Meet The Magical Bad Girls Of ‘Jade Street Protection Services’ [Interview / Preview]
Jade Street Protection Services is an upcoming new series from Black Mask Studios that's billed as a mash-up between The Breakfast Club and Sailor Moon; the story of the delinquent students at an elite private school for magical girls. The release of the neon-pink-tinged cover by artist Annie Wu on social media was enough to create a surge of excitement --- What is it? Who is it? When is it? --- so we caught up with the creative team of newcomers Katy Rex and Fabian Lelay to find out more.
The team also shared a preview of June's issue #1!
ComicsAlliance: So, an elite private school for magical girls. Tell me more! I’m feeling a Sailor Moon vibe…
Katy Rex: This is definitely an homage to all of the manga and anime that we grew up with — and you should see Fabian’s action scenes, they’re incredible — but the setting is less Little Witch Academy and a little more Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and there’s definitely more to all of the girls, their powers, and the school than is initially apparent. We grew up with these narratives and tropes (Fabian more than me), and we hope we’re telling a story that embraces them but also expands on them, brings our perspective to the story, without attempting to mimic or insert ourselves into the already rich and incredible genre.
CA: How did both the idea for Jade Street Protection Services and your collaboration come about?
KR: We met at NYCC: Special Edition, which I guess is proof that the con life is pretty crucial in this business. We had a mutual friend, Mags Visaggio, who introduced us — and she’s started co-editing this issue and will be the editor for the remainder of the book. It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes!
Fabian actually came to me with an idea, broadly, for a protection-based girl gang story. I know the stereotype is that the writer drives the project, or owns the story, but this was absolutely a collaboration that he initiated. I feel like, as a team, we play really well off each other, because our respective strengths really complement one another. So once we committed to a collaboration, we spent a fairly excessive number of Skype calls discovering our characters and understanding the strengths and limitations of their world.
Fabian Lelay: So, I basically had an idea one day, while watching Hong Kong films, I got an idea about the extorting "protection service" trope depicted in them. It was always these burly men or young boys bullying store owners for money in exchange for "protection". Troublemakers would usually be dealt by these hired thugs. I got to thinking, what if they were a girl gang? I ended up sketching these characters and just wanted to make a comic out of it.
I approached Katy with the idea and she liked it. We got the ball rolling until we realized it was missing something. It took us days but finally I decided on making it a magical girl series. We molded this story about our girls, the patriarchy, and the people around them. How they grow into the environment they end up in, and how they learn to care for the people, but also for themselves. And there, Jade Street Protection Services was born.
CA: Can you tell us anything about the characters? I know a lot of people got very excited when they saw the cover that shows the diverse, amazing cast.
KR: We all (the whole team) have our favorites, but it kind of rotates. One day I’ll be obsessed with Kai’s smart-assery and Fabian will be giggling maniacally drawing a prank of Saba’s, and the next day I’m 100% into Divya’s struggle to fit into her peer group without crossing her parents and Mags will be dying over some cool expression Kai is making with her sunglasses. Because the girls go to an elite boarding school, and this society claims to be a meritocracy, they come from several different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures.
I think we were initially concerned that it would be gimmicky or tokenizing, but we’ve worked really hard to understand the corresponding cultures and backgrounds that exist in our world — not that we are now experts, by any means, but we are hopefully portraying characters with meaningful depth, who are informed by their backgrounds but not defined by them. We’ve also absolutely been in touch with people who consult and tell us when something feels like a concerning stereotype, and hopefully that will help avoid missteps — our series editor, Mags, has been invaluable in exploring Emma’s character with regard to her nonverbal autism, but we recognize that one person can’t speak for an entire group.
FL: Originally I created the girls at random. Five Chinese girls, no personalities, just an image, a kind of aura. Katy brought up how a diverse cast would do well in conveying the message; only you can decide what direction you should take. The different backgrounds the girls have helped us show more of how people in general grow with each other despite not having anything in common, initially.
We also mainly wanted to represent cultures that you don't see a lot of in comics. From Kai, the Japanese hothead delinquent, to Saba, a real joker who still respects the Muslim culture she grew up in. The one I feel closest to is Noemi. Being Filipino and having the lack of representation in media in general, I wanted to have a piece of my culture show to everyone. Not only the typecasting we all have gotten before.
CA: You’ve got Kiki Jenkins and Annie Wu providing variant covers --- how did that come about?
KR: We’ve both admired Annie Wu’s work for a long time, and for me it’s especially been exciting to follow her Black Canary. We were so thrilled when we reached out to her and she was interested in our story. Her unique, raw, gorgeous punk style is such a great fit for the book, and we’re so happy to have it representing us on the shelves.
Kiki Jenkins was a totally random encounter. I was in Arizona and I discovered that my first day there was also the last day of their FanFest. I’m not the kind of person who can just pass up a con, and I knew my friend Zoe Sugg (zuzucartoons.com – the cartoonist, not the British celebrity) was tabling there, so I went for it. Kiki happened to be tabling, and I immediately fell in love with her work. She’s absolutely fantastic, and has been so great to work with. The funniest thing is that Kiki is local to Chicago and I’m in the Twin Cities, so our homes are closer to each other than they are to Arizona!
CA: If you could have magical powers… what would you choose?
KR: Total sensory illusion. Not just imagery, but scents, feelings, sounds, the whole shebang. I wouldn’t want to create actual matter, because that sounds like a lot of responsibility, but I would enjoy being able to create the illusion of anything I want without any of the guilt. You don’t have to feel bad about an illusion puppy going away (although I probably still would).
FL: Magic? Being the Potter nerd that I am, and a proud Slytherin, I always got fascinated with potions. Exact sciences alongside magic was just a kick for me.
Jade Street Protection Services #1 hits the streets on June 29, 2016. Check out a preview below:
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