CHRISTY MARX on BIRDS OF PREY, AMETHYST & Female Creators

Christy Marx is a name that's starting to get attention from DC comic readers.

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Not only has she launched the new Sword of Sorcery book to rave reviews, revamping Amethyst of Gemworld for new audiences, but Marx will soon take over Birds of Prey, another DC title that focuses on female leads.

Marx is already making waves in the industry because she's a female comic book writer with a desire and knack for writing female superheroes — a combination that's a bit uncommon in the industry. And she has strong opinions on why there's a dearth of female creators and lead characters, and she's not afraid to share them.

But that doesn't mean her books aren't also appealing to male comic book readers, which is why DC is giving her a second title in their New 52.

On Sword of Sorcery, Marx works with Aaron Lopresti. And she brings a lot of experience with the fantasy genre as well as superheroes. She's best known for her work in animation on series like Jem and The Holograms and Spider-Man, but has also worked on titles like Conan and Red Sonja. She's also won fans with her creator-owned fantasy comic, Sisterhood of Steel.

Sword of Sorcery launched in September, with its fourth issue due next week. Newsarama talked to Marx to find out more about her plans for both Birds of Prey and the future of Amethyst in Sword of Sorcery.

Newsarama: Christy, after working a few months on Sword of Sorcery, you're taking over the Birds of Prey itle. Before we talk about what you've got coming up for Amethyst, what excites you about taking over Birds of Prey, and what can you tell fans about your plans for that title?

Christy Marx: I was interested in the mix of characters and the possibilities they offered. And I do love kick-ass women.

In general, it’s too early for me to say anything more. I’m still absorbing a ton of previous material and doing my initial thinking about the direction.

Nrama: Now that we've seen Amy being thrust into this new world and situation, where is her head as we go into next week's issue #3?

Marx: She’s still figuring out who she is and what her role is in this new situation. She went from feeling like an outsider in a place she knew well (Earth) to being a person with a significant position, title and responsibilities in a world that she knows nothing about. That’s a severe culture shock and she’s taking it one day at a time. The one constant in her life is her mother. You’ll see more about the importance of that relationship when Amaya comes face-to-face Mordiel for the first time.

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Nrama: How would you describe the challenges Amy's going to be facing in the next few issues?

Marx: She’s going to learn the truth about what happened to her father, face life and death situations, and coming up in issue #6, she will unwittingly unleash an ancient evil that will threaten to destroy all of Nilaa. Aside from that, not much will happen.

Nrama: That's a lot! And you know, this comic seems fast paced, not only because you have packed so much into each issue, but also because there's this sense of urgency as Amy has to deal with her new situation. Was that your goal for the launch of the comic? And will that continue going forward?

Marx: A lot of that comes from me trying to pack a significant amount of story into 20 pages. It’s terrifying how quickly I can fill up 20 pages when I have numerous story threads to weave together.

Nrama: One of the other things that sticks out about this incarnation of Amethyst is Amy's humor. Why did you make the choice to mix that into this series? Was it important to alleviate the heavier aspects of the sci-fi/fantasy world you're building?

Marx: That was how I heard her voice in my head. She’s resilient and smart and uses humor to help make her way through life. It shows she has a sense of perspective. I think a teenage character who was totally emo would become boring quickly. But with Amy/Amaya, we can sense when she’s using humor to deal with a difficult situation or take the edge off her own feelings. And when she gets serious, that’s when we know things have gotten too dangerous or deadly to joke about.

Nrama: Amy also stands out as a great female lead who's accessible to all ages (and both genders). Strangely, that seems to be unusual in superhero comics. How did you approach this character in a way that would appeal to a wide audience?

Marx: This may sound simplistic, but it’s worked for everything I’ve written throughout my career. I write the characters and stories that I would enjoy reading about myself. I’m interested in fascinating worlds with cultural depth. I’m interested in characters that face the issues and challenges we all face in one form or another, and deal with them they best they can. I like action and excitement. I like romance and emotional tension. I like mystery and intrigue. I like weaving tapestries of layered stories.

