Meredith McClaren Takes The Stage As New ‘Jem and the Holograms’ Artist [Interview]
Under the direction of writer Kelly Thompson, artist Sophie Campbell and colorist M. Victoria Robado, IDW's relaunch of Jem and the Holograms last year has proven to be a huge success, becoming a fan-favorite title that emphasizes the all-female central cast and creative team. It's a book by women, for women --- but for everybody else too! (Seriously, it's brilliant.)
With Campbell's tenure on the series now drawn to a close, the new artist on the series is Meredith McClaren, who previously worked with Thompson on Heart in a Box at Dark Horse, and is also known for her work on Hinges at Image. McClaren takes over on Jem as of September, so ComicsAlliance caught up with her to talk about working with Kelly Thompson, bringing pop power to comics, and what we can all expect from her turn in the spotlight.
ComicsAlliance: How did you join the team for Jem & The Holograms? Did Kelly approach you about coming onboard?
Meredith McClaren: Yep. Kelly approached me. Initially, we had talked previously about the possibility of me doing a variant cover or two. But to be offered a whole story arc is so, so exciting. Heart in a Box was a really lovely product of Kelly and I's joint efforts and I'm happy to be working with her again.
CA: You’re following in the steps of Sophie Campbell, who I believe introduced you to Kelly in the first place. Does your take on the characters draw influence from her redesign of them, and are you looking to reinvent them once more for this new arc?
MM: Sophie did introduce us! And I thank her for that always.
It's still really early into the book. So I'm more looking to make the transition between artists okay for the reader and not too jarring. I'm really just playing with the sandbox Sophie laid out for now. There might be a few characterizations that I give my own hand to, but I probably won't even recognize that I'm doing it.
Before working on the series I was already very attached to Roxy, and she remains my favorite. But we've introduced The Stingers now, and I find that I'm really enjoying drawing Rapture and Minx. I can't wait to see what Kelly has planned for us there!
CA: The book must require a crazy amount of design work --- the fashion, the styling, the musicianship. How do you approach that side of the series? Do you use reference from other musicians, fashion ranges, etc?
MM: As soon as I got the job, I immediately followed five fashion Tumblrs and several hairstylists on Instagram.
This was really where I thought I might fall down on the series. Sophie did such an amazing job with the looks for each character, making them, ahem, "truly, truly outrageous." And my own style proclivities are a little more reserved. But the internet helps.
CA: What’s the collaborative process like between you and Kelly? How do you bounce off one another?
MM: You know, for the most part, I just do what Kelly tells me. It's a very rare thing where I try to get a different page past her than what she asked for.
But I think where my own touch comes in is either in finding creative ways to address challenging panels, or in pushing the character reactions. If I see an opening to make Kelly laugh, then I try to go for it.
CA: Showing music in comics seems a hugely difficult job. How do you look to specifically get across that feeling of rhythm, pace, and drawing the Holograms in action?
MM: Ha. I don't even know yet.
I have actually done another band book in Hopeless Savages volume four, from Oni Press, and there was a lot of singing in there too. But it's been a while, and I'd like to try something different. I have a few ideas of how I want to address the music, but we've yet to see if they're successful or not.
CA: Do you listen to music as you draw? Do you try and set a mood in your studio to match the style of comics you’re working on?
MM: No music. Or very, very rarely music. I'm one of those people who just kinda zones out or needs to move if the music's good. It's not very productive.
I mostly listen to documentaries while working, whatever the book or subject. They're usually true crime documentaries. Read from that what you will.
CA: What are you most enjoying about drawing the comic?
MM: The characters that Kelly and Sophie have established, the Stingers --- and, as challenging as I find it, the fashion. This is the first book where that's one of the points of interest for the book. And while I know I'll have to push there, I do really love drawing pretty clothes.
Meredith McClaren's first issue of Jem and the Holograms will be issue #19, out in September.