Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual, cover by Agnes Garbowska, IDW, 2015 Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual

Kelly Thompson (script) with Amy Mebberson (“Wired” art and colors), Arielle Jovellanos (“Jem Wolf” art” & Josh Burcham (“Jem Wolf” colors), Rebekah Isaacs (“Angry Aja” art) & Joana Lafuente (“Angry Aja” colors), Jen Bartel (“Shana Wars” art and colors), Agnes Garbowska (“Jem Babies” art and colors” & Lauren Perry (“Jem Babies” color assist), Sophie Campbell (“Previously” art) & Victoria Robado (“Previously” colors), Tom B. Long & Shawn Lee (letters)
IDW
September 30, 2015

For an annual issue, Kelly Thompson wrote a series of stories about each of the Jem and the Holograms band members with different artists on each story, and Ginnis, Amanda, and Kayleigh got their ’80s babies on reviewing the issue.

(Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers and is based on an advanced review copy from IDW.)

So, what did you think of the basic premise for all the stories, a mash-up?

Gin: I have been super jazzed about the Jem and the Holograms annual, and I had no idea it was an ’80s style mash-up, so when I caught on to that, I was even more excited! Like when Kimber started singing The Muppet Babies theme song, I was excited, but then when I saw Kimber’s story was a Muppet Babies-themed story, I was ecstatic. Overall, I think the ’80s mash-up is a clever premise for one-shot style stories and it banks on the nostalgia of all us people who grew up on Jem and the Holograms and other late ’80s/early ’90s media.

Amanda: It was so much fun! I thought it was really clever to take modern Jem and harken back to its ’80s roots in a playful fanfiction style mash-+up. And although some readers may not catch every reference, the stories are well matched with the characters and are just a blast. 80s child or not, I think you’ll get a kick out of this one!

Kayleigh: Honestly, I was a little wary of the mash-up idea. Pop culture mash-ups tend to be overdone in geek media–you know, t-shirts with Han Solo and Batman hanging out in front of the TARDIS, but drawn in the style of My Little Pony, that kind of thing. I roll my eyes at mash-ups a lot. But Kelly Thompson and the artists put enough thought into this issue that it didn’t feel like gratuitous nostalgia bait. Take for example the Jem/Teen Wolf comic–both stories are about young people who develop a famous alter ego, and then struggle with their personal identity and questions like, “Do my friends really like me, or do they only hang out with me because I can become someone else?”

On a scale of 1-10, how ’80s do you rate it?

Gin: I thought it was so ’80s that it might be lost on newer, younger audiences. Because of that I don’t know if it is necessarily a jumping on point for new readers like the editor’s letter at the end suggested, but as a kid who grew up on Jem and was an ’80s baby, I really don’t care about the accessibility because this annual hit all the right places for me.

Amanda: Okay, I guess I jumped the gun with my answer above … Anyway, I give it a 7. 1987, if you will. The year I entered kindergarten!

Kayleigh: I don’t think newer audiences will be lost. Mad Max: Fury Road came out this year and blew all our faces off, plus there’s the MTV Teen Wolf show, and Star Wars is, of course, Star Wars. I think people will get the gist even if they haven’t seen the original Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf and all that. (Plus there’s the meta factor of a remade ’80s property parodying other remade ’80s properties.) So on the ’80s scale, I give it a solid 6.

Jem and the HologramsWhich story was your favorite and why?

Gin: It will probably come as a surprise to no one that Kimber’s story was my favorite: it had the Muppet Babies, a kitty, lots of Kimber and Stormer, and Agnes Garbowska’s art is absolute perfection for the story. It gave me all the feels the Jem comic so often gives me–feels of glitter, neon colors, hugs, and kittens. I enjoy those feels.

Amanda: Aja’s story, hands down. Beyond the Thunderdome plus a little Fury Road twist, oh yeah. Actually, what I liked most about it–and about the others, to be fair–is that there was character development in there. This issue was more than just a chance to have fun and play mash-up; it was also an opportunity to shed light on different aspects of the characters. Well done!

Kayleigh: “Angry Aja” wins for that great Synergy/Auntie Entity character design alone.

Which story’s art was your favorite or were you most excited to see?

Gin: I was really excited to see Rebekah Isaacs’ art for Jem, but Agnes Garbowska’s art stole the show for me –and I think that was just largely due to the fact that her art was perfect for that particular story. But Thompson and Isaacs’ story is a very close second.

Amanda: I liked them all, but I particularly enjoyed the way Jen Bartel set the mood with “Shana Wars” using a lovely purple palette. Her soft lines and moody, misty environments are just lovely, and they echo that scene from Star Wars so well. (Plus, okay, this isn’t about the art, but I just love that Shana is fulfilling part of the Hero’s Journey a la Joseph Campbell. That’s so awesome!)

Kayleigh: Rebekah Isaacs’ “Angry Aja” was a great mix of Jem and the Holograms and Mad Max‘s visuals styles. The original Mad Max films have this very punk, found-object aesthetic that meshes well with Sophie Campbell’s new character designs–Aja’s blue mohawk and giant headphones fit seamlessly into that post-apocalyptic setting.

Okay, what ’80s mash-ups do you want to see the Jem comic do for the next annual?

Gin: I want the Misfits to team up with Beetlejuice. My fan world will be complete after that.

Amanda: *gasp* Ginnis! That idea just rocked my world! That would be beautiful. HOWEVER: can we pretty please (with sugar on top) have a Neverending Story/Jem mash-up? Atreyuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Kayleigh: The Misfits as the Heathers. Big hair, big shoulder pads, attempted murder–Heathers has everything we already associate with The Misfits. How very (outrageous)!

Did you know there will also be a Jem and the Holograms holiday special, too? How excited are you?

Gin: I love this comic so hard.

Amanda: I had no idea! Wow. And thus will my year be complete.

Kayleigh: I can only hope it’s as big a hunk of ’80s cheese as the He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special. Maybe the “angel” Synergy can show Pizzazz the true meaning of Christmas?