by Robert Greenberger
The 1980s just before the groundbreaking events of Crisis on Infinite Earths is an interesting period for DC Comics as it welcomed in veterans like Roy Thomas and new editors including Karen Berger. There were some new characters and series as well but none as unique as Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. She was the company’s first female lead in seven years, following David Michelinie and Mike Vosburg’s Starfire. The creation of the newcomers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, Amethyst was illustrated by Ernie Colón, who brought with him a distinctive art style for the maxiseries that set it apart.
The series did well enough to spawn an ongoing, one-shots, and a subsequent miniseries that firmly planted the series deep in the DC cosmology. But then…nothing. The series was a perfect launching pad to attract female readers, generate female-skewing merchandise and the like but the company never seemed to know what to do with it. On the other hand, fans adored the series and now the original stories are being collected, Showcase Presents: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld reprints the preview from Legion of Super-Heroes #298, the 12-issue maxiseries, Amethyst Annual #1, DC Comics Presents #63, and all 11 issues of the Amethyst ongoing. Missing is the four issue mini from Keith Giffen and Esteban Maroto.
Growing up, my daughter Kate adored the series – making a beeline to the DC print library to reread the run whenever she visited — so I wanted to get her perspective and what follows is a brief e-mail exchange we had, where I could hardly contain her unbridled enthusiasm.
Dad: What are your earliest Amethyst memories?
Daughter: Some creaky dusty library with a kindly yet somewhat creepy and scary old man guarding the vault. I don’t actually remember my first encounter with the comic so much but it was clearly an effective technique of getting me to shut up while you did some actual work.
Dad: Do you recall reading the comics at home or only when you visited the DC offices and it’s not really scary print library?
Daughter: Did I really read them at home? Just DC.
Dad: What was the appeal?
Daughter: Hello! Ass-kicking princesses, alternate universes, a little girl gets to be a warrior when she’s summoned, EVIL villains…it was a fairy tale on steroids with way better pictures.
Dad: Was Amy/Amethyst your favorite character or were there others in her world?
Daughter: I liked Emmy, obviously, because she and I were of an age when I first started reading Amethyst. But Amy/Amethyst was where it was at–she was both the teenager with the teenaged issues I had, and this power player in a foreign world where she had to balance the forces of good and evil AND order and chaos. All while mentally still a teenager! Seeing her try to balance her grown-up responsibilities with her adolescent head gave Amethyst a new dimension and added an interesting angle to the typical love triangle.
Dad: What made rereading the maxiseries endlessly satisfying?
Daughter: Political intrigue, fairy tale storytelling, pretty pictures, some deeply evil and disturbing characters (Carnelian still makes me shiver a little). Really, the art helped a lot, and I’m not even talking about the four issues Esteban Maroto did (although those are gorgeous beyond compare).
Dad: Since you were also a Legion fan, did it blow your mind when Gemworld and White Witch’s homeworld turned out to be one and the same?
Daughter: Totally! Let us not forget Dream Girl as well in that. It was nice to see them continue the mythos of Gemworld but also maybe a little cheating.
Dad: What do you think rereading this as a massive collection will be like?
Daughter: Hopefully like magic. I’m really, really looking forward to reading this again as a grown woman and seeing what else I get from it that I missed as a kid. Good versus evil never really gets old, but add a love triangle to that AND a flying unicorn? Now you’re cooking with gas.
Dad: Why should Westfield subscribers order a copy of their own?
Daughter: Because I’ve been pretty much obsessed with this series since I was a kid and was only privileged enough to read it because my dad had a cool job. Most people my age or younger have never even heard of Amethyst and that’s really a shame, given how special it was to have a magic-based comic series (beyond Books of Magic and John Constantine and all that). Gets you ready for October’s Swords and Sorcery anyways.
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #4 cover from the Grand Comics Database.