Since Kelly Thompson began helming IDW’s comic book adaptation of the Jem and the Holograms cartoon, the writer has taken the classic characters and added dimension and depth to the truly outrageous cast. Exploring themes such as family, friendship, identity, and sexuality, Thompson has created a culturally resonant series, while still injecting the fun and drama that has made the comic such a joy to read month-in and month-out.
This Wednesday marks the kickoff to “Truly Outrageous,” the final arc of Jem and the Holograms, starting with issue #24. Ms. Thompson spoke with me recently about what we can expect from the tale, what’s next for Jem, the Holograms, and the rest of the gang, and what’s next on the horizon for the writer.
FreakSugar: Where do we find the cast of Jem and the Holograms at the beginning of issue 24, part one “Truly Outrageous”?
Kelly Thompson: In issue 24 we join Jem and The Holograms, which includes Shana and Raya now, in Hawaii on a “work vacation” getting some much needed R&R but also some band bonding and rehearsal time. They’re sort of trying to find their footing with their new line up. There’s some friction there as they figure that out, but they know they have something magical. And of course The Stingers have rented the beach house next door, Riot in an attempt to win Jem back and Minx and Rapture in the hopes of causing trouble…which is what they do best.
FS: Let’s talk about Jerrica for a second. I love that you’ve explored the entire series questions of identity and of the truth. Those two have intersected in a big way and we’re seeing the culmination of that in this issue. How would you describe Jerrica’s state of mind? Her big move toward the end of the book—which I won’t spoil—seems to be her realizing that what she’s been doing since the series began isn’t sustainable, for herself or the people around her.
KT: Thank you, it’s definitely my favorite slow burn plot we’ve been working on and as you’ve seen, it’s going to come to a big head in this “final arc” and will continue to be something we deal with in a big way in the summer event crossover – Infinite. Jerrica, thanks to recent events has really had to come face to face with what the Jem identity really means to her, and what it costs her (and everyone around her). She’s come to some decisions obviously that are going to have huge ramifications going forward. The “Outrageous” arc is quieter in some ways in that we’re focusing on character stuff more than big plot stuff as we tie things up, but in other ways, our biggest and boldest reveals are coming in this arc, so it’s pretty exciting.
FS: I love Gisele Lagace’s style. It’s a clean, fun, beautiful style that’s right at home on the book. What’s your process like working with Gisele?
KT: Gisele is the definition of a workhorse rockstar in that she is a consummate professional who just gets it done with incredible consistency. She’s also fast as hell. There isn’t a ton of back and forth between us because I write reasonably tight scripts for her and she just gets it the first time out without much fuss. She’s been doing comics a long time and you can tell. It’s so easy to work with her. Plus we still have M. Victoria Robado on colors for the series – she’s colored almost every single page of Jem comics since we started (and all of The Misfits series) – it’s incredible to have had her gorgeous vision for the Jem world from day one – we’re very lucky.
FS: What can you hint at about next issue and what we’ll see as the series wraps up?
KT: Obviously the end of issue #24 and the cliffhanger reveal there is going to direct a lot of our momentum through to the end of the ongoing series with #26, but at its core, this last arc will be about the same things we were always about and what we began with issue #1 two years ago: family, love, finding yourself, and the power of music to unite and even heal.
FS: At the end of your run, you’ll have been writing Jem and the Holograms for over two years. How do you think you’ve changed as a writer since the beginning of the series?
KT: Well, I hate to call it “the end of the run” which sounds so final, when really we’re spinning off into one of the most exciting ideas we’ve explored yet with our Infinite crossover, but I’ve obviously learned a lot as Jem and the Holograms was my first monthly publishing gig, it would be hard not to learn. With Jem the hardest lesson for me was that there were so many great characters and we wanted to explore them all – and die-hard fans were dying to see them all – but I’ll think twice before overloading a storyline with characters (and locations) again. Unfortunately, it’s just plain hard to have it all, and I think with The Stingers arc we tried to have it all and fell a little short. I over-reached with how many primary characters we could conceivably juggle in just 100 pages and still tell the story we needed to tell…and we didn’t quite land it. So that’s a lesson learned for sure and a lesson I try to take into my other projects.
