Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld 40th Anniversary!

Through a wondrous portal awash in purple hues, a child steps through. On Earth, she is Amy Winston, thirteen-year-old adopted daughter of Herb and Marion. When she enters the portal to the Gemworld, she becomes twenty-something Amethyst, heir to the violet realm and leader of the jewel-themed kingdoms of the Gemworld.

If you were looking for an ‘80s fantasy that hewed more to Barbie than Conan, you had no further to look than 1983’s “Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld.” Over twelve issues of the original Maxi-Series, readers were treated to a story of magic, romance, and a young woman who came to greater self-understanding by using her powers to save the world of her birth. Almost a reverse Superman, in a way.

Which is ironic, since Amethyst was sold to readers through a special team-up issue featuring the Man of Steel himself.

Written and created by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin, with artist Ernie Colon, Amethyst’s story developed within the DC Universe, but one might say at the very periphery. Aside from the Superman crossover and a Wonder Woman poster on Amy’s bedroom wall, the Maxi-Series is remarkably free of meddling from the larger DC Universe. This is to the series’ benefit. So many comics get bogged down in “crossover fatigue” these days, so it’s refreshing to read something that can be taken as a self-contained story. It hews much closer to the manga model of storytelling, with a single creator/creative team telling the story they originally envisioned.

And what a story!


Shortly after Amethyst’s birth, the villainous Dark Opal attacked the House of Amethyst and killed Amy’s parents, the Lord and Lady Amethyst. Usurping their leadership position in the Gemworld, Dark Opal began his reign of terror. He would have killed the baby Amethyst too, but the good witch-mother Citrina hid Amethyst in the human world, far away from the claws that grasped for power in Gemworld. But before Citrina can gently reintroduce her charge to the wondrous magic of her birthright, Amy is kidnapped by henchmen of Dark Opal, who spirit her away through a magic portal. Time passes more slowly on Earth than on Gemworld, because when Amy is brought through, she goes from middle-schooler to mystic goddess. The series is a bit coy whether Amethyst is just Amy in a grown-up body, or if she actually becomes an adult. She seems to vacillate between the two – at one time leading armies against Dark Opal, and others crying over her crush on Prince Topaz.

The series is ostensibly marketed to young girls, though being a product of the 80s, it reads far darker than a version that would be produced today. In the first two issues, Amethyst is threatened with rape, an all-too-common storytelling shortcut of the time to show how evil the baddies were. It lands poorly when we realize that Amethyst is basically a thirteen-year-old girl on the inside. Thankfully, Amethyst is rescued by Granch, one of the children of Dark Opal who allied himself with Citrina and Amethyst.

The Maxi-Series takes us on a tour of the Gemworld and its kingdoms: the stormy peaks of Lord Garnet, the ocean islands of Lord Aquamarine, the deserts of Sardonyx, and so forth. After the death of Lord and Lady Amethyst, the rest of the Gemworld nobility have reluctantly submitted to Dark Opal’s rule. Amethyst gains allies in Lord Garnet and Lady Sapphire, makes enemies including Carnelian, Dark Opal’s adopted son from Earth. She falls in love with Prince Topaz, gets a flying unicorn from Lord Garnet, and tries to balance her new duties and role in Gemworld with her normal life back on Earth. A constant plot point is her not wanting to tell her parents about the Gemworld and their distress every time she disappears.

In the end, much like Dorothy Gale, Amethyst decides “there’s no place like home” and after the defeat of Dark Opal, decides to return to her life in Earth, but vowing to help the Gemworld if they need her. This handily left the series open to the possibility of returning if sales were good.

Ongoing Series and 4-Issue Mini

And apparently the sales were good enough to net Amethyst a 1984 Annual volume that served as a bridge between the Maxi-Series and an ongoing series that debuted in January 1985. This series saw major changes come to the Gemworld. In the power vacuum after Dark Opal’s defeat, other lords and ladies of the realm vied for the political upper hand. There were secrets long buried that were finally revealed, and the torturous love triangle between Amethyst, Prince Topaz, and Lady Turquoise. There is also a long subplot about the portals between Gemworld and Earth getting clogged with magic debris, leaving the young Princess Emerald, who is Amy’s age, stranded with the Winston family on Earth.

Unfortunately, in 1986 the series lost its largely self-contained narrative when Amethyst (and every other DC character of the era) was swept up into the crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” This was an attempt at both narrative and practical storytelling, as DC wanted to merge all the different “Earths” of their multiverse stories into one contained universe. There were character casualties, high-stakes drama, and crossover books galore. This was the event that really kicked off the “HUGE CROSSOVER STORYLINE” mentality that has infected DC and Marvel Comics ever since.

