Interview: Christy Marx, Creator of Jem and the Holograms
Christy Marx has made a name for herself in the writing field. Working on animated series from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to G.I. Joe, video games, comics and more, Ms. Marx proves to be both a talented writer and visionary. Winner of the AWC-WGA Animation Writing Award, affiliated member of Women in Animation, author of her own ‘how-to’ book Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games as well as guest lecturer and workshop instructor on several occasions, Marx’s list of achievements seems endless.
As some should know, Marx’s greatest and best known achievement has been being the creator/writer of the popular 80’s animated series Jem and the Holograms. Since its recent re-airing on The Hub, speculation of a possible Jem reboot and movie have surfaced. In order to put some of these rumors to rest it was only right to go to the source: Christy herself. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Mary Sue including her affinity for comics, her take on working on Jem and the Holograms, if Hasbro will ever turn it into a movie and some wise words of wisdom to you budding writers.
Theresa Romano: How did the concept of Jem and the Holograms come about? Was it a collaborative effort with Hasbro, or was it solely your creation?
Christy Marx: Hasbro created a line of dolls and had a basic premise to go with them. They had been using Sunbow Productions to produce the G.I. Joe animation series, so they turned to Sunbow to produce a series for the Jem toy line.
I’d been writing Joe scripts for the Sunbow people and they liked my work, plus I was about the only woman writer they had, so they turned to me to create the animation series. I was able to create the full names, biographies and major elements of the show.
I came up with the Starlight Girls, Starlight Foundation, Starlight Music, Eric Raymond, all the other secondary characters, the Jerrica/Rio/Jem love triangle and so on.
Jem was one of the first animated shows about rockstars and the music industry; is music something you are passionate about, or was it just a sign of the times?
It was the MTV era. MTV was big and the dolls Hasbro was making were specifically rock bands. I certainly enjoy music, but I have rather eclectic tastes.
During the run of the show, was there ever a time when you felt that the show needed a change in direction, or were you happy with the execution?
I was quite happy with the way the series went in general. There were a few things I would have liked to change here and there, but that’s normal for any show. I’m proud of how it turned out.
You love comic books, and have worked on some throughout your career. What are some comic books that have really inspired you, and are there any you’re really into right now?
I was deeply inspired by Batman as a little girl, and early on I loved the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lois Lane and the Metal Men, amongst others. When the Marvel titles appeared, I quickly latched onto those, especially X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, etc. There were a lot of comics I loved over the years. I thought the early Love & Rockets series was brilliant. I’ve adored Elfquest from the very beginning, so it was wonderful that I was able to collaborate with Wendy for the story of Bearclaw. [Editor’s Note: you can read Marx’s Elfquest collaboration here, just Ctrl+F “Wolfrider!”]
I followed the entire run of Strangers in Paradise and Echo by Terry Moore; The Sandman as written by Neil Gaiman, of course. I enjoyed Hellboy, the terrific Concrete series by Paul Chadwick and I’ve been reading the Bronze Age graphic novels from Eric Shanower. Currently, I still read the X-Men and Usagi Yojimbo. Some of the things I was reading (like Echo) have ended, so I need to find new stuff.
You also wrote your own comic book series Sisterhood of Steel, which is about strong, warrior women fending for themselves. It came out about the same time as Jem, so how would you compare those two groups of women?
I certainly love to write strong, independent female characters, no matter what the medium. The two projects are pretty far removed in every other way, though. As much as I loved Jem, it was someone else’s property, whereas I created and own The Sisterhood completely.
Do you plan on writing any more comic books in the future?
I would love to. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for a writer to sell something without an artist attached.
As a writer, you’ve written for projects that aren’t just geared towards the female demographic, so to speak: G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beast Wars, ReBoot, etc. How did you go about making Jem a show that intrigued both boys and girls?
By blending elements that would appeal to both. It had the required elements of fashion, glamour, and romance to appeal more generally to girls, and enough action and cliff-hangers to appeal generally to boys. And music appeals to everyone. It was a character-driven show, so the relationships were the glue that held everything together, and contrary to what some people say, females and males are both interested in character relationships.
Now that Jem and the Holograms has just recently been airing on The Hub, becoming a smash-hit in the process, how does it feel to see Jem in the spotlight once again?
I think it’s wonderful, though I have no idea how much of a hit it currently is. I’m especially curious to see how well the show can appeal to a current generation of kids. My hunch is that in spite of the age of the show, the underlying appeal of the stories will be strong enough to draw in new viewers.
Based on some rumors regarding the fact that Hasbro wants to bring Jem back into the 21st century (with a possible movie in the works?), is there anything you can tell us about Jem’s potential comeback, if you can?
I’ve spoken with someone at Hasbro who would know and was told that nothing is in development. Beyond that, I don’t have any info. The rumors are exactly that — wild rumors with no basis in fact.
I know exactly what I would do to bring the series in a way that would satisfy the fans of the first series and launch a whole new way to do Jem for a new generation. I would love to be able to do that.
You’re going to be a guest at this year’s JemCon in Holland (of all places), how does it feel to attend your very own convention based on your creation? Are you excited? Nervous? What do you think you’ll expect?
I’ve been the Guest of Honor at two previous JemCons in the States. What I enjoyed is that they are small, cozy cons where it’s easy to interact with everyone who attends. That’s also how I came to know the two men who organized JemCon in Holland. I’m excited at the chance to visit Holland and meet a group of European fans. It should be great fun.
Here at the The Mary Sue, we admire smart, creative women (and men) making a name for themselves in television, comics, art, science, animation, etc. What advice do you have for those out there who want to live their dreams?
Over the years, I’ve been asked for so much advice that I finally put it all into a book: Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games. There’s a lot there for people to absorb on the practical aspects of writing for these media.
More generally, I would say that you should have a set of reasonable, attainable goals to get started. Research, study and learn what it means to be a professional writer. Don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done; if you want it badly enough, you’ll stick with it. Finish what you start; you learn from the process even if you have to throw out the end result. And finally, what every writer will tell you sooner or later — write, write and write. No one is born a fantastic writer. Like any other skill, it takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. So get started.
Freelance writer Theresa Romano blogs, or Tumbls, here.