(Listen to the episode here)
Annie: Hey there, internet! I’m Annie–
Kit: I’m Kit–
Maq: and I’m Maq–
Annie: –and this is the Jem Jam, where we do an episode by episode recap of the 1980s cartoon Jem and the Holograms. This is actually going to be a bit of a special episode because – as you may or may not know – Jem #1 from IDW Comics just came out, and we are going to review that one today instead of a cartoon episode. This one covers a bit of the stuff from episode one, “The Beginning.” If you want to see what we’re going to be referring to I would definitely give that a listen. If you already have, congratulations. You’re on top of your game.
Kit: They’re taking a bit of a different, slightly less insane approach to the comic now.
Maq: And giving them some actual reason for why Jerrica wants to pretend to be Jem, which is nice.
Annie: I’m really excited about that.
Kit: Stage fright makes so much more sense than “I want to be my own manager for unfathomable reasons.”
Maq: “I want to be my own manager, plus I need to be someone different for that for some reason.” Even though that’s not true–you could be your own manager and the lead singer without having to switch personalities.
Annie: It’s cool. Also Rio is not in here yet. From what it looked like in some of the promotional material they released–they did, like, this in-character interview with Jem by Rio Pacheco– so apparently he’s like Lois Lane now.
Kit: Yeah, he’s a rock journalist instead of their roadie.
Annie: Right, slash manager, slash electrician, slash… whatever, Rio.
Kit: Considering that the character designs are a lot more out there than the cartoon, it’s possible they’ve decided to offset that by making the storyline itself, like, marginally more realistic.
Annie: That’s true.
Maq: And the character designs in general I want to talk about because I love them.
Annie: Yeah, Sophie Campbell did an incredible job with these. And it’s really cool to see the difference between the original bust mock-ups that she did a couple of years ago and compare those to these fully-formed character models now. It’s really cool.
Kit: She’s brought them a little closer to the cartoon versions, I’m guessing for IP reasons. But they still look, like, really, really good and in a lot of ways so much better than the cartoon designs.
Annie: Oh my god, yes.
Maq: It’s just the different body shapes and the fact that they all have different silhouettes, so you can tell from afar who you’re looking at. It’s nice.
Annie: I really love the fact that Kimber is so much taller than Jerrica despite being the younger sister.
Kit: She is, like, ten feet tall, David Bowie… oh my god, it’s incredible.
Maq: One thing I really loved and noticed was–while I was looking at the various profile shots–is that Kimber and Jerrica actually have very similar profiles.
Annie: Like, in facial features? I hadn’t noticed.
Kit: They do actually look like sisters.
Annie: Synergy was the character design I was most looking forward to seeing in this issue, and she did not disappoint. First off, she did the same thing as in episode 1. They kept, “Jerrica Benton, I have come for you. I am the Glam Rock Specter of Death,” and I could not be more thrilled. I think I made a physical noise when I read that.
Maq: When I flipped to the page with Synergy on it, I was in the car because I’d just bought every alternate cover that I could find. And I just flipped it open and a guy was sitting next to me; he looks over and he goes, “What in the world is that?” And I felt that covered Synergy’s redesign pretty well.
Annie: She has no feet, because she’s a hologram. Her hair is everywhere–again, because hologram. She still has that weird little symbol thing, which I’m guessing was probably something Hasbro wanted to keep, I would guess, because it doesn’t really seem to flow with the rest of her outfit. But the important thing is, she doesn’t look like she just came from jazzercise. Let’s talk a little about the Holograms themselves. We covered that Jerrica actually seems to suffer from a lot of stage fright, and it seems like Jem now is going to be, like, a bit more of an alter ego. Like a wish fulfillment thing. Especially because she’s like 5'11" as opposed to, like, 5'4" when she’s Jerrica. But let’s talk about the other Holograms. I thought that they did some very subtle stuff in terms of characterization–like, what did you guys think?
