These Should Exist: the Jem & the Holograms edition!

By Shawn Robare

With the release of the first two trailers for the new big screen, live action adaptation of Jem & the Holograms only a couple of months away it’s had me thinking a lot about the original cartoon and toy line and what made those so special to me growing up in the 80s.  I pretty much have zero interest in the new movie because I feel like the production has completely shrugged off the original concept and vision of the property that it’s all but unrecognizable.  In fact it feels like a more earnest adaptation of the Hannah Montana television series, which was itself a lesser derivative of the original Jem cartoon.  On a brighter note, I finally managed to pick up the first five issues of the IDW comic book adaptation of Jem written by Kelly Thompson and lavishly illustrated by Sofie (formerly Ross) Campbell, a favorite artist of mine for the past 15 years or so.

Jem comic

The comic series is great and manages to hit all the notes of the original while still updating the plot and characters into a more modern take.  We hear a lot about comic book adaptations and mining comics for film these days, but this is the type of material and a philosophy for how to write fan favorite material that Hollywood just isn’t grasping.  That said, I’m not trying to knock the wind out of the film industry, though if there are ever any executives out there reading this, you’re getting it wrong.  Anyway, since I’ve been diving back into the story of Jem a lot lately I thought it would be the perfect time to try my hand at designing another set of trading cards that SHOULD have existed back in the 80s but for whatever reason never happened…

Jem_Wrapper_v1    Jem_Wrapper_v2

Like the previous sets I created (or co-created) for The Monster Squad, Adventures in Babysitting, Rad, Young Guns and Young Guns II, I had a blast working on these.  I love trying to slip into the creative mindset of a Topps employee circa 1985 when laying out and utilizing artwork to create these wax wrapper and card designs.  Finding colors that work well with the content or trying to make the cards dynamic yet still true to the aesthetic of the 80s…


Jem_Cards_1_combo     Jem_Cards_3_Combo

First and foremost, since there is a lot of gorgeous Jem & the Holograms toy box art for each of the characters I wanted to highlight that before utilizing any of the animation imagery.  Though there were some cartoon series that had trading card sets in the 80s (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Masters of the Universe immediately spring to mind), the majority of trading card sets seemed to focus mainly on film and live action TV.  Also, the cartoon sets tended to add speech bubbles with puns and dialogue to the cards and I really didn’t want to do that.  It’s not like I feel I’d have to per-se, but it would be more accurate which is half of what I’m striving for when making these sets…

Jem_Cards_4_Combo     Jem_Cards_5_Combo


Jem_Cards_7_combo     Jem_Cards_6_combo

The crazy 80s-inspired design of these cards is also a bit personal for me because I was able to tap into my childhood experience growing up in central Florida.  The color scheme I went with is heavily evocative of what I remember seeing all over the place from the design on the scratch-off lottery tickets that became legal around 1988.  It’s a mix of a beachy feel with a splash of flamingo, aqua and neon.  I had so many pairs of surf & skate shirts and shorts that sported these colors…


Jem_Cards_11_combo     Jem_Cards_12_combo


Making these cards was also an excuse to seek out a ton of Jem-related research materials including interviews with series mastermind Christy Marx, making-of featurettes from the Shout! Factory DVD release, as well as diving back into watching the cartoon itself.  I always love re-watching cartoons when I’m doing research for a project like this because it makes me stop and take a closer look at what’s going on both in the episode and behind the scenes…

Jem_Cards_13_combo     Jem_Cards_17_combo



Jem_Cards_16_combo     Jem_Cards_15_combo

All in all, I think this is my favorite of the digital trading cards sets I’ve worked on solo thus far.  And at the risk of sounding like a broken record I really wish that I had a set of these in hard copy cards to stick in my collecting binders sandwiched in between my Robocop and Harry and the Hendersons cards.  Maybe someday.

*UPDATE* this is pretty darn cool

These are excellent. Hasbro should totally do these.

Posted by Christy Marx Clubhouse on Wednesday, August 19, 2015

  • Nice edition to the These Should Exist collection!

  • zid

    Wow….these are amazing. I might do something similar with my OC since Zid is based on 80’s glam rockers. I’ve been a huge fan of Jem since then (and I LOVE the new comic!). Thank you for this-excellent art (you totally nailed the look and feel of these things) and a great homage to a fantastic series.

    • Thanks Zid, though I can’t take credit past the overall design. All of the art is from the old toy packaging. You should totally experiment with making your own trading card set for your characters, I can attest that it’s a lot of fun. Thanks again!


