More than 29 years have passed since Jem and the Holograms first rocked television sets and toy isles around the world, and now comics publisher IDW is set to kick off a new era for the truly outrageous girl group with a new ongoing series.
With Jem and the Holograms #1 scheduled to debut in comic shops next month, we talked with the comic's creative team, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Ross Campbell, to discuss the band's updated look, plans for the future, and bringing classic characters Stormer and Kimber out of the closet.
The Advocate: Why do you think Jem is making a return to prominence now?
Thompson: We're definitely in a cycle where a lot of older properties are being revived for new generations. Christy Marx's original Jem is such a unique and cool property, I'm really excited to see it getting this chance both through the movie and our comic. I hope we can do the original justice.
Campbell: Obviously it also speaks to the greatness of Jem too, because not every '80s property has returned or deserves to return. I'm just surprised Jem wasn't revived sooner.
The redesigns for the Holograms and the Misfits are amazing. Will we see a modern version of Synergy too? What about fan-favorite characters like Danse, Clash and the Stingers?
Campbell: There will definitely be a new Synergy, although I'm thinking that I might have her look different every time she shows up. She's a hologram after all, so she could look like anything or have any outfit or hairstyle she wanted. I'm really hoping we'll have a place for Danse, and the Stingers too so I can do a new design for Minx, she's one of my absolute favorites. And Clash, too. And hopefully Techrat. I really want Regine to show up, too.
Jetta wasn't an original member of the Misfits, yet she's in all the promo art. Why no Raya in the Holograms yet? Will we see our favorite pink-haired Latina in the comic?
Thompson: I wanted to see some diversity, and definitely some drums, from The Misfits right out of the gate. Adding Jetta to the original lineup solved both those problems rather elegantly. As Ross said, though we want to revisit some of the classic stories with a modern update, we don't want to just repeat stories exactly, so having Jetta there from the inception and adding Raya to Jem and The Holograms at a later date did a great job of immediately changing that landscape for us. In my opinion, Jetta's original story is not so key that you have to show it, but there are very important things about Raya being brought into The Holograms -- namely her knowing Jem's secret, Raya being the first person outside the immediate family to know it -- that have to be addressed in story. So her story is coming, we just need a bit more time to make room for it to be told right.
Gay men adored Jem growing up, do you have a theory as to why the cartoon appealed to both little girls and gay boys?
Thompson: I think Jem and The Holograms was really unique to the landscape of shows in that it was about a lot of things and covered a lot of bases. It was definitely about women and it was about music and fashion and fame, but there was also a high-octane adventure aspect to it, which probably helped young boys feel OK about watching what they might otherwise have perceived to be a "girls' show" and then for many of them, they found something that spoke more powerfully to them than a lot of the other stuff they were being offered. Jem was really unique and special in that way, and I think it means a lot to the fans, then and now.
Will we see any LGBT characters?
Campbell: Definitely! Kimber and Stormer are gay and we're discussing a few others. Beyond those I'm really hoping to see some more queer characters. It just really needs to happen. I'd love to have some gay Holograms or Misfits fans in the story. That would be awesome. Maybe they could be on the Holograms' street team.
Thompson: We are definitely having LGBTA+ characters. Jem was always really diverse, but it was of course a bit limited by the time period and by being a children's cartoon. It's only natural that a modern Jem includes additional diversity. Kimber and Stormer are indeed both out gay characters in the comic and as Tumblr will very excitedly let you know, we're going to be exploring a romantic relationship between the two characters. We have some other plans for LGBTA+ characters as well but it's still early days and we're still figuring out how some things can fit together to tell the best possible story.
Take look at Ross Campbell's truly outrageous art from the comic below, and read our interview with the original speaking voice of Jem, Samantha Newark, here.