On Attempted Rape Scenes in First Issues of Amethyst

There is something broken about the comic book industry in that I’m about to embark on a comparison of attempted rape scenes in Amethyst Princess of Gemworld comics. Have you read Chris Sims’ post So There’s An Attempted Gang Rape in the First Issue of Amethyst? One of the things I saw brought up in the comments (which I tried not to delve too deeply into, because it is too crazy-making) is that the attempted gang rape in the new series is somehow ok because there was an attempted rape in the first series. Or maybe it was a great way of keeping both series in the same rapey continuity. I’m not sure. The idea of somebody rebooting a comic and keeping a rape attempt but jettisoning a great villain like Dark Opal is beyond my comprehension.

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.

Here are the images in question so you can judge for yourself. For context, remember that Amy is a 13 year old girl who receives a mysterious amethyst necklace on her 13th birthday and is promptly kidnapped by an ogre and taken to Dark Opal’s castle.

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:

Granch is great!

One of the things that I find a little odd is that the original series seems to be viewed as a friendly all-ages-title that is filled with sparkles and unicorns. There certainly are some sparkles and unicorns in Amethyst, but one of the things that I think sets the first series apart from other entertainment aimed at girls at the time is that Ernie Colon’s art is extremely sophisticated, combining fantasy and horror elements with a dash of surrealism. In addition to the attempted rape, there’s plenty of gruesome things happening on the Gemworld.

We’ve got Dark Opal standing on a pile of corpses!

Creepy albino werewolf dudes!

I think though, that attempted rape in a DC comic in 2012 means something very different than an attempted rape in a DC comic from 1983. After all, Watchmen came out in 1986, and we got this:

And Identity Crisis came out in 2004 and we got this.

In 2012, I don’t interpret an attempted rape in a comic book as only an attempted rape. I interpret it as a way of saying in shorthand, “My comic is edgy!” At this point, I find rape in comic books offensive not because I’m offended by portrayals of rape, I’m offended because rape in comic books in 2012 is incredibly boring. And a lazily written attempted rape scene is even more offensive and boring. Sword of Sorcery 0‘s rape scene is offensive because it is also the worst form of nerd-pandering. A bespectacled bullied girl is targeted by the football team? Wouldn’t this scenario have been more interesting if Beryl had been a streetwise field hockey player fighting off a gang rape by the chess team? It would at least have been somewhat more unexpected.

I think that there’s some image composition issues in the most recent gang rape attempt in Amethyst that make it more graphic than the first. Beryl is held off the ground with her legs spread.

And after Amy rescues helpless Beryl from her attackers, there’s this:

Amy’s mother later reassures her that she did the right thing, and Beryl was in shock. I’m annoyed by the portrayal of Beryl as a rape victim – here we have a bullied character who is stupid enough to believe a football player would be interested in her, she’s helpless, and blames her rescuer even though there’s a reference to shock a page later. Beryl’s purpose is to contrast with Strong Female Character Amy Winston who rescues her. Is this anything we haven’t seen before, over and over again? I really hope this is the last post I feel the need to write about attempted rape in Amethyst comics. I have rape fatigue now.