It’s been less than 24 hours since the trailer for Universal’s / John Chu’s Jem and the Holograms feature length movie. There is a rage across the internet. “This is not Jem! This is a Hannah Montana reboot!” All over, 80s kids are questioning if the 21st century is a prime time to bring back the truly outrageous pop star. I did make an argument that with how today’s music industry is very much style over substance, it would work (However, Jem fans know that Jem is style AND substance!). Through the trenches of internet comments, I’ve been nudging people to give the IDW run of Jem and the Holograms a read. People want the glamour, glitter, fashion, and fame. Though only having had two issues out, the IDW run is very promising and also evokes what Jem and the Holograms stood for…and then some.
The art style and design of the comic is very colorful and very vivid. When the character designs were brought to the public, they were met with mixed reception. While they do differ from the 80s incarnations of the Holograms, it makes sense for a 21st century update. It’s a mash up of 80s glam, punk, with hints of Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga. Either way, the new Holograms are fabulous. In contrast, the Misfits rock darker, bolder colors. They’re very in your face and ain’t nothing to mess with. They are everything a rival band you’d love to hate should be. The background designs are different from your typical Marvel or DC hero adventure, it’s very fluid and almost dreamy. When the characters are singing, it’s like you’re reading through a lyrical and visual post on Tumblr – as if someone reblogged an animated photoset set to lyrics. It’s tough for a visual medium to portray something that is centered around music, but I think this style works well for this run. When the Misfits rock out to “Attack of the Night,” you really feel it coming from the pages – you may not hear it, but you know what you’re in for.
Characters are written differently, but they still keep to the original spirits of the characters. I do like how Jerrica Benton is an introvert in this run; she’s shy and can’t really be a superstar until she’s Jem. It reminds me of a story arc in Sailor Moon where Usagi/Serena needs to tell her BFF that her (older and bad guy) boyfriend is bad news for her. It’s not until Usagi/Serena transforms into Sailor Moon where she can confront her BFF on the situation at hand directly. Jerrica is quiet, she likes to strum her guitar and it’s only her and the music. Kimber, her younger, much more outgoing sister nudges her to put herself out there. While I do like Jerrica as 80s business woman in shoulder pads, I think this Jerrica Benton is much more vulnerable and identifiable with younger readers, or those of us who felt like we want to share something with the world, but need that extra push.
Kimber is my favorite out of the Holograms so far. There’s no bitter sibling rivalry (yet), but I do look forward seeing that come through later. The creator had mentioned that Kimber and Stormer are an item. Though I’m not surprised (it was hinted out quite a bit in the cartoon), I also hope they keep a story arc in which Kimber has trouble keeping a guy (or two…make Sean Harrison like the front man for a One Direction parody band). In the 80s run, I gravitated towards Shana because she’s a fashion designer, had a stable love interest, and even questioned her usefulness in the Holograms. I still have yet to get to know Aja and Shana, but I get an impression of what the comic is trying to do. Aja didn’t really have much of a personality in the 80s cartoon and I do like that she’s the mechanical brain of the team. I didn’t feel it was necessary for certain characters to put on weight, but either way, I look forward getting to know Aja and Shana in the IDW run much better.
The Misfits are what you expect out of them. Pizzaz, Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta are what you expect. I do like their reactions when they stumble upon their Twitter feed; it shows that they’re the band that you love or you hate. Issue 2 establishes who the Misfits are; much like the 80s cartoon they are boisterous, spoiled, and ones you wouldn’t want to take home to mamma. There’s been some controversy with Stormer’s weight. I do understand the author / creator wants to create more body diversity, but I tend to be indifferent. In addition to other characters, the Starlight Girls are there, Rio is a now a music journalist, instead of Starlight House it’s a youth center, etc.
The first two issues do more to establish the world of Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits. If the Universal trailer lacked Synergy, The Misfits, Starlight Girls, etc and everything you loved about Jem, give the comics a read. We always talk and rant how the comics industry lacks visibility of female fronted titles, the new Jem and the Holograms run is a truly outrageous entry in the comics universe. Going forward, if all things go well with the comic run, I’d love to see an animated adaptation of the comic…and maybe some toys too! For fans who grew up with Jem or people just looking for a female fronted comic, this is at the top of the list. The first two issues are out – give them a chance and throw your wallets at them! This is the Jem that captures the spirit of glamour, glitter, fashion, and fame of the 1980s into a new era.
– Eri Kagami
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