Near Miss: Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld

amethystAmethyst, Princess of Gemworld should have been huge.

It’s not like anyone has forgotten about it — it had a pretty big following, even before last year’s reboot and the adorable DC Nation shorts by Brianne Drouhard.

But as someone who grew up on She-Ra and enjoyed playing with various fantasy-oriented toys, I do feel a little sad this comic wasn’t in my life when I was a little girl. I was absolutely the target audience for it (I may have been a couple of years too young for it initially, though).

Created by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn with art through the initial 12-issue run mostly by Ernie Colón, the comic is both a wish-fulfillment fantasy (all girls wish they were secretly princesses who get to ride a winged unicorn. These are true facts) and an awesome metaphor for growing up.

The story starts with 13-year-old Amy, a typical suburban girl with typical parents an all of that. But she’s also Amethyst, the long-lost princess who will save Gemworld. But in Gemworld, she’s not 13. She’s more like 20.

And talk to any teenage girl, and that’s what it feels like. You want to be older, but it’s also terrifying. Your body is changing in ways you don’t quite understand. You’re feeling adult emotions you don’t know how to process.

But Amethyst never pushes that aspect too much. It’s just there. Amethyst/Amy never quite forgets she’s still a teenage girl inside, and neither did I. Even in its darker, more adult moments, I loved her struggle. Amy is smart, yes, and a great fighter, but she never felt perfect.

While I think it’s great that DC did reprint Amethyst in any form, it’s poorly served by the Showcase format. Colón’s art deserves better than cheap newsprint — a lot of his detail is lost — and some of his inventive page layouts tend to be disrupted by the gutter of the book. Still, while there is something undeniably ’80s about the hair and fashion, there’s a delightful sword-and-sorcery feel. He, along with the writers, build a complex world. The comic is action-packed and exciting and remains innocent enough while still pushing the boundaries of more adult subject matter.

And I like that and I would’ve loved that as a girl. (But please note that one of my favorite movies as a kid was The Last Unicorn precisely because it was darker and more adult than a lot of things I saw.) Even at 30 years old, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld remains rare title aimed at girls that feels like it respects them and their perspective. It gets that a  girl can be a beautiful princess while still being smart and strong.

That sadly feels more progressive than almost all of the mainstream comics coming out today.

Near Miss is a semi-regular feature that will be appearing on Comicsgirl throughout 2013. This project is sponsored by Big Planet Comics.

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