When I Recognized Elfquest

It took a long time for me to discover the World of Two Moons.

Back in High School, my Mom started me reading Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. It was a fantasy series with a world of magic and puns and where practically everyone had a magical Talent of some kind. At one point in the series, Piers Anthony got a letter from a mother whose twelve year old daughter Jenny was in the hospital paralysed from being hit by a drunk driver. She was very fond of the world of Two Moons: with the Wolfrider Elves and their wolf mounts: so much so, that Anthony actually created a character from that world named Jenny Elf and transported her to the world of Xanth. This was the first time I’d heard of this place, and for the longest point it was almost the last time.

This was until about a year or so before I started working. I was finishing off my Undergrad at York and I came back to the world of comics with extreme prejudice. I came to Cyber City Comix near Bathurst and Clarke where I found the DC Archives volumes of The Spirit and a strange series called Elfquest. Elfquest looked particularly strange and vintage: from the covers alone they looked like 70s adult versions of my childhood fantasy cartoons mixed with Tolkien on a beautiful manga binge for good measure. They were colourful and compelling and beautiful and also very expensive.

Little did I know that Elfquest and the World of Two Moons were one and the same, or that they would be relevant to me. I did, however, have the nagging suspicion that we’d meet again at some point. But it was not at that time. Not yet.

A lot more things happened with me. I finally moved out and got into Grad School when I discovered the black and white versions of the books at the Seneca Library at York. I was just going to read them there, but I didn’t for some reason. I kept putting it off …

A few months later, I found out that Labyrinth Comics were having a comics sale in Seneca. I planned to stop by the place after I picked up my OSAP grant and loan. Unfortunately for me, that particular day I found out that the Faculty of Graduate Studies had changed my status to part-time without my knowledge and as such withheld my loans from me: just as they had before because my previous government ID expired. I was in at a very low point at this time when I came back from the Student Financial Building to Seneca, not expecting to find anything, not really expecting to be happy for a very long time …

And then I found it. I found the first Elfquest Archives volume for $30. I put down a copy of Mark Millar’s 1985 and decided to buy this. I didn’t quite know what to expect at this point but I was glad to begin with the first volume.

Then I read it.

Somehow, something in me knew that I would relate to some aspects of this series. And that something, somehow in me was right. The DC Archives edition of Elfquest were coloured and vibrant in precisely the way that its creator Wendy Pini planned it along with her husband Richard. Her paneling is not unlike Will Eisner’s comics work in The Spirit and is varied and far beyond the traditional boundaries of squares and rectangles: bringing you closer into the world she made.

I was treated to a world that had been in existence since the late 1970s: that strange, weird and somehow marvelous place that made other things like Star Wars and Wizards.  The premise was that ages ago a floating castle containing a race of Elves crashed onto a world populated by primitive and superstitious humans. These beings drove them out of their fallen castle and their descendants had to adapt to and survive in their new environment.

One of their descendants are the Wolfriders: short, powerful Elves (not unlike a friend of mine’s drawings of other beings in our shared world) that are linked to and ride on wolves as hunters and warriors in their forest. Wendy Pini’s drawing style was this vintage hybrid of manga and North American comics illustration that just really somehow managed to touch that 80s childhood part of my heart. But what was more was in addition to magic and a really varied world, she also touched upon new elements that I was also dealing with in my life these days as well. She touched upon these in a way so poignant that tears almost came to my eyes. Suffice to say, after starting to read this series in colour, I could not in good conscience go back.

I wouldn’t do justice to Elfquest by simply summarizing it or trying to explain what the Wolfriders and their Tribe are like. They have close bonds with their Wolves, who they hunt with, and each other. Especially each other. If there is a positive archetype or ideal for the concept of “Tribe,” they would be it. In many ways, they are like humans, though not necessarily like the barbarian humans we initially see in their world, but in others they really aren’t. They are savage, and merciless but at the same time fiercely loyal, sensitive, and honourable. And they are so incredibly close with each other. I am very glad that the people at DC at that time decided to include the comic strip that others before them would have rejected in the first Volume of the Archives. And Wendy Pini was not afraid to talk about just how different Elf relationships could be: reminding the reader that for all we can relate to them and some of their ways, the Elves of Two Moons are definitely not human.

