The 10 Best and Worst Comic Book Princesses
Unless you’ve been actively avoiding every single media outlet on the face of the Earth — and really, I wouldn’t blame you if you have — you’re probably aware that this Friday, England’s Prince William is getting married to Katherine Middleton. And that means that this weekend, there’s going to be an all-new princess in the world.
But while the ascension to princesshood comes with wealth, status, and a public that’ll obsess over you even in countries founded by people that literally fought wars because they were tired of royalty, it also puts you up against a pretty high standard set by the world of fiction. That’s why today, ComicsAlliance is running down our picks for the Best Comic Book Princesses!
Although she traded in her toga for a star-spangled swimsuit and joined up with the Justice League of America, Wonder Woman was originally just Diana, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and the Princess of Paradise Island. Of course, considering that Paradise Island was a… well, a paradise, she was never really called on to do much ruling, which might explain why she decided to ditch that place and head to the modern world so that she could battle evil alongside the JLA. But even then, she lived up to her royal responsibilities by spreading the Amazon message: Peace Through Bullet Deflection, Invisible Aircraft, and Occasionally Getting Trussed Up With Your Own Rope While Fighting a Dude Named “Dr. Psycho.”
Of course, you have to wonder about a princess who goes so far as to secretly enter a gladiatorial contest just to win the right to get away from her own people. That would be absolute murder in a campaign ad if Themyscira was a democracy, but fortunately for Diana, their line of succession seems to be built more on making a baby out of clay and then waiting to see if it comes to life.
While it’s not exactly unusual for a princess to become a queen — that is, in fact, how it’s generally supposed to work — Storm’s route between those two points went all over the map. Born as a princess — a title she inherited from her mother, along with her signature white hair and blue eyes –she was then orphaned in a plane crash, became a downright Dickensian street urchin and pickpocket on the streets of Cairo, then was worshipped as a goddess in her teen years, was recruited into a super-powered paramilitary organization, and then ended up tying the knot with T’Challla, King of Wakanda, alias the Black Panther. Oh, she once went on a date with Dracula.
Is it any wonder that she grew bored with royalty and went back to fighting mutant crime with the X-Men? Once you’ve dropped the Lord of the Undead into the Friend Zone so that you can go back to getting a mohawk and having knife fights in order to preserve your leadership of a tribe of sewer-mutants, standard princessery just isn’t going to cover it.
For most fictional princesses, the main duties seem to revolve around sitting around and waiting to be kidnapped by evil forces so that you can be rescued by an unlikely hero — something we’ll get to momentarily — but for Sailor Moon, they’re more along the lines of fighting evil and winning love at various times of the day.
On those fronts, she goes all out, but she’s originally unaware that they are her royal responsibilities as ordained by the divine right of theme songs. In fact, both she and her sidekicks — the Sailors of the other planets — are completely surprised when it turns out that the reincarnation of the Moon Princess that they’re looking for for something like a year turns out to be Sailor Moon. If only there was some way to have cracked that mystery. Oh well, the theme song doesn’t say anything about being perceptive by moonlight.
Speaking of strange, slightly confusing princess-related mysticism — or as I like to call it, princessticism — we have the story of Amy Winston. On her 13th birthday, Amy was given a jewel that allowed her to discover that she was actually the princess of a dimension where everyone was named after jewelry, from Prince Topaz all the way up to the sinister Dark Opal, and it was up to her to save the kingdom.
Of course, things were slightly complicated by the fact that a space-time kerfuffle between Gemworld and Earth meant that 13 year-old Amy was transformed into the full-grown Amethyst when she went to Gemworld, which led to a slight hassle when she brought her boyfriend back to her place:
We’ve all been there, am I right? That pretty much ended her relatinoship with the hunky Prince Topaz, who would go on to father Mordru, the evil wizard that vexed the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st century. Because that’s what you want out of a book that was originally designed to appeal to new readers: Intricate tie-ins to the Legion of Super-Heroes.
What? That’s actually what I want.
