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Courtney Love:The Manga

Billy Castillo

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Courtney Love: Cartoon character

By Kathy Balog, Special for USA TODAY

Courtney Love's life is regular chum for the tabloids. And now it's inspiration for a comic book. Fans of the genre are talking about Princess Ai (Tokyopop, $9.99), the first of a three-part manga series whose title character is based on the troubled, real-life rocker widow of grunge icon Kurt Cobain.

  This is Princess Ai as first drawn by manga artist Ai Yazawa. She is the principle character in Princess Ai: Destitution. 


For Love, whose life regularly reaches cartoonish proportions, it's another twist on life inspiring art.

Early last year, Love approached Tokyopop with her idea for a story about a girl in search of her place in the world. She included some personal sketches of what the character might look like, according to Tokyopop CEO Stuart Levy.

Tokyopop arranged a meeting between Love and famed Japanese manga illustrator Ai Yazawa. They met at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo (the setting for the 2003 film Lost in Translation).

"This project would not have happened without Courtney," Levy says. In fact, the "ai" in Princess Ai is Japanese for "love."

The intricate plotline eerily echoes Love's own persona, that of a talented, strong-willed and fiercely independent outsider pursued by demons. Ai finds herself in a strange world (yes, Earth!) where she takes refuge as a singer.

"Courtney was the key," says D.J. Milky, who wrote the story. (Part 2 is expected in early 2005.) Milky says he spent hours with Love discussing her personal life, and he sees a strong parallel between Love and her fictional character. "Courtney has had a long, glamorous yet tragic life, and along the way has had many people against her ... questioning her motives and scolding her.

"Courtney has proven herself as a flamboyant and talented individual, but has been personally hurt by the various attacks on her," Milky says. "In a similar fashion, Princess Ai is hounded by enemies in her world and even criticized by her own people, mainly because she is misunderstood.

"Her goal is to save her people, and the only way she can do this is by getting to know herself. It's something we all struggle with ... even though the consequences are not as epic."

But even Princess Ai's fantastical adventures pale in comparison with those of the outspoken Love, who has no plans to promote Princess Ai. Her legal and personal troubles have forced her to cancel a summer tour to promote her new album, America's Sweetheart, and last week she entered a hospital in New York hours after she was declared a fugitive for missing a court hearing in Los Angeles.

Though Ai's character is inspired by Courtney's personality, Milky says, Ai's story is different: "She is, of course, a disillusioned and misunderstood celebrity just like Courtney, but her responsibility is to save her world and her people, and that's something for which, thankfully, Courtney's not on the hook in real life."

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I actually just read this at Waldenbooks (since I joined the TokyoPop street team and they've been hyping it as the greatest thing since shaved vagina, I decided to just give it a try), and may I simply say it is "t3h suxx0rz." The series mixes bad shojo manga with bad rock manga to provide with a series that has almost no redeeming qualities. In short, place this less in the TokyoPop tradition of being arguably the top manga company in the US right now (confirmed in output, and arguably one of the best quality-wise) and more in their tradition of being the group that is well-known for its mangling of FMW...

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