    If you haven’t seen the movie you cannot really hate on it unless you are a clairvoyant or something. The truth is that the movie is an adaptation, it’s meant to be a very human Jem, focusing on the characters as people instead of the over the top camp and soap opera aspects. There are Holograms, there is Synergy, Jerrica decides herself to become JEM, so quit your whining and actually watch the movie before you trash it

    • Hey Artaserse, I don’t need to be clairvoyant to get a bead on how much this new film is missing the mark. Having almost 40 years of experience watching flicks, reading books, etc has prepared me enough to be able to see when writers are missing the point on an established property. Besides, what I wrote is like, my opinion, which believe it or not I’m entitled to. At no point did I “hate” on the new movie, all I wrote was that I feel like the new movie was missing the mark of what the original series was about. Digging into it, simply having a robot named Synergy that projects holograms of Jerrica’s Dad does not a great a great adaptation make. Also, you might want to rematch that first trailer. Seems to me like “Erica” Raymond comes up with the Jem alter ego, not Jerrica.

      Also, for someone who trying to make an argument for tolerance of a film before it’s misjudged, you sure do come off pretty hate-filled your self. Was I really whining? Do you even know me or my writing well enough to make that call just because I stated that I wasn’t interested in the new film? Laughing your ass off (I assume metaphorically in my face) because I dug the new comic when you obviously didn’t? Just saying, if you’re serious about trying to change someone’s opinion on something you so obviously are looking forward to and care about, you might consider easing back on the throttle a little.


        Watch the second trailer. It shows that Jerrica decides to call herself JEM, and it is actually a childhood nickname that reminds her of her dad.
        I’m not so concerned with “Empathy” as I am with facts, and the fact is that loathing something you haven’t seen for some supposed changes while praising another adaptation for even bigger changes is quite simply value judgement bias and hypocritical.

        • “I’m not so concerned with “Empathy” as I am with facts, and the fact is
          that loathing something you haven’t seen for some supposed changes while
          praising another adaptation for even bigger changes is quite simply
          value judgement bias…”

          Or opinion. Which is what my judgements are. Also, who said I loathe the new movie. Nothing I wrote in my piece was that drastic. I also explained my OPINION on the two adaptations, for me it’s about staying true to the core story elements. I FEEL the movie does not, whereas I FEEL the comic does.

          That’s not hypocritical, that’s comparing apples to oranges. Is it a core story element that Stormer be thin? Is it a core story element that Jetta be Caucasian? Is it Kimber’s sexual orientation a core story element? I my opinion, no. Being hypocritical would be taking issue with a gender swap with Eric to Erica Raymond.

          Is it a core story element that the Holograms be facing off against a rival band? Is it a core story element that the Jem persona be constructed of holograms as well as being a secret identity to form the basis of a live triangle triangle with Rio? Is it a core story to have a mesh of action/adventure and crazy music video segments? Yes, I believe these are all core story elements that define Jem and the Holograms. My OPINION is none of this comes through in the trailers, and my educated opinion (based on similar opinions about similar trailers for similar 80s era cartoon to live action film adaptations – G.I. Joe, Transformers, TMNT – one even directed by the same man) is that these elements are not in the final film.

          If these elements are in the film, if two trailers in (in an age when trailers routinely showcase the majority of plot elements in a film) and they’re holding back, then maybe in 9 weeks we’ll all look back and say the trailers failed the film, marketing-wise.

          • ARTASERSE

            Marketing has been crap, I even talked to a couple of people who adapted the script and they agreed, that the marketing failed majorly with the first trailer.
            As far as I know from attending the concert where they showed exclusive clips, there are holograms in the film…There are action sequences “fighting crime in the music business” and music videos. The Misfits don’t appear in the first movie as it concentrates on The Holograms and JEM’s emotional journey, but they do make a cameo in the movie.

          • Maybe in the third trailer (if there is one) they’ll finally let more of the stuff out.


    And I find hilarious you praise the comic which has even more (and unnecessary) changes than the movie, and yet hate on the movie (which you haven’t seen) for making changes, LMAO

    • Yeah, I like the comic. Yeah, I have no issue with the changes in body type (showcasing realistic and varied body types is rare in comics and I think it’s awesome.) Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool that Kimber and Stormer are lesbian or bisexual, and that it’s a safe, cool way for kids growing up feeling shunned or different because they have so few pop culture outlets that reflect their identify to feel included and recognized. Yeah, I think it’s cool that Jetta is portrayed as a black woman to break up the WASPiness of the Misfits in an adaptation. You know why else I don’t mind these changes? Because they don’t alter the core story or philosophy of the source material. The story being told in the new comic is very much aligned with the story that Christy Marx and crew set out to tell in the original cartoon.

      Disagree and laugh all you want. I totally respect that you don’t dig the comic. If the changes bother you, don’t read it. If the new movie has you totally stoked, that is awesome, I sincerely hope it lives up to what you’d like to see it accomplish.


