So, what would a superhero designed to appeal to young girls look like? The answer there may be found with Amethyst, the Princess of Gemworld.
Amethyst was originally a girl named Amy Winston. She was raised on Earth as a typical tween type, when one day she discovered a magical gemstone in her bedroom. Trying it on summoned some ogre types who took her to the parallel universe of Gemworld, where she instantly grew into an adult in a costume a bit more appropriate to the medieval setting, and after a scary meeting with a guy named Dark Opal, she’s taken off by two ogres who try to rape her before she busts free and makes a run for it.
By the by, I mention that rape scene because when Amethyst was revived for the Nu52, there was another attempted rape scene in the first issue that raised some controversy with some readers. That’s a valid complaint, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Nu52 version was not the first version of the character to feature attempted ogre rape.
Furthermore, while I am digressing here, I want to say this: normally, I really enjoy DC’s Showcase Presents line of black-and-white reprints, but when I read the Amethyst volume, the one thing that struck me was I really wish I could have read the series in color. The series as a whole was not a particular favorite of mine, but given the nature of Gemworld, the color scheme was probably important to showcase how alien it was, or how the different houses of Gemworld lined up to the colors of the gemstones they were named after. One thing that always struck me was how much in black-and-white Amethyst resembled 80s action figure/cartoon She-Ra. The color cover on my volume shows Amethyst’s tunic is purple, but take away the purple and it looks white and I think you see where I am going with all this.
That color might have helped with Dark Opal as well. The shading given to the character made it look like he had a striped face. What color was his skin, I wondered at the time. Apparently, it was sort of blue, but the black-and-white volume didn’t tell me that much.
And what kind of master villain goes by the name Dark Opal anyway? Hardly sounds all that threatening…
Anyway, it turned out Amy was adopted. Like a certain Man of Steel, Amy was an orphan sent to Earth to be raised by regular folks, and under the right environmental conditions, she gained all kinds of powers. Granted, her powers were magical, and the right conditions were “being in Gemworld” instead of “under a yellow sun,” but that sure does sound like a certain Superman to me.
Amethyst started out in a 12 issue “maxi-series” before graduating to her own solo series that ran a mere 16 issues. As Amethyst, Amy was a princess in a world with a strong jewel motif, the leader of the head house acting as the last line of defense against the evil of House Opal. Her adventures featured all manner of standard fantasy tropes obviously meant to appeal to young female readers like handsome princes, magical princesses, magic, and flying unicorns. Yes, Amethyst had a flying unicorn as a friend. I am told that friendship is a form of magic.
Amethyst mostly disappeared shortly after the Crisis, but a revival of the character in the Nu52 had her joining the Justice League Dark, and what images I find of her from after my volume suggests she opted for more armor and less tunic. That’s probably not a bad thing, but the original character probably shouldn’t be on the same team as John Constantine. I get the impression Constantine wouldn’t take a threat like Dark Opal all that seriously.