Analysing Amethyst: Did DC Doom Their Own Series?

If you’re interested in DC’s Sword of Sorcery  (alternatively sometimes just referred to as Amethyst) you’ll have heard by now that it’s been canceled. Anyone who reads my blog from time to time will know I’m quite the fan of Amethyst. Not just because the quality of the book but because of what she, as a character and a series, represents. She was a female lead in a market dominated by male characters. The significance of that can’t be understated.

The book’s sales were never huge, I won’t argue that. But I will shout to anyone that’ll listen that this was a series worth reading. I don’t think DC should have canceled the book, that much is obvious. But DC made a multitude of choices that muddied its chance to find or retain an audience.

 

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The cover for issue 5, on sale tomorrow.

 

Sword of Sorcery? Amethyst? Sword of Sorcery Featuring Amethyst?

The first problem is the name. Upon it’s announcement Sword Of Sorcery raised a number of questioning eyebrows. Originally Sword of Sorcery ran in 1973 and lasted a grand total of one year. Other than the name there’s very little the current incarnation has in common with the original. The official title of the book on most listings is Sword Of Sorcery but the covers have Amethyst in large purple text while Sword of Sorcery is pushed away at the top. Already without even reading the book it’s confusing what it is. I wouldn’t blame the casual comic book fan from wondering if Sword Of Sorcery and Amethyst are two separate titles.

 

Is This An Amethyst Book Or An Anthology?

The official reason DC went with Sword of Sorcery is because the book has a backup tale as well as Amethyst. Beowulf made up the first backup and was a perfectly satisfactory story, but why was it even included? The backup has absolutely no ties to Amethyst whatsoever. In that case you may think the book is purely an anthology, but if DC were aiming for that then why is Amethyst on every single cover? And why does her name take up more space than any other text? At a glance the book is purely Amethyst, I’d be surprised if most people even realised there was a backup when purchasing it. What were DC trying to create? The name and content create such a confusing issue. It feels very much as if they wanted to have an Amethyst book but tacked on a backup story just in case.

This is where I start speculating, I believe DC had little confidence in Amethyst surviving on her own. Looking at the evidence it seems that DC wanted to revive Amethyst but didn’t expect the female series and feminine sounding premise to sell. I suspect at this point they came up with the idea to sell the book as an anthology, that way if Amethyst turned everyone off they could theoretically switch her out. The backup story lets them get away with calling it an anthology. Call me paranoid if you must, but I think Beowulf was only added to try balance out Amethyst because they didn’t expect the 18-35 male demographic to want to read about her (ironically I am a male between the age of 18-35). It’s possible that DC came up with the idea for the anthology first and Amethyst was just their first choice to fill the role. But if so why cancel the series altogether? If Amethyst was just filling the position temporarily then why not swap her out now instead? It’s something else that suggests the series was Amethyst first, and an anthology second.

 

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Beowulf’s name is tucked at the bottom of each cover, but he never makes an appearance on any.

 

A further problem caused by slapping an extra story in meant increasing the price. So DC had a book with a confusing title, an unclear premise, staring a character most had never heard of and on top of it all they were asking people to pay extra.

If DC had full confidence that Amethyst would sell on the strength of Christy Marx’s writing, then they wouldn’t have had to give it such a confusing title or a higher price to justify the unnecessary backup. It annoys me that this could have been the case as the market will never diversify if the companies keep trying to fill every book with the same stuff we’ve seen over and over. A clearer title, and a lower price especially, could have done a lot to bring in extra readers.

 

Did It Release Too Early?

Meanwhile DC Nation, the animated block of DC cartoons on Cartoon Network, recently added an Amethyst short to their lineup. I’ve praised in detail the decision to do so in an earlier article so I won’t do so again. However, you have to balk at the absurdity of pushing the character out at a new audience right as they cut the character’s own comic from the lineup. This was an absolute perfect opportunity to cross promote but instead I haven’t seen DC make any official ties towards the two in any way. If the comic series was delayed to coincide with the TV shorts then it would have been a great piece of advertisement,  especially considering that feedback has been very positive for the shorts.

 

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The DC Nation shorts have been very well received so far.

 

So Issue One Is Issue Two?

Another mistake is that DC launched the book in zero month. For that entire month every DC series was an issue #0. What that meant differed from book to book. Most series’ had to halt their ongoing story to tell one-shot tale set before the series began. This led to a number of readers outright skipping the issues, as the quality and plot necessity of the zero issues differed widely. The majority of the zero issues felt like unwanted editorial interference forced on the writers.

Due to Sword of Sorcery launching in this time period it meant the book was in the bizarre position of having to be a prequel to a story that hadn’t even started. Issue #0 turned out to simply be issue #1, with the actual first issue essentially being the second issue of the story. This of course meant that issue 1 wasn’t a first issue at all so anyone who sought out the first issue to jump aboard was arriving right in the middle of the story.

 

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The cover for issue 0, the first issue of the series.

 

Alas…

I can point out mistakes all day but that doesn’t change the fact that Sword of Sorcery is canned. We’ve been promised that Amethyst will be around after in the DC universe but her series is well and truly dead. Sadder still DC are now less likely to produce other stand alone female fronted books. Amethyst was unique in that she had no pre-established ties to any male character or team book, she started alone. With her failure DC are now less likely to take that chance again. The most notable replacement we’ve got for Amethyst is Katana but already she’s being billed as a JLA spin-off. Not only that, quality of the book aside, she’s another super hero. Amethyst had a whole fantasy world that’s being taken away with her.

If you’re reading this I implore you to pick up the last few issues of Sword of Sorcery, physically or digitally. Show DC that there’s room for her in their lineup and demand for a story like hers.

 

Author: Mia Violet

Mia has been blogging about comics and video games for several years from her home in merry ol’ England. She invites you to take a look around the blog before saying hello on Twitter, where she can be found tweeting about pop culture from @PanelsAndPixels

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1 Comment

  1. This Is so true. There is far too little strong female leads in comics, and when one is finally created who has massive potential? They decide to drop it.
    They’re screwing themselves over really as it would’ve likely boomed had they given it the chance to do so.
    It’s a way to get more female fans of comics as well, even those who aren’t as passionate as me or you.
    I think the main issue here in the uk is the lack of advertising. Until I was introduced by a friend I had no idea that comics were even sold or the massive variety that there is within the comic industry.
    I totally agree though, BRING BACK AMETHYST

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