        In other words, you don’t mind changes as long as they are the changes you agree on. Ok.
        Let’s start from there, that you do put value judgement on it instead of looking at things objectively.
        You actually think it goes more in line with what Christy intended to make Jerrica socially awkward and rather rude and standoffish, not even wanting to actually sing but doing it instead just to please her sister? Ok…
        And it’s HILARE people are concerned about “realistic body types” in a fantasy/sci-if comic book, especially considering how much Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell talked about how JEM is “idealized beauty, perfect pop star, make believe va-va boom”, and then they draw her boxy without a waist like an amateur drag queen who hasn’t learned to cinch her waist and pad for a proper hour glass figure, showing their intention was never “idealized beauty” but instead pushing their ridiculous radical feminist agenda

        • Yup, I liked the addition of an emotional reasoning behind a need for the Jem hologram persona in the new comic. Is it a departure from the original series? Yup, it is. Personally I feel it’s an interesting take on developing the character. For me, I’m much more open to change when it involves adding to the existing mythos. The comic is something new, it should add something new. As long as it doesn’t change the core story, just the motivations a bit, I’m a-ok with it.

          What bothers me is when stuff is taken out, which in my opinion, breaks the story. You can add a bunch of enhancements to a car and it’s still a car that works the way it’s intended. But if you start taking pieces of the engine out, or remove tires, it stops working. That’s how I see the changes between the movie adaptation and the comic adaptation.

          Also, how many times can I say this, but these are my opinions. You have your opinions. Neither is right or wrong. There is no black and white on this issue. I have a website where I write about how I view pop culture. I get it, you don’t agree. You don’t dig the new comic. That is great. I do. I’m doing my best to express my opinion and validate your opposition to it.

  • Spotted Feather

    I love all these cards you do. What would be really cool is if you made full sets…say 80 or 100 cards. Maybe even along with sticker cards. Then post the artwork. People could download the art and make their own physical sets. I would LOVE a JEM card set.

    • I’ve toyed with the idea of making full-sized sets, but they’re pretty work intensive. Now digital sticker cards, that is something I need to play with. I might have to go back and do sub-sets for all the ones I’ve tacked so far. Either way, super stoked you dig these. I love filling in the gaps in pop culture history for merch like that that totally should have been made the first time around :)

      • Spotted Feather

        May I suggest Princess Bride or maybe Short Circuit cards as your next offering ?

        • I’ll definitely take those under advisement! I think it’s about time Fischer Stevens had a trading card!

          • Spotted Feather

            And I know it’s probably not something you’re into, but a Murder, She Wrote set would be fun….

          • There’s definitely a lot of material and trivia to mine for that show in a card series. I just the other day saw a MSW Mystery Solving Jigsaw Puzzle that looked pretty cool. That was another series that didn’t have enough mercy. Could you imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure style set of books?

          • Spotted Feather

            That would be so cool. MSW is my favourite show. Probably not usual for a 35 year old guy…

          • Hey no judgement here. I was addicted to Golden Girls and Miss Marple reruns on PBS for years… :)

          • Spotted Feather

            All this talk about trading cards (or possible trading cards) got me really psyched up. I went on ebay and bought a complete mint condition set of Goonies trading cards including the 7 variant stickers. Now, I just need to get pages and a binder to keep them in. They’ll go really well with my Laffs 80s/90s cards with Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Full House on them. Then, of course, I’ll have to track down the box that the Goonies cards came in in stores and at least one wax wrapper.

            Nostalgia and ebay is a very dangerous combination. I like Golden Girls, too. Just got the first season dvds. Watch it all the time. Probably has to do with watching it with my grandma when I was a kid….

          • Heads up on those Goonies wax wrappers, there were two different styles…

          • Spotted Feather

            thanks for the heads up on the variation of the wax packs. I was fortunate enough to find both on ebay for a really decent price. Both variations, still sealed, for a little less than 7 dollars.

          • Also, those Goonies cards are great. There are a couple featuring the Octopus deleted scenes and a couple behind the scenes as well…

  • No_thriller

    Hey Shawn, I love the work you did on these cards! The overall design and the colors are absolutely spot on. They completely look as if they were truly sanctioned and produced by Hasbro. I feel like they really missed out by not capitalizing on this style of merchandise, and consequently we all missed out as well.
    Congrats on that Christy Marx shout-out! I would have loved to listen in on that interview.
    Also, I’m on the same page as you regarding the movie trailers; and your response with the car analogy was perfect!
    Thanks for the post. Keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks! This set felt like it really clicked while I was putting it together. I feel like with each one I get a little bit closer to unpacking what the original Topps designers were thinking back in the day :p Thanks again sir!

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  • Erfytu Jiojio

    Don’t read the comic, it is dogshit.

    • Well, I totally disagree. I think the comic is great. But thanks for your thought provoking review. :)

  • Squidbee

    I love these cards. They definitely should be an official product.

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