Get out your feather-topped pens and yellow plaid miniskirts, because the queens of Bronson Alcott High are back in the BOOM! Studios comic Clueless: Senior Year. Written by Sarah Kuhn and Amber Benson and with art by Siobhan Keenan, this self-contained spinoff catches up with Cher, Dionne, and Tai as they prepare to face the wide world of adulthood and discover who they truly want to be. In anticipation of the comic’s release we caught up with Kuhn and Benson to discuss these iconic characters.
Like any classic high school story, Clueless: Senior Year places its main characters at “kind of at a crossroads,” Kuhn syas. “They’re trying to figure out who they really are, who they want their best future selves to be, and what they want to do after high school.” As Cher and her crew soon learn, though, “discovering who you are is a lot tougher than it seems.”
Although Clueless: Senior Year mainly focuses on Cher and her girls, there are a few characters created by Kuhn, Benson, and Keenan joining them to flesh out the backstories we never got to see in the movie. One of the main characters, Kuhn hinted, will be showcasing “a little bit more of their family and a little bit more about their background”; Cher isn’t the only one with a storied home life.
Despite the comic’s expansion on the already rich world of Clueless, however, it aims to preserve the spirit of the movie throughout the girls’ new adventures. One way Kuhn and Benson tackled this is by ensuring they nailed the character voices—because what’s a Clueless story
without that iconic slang?
Given the importance of the mission, they received a little help from the experts: the UCLA linguistics department. Kuhn and Benson used an extensive catalogue of ’90s slang compiled by the university to sort their “Tcha!”s from their “As if!”s. “It was a giant monster of a digital document,” Benson recalls. “We tried to let it marinate while we were reading it, trying to let those phrases stick in our heads.” Kuhn agrees, adding, “It was super helpful. You want to make sure that you’re using all the right catchphrases…but we had to make sure that we weren’t [just] throwing them in whenever we couldn’t figure out what someone would say.”
Considering that Clueless contains the distilled essence of the ’90s—Dionne’s hats alone are emblematic of an entire generation—readers may be wondering whether Clueless: Senior Year is a nostalgia exercise. After all, in the year 2017, a story taking place in the ’90s is basically a period piece. But while the comic does take you on a delightful trip down memory lane, Benson says, “it transcends being a period piece or a story of its time because it’s a story we can all really relate to.” Everyone has tried to suss out the question of their identity at some point in their life, regardless of what decade it is.
Finding the timeless core of their own story was key to preserving the spirit of Clueless, Kuhn and Benson explain. Kuhn explains, “Amy Heckerling [the writer of Clueless] really captured that feeling of what it’s like to be a teenager and thinking you have all the answers, and then finding out that you don’t. I think it feels very real no matter what time period you’re living in.”
Besides, it’s not like the original movie was entirely rooted in the present. Cher and company may have looked on-trend as hell when rollin’ with the homies, but their adventures were based on a novel written some 180 years prior to Clueless‘ 1995 debut. “What’s so great about the movie,” Benson pointed out, “is that it’s based around the beautiful story of Emma that Jane Austen came up with, so it’s almost like we’re continuing the Austen. We might put the costuming of the 90s on it, but it’s still a very Austen story.”
Balancing all this was, as you can imagine, not an easy task. “Amy Heckerling and Jane Austen have written such amazing stories about female characters,” said Kuhn. “I had to get over the fear of being able to live up to that, to not mess up the greatness that they created. It was very intimidating.” Part of what helped in that respect was Clueless: Senior Year‘s supportive—and almost entirely female—creative team. Besides Kuhn, Benson, and Keenan, the lineup includes colorist Shan Murphy, cover artist Natacha Bustos, designer Kara Leopard, assistant editor Sophie Philips-Roberts, and editors Shannon Watters and Jasmine Amiri. (The only non-female member of the creative team is letterer Jim Campbell.) “It was great working with so many awesome women on this book,” Kuhn enthused. “I just feel like it was a really great team and we all had so much fun.”
Getting past intimidation to carry on a frankly formidable legacy? Sounds very Clueless. In Benson’s words, “That’s what’s so great about Cher and Emma, that we see somebody learn from their failures. We’re so caught up in our society with success, but you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. And that’s what we were trying to do with this book, to show that.”
Clueless: Senior Year hits comics retailers this Wednesday and will be in bookstores starting next week.
Are you looking forward to revisiting the world of Clueless? Let us know in the comments!
Images: BOOM! Studios, Giphy