Category Archives: comics

First Amethyst Short

This is just as cute, adorable, and Gemworldish as I was hoping. I’m going to just pretend that the Sword of Sorcery comic isn’t really happening, because if Amethyst had to be rebooted, Magical Girl Amethyst seems so much closer to the spirit of the original series.

Also, so enjoyed seeing mini video game Prince Topaz get promptly killed by Dark Opal. Seriously, why couldn’t we have had a comic book to tie in to the animated short?

Recent Amethyst Reading

Showcase Presents: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld

I did buy and read the Showcase Presents: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld collected volume last month. It was fun to revisit the series even though it was a bit jarring to be reading the issues in black and white instead of color. After a little bit though, I was able to settle in and I picked up on some new details here and there that I hadn’t seen before in the color issues, particularly the way Ernie Colon drew different kingdoms of the Gemworld that were distinguished with varied architecture and setting, in addition to color palette. I’d forgotten what a good deal this was. In addition to the 12 issue maxiseries, it also has a good portion of the second series, and the first appearance of Amethyst as a back-up story in Legion of Superheroes, and the fun DC Comics Presents story where Amethyst teams up with Superman. This really is a great value, although I’d still recommend that people try to track down some of the color issues as well.

Sword of Sorcery Issues 1 and 2

I’ve been reading Sword of Sorcery on Comixology, more from a sense of duty as someone who has dedicated a bunch of time to the Amethyst character than from any meaningful enjoyment. The art continues to be very nice as new houses of this version of the Gemworld are introduced. Citrine is a loyal Amethyst ally and filled with warrior women. Diamond has shifted from priests to a noble house filled with brawling sons. House Onyx is filled with shaven-headed ninjas. There are also some good character-based moments of humor where modern girl Amy encounters the quasi medieval/mystical culture of the Gemworld. However, while many of the aspects of the comic are well-executed, I’m not seeing much to convince me that this particular reboot was very necessary. Also, in the second issue the Diamond Prince Hadran shows himself to be a good guy by preventing his older brother from raping the new wife of one of their soldiers. So that’s two attempted rapes used to establish character traits in three issues. I’m expecting that the next issue will skip with the raping, and then perhaps there will be a new character introduced in issue four who will be presented as sympathetic to the reader by preventing yet another rape. Seriously, there weren’t any puppies to save or Gemworld street urchins to rescue?

Sword of Sorcery Reaction and Amethyst News Roundup

So There’s an Attempted Gang Rape In the First Issue of Amethyst….

So There Was an Overreaction on Comics Alliance today

The Problem With Amethyst

On Attempted Rape Scenes in First Issues of Amethyst

So apparently at DC Comics, “restraint” means putting an attempted gang rape in an Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld comic instead of an actual gang rape….?

Sword of Sorcery Issue 0 Review

Sword of Sorcery: Amethyst 0

Sword of Sorcery 0

Review: Sword of Sorcery #0 by Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti

RANT: Sword of Sorcery #0

Sword of Sorcery 0 Issue

Sword of Sorcery 0 Review

Sword of Sorcery 0 Review

Chain Reactions: Sword of Sorcery #0

First Impressions – SWORD OF SORCERY #0

“Sword of Sorcery”, Amethyst, Beryl, and “That Scene”

Sword of Sorcery 0 Review

Review: Sword of Sorcery #0 by Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti

Sword of Sorcery #0 Review


Amethyst, Amethyst and Amethyst!

Sword of Sorcery #0

Sword of Sorcery featuring Amethyst #0 review

Sword of Sorcery #0

Those rape analogies don’t always work, but that one’s right on the money

Sword of Sorcery 0

Zeroing in: Amethyst

Light Dark Fantasy: Sword of Sorcery #0 Review

Sword Of Sorcery Featuring Amethyst #0 Review

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld

Sword of Sorcery #0

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.

Sword of Sorcery #0

Today the first issue of Sword of Sorcery came out, and since it features the latest incarnation of Amethyst Princess of Gemworld I of course bought it on Comixology as soon as I came home for work. Let’s hear it for same day print and digital comic releases! They are a glorious thing! The actual content in Sword of Sorcery was far less glorious, resulting in a comic that could only charitably be called problematic.

I’m someone who has invested a fair amount of time writing about Amethyst. I own the two maxi-series and the later mini-series. I’ve hunted down Amethyst’s later unfortunate appearances in bad 90s crossover storylines and tracked random references to her when they pop up in Legion of Super-Heroes. As a fan of the character, I was honestly a bit disappointed when the original creators of Amethyst weren’t involved or consulted in any way for the relaunch. But putting aside my fannish feelings, I wanted to see if I could go ahead and just enjoy Sword of Sorcery 0 as an entertaining comic, one that incorporates Amethyst into a new story. I genuinely wanted to give this comic a chance, but the positive aspects of the comic were completely overshadowed by an extremely poor plot choice.

