Music is such an integral part of our lives that, for many people, a certain song can recall a distant memory, and liking a particular band can be an induction into a new tribe -- especially during teenage years. Chynna Clugston Flores' recently returned "Blue Monday" explores those effects and more.
A black and white series first published by Oni Press in 2000 and set in the early 1990s, "Blue Monday" featured a memorable cast of teens led by Bleu Finnegan whose lives and adventures were structured around infatuations with Adam Ant, the Smiths and other acts, while also navigating young love and parental interference. The characters felt immediately true and relatable, and now, Image Comics has collected the original stories in color for the first time beginning with "Blue Monday: The Kids Are Alright," which features Jordie Bellaire on board as colorist, as well as an introduction by "The Wicked and the Divine Writer" Kieron Gillen, who rose to fame with his and Jamie McKelvie's own music-obsessed "Phonogram."
We caught up with Clugston Flores to discuss the series' history, the challenges of adding color, and the fate of unfinished fifth miniseries, "Thieves Like Us."
CBR News: Chynna, the new editions of "Blue Monday" are now in color for the first time. Were there any challenges associated with adding color to work that was originally intended for black and white?
Chynna Clugston-Flores: Oh, definitely. I spent so much time removing the greyscale (most of which had gradients on them) by hand with the bucket tool in Photoshop -- that in itself was a challenge. I also fixed quite a bit of line art that would have appeared much heavier with colors over them. Books intended for color and those intended for black and white can be two totally different animals, and if you're used to working without color, it can be a difficult to adjust to approaching your line art with that different angle and keeping consistent. Line art on average tends to be a bit thicker on black and white books -- one tends to be more generous with spotting blacks, etc.â€¨
What made Jordie Bellaire the right choice for your book?
It was by pure luck that she was available in the first place. We were looking for someone who would be a good fit for the original trades, and I never dreamed she would even be an option. Besides just wanting her on the books because she's amazing, she read "Blue Monday" when she was much younger and was very familiar with the series -- she genuinely liked it. Her being excited about working on something she cared about as a kid was a wonderful surprise. I was very happy at the idea that it would be a project she might enjoy doing.Â
Is the palette sort of the electric color scheme of the original covers, or do you see it as something a bit different?
I think it'll reflect the energy of the original covers. There will be a lot of bright colors and appropriate mood lighting when needed, since we feel that reflects the spirit of the series the best.
Beyond the colors, is there any new material or bonus tracks in this collection?
It's a pretty packed book, to be honest. There wasn't much room for new material. The intro from Kieron Gillen is new and lovely, however!
"Blue Monday" is rooted in teen life of the early '90s. How will the experience of reading these stories differ for someone like me, who is very familiar with that life, and someone who may be in their teens now? What is eternal, what is "past-genre," and how might both aspects be enjoyed?
I think the majority of the stories are relatable on some level. Take a look at the Andy Hardy movie series with Mickey Rooney, or the original Bob Montana Archie Comics -- both were active in the '40s, and both have recurring themes that are just as relevant today. Obviously, a lot of attitudes change, too, but we're still fighting against so-called "traditional" gender roles and social pressure, which always seems amplified in your teens. Regardless of what era it is, though, there's always going to be the pursuit of fun, love and acceptance among peers in the world of the teenager. Navigating hormones while being restricted to someone else's rules and standard of conduct is no easy feat and that's been an issue since time immemorial, too.
For "Blue Monday," I think it differs a bit by way of dialogue, which I try to make as accurate as possible for that age group in the early 1990s, and the particular things that the kids are interested in, music and so on. I think the only thing that tends to change in slice of life stories are the fashions, tech and music of the time. The nice thing with "Blue Monday" is that you really don't need to know the music or all the pop culture references in order to get it, and hey, you might discover something you might really love in the process.
Re-reading "Blue Monday," along with the first issue of your "Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy" crossover, it strikes me that they have a similar fun energy (though, of course, the characters are quite different). What would you say to fans of one of these books to get them to pick up the other?
One is geared for the adventurous type with a sense of humor and is all-ages to sweeten the deal, and the other is a farce for those who don't take themselves too seriously and love obsessive, young protagonists. You can enjoy both, but one might fit your personality better than the other, depending on how snotty/saucy you are.
Or, I could just ask what movie they would rather see, "The Goonies" or "Better Off Dead." But I say, why not go for a double feature?â€¨Now that "Blue Monday" is collected, will you be finishing "Thieves Like Us?"â€¨
Yes, definitely! "Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us" will be coming out in single issues starting this coming spring, somewhere around the time Vol. 4 is released. This is all leading up to brand-new stories, and I couldn't be more excited to be getting back to work with this gang of misfits. I hope new readers will stick with it and watch the art and storytelling progress into the upcoming adventures of Bleu and her weirdo friends. I don't think they'll be disappointed.