What does the “Jem And The Holograms” cartoon have in common with DC Comics’ Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld? Come September, both characters will have been written by the same woman — veteran TV and comic book writer Christy Marx.
If you watched any animated action shows in the past thirty years, then Marx’s work is something you’ll recognize. And in addition to penning episodes of notable kids shows like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Spider-Man,” Marx also wrote Conan and Red Sonja stories for Marvel Comics’ “Savage Sword Of Conan.” Within that same timeframe, she also created her own sword and sorcery comic book series, “Sisterhood Of Steel,” which revolved around a warrior-woman society working as mercenaries. Of course, for most Marx is best known for her work as the creator of the girl-oriented “Jem,” which aired from 1985 to 1988 and is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity.
Recently announced as the writer for “Sword Of Sorcery,” with art by Aaron Lopresti and a backup story by writer Tony Bedard and artist Jesus Saiz, Marx is writing a revamped version of DC’s popular fantasy character Amy Winston AKA Amethyst. Created by writers Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and artist Ernie Colon in 1983, the original “Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld” proved immensely popular. Debuting in a short story in an issue of “Legion of Super-Heros,” Amethyst quickly graduated to a twelve-issue miniseries. From there, Amethyst starred in a variety of series and one-shots before virtually disappearing from the DC Universe.
As Marx explained to CBR during our one on one interview, her new take on Amethyst will be less “Jem” and closer to “Sisterhood,” featuring an older version of Amy, veering away from the princessy art style and making the threats to Amy and the Gemworld a lot more personal.
CBR News: How did your working on “Sword Of Sorcery” and the new Amethyst come about?
Christy Marx: Dan [DiDio] and I had worked together when he was an executive at ABC; he was the person I worked very closely with developing a Saturday morning combination CG and live action show called “Hypernauts.” We got to be friends during that process and one thing we had in common was we discovered how much we both loved comics. I grew up reading comics in the earliest possible age and he was always obsessed with comics, so we naturally hit it off. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he went and worked for DC! I stayed in touch with him over the years; I hadn’t heard from him in quite a while when suddenly he called me out of the blue and asked me about Amethyst. So that was a very cool thing.
Now, the original Amethyst series was targeted at young girls and had a sort of, for lack of a better term, “princessy,” girly sort of style. Did you want to preserve that look, or are you taking it in an entirely different direction?
Basically Dan wanted to take it in a different direction, and I think that’s one of the reasons why he called me on this, because I have a record of doing a range of strong female characters, from the soft to the hard, as it were. He knew about my work on “Jem And The Holograms,” but he also knew about my harder-edged work on my own [comic book] series, “Sisterhood Of Steel.” He knew he wanted to take it in a different direction, so one of the first things he discussed with me was doing that, and I was very open to that idea. I had read the original series when it came out and quite liked it at the time, but I could immediately see tremendous potential to take it in some very interesting and updated directions as well.
Then is the tone of this closer to what you were doing in “Sisterhood Of Steel,” an almost barbarian Conan/Red Sonja type of story?
I want to keep certain elements from the original book that I think work and are interesting, which is the different houses built around gemstones and so forth. I thematically keep that. But I want to go for a more mature approach to the personal relationships and a lot of intrigue and scheming. I really wanted to get into more of a sense of what is the cost, the price you really pay to have these powers and these abilities. I was looking for an interesting way to give it a little more depth and make it a story that’s a bit richer emotionally — there’s more to it than just using magic, in other words. What is the price of using magic? Why does one family member scheme against another? Why is being Amethyst significant, what’s important about that? So these are all the issues I’ve been working with when I started thinking about what would be a fun approach to this.
Is that where the idea that Amy’s Aunt is one of her main enemies comes from?
Yeah, I thought about it and I thought — I don’t want to knock the original comic at all, because they did a nice job and they actually got quite dark with it after a while — but even so, there was still a kind of standard chomping-at-the-bit bad guy, and I wanted to get away from that. I wanted to make it a more intensely personal conflict and I couldn’t think of anything more personal than having the only family member that you have, that she didn’t even know about, scheming to kill you because of issues of power.
We’ve gotten a lot of news about Amethyst lately, with the collection of the original run coming out as well as the DC Nation short. Did that have any influence on what you were doing, or are there other books or influences you looked to?
The only thing I did in terms of coming up with my take was to go back and re-read the original series. That’s the only thing I looked at because I haven’t seen it for a long time [and I wanted to] refresh myself on it. I made a lot of notes on what was there, and then spun off in my own direction. I was unaware of any other use of the character at the time and wasn’t really pulling from other influences.
Let’s talk specifically about Amy, who you’re writing as a seventeen year old girl. How would you describe your new Amy? Does she still transform into an adult woman when she uses her powers?
