I’ll be honest, I was never a fan of Jem and the Holograms; my time was taken up almost entirely by the Transformers when I was a kid. Still, it’s a series that would seem hard to screw up in any form: You’ve got a good band, you’ve got a bad band, you’ve got magic earrings, you’ve got pop-rock… can’t miss, right?
Well, the movie can, if the box office is any measure: Jem And The Holograms opened to the fourth-worst box office on more than 2,000 screens. It seems to be a combination of baffling marketing and even more baffling filmmaking, and the director and producer have both more or less admitted they screwed up a sure thing.
Still, if you’re nostalgic for the show, or want proof that the show can be turned into something of quality… pick up the ongoing comic book. IDW Publishing has quietly been putting out issues of Jem And The Holograms for eight months now, and it’s not just a good comic for kids, it’s a good story, period.
Part of that is Kelly Thompson’s writing, which gives everybody some much-needed dimension; Jerrica doesn’t turn into Jem because she needs to keep a secret identity, she does it because she’s nearly paralyzed with social anxiety. Thompson makes a point of making everybody relatable and steering clear of broad strokes; even the Misfits aren’t really villains so much as clueless and misguided.
Similarly, the art is superb. Sophie Campbell keeps the design of the original series but again gives it some depth and builds it out. This really comes out when Campbell and Thompson dig around in heads of the cast as they write songs and as they perform. Translating out lyrics and music to art and words is a tricky process, and this book often makes it look easy.
So, if you’re down about the movie, pick up the comic. And if they ever revisit the series for film, perhaps movie studios could make Campbell and Thompson their first stop.