Kit: I like that Kimber, as the youngest, is the most enthusiastic about, “Yeah, I want to be in a rock band! Let’s do this!”
Maq: Another thing I really like about Kimber is that she does really want to do this, and she’s willing to actually talk to her sister about it rather than kind of edge around the point, and is like, “No, if you can’t do this, I’m going to have to leave and find somebody else who can.” That creates an interesting dynamic between the two rather than Kimber being, “Oh, Jerrica, oh.”
Kit: Yeah, they all actually have characters here, which I’m very pleased about. And I think, if you want a quintessential picture what each character’s like, look at that final splash page of when Jem appears and you’ve got the three sisters in the background. And each of their faces will tell you everything you need to know about that character. Because Kimber is like, “Oh my god, this is the best thing ever,” with this slightly crazed look in her eyes. And then Shana, I believe, is distinctly uneasy about this development. And Aja looks like she’s afraid she’s just had a stroke.
Annie: I actually, like–I was a really big fan of Aja in this. It’s interesting that she tried to be a bit more of the mediator character in this, considering that that sort of tended to be what Shana’s role was. And it seems like they’ve kind of differentiated them. I like that Shana actually seems to be like, “Okay, maybe crazy wish fulfillment isn’t the answer to your problems.” Shana, too, was also like–she was very much a mediator, she was like, “Hold up, guys. This is crazy. Let’s not argue over glam rock.”
Kit: Plus, I love how tiny she is. She could fit in my pocket.
Annie: She’s got that huge hair and it looks great.
Maq: And I love Aja’s muscles, and I loved Aja when she was fixing the–when she’s like, “Just because I can hear it and you can’t, and you couldn’t fix it even if you did hear it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t fix it.”
Annie: Yeah, it’s a really good abrasive moment that does a lot of quick characterization. I liked a lot of the shortcuts they ended up taking in this. We’re not going to deal with a house full of orphans at this point, there’s no mansion to burn down, there’s no drive-in that they have to go to. The dad actually has an office in the house which is, like–didn’t he live there? Why wouldn’t he?
Kit: It’s not trying to sell you toys and therefore they have a lot more ways to streamline the story. And also the fact that it’s a comic and you have to do a lot of things in short form. You have to imply a lot more things rather than just outright tell the reader.
Maq: I know they’re going to date it later, but I do like the calls to current popular culture with, “Is your dad Iron Man or something?”
Kit: Iron Man’s been around for sixty years.
Maq: He’s been around for sixty years, but he’s been more prominent in the past twenty.
Annie: What did you guys think of the visual effects that they did with the music?
Kit: I like it. I think it was a lot more–it fit with the style of the book a lot better than just putting sheet music up, which is what most comics seem to be doing whenever they want to portray music. Although I did like that–for example–in Scott Pilgrim, there was basically sheet music up on the screen so you could, theoretically, play the songs if you wanted to.
Annie: Oh yeah, in volume one.
Kit: But they were bad songs, so why you want to?
Annie: I wanted to point out this thing that I noticed just now while going over the splash page–I believe this was page two and three–but there’s this cool thing where you’ve got all this music, pink and purple and blue stuff going on while they’re playing, and then it gets down to Jerrica’s panels at the bottom and it actually fractures a little when she chokes. And then they turn into these–instead of these big flowing lines they get these jagged things on them as the band stops playing. And I thought that was really, really good.
Kit: Yeah, Sophie Campbell clearly knows what she’s doing with these layouts. They’re fantastic.
Annie: Yeah, I want to call out Kelly Thompson, the writer, Sophie Campbell, art–they both did a fantastic job. The colors by M. Victoria–I don’t know if I’m pronouncing this right–Robado were fantastic. The letters are all really great. John Barber is also credited as the editor and he must’ve done a fantastic job, too, because this is a tight piece of storytelling.
Maq: Yeah, it’s nice. It’s really, really good.
Kit: John Barber, I think, is the writer on one of the Transformers comics as well.
