A royal pain. That’s the best way to describe the last two weeks for Darren G. Davis
, the Washington state comics publisher who has gained some minor infamy in the British news media because of his supposedly cruel treatment of Princess Diana
and her memory.
Davis was shocked Nov. 9 when the Daily Express
ran a story
with an eye-catching headline “Disgust over cruel Diana comic book” and quoted Diana Funnell
, the Brighton woman who co-founded Diana Circle UK
, an especially zealous group of fans devoted to the late Princess of Wales. “It’s disgusting,” Funnell told the London tabloid. “Their feeble excuse is that they wanted to show the young people of America her life. They could have done it with lovely stories. They didn’t need to stoop to this.”
The story pinged across the internet and others followed. It’s been startling to witness for Davis, whose Bluewater Productions
published the illustrated biography “The Female Force: Princess Diana
” with zero expectation of controversy.
“I can’t really explain what’s going on or how it happened; it just doesn’t make sense,” Davis said when we spoke this week. “This is a book about female empowerment.”
So why the disconnect? I read the book and there is nothing tawdry about it. It’s a biography that has the good and the bad and is written for any young adult reader. Yes, the divorce from Prince Charles and Diana’s death are part of the narrative, but how could you not mention them? The Express story and its single source of outrage, Funnell, railed at the fact that the comic book showed images of Diana’s funeral and a single panel showing the Paris tunnel where Diana suffered fatal injuries in an August 1997 car crash. That panel, it turns out, is a simple, neutral, daytime image of the tunnel — no wreckage debris, no police tape, no emergency vehicles or anything of that sort. The funeral shot is of mourners and is tastefully done. These are images of the sort that ran in newspaper photographs around the world.
The comic book is part of the “Female Force” series of biographies by Bluewater — First Lady Michelle Obama
” author Stephenie Meyer
are among the subjects who have been featured. “Harry Potter
” author J.K. Rowling
is next up. Despite the ungainly umbrella title of “Female Force” (it sounds like a bad ninja movie to me), these are well-done books that I would (and have) let my 11-year-old daughter read. Bluewater now sells these books through the Jo-Ann
national chain of fabric and craft stores — hardly a merchant of the prurient.
So why the screed by Funnell? And why would the Express print it? The second question sort of answers itself — what pumped-up controversy would the Express not publish? As for Funnell, there’s a very revealing quote in the Express piece: “Comic means something to laugh at. I don’t find it at all comical and I wish they hadn’t done it. “
That first sentence — “Comic means something to laugh at” — suggests to me that Funnell’s brain might explode if someone handed her “Watchmen
,” “Sin City
” or any of 1,000 graphic novels published since the mid-1980s. She seems to have a vision of Little Lulu
as state of the art for storytelling and sequential art. She’s also a bit too immersed in the Diana cult of personality. In 2007, she told the Express
, “I remember when I heard the news that she’d died, my whole world stopped.” She and her group also may not be the best arbiters of taste; they routinely refer to the second wife of Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles
, as “Cowmilla,” and at a Kensington Palace
protest of the 2005 marriage of Charles and Parker Bowles, they made the classy decision to mock the bride with a photo of her face superimposed on a horse’s body. Ah, yes, well done, Diana Circle.
Davis seemed genuinely hurt by the suggestion that his company was trying to make a lurid fast buck with the book, but he also knows that in today’s overheated marketplace of ideas, being misunderstood isn’t as bad as being ignored. “I wish if they had to do this, they would have done it when the book was first published,” he said, noting that “Female Force: Princess Diana” was an August release.
So what are we to take away from all this? Well, Funnell had one truly insightful thing to say to the Express in her misguided attack on this comic book: “Anyone with half a brain who had a love for Diana will hate it.” Ms. Funnell, I couldn’t agree more.
– Geoff Boucher
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“Female Force: Princess Diana” art courtesy of Bluewater Productions