Sword of Sorcery starts by introducing Amy Winston in a fairly typical coming-of-age scenario. Amy is a misfit at school with her dyed hair and odd interest in gemstones. She bonds a little bit with a mousy girl named Beryl, who doesn’t have much time for making new friends because she was just asked by a football player to meet him “behind the end zone bleachers” after the game. It is the Eve of Amy’s 17th birthday and her day doesn’t go very well since she winds up in her mobile home with her mom consuming a sad slice of carrot cake, and then is forced to train with swords and shields out in front getting wacked in the head in the process. Sensibly deciding that swordplay and mobile homes does not a make a festive celebration, Amy heads back to school to prevent a gang of football players from raping Beryl and thus establishes herself as a Strong Female Character after she beats up three jock wannabe rapists. Amy goes back to her mobile home and her mother announces that they can finally travel to Amy’s true home. In Nilaa, Lady Mordiel is gathering power for House Amethyst by inhaling her younger second cousin. Amy’s mother takes her through a portal, and they are both transformed into attractive blonde purple-wearing ladies! A group of friendly people greets them, but a fight soon breaks out as Lady Mordiel’s hunters appear to break up any semblance of a homecoming party.

In 2012 it just seems sad that I have write about rape in an Amethyst comic 13 years after Women In Refrigerators was founded. Amethyst is on that list for the following reasons, “blinded, merged with Gemworld, destroyed in LSH; became a power-hungry witch in Book of Fate.” All of those things happened to Amethyst when she was written by people who weren’t the original creative team of Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon. While Amethyst herself wasn’t raped in this comic, Amy’s rescue of Beryl is a very lazy way of establishing her character. Rapes happen in comics all the time, either to or around female characters. Christy Marx was quoted as saying that the original premise of Amethyst as a 13 year-old-girl in a woman’s body had been “done,” so if she is so sensitive to cliches why on earth would she decide to make a foiled rape attempt a centerpiece of this comic? I think there are around 20 pages of Amethyst story, and roughly 5 pages are dealing with the rape in some fashion – set-up, beatdown, and aftermath. I am so tired of seeing athletes portrayed as rapists too. If you have to have an attempted rape in your comic, let it be either genuinely required by the narrative or at least let it be a different type of attempted rape than a cursory scene readers would have encountered over and over again if they read mainstream superhero comics. This entire scene existed so Amy could be seen as heroic. Nothing was shown from Beryl’s point of view, and I wonder if she’ll even appear in this comic again. So what was the point?

The attempted rape scene in Amethyst completely overshadowed the positive elements of the comic. Aaron Lopresti’s art was very nice. Nilaa doesn’t have the interesting surreal elements that were present in Ernie Colon’s Gemworld, but the setting looks very mineral-rich and fantasy-esque. I was amused by the fact that there were so many blonde women from House Amethyst running around and about to be at war with each other. There were elements of humor that I would have appreciated in the comic if wasn’t so annoyed by the rape attempt. Amy’s reaction to her blond hair was great, and I enjoyed the way she has a tendency to fling herself into battle. When you only have 20 pages to establish your comic, choosing what you will include becomes so important. If I was reading 50 pages of this new Amethyst comic, the rape thing wouldn’t have stood out in my mind but I have to evaluate what is in front of me. I genuinely wanted to enjoy the first issue of Amethyst in twenty-five years, but I can’t think of this as an Amethyst comic. It is a football player rape comic that happens to feature a lot of blond ladies wearing purple.

PS: The back-up adaptation of Beowulf has gorgeous art and is very intriguing. No Rape!
PPS: Remember that the original maxiseries of Amethyst is being released in a showcase edition! Buy that! There’s no rape in that either!
(ETA: I’m reminded there are two panels of attempted rape. Perhaps Marx is just calling back to the original series with attempted rape in the first issue. Sort of an odd choice to include attempted rape and not Dark Opal!)
PPPS: I think the absolutely adorable version of Amethyst in animated form is going to be on the Cartoon Network this weekend? I think it is fair to assume that there will be no rape in that!

UNL Comics Digital Library Collections

It is seldom that my interest in digital library collections and comic books intersect, but when they do I am always delighted. I stumbled across the Government Comics collection at University of Nebraska-Lincoln today.

This collection has a variety of comic books, ranging from Captain America Goes to War against Drugs to Don’t be a Sugar Daddy to Moonshiners!

UNL also has an Educational Comics collection which features titles like The Wonder Book of Rubber, Crack Busters, and Popeye and Agri-business Natural Resources Careers.