In a retcon spun out of this Crisis, Amethyst is revealed to be the child of a Lord of Order. In the DC Universe, these are the supreme beings who fight the Lords of Chaos for balance in the universe. Dr. Fate is one of the Lords of Order (or rather confusingly, his helmet is one). During the events of the Crisis, Amethyst was blinded and returned to Gemworld by Dr. Fate. This turning point in the story feels profound; indeed, the characters no longer feel like the cast we saw prior. Amethyst herself becomes an angry, bitter character who bemoans her blindness and newfound fate as a Lord of Order. She curses Citrina for not telling her the truth, and wishes more than anything for a life back on Earth where she can still see.

It is worth noting that this abrupt tonal shift also coincides with the end of Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn’s tenure writing the series. While Ernie Colon continue to provide lovely pencils, the full creative team from the Maxi-Series is no more, and it shows.

Eventually, a Lord of Chaos called The Child comes to claim Gemworld with his crystal henchman Flaw, and the final issues of the ongoing Amethyst series deal with Amethyst’s fight against them. In the end, because of the Crisis events, Amy’s own mother has forgotten who she is, and the Princess Emmy (Emerald), who was staying with the Winstons on Earth, replaces Amy in her mother’s mind as her child. Forgotten by all who love her, Amethyst returns to Gemworld for a final battle with The Child, where she defeats him by merging them together – Chaos and Order – and letting the Gemworld absorb their bodies and essences to save it from being destroyed.

In the end, Amethyst becomes a myth to her own people. Her great love Prince Topaz marries the Lady Turquoise, and the Gemworld goes on without her. It’s depressing in a quintessentially nihilistic ‘80s way; a sour ending to a series that starts as tale of magical destiny and triumph. (I think it’s telling that in the collected edition of “Showcase Presents Amethyst” that this final arc is not included.)

The ongoing series is followed in 1987 by a 4-issue limited series written by the same team who wrote the last few issues. The best thing about this one is the art, which is mystical and utterly gorgeous. The plot is a 13-year jump from the end of the Ongoing Series, and sees Amethyst revived. Unfortunately, it is again tied into the larger DC Universe and the Gemworld and its characters pay the price.

Christy Marx Reboot

From 1987 onward, Amethyst went largely dormant in the DC Universe. It was during this time that Ronnie and I actually found out about the character. After we got into Jewel Riders in 1995, Ronnie’s father gave him some Amethyst comics as a read-alike. We enjoyed them even though we’d never heard of the character. (She was only twelve years old then, but in the pre-internet age finding any information about fandom things was next to impossible).
Fast forward another seventeen years to 2012 and DC had gone through another major shakeup, this time launching a whole new universe for its characters called the “New 52.” This reboot placed all the major characters at earlier points in their super-heroic careers. It also re-introduced characters that had either fallen out of continuity or been otherwise lost to previous crossovers and “Crisis” events. One of the characters I never expected – but was delighted – rebooted was Amethyst. This time written by Jem and the Holograms writer Christy Marx! Christy also wrote the Sisterhood of Steel comics during the ’80s, which ran during the same years as Amethyst. (Jewel Riders fans may remember that Christy was a friend of the late Katherine Lawrence, writer of the episodes “Badlands” and “Vale of the Unicorns.”)

This iteration of Amethyst was very different. It kept the idea of Amy Winston, the lost heir of House Amethyst who went to Earth as a child, and the twelve gemstone-based houses, but is a near-total reinterpretation beyond that. Gemworld itself is even renamed Nilaa. Amethyst – here named Amaya – herself is the only character to make the cross over. Citrina, Topaz, Granch, Lord Garnet, etc. are nowhere to be found. Even Dark Opal is replaced as a central villain. In a setup that feels straight out of Jewel Riders, Amethyst’s main villain/rival is her Aunt Mordiel who usurped control of House Amethyst when Amy and her mother Lady Graciel fled to Earth.

The characters eventually fight the DC villain Eclipso, who is revealed in this series to have originally come from House Onyx in Gemworld. It ends on a note of “To Be Continued?” but the answer to that question was revealed with the cancellation notice after 8 issues. Amaya inherits the full power of the Amethyst to beat Eclipso, with both her mother and aunt giving up their portions of the magic. Sadly, this thread is never further explored.
DC Nation Animated Short

During this same period in 2012, DC was doing a series of animated shorts called “DC Nation” which included various DC characters. Amethyst got a small series of her own, where Amy Winston was pulled into her favorite video game: Amethyst Princess of Gemworld! It’s a cute series of shorts, and includes familiar characters like Topaz, Citrina, and Dark Opal. It’s done in an anime-esque style, and may be the first time we see Amethyst with hair in a purple/pink tone. I can’t help but see similarities to all of the isekai anime where characters end up going into another world that either is or is inspired by their favorite video games. It’s a fun idea, especially for animation and the target age group, but I still wish we’d gotten something that hewed closer to the original series. It’s also surprising that the animated shorts don’t work synergistically with the comic series what was coming out at the same time.

Relaunch in Young Justice and Middle Grade comic

Amethyst unfortunately goes away again after 2012 until – after another big DC Universe event, this time called Rebirth? Or Convergence? New Justice? Infinite Frontier? I’ve lost count and am giving up. – 2019 when she appears as one of the titular characters in the relaunched Young Justice comic underneath the Wonder Comics banner. Wonder Comics is DC imprint headed by Brian Michael Bendis, known for launching the Marvel Ultimates universe. This appearance was followed by a 6-issue limited series written and drawn by Amy Reeder.

