Launched in 2019, Cursed Princess Club is an original vertical-scroll online comic created by the artist LambCat that has quickly grown into one the most popular series on the Webtoon platform. It’s the story of Princess Gwendolyn of the Pastel Kingdom, a princess who does not look quite the same as the rest of the dazzlingly attractive royal family.
Indeed, unlike the rest of the comely royals, Gwen doesn’t really look like a storybook princess at all: she’s plain, wan, and exhausted looking—like a witch. But she’s also kind-hearted and kind of wise. One day, during a walk she discovers the Cursed Princess Club, a motley group of cursed, flawed, and misfit eccentric princesses who have formed a friendship group that celebrates their unique and distinctive talents in defiance of conventional attitudes.
Webtoon Unscrolled executive editor Bobbie Chase talked with her author LambCat, the creator, about the popularity of the series, its themes, and its adaptation into Cursed Princess Club Volume One, a print graphic novel that will be released in January 2023 by Webtoon Unscrolled, an imprint of Wattpad Webtoon Book Group.
Bobbie Chase: LambCat, did you know that Cursed Princess Club now has over 290 million reads worldwide. When you started, did you imagine this kind of popularity? Why do you think CPC has resonated with readers so much? And who do you think your fans are?
LambCat: I definitely never imagined any popularity whatsoever! And I’m terrible at guessing why it could be resonating with so many people, mostly because I’ll never be able to comprehend those numbers. I can confidently say it’s vastly due to Webtoon’s platform/team for having so much faith in my story and their generosity in helping it reach so many new readers. But besides that, I think Gwen’s journey to learning to love and accept herself is a topic that a lot of people can identify with. And hopefully the heaviness and discomfort of that topic is slightly easier to wade through with some of the silliness and lightheartedness of this story.
Let’s talk about the process of turning a webtoon into a print book – who and what is involved?
First, you and I explore what portion of my existing webtoon this volume should cover. With that in mind, you then divide the webtoon into chapters and page breaks that make for the most compelling reading experience and plot it all out in a book map for everyone else on the team to follow.
Then, we collaborate with designers who lay out all of the artwork and text of the story onto each page (Niko Dalcin) and create the look and feel of the cover and all the other interior pages (Josh Beatman). There are rounds of review, discussion, and revisions throughout the process, and from everyone’s collective expertise and care, it’s really amazing to see a book come out of it!
What do you see as the most significant way the reading experience differs in print vs. online?
To me, the experience of reading a webtoon oddly feels more like watching a TV show than reading a graphic novel. I think with toons it’s because you often can only see one panel/shot on your phone screen at a time as you scroll, and you can’t see several panels laid out before or after it like you can with a page of a graphic novel. It almost makes each panel like a page turn, as you never know what’s coming next, which can be really thrilling!
Something that’s struck me as I’ve edited the first two volumes of the graphic novel and cheered on Gwen and her sisters, both literal (the Pastel Princesses) and figurative (the Cursed Princesses), is how much her journey is a story of body positivity vs. body negativity, and even (mini-spoiler to volume 2) BDD – Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Was this deliberate on your part? What has it meant to you to tell this story?
I think that many people–certainly me included–have had an experience at some point in their life where an aspect of ourselves (not necessarily physical) that we’ve always accepted as normal, or even liked, gets shattered through the gaze of others.
It’s pretty much a rite of passage in the human experience, to the point where a lot of people’s reaction to that could be “you just get over it” or “it’s not a big deal.” And that can definitely be true, but I think it’s worth acknowledging and exploring how it shapes all of us differently in either a microscopic or big way. And I hope readers of this story can empathize with this feeling Gwen has, even if it’s not about looks, but about anything when it comes to shame or expectations of ourselves in front of others.
My goal with this story was to explore this theme in different variations, manifestations, and consequences through various characters around Gwen, but in a way that hopefully doesn’t get too heavy all the time.
Reader comments are such an interesting part of the experience. Have your readers made you reassess your stories at all, and have you changed anything because of them?
Oh, yes, definitely! If I had no feedback from my readers while making this, Cursed Princess Club would be a very different type of story. I think I would have put in a lot more silliness to diffuse the tension of exploring these darker topics. But it became clear from readers that I didn’t need to do that. And I really appreciate it. Also, when you make a story that has twists and turns and long-form developments, you have to know when to not listen to feedback, and to sit with the discomfort that readers may think one thing while you know it serves a bigger purpose later on, and have faith it will pay off. You have to enjoy being a bit of a joker or a troll at times.
As a creator, what have you found most rewarding about this process?
Whether it’s making weekly episodes or a book, there’s no better feeling than having a reason to wake up every day and try your best at making something you believe in.