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And when I do those things, most people enjoy it along with me. So it wasn’t a case of saying to myself: “How can I make this character appeal to the most people?” It was more a case of feeling my way towards characters that came alive for me and inspired me to write stories about them.

Nrama: The villain in Amy's life is also a female, Mordiel, which is a little different from the male villains in the older incarnation of Amethyst. Why did you choose this villain in particular for the story, and is there a reason it felt more appropriate to have a female villain?

Marx: I knew the heart of my story was going to be the mother-daughter bond of Graciel and Amaya. Given that, it only made sense to go with an equivalent female character as the opposition, especially one with a blood tie. It fit neatly into the idea of the blood-power being tied to genetic traits and it gave a more direct, personal relationship to the struggle to control House Amethyst. Making that character male would have completely altered the feel of that struggle. That said, we’re also going to see Amaya go up against a male villain.

Nrama: Next week's Sword of Sorcery #4 has a guest appearance by John Constantine. How do these two characters get along? What's their meeting going to be like?

Marx: Amaya sees Constantine as this weird older guy. She doesn’t know much about him and doesn’t quite get what he’s about. I tried to inject some humor into their relationship, but there’s an edge underneath it because Constantine isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy person. He has secret knowledge that’s going to cause Amaya serious pain, but that’s not going to stop him from using it.

Nrama: You've been doing a lot of world-building already in the comic, including some political maneuvering that gives the comic a more mature feel at times. How would you describe the world we're getting to know in the series, and can you tease what else we might discover about Gemworld and its different factions?

Marx: We have a three-issue arc coming up that’s going to turn Nilaa upside down and radically change some of the key factions we’ve seen so far. I have a lot of additional intrigue lurking in the background for other major Houses, such as Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire, but haven’t had the time to get to those. The focus will be mainly on Amethyst, Diamond, Citrine, Turquoise and Onyx for the time being. There’s some deep back-story relating to Onyx and Diamond that will surface in association with a major DC villain. There are hints all over the place, for those who’ve been paying attention.

 

Nrama: Have you gotten any feedback from female readers in particular about this comic? Have you discovered anything about the appeal of the character and/or comic that has surprised you or touched you after hearing from fans?

Marx: I haven’t seen much feedback yet, other than in a handful of blogs which had mixed reactions. Generally, I’ve seen positive reviews, but I don’t have a strong sense yet of what the female readers think of it.

Nrama: There's been quite a bit of attention paid by comic fans toward the dearth of female creators who work for major comic book publishers. Do you have any ideas about why women aren't attracted to this type of creative field, and what would you suggest publishers or other industry folks might do about it?

Marx: I feel there’s been a Catch-22 at work with comics. Comics were mainly written and drawn with young boy readers in mind for decades. As those readers grew up, they wanted more mature stories and comics began to reflect that. They entered the field and became the subsequent generations of comic creators, but they were primarily male and tended to create for their type of male audience. Those who market comics don’t see female readers attracted to these books — big surprise — and it reinforces the notion that females aren’t interested in comics and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I see this happen big-time time in the videogames business as well.

You can get female readers, but they need the right material pitched to them the right way.

Nrama: Reviewers are loving the story, but are also especially complimentary of Aaron Lopresti's artwork. How has it been collaborating with him on the series?

Marx: I can’t say enough good things about Aaron. He’s a true professional, a gentleman, and a wonderful artist. He’s pushed himself hard to do exceptional work on this book. HiFi has done an equally superb job with the colors, especially considering how important color is to these stories.

Nrama: Are you still planning to be on the comic for a long time? How far ahead are you planning out the story you're telling?

Marx: I have an enormous amount of material I hope to use. For the moment, I’m focusing on the special story arc that will have such a major impact on the world, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Nrama: What can you tell us about your hopes for Sword of Sorcery in 2013?

Marx: I’d love to see it become a sleeper hit, get its own title, and give me more pages of story to work with, so that I can get into more intricate storytelling.

Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Sword of Sorcery?

Marx: Please support the book    and spread the word! If we want to see more female-oriented material by female creators, we need to see the support for that. And my deepest thanks to those who are giving the book their support.

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