Jem and the Holograms‘s Sophie Campbell Talks Comics and Coming Out as Trans

"I was so sick of hiding and exhausted from keeping myself a secret, I felt crushed by it."

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As I’m sure you all have noticed, we here at The Mary Sue have been loving the Jem and the Holograms comic from IDW. Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell have created an awesome re-imagining of an 80s classic that is both true to the spirit of the original while also adding new elements in wonderful ways. Recently Campbell did an interview with The Advocate about her work on Jem, as well as about how coming out as a trans woman back in March has affected her work in comics.

One of the best things about Campbell’s art is how great she is at drawing women with varied body types. However, while she understands the importance of that for reasons of representation, she also just does it because that’s what she enjoys drawing. Says Campbell:

It’s both important and not important. It’s important because of the obvious things like representation and how different body types in fiction break down the mold of narrow beauty standards that we’re smothered with, and it can truly help people to see themselves in fictional work, even when the characters are stylized and cartoony like mine are. That’s really important to me.

But it’s also not important because I don’t do it purely because of that, it’s not an agenda per se, not that there’s anything wrong with having an agenda, that just goes hand in hand with work being personal, but I’d be doing this even if I didn’t care about how it affected people. It feels natural and believable. It’s fun to draw. I can’t really think of doing it any other way.

Campbell came out as trans professionally as of Jem and the Holograms #2, and IDW has been hugely supportive, going back and reprinting editions of Campbell’s work with her new name on it. She talks about the significance of that:

It’s kind of surreal. Jem number 2 is the first printed comic with Sophie on it, but the bigger moment for me was seeing my name changed on existing works that IDW went in and updated, particularly the updated cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 8: Northampton. Seeing that was just awesome. I can’t wait for it to be reprinted.

I feel like with Jem, even though the first issue says “Ross” on it, that I was already Sophie when I started working on issue 1, so it feels less like a big change, if that makes sense.



Being closeted impacted both her life and her art in negative ways, but coming out has allowed her to have a greater freedom in both areas. She says:

My work started to be affected by everything I was going through. Things started to get bad around 2011, I think and I was really dragging myself through drawing. It hurt Wet Moon, work on volume 6 slowed to a crawl, and then I could barely bring myself to work on volume 7. Same with my comic Shadoweyes.

Doing work-for-hire jobs has helped, like Ninja Turtles and now Jem. It lights a fire under my ass so I have to work instead of lying in bed all day. I took several months off in 2014 and did goof-off personal comics instead, and as I came to terms with myself — at least in part, it’s a process — and what I was going to do, things got better, and I feel more excited about drawing again and doing art in a bit of a different style.

Having the break last year and working through things, I feel less stuck in an artistic rut, I feel like I’m blossoming stylistically and having fun again.

And lest you were wondering, yes she would like to create more trans characters in comics, as well as a comic with a trans lead:

I’ve been looking for spots to put trans characters in Wet Moon and Shadoweyes, but I haven’t been able to yet, there’s going to be a trans girl in Shadoweyes eventually, but I also really want to do something new that has a trans main character and maybe a mostly trans cast. With a token cis character, ha ha.

Well, whenever she gets around to creating that, I know I’ll be plopping my money down at my LCS. ‘Til then, I’ll be enjoying the hell out of Jem and the Holograms!

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.