Here’s a discovery that recently brought me great joy: BoingBoing has begun publishing new ElfQuest strips by creators Wendy and Richard Pini! The Pinis, who’ve been spinning yarns about elves and their various quests since 1978, have launched ElfQuest: The Final Quest, a new web series that aims to bring some closure to a story that spans over thirty years.
ElfQuest has been a guilty pleasure of mine for nearly 20 years. By the time I discovered those oversized, perfect bound volumes, published by WaRP Graphics, at the back of a B. Dalton Booksellers in a disused New England shopping mall, the Pinis had already created a substantial body of work, starting with Fire and Flight, in which Cutter, chief of the Wolfrider tribe, leads his small band of uniquely hirsute followers out of their woodland home and into a wider world. Winding my way through the Wolfrider’s well-curated world occupied countless afternoons of my childhood, and I came to love those characters as well as any dedicated reader could.
Something about the feral sensuality of the Pinis’ creations really appealed to me. The titular elves (though really, they’re more like extraterrestrials, but that’s another matter entirely) are a long-lived race of telepaths who live in tight knit tribes that exist in (relative) harmony with the environments they inhabit (mostly). Their ability to “send” thoughts enables them to bond with each other and their animal companions in intriguing ways. There are more than a few post-hippy, earth-child vibes flying about, but that’s half the fun. The Pinis have always approached their work with an unselfconscious joy, and that translates very well through their chosen medium.
More than just compelling storytellers, Wendy and Richard were pioneers in self-publishing and creator-owned comics. For over two decades, beginning in the late seventies, the Pinis published ElfQuest under their own WaRP Graphics label, placing them among the earliest independent comic studios, and really setting the stage for a lot of the small press comics to follow (including one of my favorites, Poison Elves, which will be the subject of a forthcoming post. And no, I really have no idea why I apparently gravitate to comics about elves…).
My apparent Elf fixation aside, the Pinis are leaders in another respect: content distribution. Besides the aforementioned arrangement with BoingBoing, which will showcase their all-new content, the creative couple have made their entire corpus of work—over 6500 pages of it—available online at their website, for free. I discovered this fact a little over a year ago, as my graduate school career was coming to an end. It’s safe to say that the Pinis are in no small part responsible for protracting the writing of my thesis, as I found myself completely captivated by all those stories I hadn’t read in years, and several more that they had penned after my childhood interest waned.
Needless to say, ElfQuest sucked me back in, and I think my more mature self was better able to appreciate the subtle complexities of the relationships and stories that my younger self was unable to. It may not be for everyone, but ElfQuest is quite a comics achievement. With new comics already coming down the pike, there is no better time dive in than right now. Wander over to the Pinis’ website and start catching up—you owe it to yourself to give ElfQuest a shot.