Keeping Jem Outrageous: A Listicle
Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, and M. Victoria Robado’s refreshing, yet still totally outrageous, comic reboot of the 1980s Jem & the Holograms television series ended with issue #26 on June 14 of this year. The Jem comic has been a huge hit with the 80’s babies, such as myself, that generated a spinoff, Jem: The Misfits, as well as color-packed annuals. Fortunately, it’s not really the end of Jem and team in comic book form, just this particular version. Jem Infinite, a crossover miniseries with The Misfits comic, launched not long after. (I also have yet to read this series because I am sooooo behind on my comic book reading!) The Jem team has future plans for more Jem and Misfit shenanigans, which you can read here. WWAC Features & Opinions editor, Claire Napier, makes a great case for why this less traditional approach to an ongoing comic series can bring continued life to the series and bring in new readers.
However, as a Jem comic fangurl, I am throwing my hat into the ring with a few “suggestions” for these adventures. (And by suggestions, I, of course, mean my deep fangurl wants and desires.)
What about Jem’s big secret?!
Issue #26 ended (*kinda-sorta spoiler alert*) with the reminder that Jem/Jerrica’s identity cannot continue as a secret forever. I propose a sort of choose your own adventure for the discovery (or not!) of Jem/Jerrica’s secret. Why not leave it up to the reader to decide?
Nobody cares about Rio … still
Props to Thompson for making Rio more interesting than in the television series, but that’s still not saying much. I’ll admit: I did care a little about Jerrica and Rio’s relationship in the comic, and he provided plot tension regarding Jerrica/Jem’s secret, and the Jem comic team made the whole Jem/Jerrica/Rio thing far less squicky than in the television series, but still. Dull. As. Dishwater.
Besides, more Rio time means more time away from the best Jem couple of all: Kimber and Stormer!
I am oh-so-grateful for Kimber and Stormer in Jem, and for the later inclusion of transgender femme lady, Blaze, but like I need more. In fact, here’s an “idea.” What if Rio gets lost in space in Jem: Infinite, which sends Jerrica into the arms of some lovely, non-binary alien? That would be terrific!
No more “new” bands
When the Stingers showed up in the original television series, it felt like “another” band (or at least another justification for Hasbro making more dolls). In the comic, the Stingers are well-integrated, and Riot is a far more interesting love interest for Jem/Jerrica than Rio, but still no more bands, please (and see previous point about “Go queerer, or go home”). The personalities of Jem & the Holograms and The Misfits are enough comedic fodder.
No more lyrics …
I get it. We are talking about bands here, and the splash pages featuring lyrics are lovely, but the lyrics themselves … cringeworthy. Not unlike the television series in that way, but there’s something about when the lyrics are frozen on a page.
Embrace sci-fi geekery
Jem: Infinite is already on board with this, but one of the groundbreaking things about the Jem television series was that it was an adventure, sci-fi show for girls. We may take for granted today that girls and femmes like sci-fi, but that was still like brand-new information to producers and studios at the time.
Fashion, more fashion, all the fashion
Ugh, can we just talk about how great the fashion is in Jem? I mean it’s glam rock—it’s costume, it’s showmanship, it’s blatantly attention-seeking! For the most part the artists brought onto the comic after Sophie Campbell left understand that Jem is about the visuals as much as the content. But, I could go with a whole comic devoted to fashion illustration, much like the old Betty & Veronica and romance comics’ fashion spreads.
More Sophie Campbell
The Jem team has brought, and continues to bring, on a lot of great artistic talent to the series. All women artists who, if they don’t have an obvious love of fashion themselves, they know that fashion is integral to the Jem aesthetic. Because of this, illustration for Jem is often more time consuming due to the attention to fashion and design. It only makes sense to cycle artists, but I just want Sophie Campbell to make an appearance again so very badly.
(In the midst of writing this article, the IDW team released a Jem press release, and guess what?! Sophie is coming back!!!!)
Considering the new direction of the Jem series, the team should keep up with the annuals. Going back to the adventure, sci-fi origins of the series, the personalities of the bands, and the design and aesthetic of Jem, there’s so much fertile ground for interpretation, play, and experimentation. The annuals have been my favorite because I get to read and view various interpretations, writerly and artistic, of the Jem characters and setting.
(The press release also revealed there will be more anthologies! And Kate Leth will be writing one. My fangurl dreams are so coming true! Thanks fangods!)