I think this version of Amethyst is my favorite since the original, largely because she goes back to her roots, including the familiar Gemworld denizens. The relaunch definitely doesn’t take the original as gospel, but the big pieces are all there. It reads more as a soft reboot; Dark Opal is still alive and terrorizing Gemworld along with Carnelian and Sardonyx, for instance, but other elements are subtly different. Time now flows one to one between Gemworld and Earth, and Amy can go back and forth with ease. Amethyst is sixteen, an age that really works well with the concept. Some of the Houses have different looks – for instance, people from Aquamarine now appear with blue skin and aquatic features. But that jives with differences in appearance between the houses first started with the Sword of Sorcery reboot.

In this current version, Amy has never been more a part of the overall DC Universe, including joining her first team with Young Justice. It’s fun in a way to see her interact with characters like Superboy and Robin. I like seeing Amethyst as part of a team, whether that’s with her Gemworld compatriots or her Young Justice friends. It helps to humanize her, and given Amy true friendships helps to pull back from the nihilism that the original series ended with. In fact, one of the big additions to the Amy Reeder limited series is giving Amy two new friends – a prince and commoner from Aquamarine. They test each other over the course of the six issues, and all come out stronger in the end.

If there’s any complaint to be levied against the limited series, I would say that it’s just too short! There’s a metric ton of events, including huge revelations. The breathless pace unfortunately skims over details that feel important, or those all-important breather moments for the audience to catch their breath. I never felt like I got a really good feel for who Amy was as well.

Pivoting again in 2021, DC released a stand-along middle grade graphic novel written by Shannon and Dean Hale (authors of the Ever After High novels and Princess Academy series). This is a very different take on the character. It reverses the standard “grew up on Earth and goes to Gemworld” and instead follows a ten-year-old Amaya of House Amethyst who is sent to the non-magical Earth by her parents for punishment after too many magical pranks in the castle. This accidentally turns into three years on Earth, where Amaya and her “Aunt” Citrina forget all about Gemworld and their true origins. Eventually, Amaya and her best friend from Earth go to Gemworld and find Castle Amethyst abandoned. They are assisted by the young Prince Topaz to find out what happened to the missing royal family, and the mystery of the crystal creature Flaw.

Legacy and Beyond

(Above, compare the digital release’s colors to the old print editions.)

I think it goes without saying that we can call Amethyst the OG western magical girl. She was pre-She-Ra: Princess of Power, Golden Girl and the Guardians of the Gemstones, and all the rest that followed. It seems unfair that people remember She-Ra so vividly yet Amethyst feels like a footnote. It’s certainly heartening to see that in recent years DC has at least remembered that Amethyst exists and tried to do something new with her and Gemworld. Still, it’s a travesty that after all the DC figures, statues, dolls, and collectibles the only Amethyst figure produced is a tiiiny Heroclix figurine based on the Sword of Sorcery version. Where are our beautiful statues of Barbie-esque Amethyst from the ‘80s? Where are figures of the current Amethyst to stand alongside the team members of Young Justice? Where are our collector dolls? There is a rainbow universe of characters to be tapped here. Amethyst really and truly needs an adaptation to a non-comic medium like animation though. Can you imagine an Amethyst animated movie or series on HBOMax? With the successes of shows like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Steven Universe, Star vs the Forces of Evil, and others, Amethyst seems like a natural fit for a modern animated reboot.

Listening to the interview above from the Dollar Bin Bandits Podcast was heartbreaking in a way, because Dan Miskin and Gary Cohn revealed that DC and Kenner went to Toy Fair with Amethyst prototypes but were beat to the punch by Mattel with She-Ra and Galoob with Golden Girl. I have searched for images of these prototypes in scans of Kenner Toy Fair catalogs from ‘84-’87, and while there are many images of Kenner’s DC Super Powers figures I could not find any trace of Amethyst. It is unclear if she would have been a figure, or a “fashion/action” line like She-Ra, or perhaps even full dolls of some kind. Whatever they were, if anyone knows something or has photos of these, we here at the JRA would love to see what might have been.

She even has multiple outfits!

The Jewel Riders Archive gives a hearty recommendation for anyone who wants to experience a seminal character in the history of western magical girls to pick up Amethyst and join her adventures. As you’ve read above, there are so many different places you can jump in depending on what flavor of Amethyst you’d prefer. (Though we confess we’re partial to the ‘80s Maxi-Series.)

We even spend two episodes of the podcast chatting about our love of Amethyst and celebrating her 40th anniversary!

Or check out the Amethyst playlist we made for the Archive YouTube:

Whatever form Amethyst takes, and wherever she might show up next, we want to walk with her through the sparkling portal to Gemworld. We hope you will too.

Friends Together, Friends Forever!

Chris & Ronnie

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