Two years ago, comics writer and filmmaker (and familiar name to NOC readers) Greg Pak, known for his work on several Hulk and X-Men titles, including the current Storm book, and his current runs on Action Comics, Batman/Superman, and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, among others (like Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology), was raising funds on Kickstarter for a graphic novel based on beloved geek culture singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton‘s Code Monkey character. As a reward for meeting a stretch goal, Pak and his collaborators promised an original children’s book based on Coulton’s popular twist on children’s fairytales, “The Princess Who Saved Herself.”
My multiethnic Asian American daughters (now 10 and 6) and I have loved Coulton’s song since SiriusXM Kids Place Live started playing it heavily in advance of the 2010 release of Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, the kindie fundraising anthology for which it was written. My youngest, especially, is a lot more stereotypically girly in her pop culture tastes than this feminist, gender-role-stereotype-fighting SAHD expected, and so I’ve always tried to give them positive feminist and anti-racist messages and images and pop culture to consume and interact with. This song, with its catchy and funny lyrics, has certainly fit the bill, and I cannot wait to share the picture book version with them.
Today, with the ebook completed and delivered to those original backers, Pak and company are launching a new Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a physical, IRL, paper edition of this much-anticipated storybook, with words by Pak and art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Jessica Kholinne. In honor of today’s campaign launch, Pak sat down with us (virtually) to talk about the project.
JASON: Can you tell me about why and how you and your collaborators came to develop “The Princess Who Saved Herself” as a Code Monkey Save World stretch goal?
GREG: About two years ago, singer songwriter Jonathan Coulton and I launched a Kickstarter campaign to make a graphic novel called Code Monkey Save World, based on characters from his awesome songs. Our wonderful backers went a little crazy and hit every stretch goal we dangled in front of them, and by the end, we had the funding not only to make the Code Monkey book, but also a digital children’s picture book based on Jonathan’s classic song “The Princess Who Saved Herself.” We delivered the Code Monkey book last year. And now, at long last, we’ve finished the princess book and have just delivered it in digital form to our backers!
What was the reaction to the stretch goal? What had you expected?
GREG: We honestly had no idea what to expect. But the reaction was through the roof and we were blown away and incredibly grateful. It does confirm something, though — people are hungry for surprising and diverse stories. The audience is out there. We just have to find them.
What is your relationship to Jonathan Coulton?
GREG: We went to college together, so we’ve been friends for a couple decades and change. It’s been fantastic working together — we’ve got a lot of shared history and and kind of shared ethos about independent media making and emotionally honest storytelling that we can really bond over. It’s just hugely fun, too. He’s a pretty amusing dude and we laugh a lot as we work on this stuff.
What does he think of the project? How do the storyline and characters take off and build from the song lyrics’ outline?
GREG: You know, I actually have Jonathan right here. So let’s let him answer this himself!
GREG: I’m biracial, Korean and white, and I’ve always been aware of how corny so many depictions of multiracial people in pop culture are. You’ve got the savage half-breed and the tragic mulatta and that’s just boring after a while. I wanted to take the opportunity to throw those stereotypes out the door and depict a non-stereotypical, everyday, awesome multiracial kid.
Who is this book for and why? Is it a different audience than your other work? If so, how and why?
GREG: It’s for awesome kids and the awesome adults in their lives. In a way, it’s an aspirational story, about a kid who’s becoming the kind of fearless, compassionate, funny person we all want to be. Jonathan’s song certainly inspired me. I like the idea that reading the story might make being that kind of person a goal for both kids and adults, or to just give support to those fearless kids who already are heroes.
All art above has been provided by Greg Pak. If you like what you’ve seen and read, check out the Kickstarter page and pledge so that you can share this story with your own NOCs-in-training.
UPDATE: The campaign reached its $15,000 goal in SIX HOURS today! Congrats to Greg and crew! As this project itself originated as a stretch goal, we can only imagine what goodies will be offered in the remaining 14 days of the campaign, so check it out and pledge.