Today, I thought I’d talk about Western comics for once. To be specific, let’s talk about IDW. Admittedly, this is a strange choice because their stuff is a pain in the ass to get a hold of, at least where I live.
Anyway, they’re primarily known for adapting other works of media into comic format. When I was reading the one comic of theirs I read regularly and saw adverts for a Jem and the Holograms comic, my initial instinct was to ignore it. After all, the timing made it seem like it was coming out to complement the film. Yes, the one that flopped harder than a 200 kilo person diving into a kiddie pool. So, even though I have a fondness for the old cartoon in all its cheesy glory, I didn’t want to bother with the comic.
(Here’s my man card if any of you want to revoke it due to my liking Jem.)
As it turns out, I was a bit hasty in that assessment, and I officially apologise to IDW, on the off chance that someone who works there may read this, for not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I started hearing a lot of good things about the comic on the Internet. Enough, at the very least, to make me curious. So, I ordered the first seven issues to give it a fair chance.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Even without the awesome music from the cartoon, the comic was clever, funny and had a lot of really endearing stuff. It takes the basic premise from the cartoon and modernises it while drastically improving on several factors. As such, I’m going to list the top five in order from the ones I appreciate slightly less to the one I appreciate the most.
5. On the subject of inheritance.
One thing that always bothered me about the cartoon was that Jerrica’s father left basically everything to her. It’s not like she’s an only child. She has three sisters. So what is the deal with this blatant favouritism? Jerrica gets the business, the secret warehouse with a ton of equipment and basically everything else we see that he gave out. Her sisters get whatever she chooses to share with them.
In the comic, this is not the case. Every indication we get suggests that the four of them are sharing what he left behind equally. Jerrica still gets the jem star earrings, but it’s outright stated that they were a birthday present. As a result it actually seems like their dad was really nice and didn’t play favourites.
4. The Secret Identity makes sense.
So, in the cartoon why did Jerrica need to have Jem as a secret identity instead of using it as simply a stage name? It causes her all kinds of problems and there doesn’t seem to be any real benefit. She doesn’t even tell the guy she’s been dating since well before the series began. Which just causes even more problems.
The IDW comic fixes that problem by giving her an actual compelling reason for the Jem persona to be a secret identity. Mainly, Jerrica is really shy, suffering from extreme stage fright. She uses Jem as a method of coping with that. It also makes sense that they don’t tell Rio the truth because, in the comic, they don’t know him that well. They meet him after Jem’s debut. Plus, he’s an entertainment reporter and probably wouldn’t keep it a secret just out of sheer professionalism.
3. Kimber and Stormer.
From the way I discuss ho-yay in every review, you may have the impression that I’m in favour of it being in everything. That’s not quite accurate. I like seeing it when it’s well written, but I wouldn’t say everything needs it nor even that everything would be better with it. Some things, certainly and these comics prove pretty definitively that Jem is one of those things. The budding relationship between Kimber and Stormer isn’t just adorable. It isn’t just a really well crafted relationship. It’s also a great source of tension, given the rivalry betwixt the bands. At the point where I am, there’s some relationship trouble and, I have to say, I really want to get more comics to find out where it goes because the relationship is so good.
2. Continuity Matters.
Like many western cartoons of its time, Jem wasn’t big on continuity. Things would happen in an episode, possibly carrying over to the next in cases of multi-part episodes but, ultimately, the status quo would reign supreme and everything would go back to the way it was.
Take my personal favourite episode, The Bands Break Up. In that particular story, Kimber, feeling unappreciated, leaves the Holograms. At the same time, Stormer leaves the Misfits for similar reasons. The two coincidentally meet up and start performing together, becoming very close. in fact, that episode may have been the inspiration for them being a couple in the comic. After that episode, their friendship is never mentioned again nor does it ever come into play.
In contrast, the comic’s consistently built on the events of previous issues and had much stronger character dynamics and development as a result and there’s no indication that it’s going to stop.
1. The Holograms all act like sisters.
One of the more interesting aspects of the cartoon that, unfortunately, didn’t get used to its full potential, was the fact that Jerrica, Kimber, Aja and Shana were all sisters. Except for the fact that they never really acted like it. Whenever something sisterly happened it was between Jerrica and Kimber. Aja and Shana were treated more like Jerrica’s school chums. I guess because they were adopted they don’t get to act like real parts of the family. Which was a shame because there was some great untapped story potential there.
That’s where IDW’s comic comes in. The four of them all have a very sisterly dynamic. You never get the feeling that Aja and Shana are just in the background. They joke around along with Jerrica and Kimber. They all support each other. They just genuinely act sisterly towards one another and I have a feeling that it’s going to lead to some superb stories.
Now, any of these could change. The comic hasn’t exactly been going all that long, but these are my early impressions of the most dramatically improvements in the comic. Check the comics out if you’re a fan of Jem or if you like really good slice of life style works. I’m going to go order the rest of what they’ve done because it’s truly outrageous in the best possible way.