It is not a secret that I’m a huge Amethyst fan! Amethyst isn’t available in a collected edition but it is well worth visiting the back issue bins at your local comic book store to collect the series, especially the first 12 issue mini-series.
Amethyst co-creators Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin graciously agreed to answer a few questions from me via e-mail.
1) How did you come to be involved with Amethyst? Were the characters sketched out before you came aboard, or did you do the bulk of the world building and character development?
GARY: Amethyst was purely ours, and predated our work with DC. I don’t recall if Dan’s first daughter, Grace, was born yet when we were graduate students together at the Department of Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State in Ohio, but I think she might have been, which would contribute to our having been thinking about stories for girls. We had adjacent desks. We were teaching assistants…Dan and I have been friends since our mid-teens, and he came there a year after I’d started. We were seriously trying to break into comics and had started a correspondence with an editor at DC, Jack Harris, that eventually led to our first sales. Anyway, we’d sit around the office and brainstorm comics ideas, and one day one of us noted there wasn’t much of anything for girls. So we started back-and-forthing ideas (our best work mode) and started talking about the archetypal “girl” story…your parents aren’t really your parents, you’re a magical princess from a fairy tale realm…a changeling. And that’s the name we settled on: Changeling.
The idea only went so far, and then it became just one of a bunch of ideas we had. A few years passed, I moved to NYC, Dan stayed in Michigan, we worked as a team by phone. Somehow (I don’t remember now) someone at DC, maybe editor Dave Manak, asked if we had anything interesting and I started telling him about Changeling. He suggested we work up a proposal. Dan and I started talking that night. The breakthrough came when he came up with the name “Amethyst,” and suddenly the name GEMWORLD popped up too…and we started researching gem lore, and we were off and running! Sometime later Manak mentioned Ernie Colon. I said I loved his work, and that’s how Ernie came aboard. Once he started visually imagining the series more and more ideas came. The three of us created everything, with editorial input from Manak and, I seem to recall, Len Wein.
DAN: Gary’s recollection lines up with mine for the most part, though there are a few things I remember differently or can just flesh out. First of all, my daughter Grace was born when we’d already been doing work for DC, a few years after we came up with the idea. She did have some influence, though: I remember sitting in an easy chair with her in my arms and a pad of paper on the arm of the chair, and writing dialogue for Dark Opal to speak to Amethyst along the lines “You’re nothing but a babe in arms compared to me!” And then realizing where the line came from.
Dave Manak asked us initially to propose an ongoing eight-page series for one of the â€œmysteryâ€ anthology books he was editing, and somehow it turned into its own solo book (the same thing happened when we created Blue Devil). And I still have a distinct recollection of the moment the name Amethyst popped into my head as I stood in the kitchen in my apartment in Flint, Michigan. And the excited phone call with Gary that followed.
As for character building and world building, I have to echo Gary and make sure we give tons of credit to Ernie. Even though Gary and I came up with all the basic ideas, everything that Ernie did was an inspiration to refine and shape and often go in new directions — I learned lots about who the characters were from the way Ernie drew them. I think, by the way, that I was the one who proposed Ernie as the artist because I really liked his work on The Grim Ghost in the seventies…something that Ernie found a little shocking because he tends to see only the flaws in his older work.