By Tara Bennett
Glamour and glitter. Fashion and fame. Did you just begin to hum the opening theme to one of the greatest cartoons to come out of the ‘80s? Well, if you’re a fan of Jem and the Holograms like I was, you’re in for a real treat.
It’s a big year for Jerrica Benton and her truly outrageous alter ego Jem. While waiting for the release of the theatrical film starring Audrey Peeples (of Nashville fame), fans of Jem can sink their teeth into the new comic book series brought to their local comic stand by IDW, which gives the character a fresh start, new origin story, and an updated look.
The first installment of the series, titled “Showtime” introduces the characters of Jem to a new generation with their origin story written by Kelly Thompson.
The Holograms are a band consisting of sisters Jerrica and Kimber Benton with their adopted sisters Aja and Shana. While possessing an incredible voice, Jerrica cannot bring herself to perform. The moment she’s onstage, her anxiety and self-doubt overcome her into silence. She literally cannot. The Holograms are supportive, but the big Battle of the Bands against The Misfits looms, and unless Jerrica overcomes her fear, they’ll have to forfeit. At home, Jerrica is greeted by Synergy, an AI program created by her late father, who can create life-like holograms through the use of a pair of earrings. With this technology on her side, Jerrica creates a powerhouse persona by the name of Jem to take the music world by storm.
Even if it feels like a slow start, readers are already greeted with a great sense of drama due to Jerrica’s anxiety holding back the band’s potential. Greater still is that while she becomes Jem, Jerrica still decides to hide herself from the world by creating a perfect woman, thus strengthening the need for Jem in the first place, and also setting a better basis for when Jerrica becomes jealous of her alter ego. I’m really looking forward to watching how Jerrica deals with the imminent fame of her creation.
Another element that sticks out from the comic is the diversity of its characters. Giving Jerrica stage fright makes her feel more relatable than her character back in the ‘80s. And while there were characters who were black, Asian, and Latina in the original show, the character of Jetta from the Misfits has been race bent to add a bit more racial diversity. There is also the confirmation by the comic creators that there will be inclusion of LGBTQA+ characters in the form of Kimber and Stormer. The two keytarists have been fan favorites from the original series as well as the subject of hardcore shipping. That dream will be realized in the comic and also give an added layer of tension to the war between the Holograms and the Misfits.
While I’m still on my soapbox praising the comic’s attempt at diversifying the characters, I need to give major props to artist Sophie Campbell, who has consistently shown how well she grasps the human form, giving us realistic shapes that look like people you’d meet in the street. There are characters that have different body types ranging from thigh gaps to BBW. Her style also perfectly captures the ‘80s pop aesthetic that permeates this title and the coloring by M. Victoria Robado harkens to the original feel of the cartoon. Jem was the reason a lot of us dyed our hair incredible colors, and the yearning to have pink hair is once more renewed.
While I come to this comic with great nostalgia for the Jem from my childhood, I did my best to not compare the two entities. Rather than longing for the pink glitter of my youth, I come to this comic to see if it stands well enough with the youth of today. I’m attracted to the idea that the girls have to already deal with things that did not exist in the ‘80s. With the band blowing up on social media, the story is already adapting to a modern world that emerging bands today would encounter. It also easily establishes jealousy from the Misfits when they can easily compare their YouTube hits to Jem’s.
Jem and the Holograms is a great mesh of ‘80s nostalgia while also pushing itself forward to make its story and characters relevant in the future. My only complaint? I won’t know how their new music actually sounds.