While we’re on the subject of the Legion of Super-Heroes, we have that team’s resident royal, Princess Projectra of Orando, who was gifted with the ability to create illusions. Unlike the rest of her sci-fi future teammates, Projectra hailed from a world of sorcerers and alchemists, where the far-flung technology of the future had never quite caught on — at least, she did in one version of the increasingly complicated Legion continuity. In another, she was a spoiled rich kid from the center of galactic banking whose planet was destroyed in a traumatic event that turned her into a kleptomaniac, while in another, she was a snake. A snake with robot arms.
Much as I actually do love the snake version, it’s the original that was the high point, as she retired from the Legion after getting married to Karate Kid — not to be confused with Ralph Macchio — only to have her husband murdered just after their honeymoon by Nemesis Kid, whose power was that he was immune to everyone else‘s power.
So instead of using her powers, she snapped his neck with her bare hands and then told the Legion that if they had a problem with that, there was enough to go around for everyone. What I’m getting at here is that both literally and figuratively, Projectra rules.
When it comes to space princesses in the comics, though, it all goes back to Flash Gordon‘s Princess Aura, the daughter of Ming the Merciless. She was originally conceived as a space-temptress who sought to lure Flash away from his Earth-born lady-friend Dale Arden, but eventually her love led her to defy her father and overthrow him in favor of a slightly more merciful government.
The important thing, though is that when she showed up, she didn’t just walk into comics, but was carried aloft by a team of blue dragon men, while looking bored out of her mind. That, my friends, is how you show the decadence of space royalty. Dragon men.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that pound for pound, Vertigo’s Fables has a higher percentage of princesses than any other comic. They’re all done very well, too, but while the series has mostly focused on the business-minded Snow White and her relationship with the Big Bad Wolf — which sounds slightly stranger than it actually is when I write it like that — the breakout star over the past few years has been Cinderella.
In the series — and a pair of spin-offs by Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus with beautiful covers like the one above by Chrissie Zullo — it was revealed that Cinderella’s ability to go from scullery maid to a convincing high-class attendee at a royal ball was a knack that helped her blend in and easiliy adapt to any situation. As a result, she’s Fabletown’s greatest spy, tracking down rogue magic and stopping her arms-dealing former Fairy Godmother. Now, it’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure that the Disney version did not feature Cinderella bashing anyone’s head in with a wooden shoe. Advantage: Comics.
Okay, okay, so Molly Hayes, alias Bruiser, alias Princess Powerful isn’t actually royalty, but you know what? If you want to tell an adorable little girl that she’s not really a princess, then you go right ahead. Monster.
Also, before you do that, you should probably know that she once punched Wolverine through a wall and across the street just because he wouldn’t stop running his mouth. She does not play around. I mean, except when she does actually play around. She’s still a kid, after all.
Of course, if we’re going to discuss characters without much of an actual claim to the title, then I’d be remiss not to mention Princess Python. Really, though, when you get right down to it, she’s royalty in both the world of crime and the world of the circus, and if that’s not as close as we get to American royalty, then brother, I don’t know what is. Besides, her actual fist name is Zelda. What more do you need?
Unfortunately, Princess Python has never really struck me as all that regal, and has very rarely lived up to having he authority that her title might lead you to believe. To be fair, she does have one (and only one) snake, but there’s no throne, no scepter — she doesn’t even have a crown! Get with the program Python. You’re making us all look bad over here.
I’m not going to lie, folks: I played enough video games in my youth that Princess Peach (or Princess Toadstool, if you’re still clinging desperately to your NES) had a profound impact on me, and not just in terms of my mental definition of the word “princess.” Somewhere out there is a psychological paper just waiting to be written on how an entire generation was taught that the ideal mate is rich, well-dressed, interested in cooking, soccer, kart racing and fistfights, and has a more stylish version of Wolverine’s hair. There’s just one problem: She can’t walk down the street without being kidnapped by a firebreathing turtle dragon, and while that’s not her fault, in most of the games, all she does is sit around and wait to be rescued.
Fortunately, we had the comics that ran in Nintendo Power to give us a little more perspective. In those comics, Peach took matters into her own hands, kicking Koopa Troopas right in the face, and jumping out of windows, only to have Mario screw up her own escape attempt, which led her to come back and blow up Bowser’s castle with a literal truckload of bombs. Girl was a fireball. And not the lame, bouncy kind you need a flower for, either.
(Special thanks to Anna, the Internet’s Foremost Amethystologist)