A Jem of a Birthday Present

Off the PageI’ve mentioned before that having a creative talent can be a gift and a curse.

During Christmases and birthdays being able to produce some nice creative presents for friends is always better than just buying them a movie or tshirt.

It’s not always a sure thing though and sometimes you decide to do a piece of art for someone and get hit by the creative block freight train that bogs you down…

A friend recently had a birthday and I decided a couple months before to do some artwork for her.  She’s a huge fan of the 80s cartoon show  Jem (as can be seen here and here) and I wanted to do a Jem piece for her.

I had a clear image in my mind of what I wanted it to be…but it took a few swings before I landed on the final…

I wanted to do a “singing” piece, not just a standing there for the poster piece.

My initial idea was a close up using Halestorm vixen Lzzy Hale as a model.

I sketched it out in pencil in my sketchbook before deciding on a medium for the final:

I tried to do it in chalk pastels…but as I progressed through it I didn’t like the look of it.  I definitely wanted the bright pink colors but I wasn’t a fan of the composition…  So I dropped the close up concept and went with a copy of a famous Jem poster…but as I worked through it I considered how senseless it was just to draw a poster…it’s just a copy of existing art.  And scrapped that too…

So I scrapped it and thought, “Well I haven’t done any straight up pencil work in a while.  I can add a touch of color to the pink like I did for my World’s End piece.”  So I started on pencils…

I thought I could do a punk rock or metal Jem…  The issue is Jem’s look is kind of iconic.  If you take her gaudy pink dresses, teased hair, and make up away she isn’t Jem anymore (as the producers of that awful film found out).  So even though I thought the art was better it wasn’t what I wanted to do.  So I scrapped that one.

With the birthday rapidly approaching I was starting to regret painting myself into the “creative” corner for the present.  I couldn’t muster the creativity to do a piece I liked and ended up regretting the choice to try it.

Then one morning I was lounging in bed one Saturday morning scrolling through Facebook and I came across a an ad for a Rick and Morty tshirt showing Rick in the iconic Scott Pilgrim pose.  As soon as I saw it I had the idea, Jem in Scott Pilgrim style.

I thought about the piece while I was at work that day.  I initially struggled with the composition, Pilgrim had his famous Rickenbacker bass.  Rick was holding a cartoon guitar.  I briefly considered just giving Jem a guitar or an 80s keytar, but I know fandoms enough to know you want to stick with accuracy.  I couldn’t give her either of those because canonically Jem doesn’t play either of those instruments in the show…  I eventually landed on having her still singing, but holding the mic cable in the same pose as a guitar player.  Once I had it nailed down I produced this:

The first one of these I was actually happy with.

It was done just in time for the birthday and now hangs in her house.  Always the best part of making art for someone is seeing how the recipient decides to display it!


The Jem Movie: Universal Got What They Deserved

Jem and the Holograms 2015 had the third-worst opening in box-office history. That’s a pretty hefty price tag and epic fail for Universal, and my response is: They deserved it.

As a woman in my 30s, I was delighted to hear they were going to make a movie of my beloved childhood idol. You see, I was obsessed with Jem and the Holograms when I was a girl. I had the dolls, car, outfits, cassette tapes and books. My mom and I dressed up as them for Halloween.
As an adult, I have even watched a few episodes online. They are not as appealing now, but my taste in music has improved and I expect more. However, I still enjoy them.


That is why I refused to see this movie after the trailer was released. Jem’s story was not a heart-felt, coming-of-digital-age story. The original Jem series was about glam, fashion, music, and relationships. There was drama, adult themes, mild cartoon violence, and flawed heroes. It was an 80s cartoon! These cartoons brought real-world issues to kids in a fun way. They were not politically correct. They did not try to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Many 80s cartoons simply taught kids how to deal with conflict.

