Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Oni Press
The term ‘strong female character’ gets thrown around and lot, and you can probably do a google search for the term and come across a hundred different takes on what that term means. Often it’s used to describe a female character who gets to punch a few people and tells some of the male characters she doesn’t need no man and that’s the extent of it.
Myself, I think a strong female character is one who has her own personality and who can handle herself in any particular situation. She may not always win, but she’s not a shrinking violet and she’s not a damsel in distress. Some good examples of “Strong Female Characters” may be the women of RAT QUEENS or the girls who make up LUMBERJANES, Red Sonja or She-Hulk. And to that list we can now add Ted Naifeh’s PRINCESS UGG.
Naifeh is no stranger to writing compelling female characters. COURTNEY CRUMRIN and POLLY & THE PIRATES were both series that starred young girls in the leading roles, and both characters were smart and capable. Princess Ugg is no different in that regard.
Naifeh wastes little time in setting the world Ulga (Ugg’s real name) inhabits. She lives in the cold North where luxury would be a four letter word… if they had a word for “luxury” in Grimmeria, where she is Princess. However they don’t have a word for it, and as the writer points out “nor would they have any use for it if they did”. Nope, Ulga is already trained in battle. Mostly by her Mother? It’s never said in the first issue how much battle training she receives from her father, but her Mother clearly knows her way around a sword or battleaxe.
As the story kicks off, Ulga is having a bout of nerves over having to go away from Grimmeria to receive an actual education beyond which end of a sword to push into an adversary. Her father clearly doesn’t think it’s necessary, but Ulga has promised her mother she’d do it, and so she sets off to the big city where things are quite different from home. As can be somewhat predicted, Ulga’s more direct manners come into conflict almost immediately with the more polished etiquette practiced in Atraesca. There are immediate issues between Ulga and Lady Julifer, princess of Atraesca, as is to be expected as they come from two completely different societies.
Naifeh’s artwork is always a selling point for me. It has Mignola-esque qualities, but it’s certainly not derivative in any sense. My first introduction to his work was the Courtney Crumrin graphic novels which were in black and white, so that may be why I always think of Mignola as an influence. The color work to Princess Ugg, done by Warren Wucinich, actually makes me think of Cary Nord’s artwork on Dark Horse’s early CONAN books.
The one thing that initially distracted me from the story was the “accents” used by Ulga and her mother. I can’t help but read them in the voices of the Merida and her mother from Disney’s BRAVE. Whether that was intentional or not I can’t say, and it’s not a major distraction by any means… just an intial reaction and one which I got over quickly enough.
Princess Ugg #1 is a fun first issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series plays out.