11/10/2009 12:25 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Interview with Christy Marx, Creator of Jem and Author of Comic Books, Computer Games, and Television

Christy Marx isn't a household name, but she's a writer who's had success in nearly every medium. Among her more popular works were the 1980s television show Jem & the Holograms and two point-and-click adventure games for Sierra On-Line in the early 1990s, but a glance at her IMDB and Amazon authors pages give a better sense of what she's been doing since then: writing for everything from Babylon 5 to X-Men: Evolution.

You're a professional writer with a more varied resume than most: you've written prose books, comic books and graphic novels, scripts for movies and television, live action and animation, and computer games. Is there a medium you like best?

No, there honestly isn't. It's more about what I'm writing, the genre and nature of the material, and the amount of freedom I have to create than it is about the medium itself. What I enjoy the most is writing my own original material where I have creative control (and hopefully ownership), regardless of what format it appears in.

Of all your projects, solo works and collaborations, do you have a favorite, or one of which you're most proud? Is there anything that you've always wanted to do but haven't yet?

The ones that stand out for me are Jem and the Holograms in animation, The Sisterhood of Steel in comics, and my two adventure games for Sierra On-Line [1990's Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail and 1992's Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood].

I have scripts and ideas I've wanted to see realized for many years. You have to keep plugging away at them. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't, but I can guarantee that nothing will happen unless you keep trying.

You started out in comics, and the past decade has been a relative boom -- it seems like every hero Hollywood could get its hands on seemed to get the blockbuster treatment, until Disney finally bought Marvel. (As a recent Tom the Dancing Bug strip put it, "Isn't there any fekakta cartoon character that hasn't been optioned for a movie yet?") What's your perception of the comic industry now, compared to when you started out?

The people working in comics (the writers, artists, etc.) continue to do it for the love of comics, I believe. But overall, big business now has its hands in things and have changed the medium radically because of that. To the business executives types, it's more about using comics as a cheap and easy platform to launch something that can adapted to more profitable media. This is cynical, but smart. Disney didn't buy Marvel because they just happen to love Spider-Man. They bought it because of the staggering money potential of a zillion licensed characters. Unfortunately, as long as a character is a franchise, the creative potential will be impacted. I wrote about this in an essay about Jean Grey in The Unauthorized X-Men: SF and Comic Writers on Mutants, Prejudice, and Adamantium from Benbella Books.

Look at Platinum Studios for a classic example of people who understood the connection between launching something in comic book format for the end goal of the big bucks of a movie deal. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that approach as long as the people making the books themselves still care about what they're doing. But we can't pretend that the art and craft of making comics hasn't been affected.

A few dog years ago, Sierra was an industry leader both commercially and creatively in computer games. Their biggest games were inevitably serialized, including King's Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory... and the Conquest series that you developed, Conquests of Camelot and Conquests of the Longbow. (I understand your latest computer game project fell through.) How do you feel about the way computer games have evolved since then, and your place in that industry?

I feel that while games continue to relentlessly advance in technological quality, they haven't advanced nearly as well in terms of writing and storytelling potential. Games are already falling into restrictive niches. Most game designers don't see a need for professional quality writing. The budgets on many games have become so high that publishers become afraid to take chances on anything truly new. Writing/storytelling has never been considered a significant part of game development, often viewed as an afterthought, something to be tacked on like a veneer when a game is partway or mostly done.

I'm happy to see some positive changes in that regards. Some notable companies, such as Bioware, Ubisoft and Valve, are incorporating game storytellers (using such titles as Narrative Designer, Story Designer, writer/designer, etc.) at the beginning of development and integrating them into the design teams. That is the way it should be done. All the same, finding my kind of a job in the business is damned hard.

I would love to be making adventure games again. I wish someone would give me that opportunity.

You were head writer on the beloved mid-80's show Jem, which every girl I knew back then used to watch. In it, you created a girl superhero, complete with an alter-ego, futuristic technology, and plenty of Hasbro merchandising tie-ins. Looking back on it two decades later, what are your memories of working on the show? What were your favorite themes that you got to explore? And how does the landscape for heroic women look these days?

I wouldn't call Jem a superhero. It's true that she used technology to have an alter-ego, but that technology did nothing but change her appearance. It didn't grant her special powers or abilities. Whatever she had, came from the person she was inside, and I think that's an important aspect of the character.

I loved working on Jem. I had nearly total freedom to create the characters and the relationships and set the direction of the show. I was able to write a lot of episodes and truly have fun with the soap opera aspects: the love triangle, friendships, competition, jealousy, insecurity, trust, betrayal, parental issues, etc.

There's been a growth in roles for heroic women. Look at Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) in Alien all the way back in 1979. That was a turning point for women being seen as heroic characters. There were things that led up to that, of course, but rarely did you see a woman in that kind of tough, ass-kicking role. The trend has continued in all pop media. It will fluctuate and we'll see such roles come and go, but I do believe the notion of a woman being a strong heroic lead is here to stay.

How many cats do you have now?

The Moggy Horde currently consists of six cats, to whom I am the Servant of Bast.