along – or do they?

John Reppion: Well, Queen Rapunzel and Queen Talia (better known as Sleeping Beauty) seem to get on very well. Their kingdoms are part of a compact which also includes Villeneuve, whose Queen’s name is Belle. Of course, they’re just the queens; it’s the Kings who do all the hard work, make all the decisions, and so on. Everyone knows that. And there are lots of tough choices to be made what with the insidious threat of magic, and all.

 

The Little Mermaid, she’s different. She seems to know more about what’s really going on than any of the other people in Caumont do. But then, she’s not exactly a person.

Nrama: She’s part person! How do these women join forces in the first place?

Leah Moore: Well that’s the question really. When we start, it seems like the queens are just friends, chatting and passing the time while their men folk run the kingdoms, but as we go on it becomes clear there is more to it than that. The alliance of the kingdoms clearly has some strategic significance, but the kings don’t seem particularly clear on what that is. The Little Mermaid is more of a loner when we meet her, and her behavior is erratic and unpredictable. If she were to join forces with someone they'd have to put up with that, so whether she'll remain a loner is still to be seen.

Nrama: John mentioned earlier “the insidious threat of magic.” What exactly are the damsels up against here?

 

Reppion: The exact nature of the threat is not entirely clear from the start but people are nervous, very nervous, about anything to do with magic. That goes double for magical – or non-human – beings.

Nrama: Are there other fairy tale character showing up besides these women you’ve mentioned so far?

Moore: There are, we wanted to make sure the world within Damsels. didn’t suffer from any restrictions, so we are not limited to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, or to characters more familiar in Disney versions. We were given carte blanche and we have really tried to make the best use of that we can. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say there are plenty of characters to spot, and interesting relationships forming between them.

Nrama: With a title like Damsels, you’d expect these women to be in need of some saving – but that isn’t how it works, is it?

 

Reppion: There’s a lot of saving and being saved going on in Damsels but you won’t find too many passively helpless, powerless female victims in the book. No-one is hanging round waiting to be saved, they’re taking matters into their own hands, unless of course there’s a bloody good reason not to.

Nrama: Most, if not all, fairy tales have a happy ending. Does Damsels?

Moore: I think it does for some of the characters, but its a whole world not just a single story, so there’s no way for them all to come out happy at the end. I think there will be endings in the series that are anything but happy, and I think there'll be some that are just lovely. Hopefully we'll get the mix right and keep everyone happy.

 

Nrama: Dynamite tells me they had this story for awhile and brought it to the two of you to develop. Can you tell us what it was originally and your thought process in developing it into what it is now?

Moore: We were asked to create a shared fairytale world in which things have taken a turn for the worst, and things unfold in a darker way. We liked that idea, but we were really taken with the title of the series, and really wanted to turn all the archetypes on their heads. Comics is a medium still very taken with the big muscle bound male hero, and the petite beautiful victim/sidekick, and to be honest that is a scenario which I am so bored with. What about making the women just as heroic, and flawed and central to the plot? What about making them the thing that drives the plot rather than just the eye candy for the covers. Damsels will of course have some awesome eye candy covers, threes no reason why they can’t drive the plot and look hot too!

 

Nrama: Doing stories about fairy tale characters co-existing in the same universe is on a lot of people’s minds as of late: you have the comic Fables, the television show Once Upon A Time, along with several other stories past and present. What do you think the big draw is it generally?

Reppion: Fairy tales are basically the shared mythology of the modern world. Thanks to the Grimms, to Disney, and the rest, they’re stories and characters that we all know in some form and which exist within all of our imaginations. But, crucially, they’re elastic, malleable tales that have been constantly reshaped over hundreds of years. Fairy and folk tales adapt naturally to the needs of their audience so, in an age where everyone seems to be looking for something pre-existing to rehash, fairy tales are actually a natural and I think very valid choice of material.

In terms of the shared world, I think that concept has always been there. When these folk tales where being told in the middle of the Black Forest on a wolf-haunted winter’s night three or four hundred years back I don’t think anyone – teller or audience – would have doubted that the girl in the Red Hood’s Granma lived on the other side of their forest, but that the house made of gingerbread was somewhere in their too. All the folk and fairy tales have always shared the same world but, just like the real world, perhaps it just seems like a smaller, more crowded place these days.

Nrama: And how are you striving to make Damsels stand out from the others?

 

Moore: We are trying to make the characters a bit more realistic. So even when they are fighting a huge monster, you can still relate to them. We are trying to make the relationships ring true, and the interactions not just there because the plot requires it. We want the whole world to grow from this initial series, so we have to set up good foundations for that.

Nrama: Before we go, how long do you plan Damsels be?

Reppion: This first arc is eight issues but we really hope to be able to continue with Damsels beyond that. There’s so much more to be told; a whole world to explore.

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