Published on October 18th, 2012 | by Setsu Uzume0
Elfquest Returns for “The Final Quest”
In the beginning, there is a dying world. The brave explorers who left their home to seek a new one crash-land on The World of Two Moons: the wrong planet. The early humans drive the elves from their home, setting the stage for eons of conflict, fear, and hatred. The immortal and semi-immortal elves live their lives parallel to the course of human history; from the pre-historic to tribal, medieval, industrial and distant future. The story follows Cutter, chief of the Wolfrider tribe, and his quest to reunite the surviving elves that were scattered all those years ago.
Welcome to the world of Elfquest, a tale begun in 1977 by writers Wendy and Richard Pini, and that has since gained thousands of fans across the world. At long last, the newest edition to the series, “The Final Quest,” has just launched on Boing Boing.
Boing Boing, one of the most read blogs in the US, turned out to be the perfect spot from which to launch Elfquest‘s latest story arc. When the Pinis saw that a mention on Boing Boing helped generate traffic on Elfquest‘s Facebook page, they decided to go for it and release “The Final Quest” as a weekly online publication. It turns out that several Boing Boing staff members were long-time fans, including Managing Editor Rob Beschizza.
“The cross-pollination between our respective audiences is a lot of fun, too,” Beschizza said. “Completely coincidentally, one of our contributors turned in a feature about Elfquest’s mythological echoes just when we announced it was coming to BB.”
Over the years, other artists and writers have worked with the Pinis on spinoff series, expanding the canon with tales of the elves’ ancestors and quests of future generations. These stories introduced us to different tribes and took us to the grasslands, distant jungles, the frozen north and even deep under water. In “The Final Quest,” the elves have rediscovered their history, and are able to re-activate the palace that brought them to the World of Two Moons. However, their way of life may not be able to reconcile with their alien origins. Elves of all tribes may be forced to ask themselves, “Where do we really belong?”
“The feral, omnisexual, hallucinogen-guzzling protagonists aren’t Tolkien-derived clichés,” Beschizza said, “but a freakish medley of European lore, Native American myth and hippy free love. And yet it isn’t at all edgy.“
Elfquest was the first continuous heroic fantasy series that was created, written and illustrated by a woman. Her husband Richard joined the project in 1979 as the publisher, editor, marketer and co-creator. Each and every character has an important role that is defined by their actions—not by their gender. Healers, hunters, guardians, villains—they all have their own demons to battle and fears to overcome. Winnowill—in my opinion, one of the greatest adversaries in all literature—exemplifies cruelty, tyranny, and psychic invasion. Wendy’s world has no room for boring “Mary-Sue” characters, a detail that appeals to the audience that mainstream comics left behind.
Elfquest has always had a very accepting message. Certain issues that come up in our world disappear because the elves have no system for stereotyping each other. The only crime among the elves is trying to take someone else’s choices away.
“Yes, of course there are elves in relationships in Elfquest that could be classified as gay,” Wendy said, “but in their culture and language they don’t have those labels.”
However, the series has received its share of flak; sensuality and sexuality are as integral to the story as conflict and violence, though the fan base is generally in a younger age range. Many fans (including myself) got hooked between the ages of 8 and 12, and material such as “The Infamous Orgy Scene” in issue #17 caused some controversy. However, an 11-year old boy’s letter stood out amidst the criticism.
“He said, simply, in response to the entirety of the scene, ‘Thank you for not talking down to me,'” Richard said. “That letter made our month.”
That uncompromising vision is even more evident in Wendy’s tragic romance, “Masque of the Red Death,” which she is hoping to turn into a musical. But when Wendy heard back from potential producers they told her that the musical would be produced so long as leading lovers Anton and Steffan became Anton and Steffanie.
“Hell to the no,” remarked Wendy at a panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2012. “It’s Anton and Steffan or we don’t do business.”
“Masque” was originally created to be erotica, and many scenes are far more graphic than Elfquest ever was. However, Wendy continues to push the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable. For example, she posted a series of tasteful pinups of her characters, including the androgynous hermaphrodite Bunchh, on her Facebook wall. Because Bunchh’s nipples were interpreted to be female, Wendy’s Facebook was locked down.
This kind of support has re-enforced the Pinis determination to stick to their artistic guns even when opportunities to expand to the silver screen come knocking. In the past, the Pinis have rejected attempts by producers to change the story to suit mainstream audiences. You can bet that if Elfquest ever becomes a movie, it will be on the Pinis’ terms.
“When it comes to characters, or motivations, or the spirit of the thing,” Richard said, “someone (a studio, a director, a scriptwriter) either gets it, or they don’t.”
Elfquest has endured because of the truthful and heartfelt story that rides alongside its lush artwork. What Wendy said in an interview with The Sequential Tart in 2001 remains true today: “Even people who think they’re too cool and above-it-all are secretly starving for that. Stories about relationship complications, heroism, sacrifice and family loyalty may not be considered hip or edgy, but they make a lasting impression and never go out of style.”
For a brief introduction to Elfquest, check out this promo for the first four graphic novels: Wolfrider Intro. All 6000+ pages of the series, its offshoots and movie storyboards are available to read, for free, on Elfquest.com.