FS: You’ve had the chance to really flesh out Jem’s world, bringing dimension to cartoon characters who weren’t always multi-faceted. Who’s been your favorite character or characters to dig into and explore a little more closely?
KT: That’s tough to say, I love them all so much, my babies! Pizzazz and Kimber are a ton of fun to write, very dramatic and you can get away with a lot with both of them. But I sort of love the “mean bff thugs” dynamic of both Roxy/Jetta and Minx/Rapture, though I didn’t get as much time to explore the latter pair. Jem/Jerrica by far has the richest storyline to explore, but I suppose if I have to choose just one, my heart beats the hardest for sarcastic salty know-it-all Aja.
FS: In that same vein, who’s a character that you were surprised you liked as well as you did or that you had as much to say as you did about her or him?
KT: Both Roxy and Jetta surprised me I think, maybe because they operated mostly as comic relief initially, but they really wormed their way into my heart with all their fierce hilarity. They were the characters I found myself itching to get back to, whose inner life I really wanted to explore. The Misfits #4 which is the “Roxy Issue,” (out next month) is one of my favorite issues we’ve ever done and it was surprisingly emotional.
FS: What moment or moments are you proudest of through the course of being a caretaker of the Jem mythos?
KT: I feel like we really explored some awesome depths with most of the characters, and especially with The Misfits. I feel we did a great job of showing them as complex layered women, especially Pizzazz. Helping readers to understand the how and why of her, and showing complexity that really made readers relate to and enjoy her, despite her “villain” status. The age-old adage is that your “heroes” are only as good as your “villains” and if Pizzazz is our “villain” then I feel pretty proud all around. I had an amazing team for the entire journey, which made those successes possible. I was, and continue to be, very lucky.
FS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope readers had from following your work on the series?
KT: Well, I hope they connected to the characters the way I did. I fell so in love with all of them, which as the writer, probably isn’t terribly rare, but you just hope that you pass some of that on to your readers. That you helped them invest in them as deeply as possible, that those stories and emotions will stay with them, and maybe even make their lives better in some small way.
FS: What can you tell us about the Infinite miniseries for both Jem and The Misfits that’s coming up this summer?
KT: The Infinite crossover follows Jem and The Holograms and The Misfits as they literally journey to a new world via a portal – a world that turns out to be basically ruled by Synergy Hologram Technology and where Jem and The Holograms are all but gods. Bascially a total nightmare for The Misfits! But this world has a lot of problems and Techrat has brought Jem and The Holograms there to save it. The story is going to upend a lot of expectations and operate as a cool sort of “what if?” Jerrica/Jem’s identity and Synergy/the Hologram Tech was made public…and I think the answer to that question is both wildly exciting for The Holograms to see…and also a total nightmare. It’s very much a “be careful what you wish for” story.
FS: What kind of muscles are the Infinite series letting you flex that the other series did not?
KT: We’re getting to play with a lot more sci-fi elements than usual in Infinite, which is a lot of fun and one of the cornerstones of the original Jem show, so it’s exciting to do deeper dive into those aspects of Jem. I’m also a big fan of alternate versions of characters, especially if you can have your classic characters alongside them – like having your cake and eating it too – so we’re gonna have a lot of fun with that and I think the fans will really enjoy it.
FS: Is there anything you can tease about what projects you have coming down the pike?
KT: Unfortunately there’s nothing I’m allowed to announce right now…I have something very cool coming from Marvel later this year and I’ve got something else with IDW that has been in development for a looooong time that looks like it’s finally coming together, so I’m really excited about that. Beyond that it’s everything I’m already doing plus pitching, pitching, pitching for what’s next! J
Jem and the Holograms #24—part one of “Truly Outrageous,” the final arc of the series—written by Kelly Thompson with Gisele Lagace on art, is on sale this Wednesday from IDW.
From the official issue description:
Truly Outrageous Part One! Jem and The Holograms head Hawaii to get away from it all, but with the Stingers not so coincidentally renting the beach house next door, nobody is going to be getting any rest or relaxation!