Last year, Action Lab became the most recent comics publisher (but not the last) to face serious allegations of non-payments, ghosting and other malfeasance against creators. The complaints culminated in a class action lawsuit filed against Action Lab earlier this year by nearly 40 creators; to quote:
The 46-page complaint contends that although Action Lab promised to print, promote and market creators’ works, report quarterly sales and income numbers, properly maintain social media accounts, and generally make a reasonable effort to sell comics, the company has largely done none of these things and even failed to inform creators when its office shut down “without reason.”
Since then, Action Lab has kept a low profile – even their website, which during the wave of allegations promised it was only “Under Construction” with the charming Action Lab bulldog logo, is now a Bluehost “Be right back” landing page. However, Action Lab did resurface for Free Comics Book Day with the news of a new issue for Princeless. The listing reads:
(W) Jeremy Whitley (A/CA) Emily Martin
Princeless Is Back! And to kick off the tenth volume, Action Lab is giving you the first issue for free! Join Adrienne as she kicks off a new adventure where it all began-her homeland!
Exclusive Original Material
Princeless, created by Jeremy Whitley and artists including Emily Martin, was first published back in 2011 and is one of Action Lab’s most acclaimed titles, an ahead-of-its-time magical princess tale that has been nominated for multiple Eisners and Glyph Awards.
While the idea of Princeless coming back is appealing, Whitley and Martin were part of the class action suit over a lack of payment and other contracted services for both that series and its spinoff, Raven the Pirate Princess.
However the FCBD issue seems to be digging Action Lab even deeper into stupid publisher tricks behavior. A new statement from Whitley and Martin charges that the issue was put together without any input or approval from them, and that any suggestion of a new adventure is completely misleading, as only the first issue of the 10th volume has been drawn and “Action Lab has not attempted to settle our current legal issues in any meaningful way.”
Obviously this is some seriously misleading copy here. Just what is going on at Action Lab isn’t clear but they currently have no other titles coming out from Diamond. We’ve reached out to them and will update the story with any response.
Whitley and Martin’s full statement follows:
It has come to our attention through the excitement of our fans that there is “brand new” Princeless material being offered by Action Lab Comics for Free Comic Book Day. To say that this is a surprise to us is perhaps an understatement.
The creators of Princeless (Jeremy and Emily) are currently in a protracted legal battle with Action Lab regarding a number of issues that we feel should have voided our publishing contract with Action Lab. As detailed in the original complaint, these issues range from non-payment of royalties, late payment of artists, late delivery of books to the distributor, and Action Lab completely shutting down business and payments for a large chunk of 2020 without informing us or other creators. Jeremy and Emily have currently stopped working on Princeless and have not received any request to approve or finalize comics pages for a Free Comic Book Day release, nor have they approved any new work to be published in a format such as this which would not offer royalties or recompense to the creative team.
This is the latest in Action Lab’s continued policy of putting their personal profits before creators and we strongly disapprove.
Perhaps even more worrying is Action Lab’s claim in their Previews solicitation that this is meant to “kick off the tenth volume.” Not only was this done without our approval, but the team has only finished the first issue of the volume and the implication that the rest of this volume is coming soon is misleading to retailers, consumers, and the distributor. Those books have not been drawn and Action Lab has not attempted to settle our current legal issues in any meaningful way. The only possible explanations are that either Action Lab is trying to force the creative team into feeling pressured by the expectations of our fans and community or that Action Lab means to continue the book without us. We are not okay with either of these instances and we do not think the fans of Princeless will be either.
Princeless was never a cash cow, but that was never what it was about. It was about creating an important comic with a message that we could be proud of and the stories we wanted young comic fans to read. It is also important to create the book under ethical work practices where freelancers can expect the pay they are promised in a timely and uncomplicated fashion. Until this legal issue is settled, we would ask that Princeless fans not support this Free Comic Book Day book and that they make their voices heard to Action Lab, their retailers, and their distributors.
Thank you and we look forward to bringing this book to you in the future under better circumstances,
The Princeless Creative Team
Jeremy Whitley and Emily C Martin