She’s not going to change age between the two worlds. Amy’s someone who’s just turned seventeen and at seventeen some very significant part of her childhood ends as she comes to learn about her world and all of her background. I made seventeen a pivotal age — that turning seventeen is significant in this approach. I thought it would be more interesting to deal with a teenager or young woman and not have to deal with age changes. She starts out as someone who has had a very strange upbringing because her mother has basically been spending her life training her and preparing her for this moment of which she really has no clue. She’s always felt like a bit of an outsider on Earth, and then she’s going to go to this entire other world that she knows nothing about and have to cope with all these new challenges.
Along those lines, is the Gemworld going to be vastly different than the original? Will there still be parts and characters we recognize?
I did a total reboot. You’re going to see familiar things in terms of there being characters from House Turquoise or the main cardinal Houses of Emerald and Sapphire and Diamond and Amethyst and Ruby, but it’s going to be a whole new cast of characters.
You’re working with Aaron Lopresti on art — with this new approach, did you talk to him about the influences you wanted in the book, or look at artists like Frank Frazetta who’ve done more overtly sword and sorcery type material?
Actually at this point, Aaron and I have worked on some issues, but we’ve finally just met! [Laughs] I do hope to be working with him very closely on the look of the world and look of the characters and so forth, but we’re only at the beginning of that process.
Because “Sword Of Sorcery” is designed as an anthology, with a backup story being done by Tony Bedard, is there going to be any crossover between what you’re doing and what Tony’s doing, or between what’s going on in the Gemworld with the greater DCU?
There will be some crossover with the greater DCU. I don’t know anything about the backup feature.
Like we said before, the original Amethyst was targeted at a fairly young, female audience. By featuring a grown up Amy, are you trying to target an older audience, or a broader audience that includes men?
I would like to see this reach a strong, young adult audience as well as older women, and I think it will reach across. I think anyone who enjoyed “Hunger Games” will enjoy this.
You’ve worked on many female pop culture figures in your TV and comics work, not the least of which is “Jem.” Looking at where we are now with women in media, do you think this is a good time for your take on Amethyst to be coming out?
I definitely think a lot has changed since I wrote “Jem And The Holograms.” I really think we have a new generation of girls and young women who are accustomed to being stronger and seeing stronger role models, and we have things like, not just “Hunger Games,” but a lot of other books out there that are reaching out and appealing. I think it’s a very good time for something like this.
Talking about the nuts and bolts of the title, do you have a set number of issues or an endpoint in mind for your story, or are you taking an open-ended, ongoing approach?
At this point I have an open, ongoing series idea that has two mega-story arcs, either of which could end up running a good year or so. That’s probably as far ahead as I’ve looked right now.
While working on this did you have any flashbacks to “Sisterhood Of Steel,” or consider trying to bring the series back through DC?
Oh, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, for years! It’s not like I never tried to bring it back; unfortunately my husband, Peter Ledger, who was the artist I was working with on it when we did the graphic novel, was killed in a car accident. I had tried quite a number of times to sell it to another company, but it never quite gelled in the same way.
Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this because of Kickstarter — if there was anything perfect for a Kickstarter project, it would be a “Sisterhood Of Steel” graphic novel. I plotted out the next graphic novel years and years ago, so I know exactly where I want the story to go. There are a lot of great artists out there, so yes, I’ve been giving that a lot of serious consideration!
From your perspective, what is the heart and appeal of Amethyst and Amy and the Gemworld?
I think it’s about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Young people are always trying to figure out who they are and what is their place, what are they supposed to be doing? These are timeless issues for anyone age fourteen and up who are dealing with these things. So the heart of it for me is Amy coming to terms with who she is and what her responsibilities are, what she’s supposed to be doing with herself and trying to make a home. I think this will resonate with a lot of readers, and not just women readers. The old series had some of that, but it was a little bit more about how cool it was to have magic and go up against this really bad guy and to have a flying unicorn. I’m hoping to bring it back home to the changes she’s going through.
So you feel the old series is more bogged down in the style rather than on Amy and her story?
Yeah, but it isn’t just Amy, either, because there’s a huge rich cast of characters. I really want to play with all these different characters and see what it means for them. When Amy is brought back to this world, she changes everything. She upsets the entire balance of power of this entire civilization. There are a lot of consequences, and I want to delve into how it affects all the surrounding characters at the same time. And then there’s the mother, too — her mother is going to be quite a significant character in all of this.
Can you elaborate on Amy’s mother and her role?
Her mother has raised Amy with the sole purpose of keeping her alive and the sole purpose that when she turns seventeen, they can go back and take over House Amethyst the way they should. So she’s a very strong woman who’s had a long, long-term plan. She thinks strategically. Sshe’s a powerful woman, but she’s also someone Amy is at odds with because her mother never explained any of this to her when she was growing up! So there’s a little mother-daughter friction that takes on a whole new tone once Amy finds herself in this other world and discovers who she’s supposed to be.
Finally, how do you hope fans will react to this new, less princess-y, more dynastic version of Amethyst, and what do you hope they take away?
Basically, I just hope they take away whatever they want from this. Bottom line, I hope they love the hell out of it! [Laughs]
“Sword Of Sorcery” issue #0 hits shelves September 19.