DC's New 'SWORD' Title To Bring Edge to AMETHYST

Sword of Sorcery #0

It's easy to assume DC's new book will fit into a category. The title sounds like a fantasy comic, and the teen girl on the debut cover implies it will have a youthful style.

But Christy Marx, the writer who's bringing the title to DC beginning in September, wants to bring more of an edge to the title than readers might expect. And one of the first ways of establishing its edge will be an appearance by the "Amethyst" character in October's Justice League Dark Annual #1 and Justice League Dark #14 by Jeff Lemire, a story that will be picked up within the pages of Sword of Sorcery

Marx, who's working with artist Aaron Lopresti on the title, also warns that comic readers shouldn't make assumptions:

- On the belief that it's light-hearted: "I don’t want it to have a one-note tone," so it will be everything from "high-adventure to grim reality to humor to romance."

- On the assumption that it's for women: "Good storytelling appeals to either gender."

- On the belief that it's a good-versus-evil fantasy book: "I want the series to have more depth than simplistic good vs. evil. There should be many shades of gray."

But the fantasy genre is also a familiar one for Marx. She's best known for her work in animation on series like Jem and The Holograms and Spider-Man, but has also worked on comic titles like Conan and Red Sonja. She's also won fans with her creator-owned fantasy comic, Sisterhood Of Steel.

With Sword of Sorcery, Marx joins three other writers who are launching new comics in September as DC refines it New 52 line-up. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about the comic.

Newsarama: Christy, how would you describe this series overall? Is it light- hearted? Edgy? Basically, what kind of comic is Sword of Sorcery?

Christy Marx: It will be somewhat edgier than the original series, but I don’t want it to have a one-note tone. I’m weary of series, whether comics or TV or whatever, that are unremittingly grim. I want Amethyst to vary in tone from high adventure to grim reality to humor to (dare I say it) romance. It’s a character-driven series, not a plot-driven series.

Nrama: Now that you've started working with Aaron Lopresti on art for "Sword of Sorcery," how would you describe the visual approach to the series?

Marx: I’ve put a lot of work into detailed world-building for the book and Aaron has done a fantastic job of bringing that to life with equally detailed renderings. I love his approach to illustrating strong women, and I get the feeling he’s having a good time with it too. He’s doing beautiful work. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Hi-Fi does with the colors.

Nrama: What would you say are the biggest influences on the style and feel of Sword of Sorcery as the two of you collaborate on the story and art? Is it more like animation, or more like a fantasy novel, or are there other things that have influenced your story?

Marx: I can’t speak for Aaron, but on my end, I drew some of my influence from the original series and tried to honor the essence of it while doing a major reboot for a current audience. I write fairly detailed descriptions and will provide visual reference to convey what I’m looking for. I’m pushing to avoid some of the more clichéd and overused cultural references, such as medieval Europe, and am drawing from other colorful and interesting cultures that aren’t used as often as an inspiration in comics.

Nrama: The title is difficult for me to even say, because I want to say "Sword AND Sorcery." Is there a story behind the title?

Marx: You may be amused to know that I was working on the second script before I even knew that was the title of the series. I still tend to think of it as “Amethyst.”

Nrama: Must be a DC thing. Since we're talking about Amethyst, what's Amy's story as we pick up issue #0?

Marx: We begin with Amy and her mother on Earth as Amy turns 17. Amy’s at odds with her mother over the strange life they’ve led, but things turn even more bizarre when her mother finally takes her home…to another world.

Nrama: How would you describe this new Amy? What's she like as a person, and how does her transition to a princess change or influence her development?

Marx: She’s been trained her entire life to fulfill a certain role without knowing it, nor knowing anything about her true identity, her true name, or the position she’s expected to fill. She’s a smart, strong young woman who’s never had a real home or found her place in the world.

Sword of Sorcery #1

Now she’s faced with an entirely new world and a level of power and authority she never imagined. She has to come to terms with all of that while working out her relationship with her mother and some new family she’s meeting for the first time, not to mention some seriously dysfunctional family history.

Nrama: What's Gemworld like? Will readers of the old series recognize it?

And can you tell us about any new elements you've introduced to the concept?

Marx: I’m seeking to do some solid world building and push in some different directions for the inspiration. I’m avoiding the name Gemworld and treating it as a real world with its own ecosystems and cultures. Think of it as an alien world that was invaded and partially terraformed by sorcerers from Earth. It has magic, but there are rules about how the magic works. Gems and crystals play a crucial part as the focus of that magic, but not the source of it. In this world, power and genetics are inextricably linked.

Nrama: You mentioned an extended family. Who will be among her supporting cast? Is she surrounded by other teen girls, or is there a mix of characters?

