Truly, Truly Outrageous!
I thought it was the best book out last week, in fact. It was very well executed. Based on a fake band from the 80’s in an animated show by Marvel, the source material is pure gold. The book stays close enough to the source material to stay authentic, but writes a new story for a new audience. That’s a fine line to tread, and I was impressed with the ability to do it.
The story itself makes for a perfect comic concept. The band’s lead singer Jerrica, is too painfully shy to perform on stage or on video. When her father leaves her the magical holographic computer Synergy, with mobile hologram emitter earrings, she can become Jem…a new fearless persona. Jem is everything Jerrica wants to be, behind a beautiful, pink haired and glitter covered hologram mask. The dual identity, the magic computer, the transformation…all good comics stock in trade. when the book was announced, it threw fans of the beloved 80’s cartoon into a virtual frenzy.
Kelly Thompson is an active up-and-comer and treats the book as a relaunch to the Jem-verse properly. You don’t need an entire Jem history lesson to get an idea of who these characters are, which is a good thing. That kind of history lesson would be boring. I was getting bored writing the paragraph before this one, in fact. I seriously compliment her on not going too crazy with the exposition and just letting the story unfold, with the reader following along.
In addition, Ross Campbell’s redesigns of the characters make them all look different. Different heights, different body types, a real attention to detail. I used the 80’s era Jem as a reference, which really was Marvel animation using the “pretty girl” cloning machine for design cues. Plug and play hair color and ethnicity, give a different musical instrument, and you are good to go. Not so with IDW’s current book, which is surprisingly diverse in character design.
Jem and the Holograms isn’t looking to reinvent Jem in the least, but instead give it a well-rounded, modern retelling. The bits of the origin are all there, the outrageous color palate, and the promise of the competing band, the Misfits. All in all, a surprisingly satisfying book.
In my art, I got frustrated. I wanted a more vibrant pink in the background, but as I digitized the image, I could raise the levels of the other foreground colors easily, but the background stayed washed out. Part of the reason that I added the Jem logo to the lead image, which was a big old hassle to make…I just felt that part of the image needed more color.
I actually took a picture of the work in progress, before the background color. There, with the color saturation lower, our hero’s jeans have more of their usual multilayered color. In the final pieces, her jeans are more like jeans in Marvel Animated cartoons…more of a solid vibrant blue. I’m not unhappy with that, since Jem WAS a Marvel Animated cartoon.
Still…I had two observations of my own through that process. The first was that it is unusually hard to draw the protagonist of Tales of Adeuqacy happy. She rarely is…so it’s an unaccustomed expression. The second was that as my art and practice have been improving, I’ve started to get fussier. Pickier. I get to the digital image, and instead of a quick “upload, clean up, brighten, post,” I’m really getting overly fussy about the final product being as perfect as possible.
That’s not a bad thing. But past a certain point it is, and I think that I was getting there. Adequacy isn’t a professional webcomic, it’s a vanity project I do for fun, to blow off steam. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It certainly didn’t start there.
Getting better at things does that to you. Makes you a bit…eccentric, focused on odd things. I read a post from Skottie Young, on his blog this morning, that put it in perspective for me, after wrestling with silly color issues yesterday. He wrote:
“For some reason I’ve been obsessing over HOW i’m making my art lately. I’ve done dozens of test pages and panels trying figure out how I want to approach my new book. All told, I’ve probably drawn the same few pages of this book enough times to put a trade out. It’s crazy. I’m being CRAZY. It’s so silly. It’s odd what happens with you start caring TOO much.
On top of that I find myself reading debates and articles and drama and whatever else we all get our internet undies in a bunch about and start to not only obsess on the art but on the business of comics. It’s a spiral, for sure.
This is about having fun for me. Creating things that are fun and enjoying the time I spent making them…I needed a reminder to not let all that other stuff get in the way of just having fun, and then going home to play and read with my kid. I’m as good as I can be today and hopefully will be better tomorrow. Going crazy about my art or what side of whatever drama is the click baitiest isn’t fun.
Today’s piece is all the stuff I love reading and watching reminding me to quit thinking and just have fun.”
That was Skottie Young…and it put a whole lot in perspective for me. Today I was taking a photo of Friday’s art, for posting…I’m a couple of days ahead. The lighting isn’t perfect. I started to fuss over it, but in researching it, I had looked at tons of really old Adequacy. When I started, I didn’t care about the lighting being perfect, I was just excited to draw and post. There’s a beauty and a purity to that.
Thanks, Mr. Young.
As a closer, here’s the black and white pencils that I started with. At the end of it all, they were fun to draw, and I’m quite proud of them. You know…the whole point of this exercise.
As Stan Lee would have said, Excelsior!
Next Issue: Commentary on Multiversity, Mystery Plots, and JFK! Be there!