This week's issue #18 of "Jem and The Holograms" sees a number of new faces make their debut on the pages of Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren's pop saga. Firstly, The Stingers finally arrive in the IDW-published series, a rival band of musicians from Europe, some of whom are a lot friendlier than others -- perhaps too friendly in some cases. But whilst long-time Jem fans might have expected to see the band show up at some point, the creative team is also be introducing an all-new character to the mix: Dahlia Shen, AKA The Fox.
But even with The Stingers and The Misfits fighting for the spotlight, The Holograms are going to find that their greatest threat doesn't come from rival bands or outside forces. Instead, they face their biggest danger from tensions and secrets within their own band. Things are afoot, and CBR spoke with Thompson and McClaren about what readers can expect from the newest arc in their musical epic.
CBR News: The next arc of "Jem and the Holograms" is called "The Stingers," and brings a third band into the mix. What does this mean for The Holograms?
Kelly Thompson: I think, more than anything, it means sooooo many characters -- and a good thing that we've got a "Misfits" book forthcoming so that nobody gets short shrift! More seriously, The Stingers are an interesting band because they're not immediately established as rivals/enemies with Jem and The Holograms the way The Misfits were. Minx and Rapture are definitely sneaky and troublesome, but both Raya and Riot find Jem and The Holograms genuinely fascinating.
Riot has an immediate romantic interest in and designs on Jem, which creates a weird "four person love triangle" of sorts. Of course, two of those people technically being the same person, so it's a completely different dynamic. It adds some interesting texture to the book that we're really excited about.
Meredith McClaren: It's also fun to note how the dynamic of The Stingers differs from the Misfits. Where the Misfits are clearly guided by Pizzazz, (and The Holograms by Jem to a certain extent), The Stingers' bandmates seem more individualistic to each other. It feels more like they're a group that compromises with each other, whereas the other two are more strongly united under their leaders. But perhaps this dynamic will reveal itself to be otherwise over time…
Thompson: Yeah, I would say Minx, Rapture and Raya let Riot lead. Minx and Rapture are especially close to him, but they're not cowed or controlled in the same way that we often see with Pizzazz as leader of the Misfits.
As the Holograms regroup, The Misfits have struggled to move forward. Now The Stingers enter the scene, and it looks as though the pressure is really ratcheting up. We've been with the characters for a long time, following their ups and downs -- what is your goal for the series across this next arc?
Thompson: One of the nice things about being this deep into the book is that we don't have to spend as much time fleshing characters out for readers. It's all there already. People who have been reading really know who the characters are already and care about them deeply, so new arcs and new characters are all about shaking up the dynamic and giving us new ideas to explore -- of pushing on our existing character boundaries and seeing what happens.
Introducing The Stingers gives us a lot of new layers to explore since they're a very different band from either Jem or The Misfits. With The Stingers, we get the potential for all new heartbreak, betrayal and friends that might become enemies. But everything new that we introduce all goes to the heart of the book, which is, can Jem And The Holograms stay together as a family? New competitors, rivals and love interests, not to mention Jerrica's continued struggle with duality -- these are all things that are really going to test our heroines bonds of friendship and family.
McClaren: I'm finding the plotline surrounding Jerrica/Jem particularly fascinating in this arc. We've seen the beginnings of this idea bubbling up in the previous arcs, but it's not uncommon for people who have double lives to live dramatically different in one life compared to the other. And the results tend to be disastrous for the original identity. But Jerrica's really falling into the temptation to exist as two separate people instead of just using Jem as a tool to perform.
While Jem may face no real consequences for the choices she makes, they may pose serious consequences for Jerrica's moral compass. I'm really impressed how Kelly's been very subtly leading us to this quandary over the entire run.
Thompson: Thank you! I'm so glad! It's literally my favorite idea in all of "Jem," and we've been building to it since issue one -- of all our plot lines we've been seeding it the longest and most subtle and I'm the most excited by where it could go, given time.
That's not the only problem with the band right now though, is it? What's going on with Shana?
Thompson: Shana, as established in "Jem and The Holograms" #18 (out today!) has had to confess to her sisters that she wants to pursue an internship in Milan, which means she's leaving the band, and more than that, separating the family. None of them are used to being apart, and especially after their father dying not long ago. This is a very difficult thing for all of them to accept, including Shana, for Shana most of all perhaps, since she's the one who will actually be on her own.
For fans of the original show, Shana leaving the band opens up an opportunity for Raya to join The Holograms, but in our world Raya is a Stinger, so it'll be fun to see how this all plays out. I hope the fans enjoy what we've got in store.
McClaren: This is probably my second favorite bit to watch play out. I love that Shana wishes to apply herself to other interests; because people sometimes make the mistake of assuming that finding success in one place makes pursuing other interests unrealistic/risky. I like that we can show that this isn't true. The emotions that surround these kind of developments are fun to delve into. It's easy to fumble moving on as a band/family/individual. Both sides want to prove that they can do it, both to themselves and to the other party, so no one feels bad about their choice to move forward.
But maybe it's not the best thing to pretend that everything's okay.
Thompson: Exactly! The Holograms are all trying to be strong and pretend everything is fine, but by not being honest about things, they're kind of setting themselves up for disaster.
The comic hasn't introduced a lot of major all-new characters, as most are new takes on characters from the original show. Blaze was the only all-new major character so far, in fact, but now you've got another entering the book for this arc with Dahlia Shen.
Thompson: Dahlia, better known to friends and enemies as Fox, is a really fun character to write because right from the outset she's very clearly a "villain" and someone with close ties to Pizzazz. The only downside right now is, we've got so many characters at this point, there's not as much time as I'd like to play with Dahlia and how she creates havoc for everyone. But I think people will enjoy some of the surprises coming thanks to Dahlia's arrival on the scene.
McClaren: Kelly, give Dahlia her own series. She's clearly infamous in the band scene. There's a good story there, I'm sure.
Thompson: Yessss! Dahlia's solo series would be amazing, all death and destruction and mayhem and looking awesome.
She's nicknamed The Fox -- where did that name come from?
Thompson: Dahlia's nickname is definitely one that's been given to her more than one that she gave herself. It's a wildly unsubtle nickname, but one that's also super accurate. She's definitely a predator, and in the case of our story it's a bit of a "fox set loose in a hen house" scenario. [Laughs]
Like I said, it's not subtle. We're not super subtle over at "Jem." Everything is insane clothes and hair and makeup and music and trying to murder people over music beefs. Y'know, just the basics.
McClaren: She's tricksy. And though other people might have given the name to her, I think it says a lot that it's a name she clearly enjoys being "gifted."
Thompson: Twenty points to Hufflepuff for use of the word "tricksy!"
How did you work on Fox's aesthetic?
Thompson: I gave Meredith the bio I had worked up for Fox, as I've done for all the other major Jem characters. She knew the broad strokes of the story arc and what role Fox would play generally, but the brilliant design was all Meredith.
McClaren: Kelly described her as dangerous, with sharp lines. And as someone who could clearly hold her own. I think that her aesthetic carries a military vibe to cover these themes. I also think she carries herself with a 'couldn't care less' attitude. As a predatory individual she really has nothing to fear and as a result appears pretty relaxed. It's dangerous to think that this means she's not secretly plotting though.
The military vibe lends her some appearance of authority and the idea that she has the means and is training to end you. I feel like she's read the "Art of War."
Kelly, validate my assumptions.
Thompson: Assumptions officially validated.
"Jem and the Holograms" #18, by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McLaren, is on sale now.