Marx: I plan to build a group of female and male characters in her general age range that become her friends or enemies, but there’s also a mix of older characters that play important roles. Because of her strange upbringing on Earth, Amy didn’t have the chance to form strong or lasting friendships. This will the first time she’ll be able to do that. At the same time, those friendships will be affected by her role as the Princess of House Amethyst and the responsibility that thrusts upon her.

Nrama: Are you getting to show an evolution of the character? Does Amy grow from her experiences, or are these more ongoing stories of hero-versus- villain?

Marx: It’s definitely about Amy growing up and growing into her role, finding her place in her home world, and having to adjust to the power struggles of the Cardinal Houses. I want the series to have more depth than simplistic good vs. evil. There should be many shades of gray.

Nrama: When you first approached the chance to reboot the "Amethyst" story, what elements of her character were you hoping to keep, and which ones did you want to update?

Marx: Obviously, we wanted to keep the fundamental story of a girl from Earth who is transported to another dimension and discovers she’s a princess with magical powers. But there are many, many different ways you can develop that same premise.

The first change I wanted to make was to change her age. The story of a 13-year-old had been done, and I preferred working with an older teen-aged character. I also wanted to have a solid reason for why the power of Amethyst was important and that led to the ideas I’m developing around how and why their powers work.

Nrama: Being 17 also brings a little less naïveté to the role, doesn't it, especially since she's been raised on Earth. How does the fact that she grew up on Earth influence her approach to being a princess in another land?

Marx: It will make her more ironic and bemused about being called “princess.” Her manner of speaking will also set her apart. She’ll have some initial cynicism to overcome, and she brings attitudes with her that were normal on Earth, but are at odds with her new home world.

Nrama: What themes do you hope to explore as you write Sword of Sorcery?

Marx: A wide range of them: figuring out who she is and what she’s meant to do in life; dealing with responsibility; coping with love, trust, betrayal, deceit; struggling with the inherent dangers of power; holding onto her sense of justice in a ruthless culture; longing for a place to call home…just to name a few.

Nrama: DC has already revealed that her main protagonist is her aunt. How would you describe her villainous aunt?

Marx: She’s a woman who is obsessed with power, who believes that being strong and unyielding is the right way to manage the power of House Amethyst. I don’t want her to be a cardboard cutout of a villain and there are other sides to her. She’s a woman who yearns for a daughter and here’s Amy, who could be like the daughter she never had…if she could win her away from her sister.

On the other hand, Amy represents a threat to her hold on power. She will be conflicted in her feelings toward Amy.

Nrama: The comic features a back-up story by Tony Bedard about Beowulf. Are there any thoughts yet about crossing over the two stories?

Marx: Not that I know of. I don’t know anything about the Beowulf feature yet other than what I’ve seen in the same PR that you’ve seen.

Nrama: Are you being tasked with figuring out how this story fits within the DCU? How would you answer the belief that fantasy doesn't fit well with superheroes?

Marx: Superheroes are fantasy. I mean really, let’s think about it. Virtually none of them are based on any kind of reality or even a genuine science fiction basis. They are fantastical and fit what I consider to be a sub-genre of fantasy.

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Sword of Sorcery #2

As for magic, you can look at it this way: if string theory is correct, there can be infinite universes coexisting side by side. Those universes can each have their own physical properties or varying laws of physics. Combine that with the famous saying by Arthur Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and there are endless possibilities there.

But no, it’s not my job to figure out how she fits into the greater DCU. There are quite a few magical and supernatural characters in the DCU, so the magical component is already in place.

Nrama: Any chance we'll see the Amethyst characters interact with other DC heroes who are already established in the New 52 world?

Marx: Amy makes a small appearance in an upcoming Justice [League] Dark Annual and issue #14 of that same series. I’ve been coordinating the crossover with Jeff Lemire, so you’ll see pieces of it in my book as both set-up and aftermath.

Nrama: Is there any chance you might return to Sisterhood of Steel now that you've started writing comics again?

Marx: Absolutely. I’ve wanted to bring SoS back for a long time. My biggest hurdle right now is finding the right artist.

Nrama: How long are you planning to continue the story of Amethyst within the Sword of Sorcery book? Since it's been described as an anthology, are you only doing one story? Or are you going to be on the series longer?

Marx: I’ll continue it for as long as they want me. Or until I wear out on it, which I don’t expect to be any time soon.

Nrama: There have been a lot of fans of the old series that have responded positively to the return of Amethyst. But there's also a habit of male comic readers to dismiss a comic about a 17- year-old girl as something with which they won't identify. What would you say to someone who's thinking that way about Sword of Sorcery?

Marx: The only way they can know that is to read the book and find out whether they can get into the tale or not. Good storytelling appeals to either gender. Male readers appreciate a good story and interesting character development as much as any female reader. It’s ludicrous to stereotype male readers as only liking certain things because it isn’t true, no more than it’s true that women readers only like certain things. That’s so limiting.

I hope people will set aside assumptions and give it a try.

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