Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld Creative Team Talks New DC Graphic Novel

DC's middle-grade line of graphic novels is truly one of the gems of the publisher's lineup and one of the brightest new gems among them is Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld. A reimagining of the young hero's story for a new generation from writers Shannon and Dean Hale with art by Asiah Fulmore, the new original graphic novel sees young Princess Amaya take a magical prank a little too far, prompting her parents to ground her to Earth for a bit of perspective. Unfortunately, that one-week time out ends up lasting three years during which Amy, as she's now called, has settled into life there. When she's returned to Gemworld, she has to readjust to the life she left behind as well as her magical destiny - and maybe save the day, too.

While there have been new takes on Amethyst before - most recently in a six-issue 2020 series under the Wonder Comics banner by writer-artist Amy Reeder - Amethyst has a long history dating back to her first appearance in 1983 and it turns out that Dean Hale has been a fan for quite some time himself - and he and Shannon have long wanted to take on the character. In fact, they first pitched the idea over a decade ago.

"We had been, Shannon and I, have been thinking about Amethyst for quite a while," Dean told "I also am a long-time fan. If you had the camera on, I'd show you my copy of Amethyst No. 1."

"And you introduced them to me probably about 20 years ago and at that time, we were both, I was writing novels, and we were both lamenting that there just weren't more comics specifically about kids and geared towards kids," Shannon said. "We just met so many kids who are visual learners and we love comics and comics were becoming less accessible to younger readers. So, we actually pitched an Amethyst Princess of Gemworld reboot for younger readers in like 2004. And they were not feeling it at that time. But then DC approached us a few years ago and said 'you know if you wanted to do an OGN for this new line, who would you want?' And we were really lucky because we were one of the first people they talked to so we said Amethyst and Wonder Woman. And they said okay and we were like 'whoa! Are you kidding?' It was literally a dream come true."

Shannon went on to explain that when they started to work on their version of the story, one of the things that was important to them was to adjust some of the aspects of the original that hadn't aged well - and that led to a bit of a new look for the character as well.

"And so as we were thinking we thought a lot about when we were doing Amethyst what our take would be for her and rereading the old stuff," she explained. "One thing that became apparent is that it was a little disturbing that she was a kid and then an adult. Because she's really a child in an adult body and then I don't know if you remember the original ones, but there was a lot of rape threats and it's very disturbing, especially in any context, but especially, you know, she's 12 in this adult body and so that part and so that part... it doesn't age well. So, we wanted to instead of having her age up, Gemworld-ify her, where the hair is bigger, the clothes are different, and you have magic powers."

Giving Amaya and Gemworld its distinctive look is artist Asiah Fulmore. Fulmore explained that she came into the process inspired, especially about the hair, but also spoke about the challenge of making Gemworld look and feel real.

"It was, I'm not going to lie, pretty easy because I had great help setting it up," Fulmore said. "I very much came into it inspired, that was great. The hair was a must. I remember that very early in the design process."

She continued, "I'm biased here, but I like the backgrounds. They were, for me, probably my most uncomfortable area. I'm not going to say that I'm bad at it, I do say that I'm uncomfortable. Most of my character energy, I always think of things and emotions are like in my head like a full cartoon already out there. Like I watch it every weekend, like they're real. Like I just take a picture of them. But for the background, I very much felt like I needed to nail this fantastic energy. I need to have it feel magical, like I definitely took a more stubborn approach with the background So I'm glad that they came off feeling like, correct, because that was very important. These characters, they're going to be great already the way they are written makes it extremely easy to see them and draw them and them real. But these backgrounds? Gemworld is a real place and I need to make sure that it feels real so I'm glad that came off."

And it isn't just Gemworld as a location that feels real. Despite the story's fantastical elements, the Hales took great effort to ground Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld in reality through its characters and their relationships, something that meant making them flawed. Particularly Amaya herself.

"Whenever you're dealing with something that's fantastical, you also want to ground it in reality and the grounding is through the characters. So you want to make sure the characters are realistic and the relationships between the characters feel real and genuine," Shannon said. "And for us, it was just, if you grew up a princess with magical powers you're probably going to be snotty, be honest. And there's so much I love about the original series, but one thing that I didn't love is it feels like it, and this is true of more than just the Amethyst comic, but in the past girls had to be perfect. Like, boys can have more complexity, but girls, readers had a lower tolerance for girls making mistakes just generally. And characters like Ramona were groundbreaking because it was like, here's a girl who's a troublemaker and we love her, we love her anyway. So it just felt realistic to let Amaya be a troublemaker and at its heart, being a troublemaker isn't a bad thing. But through the process of the story, she gets to get some perspective and a way to use her trouble and she's there to change who she is. She decides to use her powers for good. And that's, I think, something every human on the planet is learning. How do we use the powers that we have inherently for good."

Dean added, "And there's a little bit of a mythological trope and like, I don't want to do a shout out to an alternate comic company, but you know, Thor when he was originally introduced is like 'Okay, you need to learn humility and there's the 'whole with great power comes great responsibility and you can say that, but you kind of have to learn it."

Learning that it's okay to make mistakes and that no one is perfect and, thus, everyone is worthy, is something Shannon said was an important part of the message of Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld.

"Every character, we can say that but, every person has to have the experience to learn it for ourselves," Shannon said. "As parents, we do want to give kids room to make mistakes and take away the expectation of you have to be perfect or you don't have worth. There's nobody perfect so even though she is naughty and a troublemaker and we do not approve of what she does at the beginning especially, she's still worth the story. Every person, however imperfect, they are still worthy of their story."

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld is on sale now.