Joining The Band: Meredith McClaren Brings A New Style To ‘Jem And The Holograms’ [Interview]
Jem and the Holograms, the popular comic based on the 1980s cartoon about rock stars, romance, and rivalry, has been closely associated with the art of Sophie Campbell since she and writer Kelly Thompson first launched the book. However, Campbell left the book a couple of issues back to pursue other projects, and this week sees the debut of the new ongoing Jem artist, Meredith McClaren, bringing her own distinctive style to the Holograms' world.
ComicsAlliance chatted with McClaren about her history with the series, how her work differs from Campbell's, and the best possible pet for Jem.
ComicsAlliance: Were you a fan of Jem and the Holograms before you were approached about drawing it?
Meredith McClaren: The cartoon? It shames me to say I was not. I was born at the tail end of the '80s, so it just missed me.
The comic? Absolutely. Kelly and Sophie totally revitalized the franchise and did so many amazing, starry-eyed things with it.
CA: Who are your biggest inspirations as an artist? Is there anyone whose work you thought about in approaching this book specifically?
MM: I pull from a lot of inspirations; it’s hard to pick out just one. But I think it reads clearly that I have had a fascination with manga as an early foundation. European comics came afterward, and these days it’s mostly my peers who dazzle me.
A lot of the artists who have contributed to Jem before me have probably influenced my work on the book the most. It’s all so pretty.
CA: Obviously, your style is very different from Sophie Campbell's. Do you think that's an advantage or a disadvantage in taking over the book after her work on it was so acclaimed?
MM: It’s a bit of both. The difference between us allows use each to bring variety to the characters and world of Jem. Each of our respective takes can offer new dimensions to the players.
However, it can also be jarring for some readers to make the shift, especially if they were particularly attached to Sophie’s work. I have stress dreams about being told that I’ve ruined Jem for them. I really hope that doesn’t come to pass.
CA: One of the things that people have talked about since this book began is Sophie's unique take on character design, and especially the new designs of the classic characters. Did you have concerns about adapting those designs to your style while retaining what makes them so special?
MM: Sophie brought so, so much to the table. I cannot stress that enough. She brought an incredible amount of characteristics in to play with in terms of body type, facial features, and style. It’s a lot to live up to, so of course I’m worried that I might make the grade. I want to do right by all the wonderful precedents she’s set forth.
CA: Your art has this great economy of lines, especially when it comes to characters and their faces. With such a big cast in this book, is it a challenge to make everyone look distinct without overcomplicating them? You pull it off, but I'm curious how you come at it.
MM: I’m so glad to hear you say that. It’s something I struggle with a lot, and I easily lose perspective on whether or not I’ve managed.
Good character design insists on a healthy variety of shapes in the body and face, and I try to remember that when approaching the cast, breaking them down into the simplest shapes I can before building them up again.
Plus, I’ve also got Victoria [Robado] on colors, pushing each character’s aesthetic even farther with her brilliant colors.
CA: Who's your favorite character in the book? And, if the answer's not the same, who's your favorite character to draw?
MM: My favorite character is definitely Roxy. She’s pretty straightforward in a comic full of manipulative people. What she says or does might not always be nice, but you can at least be assured that she’ll do it to your face. And I’ve always been drawn to more straightforward people. I know she’s played off as being a little dim as well, but I think she’s got different intelligences at play that just don’t get print time. And her friendship with Jetta is so much fun to act out.
However, Jem is obviously the most fun to draw, given the hair and the clothes.
CA: If it's not giving too much away, who or what are you hoping to get to draw in this book that you haven't yet?
MM: Okay, so, it made the rounds on the internet a couple of weeks back that Hasbro had this whole plan for giving the Jems a pet pink llama, for toy purposes obviously (but still to everyone’s benefit). As far as I know, no such llama will be gracing our pages. But I might still try and squeeze one in the background if I can get away with it.