Annie: Oh, really? One of the ones that are running now? Because I hear those are great.
Kit: They are so good. I mostly just read More Than Meets the Eye because it is gay robots in space and I can’t not love it, but they’re all really, really good.
Annie: Speaking of which, let’s mention the fact that Kimber is canon gay in this.
Kit: Is she?
Maq: Yeah. In her character profile it says “Loves: girls.”
Annie: And they’ve actually said in interviews that she and Stormer will actually be hooking up at some point and be girlfriends.
Kit: Wasn’t that, like, somebody’s ship?
Annie: There is an episode we’ll get to, where you will see where this comes from.
Maq: And it’s it’s wonderful and I am delighted that it’s happening.
Annie: Though I’m actually kind of surprised that Kimber is a lesbian, because so many of her plots in the show are like, “Kimber has some dumb boyfriend this week.” So I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t write Kimber as identifying as bi or pan, simply because the the boyfriends thing is such a thing about Kimber. And I could see this arc of her having a string of meaningless puppy love flings with boys, and then this interesting point where she finds that her first really serious relationship–Stormer is the first person that Kimber has dated who would really get her.
Kit: On the other hand, it would also be really great if she had a series of puppy love relationships with a bunch of girls.
Annie: Oh my gosh, you’re totally right.
Kit: It would be so good.
Annie: Just as long as Kimber has some goofy puppy love stuff going on with anyone. I would be for that. Yeah, I am really excited with this. I was really sad that it ended where it did. Apparently the Misfits will be showing up in episode two–I mean, in issue two, my bad–and I am going to be so thrilled to see everybody. Sophie Campbell tweeted at some point that she and Kelly Thompson are debuting a new character in issue three, I think, or maybe five. Oh, one more thing I wanted to bring up: I was at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend, and IDW did have a booth there, and one of their big banners was Jem and the Holograms. And also the program had an entire page advert for it. So Hasbro and IDW were totally pouring in a ton of support to this book.
Maq: Audrey actually went to Emerald City and I had her buy me the Emerald City Comic Con copy of–
Annie: That’s right, there was a variant. So you now have, like, six?
Maq: Yeah. I now have six of them.
Annie: You can buy this on Comixology; you can subscribe to the series, so you’ll get a new one every time it comes out. That’s how Comixology works. You can buy these individual issues in comic book shops, and also they are advertising a special–I believe it is $24, $24.99–a box set of all five variants of the first issue with covers done by, I believe, Amy Mebberson, who did all these great alt covers with the girls in their original 80s costumes. It comes in a gigantic pink glitter box. But it is super worth buying. I think we’re all super excited about this.
Kit: Although, if you get it on Comixology, I think all the variant covers are included in that.
Annie: So, straight up, The Jem Jam recommends throwing your money at this. Because I think we all super want to see more.
Kit: One third of The Jem Jam has thrown a frankly absurd amount of money on it.
Annie: Yes, she has.
Kit: Really, Maq. How many variant covers do you need?
Maq: They’re only, like, three dollars apiece. So it’s only, like, $18.
Kit: It adds up!
Maq: But I needed all of them because they’re all great. And I scared the guy at the comic shop, who obviously was like, “You know these are all the same on the inside.” And I said, “Yes, I know, just let me pay.”
Kit: “I know what I’m about, son.”
Annie: Exactly, exactly.
Maq: “This is going to be great. Just let me pay my money and I can have all these covers and only leave you with one copy, sir.”
Annie: “I’m just gonna rub them all over my face and it’s gonna be good.” I think that about wraps it up for our review of “Showtime, Part 1,” by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell, published by IDW. Join us next time, where we’ll be diving back into the cartoon, episode two. Which is gonna be great, not gonna lie. Until then, it’s been great talking to you guys. I’m Annie–
Kit: I’m Kit–
Maq: And I’m Maq–
Annie: – and continue being outrageous.