Jem and the Holograms: Showtime
Written By: Kelly Thompson
Art By: Sophie Campbell
Distributed By: IDW Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In the late 1980s, a new cartoon appeared on television that fascinated my younger sister. Geared toward young girls, Jem and the Holograms was bound to captivate its audience. Featuring an everyday girl who inherits her father's music company and discovers a secret that transforms her and her "sisters" into rocking pop stars, Jem spoke to every little girl's dreams of making it big as a singer. Oh, come on, you know you stood in front of the mirror imagining you were in a band in front of a cheering audience.
My sister loved this show and, I must confess, I liked it as well. Not just because each show taught a valuable lesson (that was a big thing in the 80s - talking about the lesson taught by the episode at the end of the show so kids would be sure to understand things like morals and values), but because it contained surprisingly good music. My sister had a collection of Jem dolls that each came with Jem songs, but I would tape the music on each episode to make sure she had every tune performed by Jem - no easy feat considering that we didn't own a VCR at the time.
Now, years later, Jem has made a resurgence. There is a live action film which my sister has assured me is horrible and there is a new comic book series published by IDW. I had a chance to review Jem and the Holograms: Showtime, a graphic novel collecting comics 1-6 of the series. I wondered how close to the original series this comic book would come. After all, Jem is truly outrageous...truly, truly truly outrageous...Jem is her name and no one else is the same...could this comic book capture what made the show such a hit?
The comic book story arc is very similar to the original television series in that Jerrica Benton and her sister Kimber have just recently inherited her father's estate, including the Starlight Foundation. Jerrica and Kimber, with their friends Aja and Shana, want to enter a battle of the bands contest, but Jerrica has cold feet. She can sing, she writes great lyrics, but Jerrica is rather shy and can't seem to get it together on stage. Just as it seems that the group will never be able to create the video they will need to submit to be considered for this contest, Jerrica finds a way to overcome her stage fright.
Stumbling on a recording studio with a holographic computer named Synergy, Jerrica is able to become Jem, a hot new singer with incredible fashion sense. Using the computer, to enhance their looks and style, Jerrica creates Jem and the Holograms, recording a video that takes them into the finals of a contest promoted by the popular all-girl rock band known as the Misfits. This doesn't sit well Pizzazz, leader of the Misfits, who worries that Jem and the Holograms might actually be better than her band, knocking them out of the top spot. She starts to scheme as to how to make sure that her band ends up number one at the end of the contest.
Meanwhile, starry-eyed Kimber makes a new friend in one of the Misfits band members and may have found love. Will this contest threaten to keep them apart? And when a music reporter named Rio begins to show some interest in Jerrica, will her secret identity be threatened?
Okay, I'm a fan of manga, but for some reason, I wasn't happy with the manga style transformation of Jem and the Holograms. I can't really put my finger on it, but something about the artwork just didn't sit well with me. Maybe because I have always felt that as a pop/rock group, the characters should have an edgier look to them. Instead of angles and sharp contours, we have soft, rounder lines. Not exactly what I expected.
But my real beef with this comic book is going to sound lame. I'll express it anyway, because it is my opinion and you wouldn't be reading this review if you didn't want it. The Jem and the Holograms cartoon was incredibly diverse, containing characters of all ethnicities and styles. That's one of the things that made Jem great. This comic book series takes that diversity even further, changing the looks of the members of the Holograms and Misfits. Some of the members are chunky, some are short. I suppose they are trying to express that good things come in all packages and that rockers are not all model-shaped. I can understand and appreciate that.
I also understand introducing gay characters into the mix - being a story that celebrates diversity, you must include all diversity, right? But since when were Kimber and Stormer gay? Kimber was always falling in love with someone on the series...always male and she became good friends with Stormer, but she was never gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but why change the dynamics of the characters? Why not add a new character that is gay? Of course, my sister reminds me that there is a fan base that actually always felt that Kimber and Stormer had something going on on the side, but I never got that impression. Women can actually be friends without an extra-curricular relationship...I'm laughing now as I realize that this sounds very familiar to the men can be friends with women argument.
My issues with the artwork and some of the new additions aside, I am not entirely unhappy with Jem and the Holograms: Showtime. I think it captures the essence of the original television series and the message here is still the same: believe in yourself and you can do incredible things, if you can't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you, etc. I still love the fact that the comic book kept the diversity going - it's an important concept to the cartoon and if we are going to make an adaptation of the cartoon, it has to comprise of the major components that made the cartoon so great. The storyline is very similar and will loosely follow along the lines of the cartoon as the comic book series moves forward.
Fans of the original series will enjoy this comic book series as long as they can enjoy a manga version of their favorite characters. What's great about this comic book coming out decades after the original series is that Jem will now garner a new fan base - a generation of fans who have never seen the original series and have no expectations except for a good storyline that they can really get into. Jem and the Holograms: Showtime provides that and more.