I decided to reach out to the writer of the new Jem and the Holograms comic slated to release this month! Many fans of are geeked about the upcoming comic and the #JemLiveTweet fandom has definitely resurrected many of our dormant memories of the cult classic 80s animated series. Later this year there will also be a live-action film slated for release by G.I. Joe director Jon M. Chu. The comic reboot of Jem and the Holograms will be a bit different from what you will expect from 80s canon. There is more racial and body diversity with the characters and Jerrica actually suffers from stage fright! *GASP*
The comic is expected to be released on March 25th.
Kelly Thompson is the writer of “Storykiller,” “The Girl Who Would Be King”, and is a contributor to Comic Book Resources.
IDW Publishing made an announcement late last year that Kelly and illustrator Ross Campbell will be attached to the series. Campbell is best known for “Glory” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Artist Sara Richard (“My Little Pony,” “Kitty and Dino”) will also provide subscription covers for Jem and the Holograms.
Jamie: How did you get the gig of writing the new Jem & The Holograms comic?
Kelly: I was already talking to an editor at IDW about some projects when I found out they were launching a Jem and The Holograms comic. I put my name in as someone interested in pitching and immediately partnered up with artist (and friend) Ross Campbell. Ross is a superfan of Jem and we’d been looking for something to do together for a while, so this seemed very destiny-like! We started working on the pitch right away, and IDW let us submit our pitch, and we held our breath! Lucky for us both IDW and Hasbro really responded to our approach. So to sum up…it was a bunch of hard work, a perfect collaborator, good timing, and luck I guess!
Jamie: Did you watch Jem & The Holograms back in the 80s? Or did you come to know about the Hasbro franchise later?
Kelly: Yeah, I did watch when Jem was originally on in the 80’s, I was a big fan! I watched a lot of the 80’s cartoons—it was kind of embarrassment of super fun riches back then—but Jem was definitely distinct from the pack. Christy Marx created something really unique for its time—a cartoon filled just absolutely wall to wall with women, even the supporting characters were usually women. There was something really special about that that resonated with me, even as a little kid, even if I wasn’t quite aware of what I was responding to at the time.
Jamie: Why do you think women should read this comic? How have men reacted to Jem comic?
Kelly: Well, I think EVERYONE should read our Jem comic, but yes, women should definitely read this comic for a lot of reasons. Most importantly I suppose, like the original show, it’s just chock full of ambitious, complicated, and interesting women. I hope it speaks to a really wide audience, like the original show, but there’s no doubt that we’re especially talking to women. That was one of the great things about the original Jem, it could have easily been pigeonholed as just “for girls” but instead it was geared toward a really broad audience what with its focus on fashion and music but also as an action sci-fi show. That was some of the genius of what creator Christy Marx and Hasbro did, making Jem so varied in the kind of stories it told, I think they were rewarded with an even broader audience than they expected, and certainly they were rewarded with a really devoted fanbase. I hope we’re doing a bit of the same.
Jamie: Who is your favorite character in the Jem & The Holograms universe and why?
Kelly: Oh, man, every writer both dreams and dreads that question. I think in the original show Aja and Stormer were my favorite characters. As a kid it was probably just because they had cool blue hair, which I desperately wanted. As I got older it was probably because Stormer was naturally one of the most complex characters since she was the “good guy” aligned with the “bad guys” and Aja just because she seemed cool, she was the tomboy, which I dug. I think in our comic, and as a writer, Kimber has turned out to be the most fun to write, she’s just got such energy and enthusiasm, and she’s turned out so hilarious. But honestly, I love to write them all, I’ve fallen so in love with them. All of The Misfits crack me up with their antics and bickering. I love how laid back cool Aja is and what a calming and almost mother-like vibe Shana has in the group—plus Shana has maybe the greatest hair of all time. I also love the vulnerability we’ve found with Jerrica and her conflicting emotions about having created Jem. So…I basically just said I love them all…I’m sorry! At this point it feels like picking a favorite child, I just can’t do it.
Jamie: Would you find this reboot of Jem serves an older audience? Why or why not?
Kelly: Yes, I think the comic skews for a slightly older audience than the cartoon. I don’t think there’s anything off-putting if you hand it to a child, but generally I’d say we’re hitting about a 12 and up area, just by the nature of the ideas and issues we’re exploring for these women. But that’s also just a natural thing in the medium switch I think. Original Jem was a Saturday morning cartoon designed for children (even if far more than just children fell in love with it) while I think a comic has to try to reach deliberately for a wider audience if it wants to be successful.
Jamie: IDW on 2/20/15 released a preview to Issue #1 of the comic, where we find Jerrica is performing with the Holograms and suffers from stage fright. I have to ask, where is Jem? And why is Jerrica performing?
Kelly: Well, that would be telling! I really don’t want to give away too much because all of that stuff is covered in the first issue—introducing the characters and concept. Suffice to say, Jem is definitely a big part of the book, but we have tweaked the how and why of the creation of Jem, as you can tell from the solicits. In my opinion the original reason for Jem needing to exist in the cartoon is actually a bit tenuous and we really needed to strengthen that. Making Jerrica a part of the band but with something debilitating that prevents her from being a powerful performer (stage fright) really upped the stakes on WHY Jem is so needed for Jerrica and for The Holograms. But again, this speaks to the difference in mediums. Writing a full season of half hour cartoons for television is an entirely different beast than creating one story arc that plays out over six issues (and six months). Understanding from go that the medium would (and should) demand different things of us as creators helped to shape what we wanted to do—and what we could effectively do—with these remarkable women, how we wanted to approach their story, and how we thought we could best contextualize them to the modern age.
Jamie: I REALLY LOVE the fact that first of all Jetta is Black and second that Aja is plus-sized. Did you come up with that idea or was it a collective to add some more racial and body diversity?
Kelly: Thank you! One of the best things about Jem was always how great it was when it came to diversity. That said it was obviously also a bit limited due to the audience and the time period, and so we always intended to double down on diversity in ways that made sense. It was important to us that all of these women have really different and unique bodies and represent a much larger spectrum and we were lucky because both IDW and Hasbro were really supportive of that idea. Of course because we had Ross Campbell, who excels at this kind of character design, we knew that he could really design the most amazing women who had their own looks and felt like real women in all shapes and sizes. We didn’t want the characters to ever feel like if you swapped out haircuts and clothes, they could pass for one another. As for Jetta, in researching for our pitch we found out that Marx had wanted to make Jetta Black originally, which was a great idea since The Misifts are so lacking in diversity comparatively, and so we just wanted to restore that to her original idea. IDW and Hasbro were totally on board with that change and then Ross went ahead and designed a completely amazing new look for Jetta—easily one of my favorite of his designs.
Jamie: What can fans expect to get out of this comic?
Kelly: I hope they’ll find something funny and beautiful, something emotionally resonant and engaging. Ultimately I guess I just hope they can find something they love—new readers and old fans alike!
Jamie: Can you give us any exclusives for BGN readers?
Kelly: I’m sure I’ve already said too much!
You can follow Kelly Thompson and her many Jem adventures on Twitter @79SemiFinalist