Instead of rebooting the cartoon into an animated feature or sticking to some of the original story, Universal decided to modernize – aka bastardize – it. I will never see the movie, so I’m going to have to bash the trailers. Here are my biggest problems with the movie and why it failed:

  • A YouTube star. Because the world needed or wanted that? No.
  • It was a teen story. Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits were not teens. They were adults. They partied, had adult relations, and experienced adult conflicts. The cartoon showed kids how to deal with mature problems and relationships.
  • Universal chose the wrong audience. Who was the audience for this movie? It was women between the ages of 30-40 and possibly their moms. This age group is nichey, but there are roughly 157 million women born between 1980 and 1990 (US Census Bureau). That was the audience. As someone in that audience, I can say that a movie made about Hole vs. Babes in Toyland would have been more accurate to Jem and catered to the audience.
  • The music was awful. Again, audience. My generation still listens to Joan Jett and Guns N Roses. We still love hairbands and bad-A chicks. Not pop stars.
  • Identity crisis. Jem did not have an identity problem. She knew who she was. She was a rockstar superhero with a secret identity. She was not a troubled teen trying to find herself or hide and from the world. You would think with the superhero trend right now, Universal would have been smart enough to make that angle work. Here’s an idea: A female Scott Pilgrim-type movie. That would have been gold.
  • The costumes. If you’re going to “modernize” an 80s cartoon/movie, how does it make sense to have them play a keytar? The makeup and costumes looked like a Hunger Games rip off. In fact, I get a very Capitol feel from Juliette Lewis’ character and Hollywood from the trailer.
  • Synergy was Eve from Walle. And a projector that played home movies at that. The original Synergy was an 80s supercomputer built to alternate reality. She created holograms – hence the name – and could change their appearance. Synergy transformed reality, allowing them to have a different identity.

And there you have it. I accepted a live-action movie, and for a moment, was excited to see what Hollywood could do with my childhood idol. When I realized I could not relate to the story and characters, and they butchered it, I vowed to never see it. I would not watch this movie if it was my only form of entertainment. I will never support it. And Universal should pay close attention because 157 million women apparently felt the same way.

Jem’s Rolls Royce and the Post Office Adventure

Who remembers this car/toy? This was Jem’s Rockin’ Roadster, released only in 1986. The next year it was replaced by the Glitter N’ Gold Roadster, which was probably more appealing to little girls. I disagree.

Jem Rolls Royce

I was 4 years old when the Rockin’ Roadster came out, and I believe Santa brought it to me. I was Jem obsessed – and still somewhat am – and had most of the dolls, accessories, books, tapes, and whatever else we could afford.

This car symbolizes my childhood. Crazy colors, fun, and energetic. Nearly 30 years later, when I hear “Jem” I think of this car.

And I found one. Oh yeah, I bought this fabulously 80s treat. Scheduled to arrive early this week, I had trouble containing my excitement. Not only was this more than affordable for what it was, but it was in great condition. Even the radio works.

The Post Office Fiasco

This week rolled around, and on Wednesday I received a slip saying the post carrier left the package with my apartment manager. I visited the office, and they didn’t have it. I remained calm and called the post office.

A wonderful lady took all my information, and said to check back later. On Thursday, I called the post office, and no one had seen it. This time I spoke to an idiot, who answered the phone laughing and put me on hold, so she could contain herself. Then she was useless and advised me to call Friday morning to speak to the carrier personally – “only they know what they did with the package.”

Friday morning came, and I called again. Thankfully, the nice lady answered and spoke to the carrier for me, and they had no idea where it was. The carrier’s daughter ran the route and said she left it in the package box. Well, guess what? She didn’t because it was way too big. And again, no one knew where it was.

By Saturday, I was about to have a nervous breakdown. When I placed the order last week, I had this terrible feeling something would happen to it because it was so special to me. That’s just my luck. I called the post office again and spoke to another useless person who was less than helpful. I had lots of errands to run but ended up back at the apartment office. I decided to check the packages for the third time, and my manager found it! Apparently, it had been dropped of late Friday afternoon.

After 10 minutes of getting through the packaging, the Jem Rockin’ Roaster has a new home! Here’s a full tour of its awesomeness!

Jem Rolls Royce
For scale: It’s 24 inches long.
Jem Rolls Royce
Gorgeous 80’s plastic chrome. Only the top cars had this feature.
Jem Rolls Royce
Roomy interior, but it was hard fitting the huge dolls.
Jem Rolls Royce
Missing the stick shift, but the hot-pink interior more than makes up for it.
Jem Rolls Royce
Beautiful curves and gem white-wall wheels.
Jem Rolls Royce
Check out the working FM radio! I mis-remembered this as a tape player, but I do credit the radio for my love of The Monkies. It picks up a whopping three channels and provided music on many days!
Jem Rolls Royce
Pimpin’ in 80’s style. The end.