Monkeybrain Comics Quick Takes

When mentions of Monkeybrain Comics exploded all over the comics bloggers twittersphere, I decided to check them out. This is exactly the type of thing I was hoping to get with digital comics – an imprint of reasonably priced, creator-focused, budget friendly comics. At this point I’ve read all but one of the titles for Monkeybrain Comics’ initial launch, so here are some quick reactions.

Bandette by Paul Tobin and Collen Coover
– This was the title I was most excited to read, and I wasn’t disappointed. Bandette is a young thief who steals from evil men. She has a great semi-mod look with a red bob, red dress, black catsuit, and a yellow and black cape. The comic quickly and effectively introduces the extended cast, which includes a mastermind named Monsieur and a downtrodden inspector named Belgique. There’s plenty of fun, self-humor in this title. I enjoyed Bandette’s outrage when she found out that the person she was robbing was home. When she runs away from a pursuit she comments that the bullets are rude, and “Were they not beguiled by my adorable outfit? My charming wit?” Bandette’s faithful steed is of course a vespa, and when she calls on her friends for help she is able to summon a Thai restaurant delivery boy, a group of skateboarders, and a gang of ballerinas. Colleen Coover’s art is so charming. I enjoyed Gingerbread Girl by the same creators, and Bandette looks to be a fun and breezy read.

Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer

It is nice to see more kid friendly digital comics pop up! This title is set on Noah’s Ark during the flood, where the animals pass the time by telling each other fables. The art on this title is really interesting, as the illustrations on the ark are all done in sepia toned pencils with hand-lettering, and the stories the animals tell are done in color, with a bit of a watercolor feel. I think it can be a little tricky making snails and turtles have sympathetic expressions, but Meyer handles that with ease. If there’s an eventual print collection of this title, I would think that both public and school libraries would want to add this to their collections.

Edison Rex #1 by Chris Robertson and Dennis Culver

This is a fun title that answers the question “What would happen if Lex Luthor beat Superman?” Of course, the characters in this title are actually Valiant: Protector of the Earth and Edison Rex: Criminal Genius, but the idea of what would happen next if a criminal genius actually beat a superhero is intriguing. Culver’s art is clean, with a bit of a retro look that suits the story very well. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, as the super criminal becomes a reluctant superhero.

October Girl by Matthew Dow Smith

Autumn is stuck in a dead end job, thinking back on her childhood and how it was much more interesting when she still had imaginary friends. As she goes through her day wondering how she’s going to be able to go to college, she is confronted with the knowledge that her childhood isn’t as far behind her as she thought it was. The art on this title was very evocative, with thin lines and a black, white, and slate blue color palate contributing to the general moody feel of the heroine. This comic mostly focused on Autumn’s thoughts, so I’m interested to see if the second issue provides more action.

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire

This comic was a little bit of a disappointment. It had a higher price and higher page count, but most of story felt like narrative wheel-spinning to me. Amelia Cole is a magic user who can switch back and forth between worlds, but when she fights a demon in the regular world she has to go back and investigate the mysterious occurrence with her aunt. This comic probably suffered a bit from being compared with the other Monkeybrain titles, but I just think that the other books did a much better job introducing the stories and ending on a note that left the reader wanting more. When read the final scene in this comic I was wondering why it didn’t start with the last page, have a couple pages of flashbacks, then continue on with the story. Most of the book was centered on a scene with Amelia and her aunt providing a ton of exposition, and I would rather see the story instead of having it be told to me through a bunch of dialog.

Wander: Olive Hopkins and the Ninth Kingdom by Kevin Church, Grace Allison, and Josh Krach (Disclaimer: Kevin Church has bought me lunch and Josh Krach and I worked on a book together)

Olive Hopkins is a “failed graduate student” and barista who finds herself journeying through a magical world with an elf and a dwarf. One of the things I liked about this book is that it starts straight off in the middle of the action, the action being the characters bickering as they tromp through a landscape being chased by a cave troll. There’s plenty of humor as Shalwyn Arrofall and Luwhil Stonecrusher bicker with each other as you would expect elves and dwarves to do, and Olive is amusingly sarcastic as she faces life in a quasi-medieval kingdom. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the way it contributed to character development, as everyone in the book has a distinct voice and attitude. Along with Bandette, this is one of the funnier Monkeybrain titles, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series plays with fantasy cliches. The art was clear and easy to follow, and there were many great scenes like Shalwyn giving her horrible interpretation of lustiness and Olive being faced with mysterious meat on a stick.

Overall it was nice to see such a promising collection of titles, and I’ll probably try second issues for all of them. It was nice to see so many titles featuring female protagonists as well. Bandette and Olive Hopkins were the most fun to read, and I enjoyed October Girl‘s moody art and unsettling premise.