Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, & M. Victoria Robado
April has been a rough month for diversity in the comic book industry. From Marvel claiming that their sales indicate readers don’t want diverse characters to X-Men Gold’s first issue featuring anti-Semitic and anti-Christian imagery. Inclusion is being put under a negative spotlight.
It’s been a long two weeks for the many creators who are working hard to tell inclusive stories for audiences hungry for comics and characters they can see themselves in. As a reader who invests in comics weekly, I want to give a spotlight to a book that I believe is doing the absolute most to showcase diverse storytelling. What book is that, you ask? It’s Jem and the Holograms from IDW Publishing.
Launched during the winter of 2015 from writer Kelly Thompson, artist Sophie Campbell, and colorist M. Victoria Robado, Jem and the Holograms is a modernized reboot of your favorite 80s cartoon glam band. Jerrica, Kimber, Aja, and Shana are our protagonists and their relationship is one of the main reasons why I own every issue of this comic in singles and trade paperbacks.
The four band members are sisters, and a core theme of the book is precisely the power of sisterhood. I’m a cis white male with two brothers, I know nothing of sisterhood outside of what I see in my friends and the media. But as an avid comic book reader and follower, I can assure you this is the one medium that sorely lacks a representation of sisterhood.This is why Kelly Thompson has kept me invested in the lives of these glam band members for two years now.
Outside of the core four characters in the book, there are plenty of other diverse characters that shine through. Just from the rival bands, The Misfits and The Stingers, there are so many characters of different gender, sexual, and multi-cultural identities. The entire first arc of the series follows Stormer, member of the Misfits, and Kimber’s developing relationship.
Jem and the Holograms was the first comic I ever added to my pull list that didn’t overtly sexualize a relationship between two women for the male gaze. As a reader, I’ve never experienced that before in comics, and you know what? The storytelling is as beautiful as the love the two characters share for each other.
Jem and the Holograms not only has an incredibly diverse set of characters but a diverse creative team as well. While Thompson and Robado have been the two main stays on the title, artists on Jem include the aforementioned Campbell, Emma Vieceli, Jen Bartel, and Meredith McClaren. This is a comic about women created by women that can be enjoyed by any reader of any age, gender, or background.
I understand the reasoning behind discussing diversity in terms of sales, but at the end of the day, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Diversity should be something we celebrate and strive for in comics because it is a medium for everyone. If the industry doesn’t create inclusive content and only focuses on a single demographic, it puts limitations on storytellers and the creators we love to support. I love reading Jem and the Holograms month to month, and it’s a series I’m passionate about. If you like 80s glam rock, give it a try! If you like stories that empower women, pick up the trade! It’s a series that has a little something for everyone and that deserves recognition and celebration.