Tag Archives: Jem & the Holograms

Cartoons on Pause…

Though I spend most of my time here at Branded writing about all the vintage cartoons, merchandise and toys from the 80s, I’m not blind to the huge resurgence in popularity all these brands are experiencing these days.  There are a ton of great visionaries and artists that are breathing new life into the characters that I love with all sorts of cool new toys, stickers, art prints and even lunch boxes.  I love seeing how the kids who grew up loving this stuff, process it and repurpose it as adults.  Whether that comes in the form of new homage stories and brands, like my bud’s Jerzy Drozd and Mark Rudolph’s bitchin’ Switch Runners comic or 8-Bit Zombie’s rad line of clothing, stickers, toys and lunchboxes.

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Though I might grumble at times at the plethora of remake movies, or get a little cranky that the big companies can’t seem to figure out how to not piss off the fans that support them (*cough*MattyCollector*Cough*Hasbro*Cough*), I just have to keep reminding myself that there is some really kickass stuff being made by some awesome independent artists.  One of those artists just so happens to collaborate a lot with the 8-Bit Zombie brand, and in particular I fell in love with his work on the amazing lunchboxes pictured above.  Matthew Skiff has a style that is as much his own as it is a callback to all the 80s era cartoons and toy lines we all grew up with.  His immaculately clean line style belies a very expressive range of emotion and energy that equal parts exciting and frozen in time.  Sometimes I find it difficult to express my thoughts when it comes to art, but what I’m trying to get at is that his work is so clean and exact that his illustrations would look perfect on product packaging, yet at the same time there is a story going on in those lines that makes me feel as if his drawings are alive, as if they were animation that was paused and would spring back to life if you just pressed the play button on a remote.  Cartoons on pause.

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This leads me to the gist of this piece which is highlighting Skiff’s new one-man gallery show that opened recently at Gallery 1988 called “Best Friends”.  Skiff created a very rad illustration a few years ago that posed the question, what would it look like if He-Man and Skeletor were actually best friends.  That piece served as the basis for a whole series of new illustrations where Matthew took inspiration from a bunch of other 80s & 90s era cartoons.  I can’t even begin to get across just how much I love this theme and all of the awesome new pieces he created for this show.  In addition to Masters of the Universe, Skiff also dipped into the worlds of the Real Ghostbusters, DuckTales, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Gargoyles, Jem and the Holograms, the Toxic Avenger, Skeleton Warriors, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Here’s a handful of his new pieces…

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Probably my two favorite pieces in this collection are the above Sunbow cartoon character portraits featuring Jem & Pizzazz and Duke and Cobra Commander (featuring the fun variation of CC masks.) Part of this is because I love that company and those cartoons pretty much above all other 80s era cartoons, but there are also a lot of fun details in these.  Whether it’s Rio on the cover of the Tiger Beat magainze that Jerrica is holding or the very playful Cobra Cola and Joerittos chips in the Joe-themed illustrations.  Again, these drawings are so on-model that they could easily be used in officially promoting the brands, but they are also unmistakably Skiffs style.

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All of these and more are available as beautiful signed and number screen-prints on the Gallery 1988 website.  I’ll be honest, it’s going to be hard, like Sophie’s Choice hard, for me to pick just one of these for my office (I wish I could afford the wall-space for all of them, as well as had the bucks to snag them all.)  Head on over to the G-88 print shop and gallery and check out the rest of the pieces, and then if you get a second seek Matthew out, either at his site or on twitter.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!

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These Should Exist: the Jem & the Holograms edition!

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.

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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…

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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

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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…

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Jem_Cards_11_combo     Jem_Cards_12_combo

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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

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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