So Amethyst is finally back! I admit this fantasy saga of a 13-year-old girl who finds she actually a princess of Gemworld was one of my favorite comics of the time, aided by the great storytelling by writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn and Ernie Colon’s marvelous art, filled with imagination and whimsical details. The new reboot is out, with an older Amy and creative duties by Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen plenty of outrage over an attempted rape scene in the book, which appears in Sword of Sorcery #0. Chris Sims saw it as an indictment of the entire current superhero scene:
Throwing rape and the threat thereof into a superhero story to give it an air of edginess and modernism is a trick that writers and editors have pulled over and over and over again over the past 20 years in an attempt to recapture the critical success and importance of Watchmen and, in the case of DC Comics, assure their dwindling readership that Aquaman was definitely not silly, no sir. It's cropped up in stories from Green Arrow to Nightwing, a trend that culminated in the abysmal Identity Crisis, a story explicitly designed to go back and put rape into past comics that didn't already have it. And, to be fair, it's not just DC, either — superhero comics as a whole have developed an over-reliance on rape as a plot point to signal that they're trying to be more "mature" or "relevant."
Horrible! Terrible! So against the real Amethyst! Only, as blogger Tangognat pointed out in a comment, and a blog post, the ORIGINAL first issue of Amethyst ALSO included an attempted rape scene:
To tell the truth, as someone who has read the first issue of the original series of Amethyst multiple times, the attempted rape didn’t really stand out in my mind very much, being placed as it was within a narrative where Amy Winston goes to a place called the Gemworld and finds it intrinsically terrifying. The attempted rape scenes in the original comic also took up much less space – two partial pages out of a standard 32 page comic. I’m still going to buy Sword of Sorcery and I really hope that as I continue to read it I’m going to enjoy the good things about the comic and I’m going to be able to forget about the rocky first issue.
I believe Dan Mishkin commented on the original Comics Alliance thread, but that seems to have scriolled off into the murk of a 350-comment thread, Tangognat quotes an earlier interview however:
I’m not going to say that this particular attempted rape scene is ok. When I interviewed the creators of Amethyst, Gary Cohn said, “Dan and I have often pointed out to each other that the attempted rape in the first issue was a big mistake, very much a male mistake, and if we had a do-over, that would not have made the cut.” I don’t think that the attempted rape in this context does much for the story. Amethyst’s powers are triggered by being threatened by rape. Her powers could certainly have manifested for the first time in a different context. Granch shows up and saves her, demonstrating his loyalty and coolness. He’s also portrayed as being totally bad-ass later in the comic, so it isn’t really necessary to have him rescue Amethyst from attempted rape to establish his warrior street-cred:
As someone whose very first published work was a piece that complained about rape or attempted rape as the overused heroic turning point for female characters (just as coming home and finding your family slaughtered is an overused male trope), I can’t say I’m too surprised at the selectively short memory here. Or the over use of the trope. What has changed in 30 years is that Amy has gone from victim to rescuer…I think that may be a little more pertinent in this case.
What’s even more pertinent is this rejected Amethyst pitch by Renae de Liz.
Now do you see what I was getting at? Based on the look alone, the new Amethyst comic (unlike the Amethyst cartoon) is not a kid-oriented fantasy, but rather a slightly skewed version of a modern DC comic, with the same very skilled and enthusiastic but generic look in the art that one finds in 95% of mainstream comics. I say that based on looks alone—I’ll reserve further comments until I read the darned thing. In the meantime, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.