It’s sad sometimes to realize that Sending doesn’t exist in humankind, just as it is humbling to realize that Recognition as a visceral feeling of affinity with another being is weaker in us though when it’s not, it’s really not. Even so, the Elves get into conflict and this spans a great deal of a world. A world I really wanted to follow.

Unfortunately, a while ago I learned an unfortunate fact about the Elfquest Archives. The first was that they were out of print. And second was that while I could buy Volumes 3 and 4 for $30 as well, Volume 2 somehow has become especially rare. I have seen some of these copies go for over a hundred if not two hundred dollars or more. This is money that not even the creators get, but only the comics store owners. It was very disappointing and infuriating: especially since I remembered being in Cyber Comix and realizing that they were all there and I could have bought them all at that time.

But the good news is that the Pinis have taken all their Elfquest comics and put them on their website for free. That’s right. All the Elfquest run to date is online for free. You just have to look it up online and it’s right there. Granted, I know I would have liked my own complete book copies and it saddens me to know I probably never will, but you know: I’m just glad I found them at all. I have even started reading beyond what the DC Archive books contained. Coincidentally, I find that out of all the Elf characters, I relate the most to Cutter’s fierce heart, Rayek’s brooding ambitions, and Skywise’s sense of curiosity and understanding.

Personally, though, I can see myself as the leader of a group of Gliders that left the Blue Mountain in the early days before Voll fully settled and sought to reclaim magic for ourselves, and continue to evolve as opposed to languishing in stagnation. I always liked the idea of having a bird mount, even though I am not adverse to wolves on a spiritual level.

It’s funny how you find something when it is time and when you Recognize its significance in your own life.

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About matthewkirshenblatt

I am a writer and blogger living in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario in Canada. When I'm not writing for the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization and GeekPr0n, I tend to write science-fiction, epic fantasy, horror, literary and mythological revisionisms, and generally weird fiction stories though I have been known to make poetry, television and comic book scripts. Also, when left to my own devices I tend to write weird and strange hybrid creative opinion piece articles like those you will find on this Blog. I am also very interested in comics, video games, Star Wars, table-top role-playing games, Neil Gaiman's works, H.P. Lovecraft, vampires, zombies, and budgies.
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9 Responses to When I Recognized Elfquest

  1. Grace Alexander says:

    This is lovely. I read ElfQuest as a young girl – and got an extremely liberal and love based set of values direct from the hallowed pages. I ran across it again 30+ years later online, and promptly stayed up all night, devouring it again anew. There has never been anything else quite like ElfQuest, and I dare venture there will never be again. The Pinis created something unique and wonderful!

    • Thank you, Grace. Elfquest is very unique. I mean, you could talk about Wendy Pini’s aesthetics alone for quite sometime. It’s as though she took the North American artistic sensibilities of comics creators like Gil Kane and Jack Kirby, combined them with Tezuka Osamu or other manga creators and just made her own style. And then I found out about the content of it and how it was definitely not a generic fantasy story. Liberal and love-based sets of values are very good things and I feel better just reading some of the comics online: a process that I am still going through to this very day. I’m glad I started reading through the whole backlog of them. They will keep me busy.

  2. I am 27 and have been reading elfquest since I was like ten I have beena. Fan since then I love everything about them and I cannot wait to share the comics my dad has saved for me, with my children!!

    • That is awesome thelastvampirelover. 🙂 I didn’t start reading these until I was in my late twenties, though I knew of them (and not many details about them) when I was fourteen or so. I hope that you totally will share these with your children. They are really beautiful. Thank you for stopping by.

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  4. Ivy Tucker says:

    I found Elfquest in my tiny local library when I was 13 (I am now 33). It was the perfect time for me, at that awkward time between childhood and adulthood when sometimes it feels as if you don’t really fit anywhere. Despite not being an elf (obviously), I felt that somehow I fit with Elfquest and reading Wendy’s beautiful stories made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Thank you for your blog post. It has been a reminder of how important these stories have been and still are to me, and an indication of how much they have touched others as well.

    • Ivy, it is simply incredible to consider just how many people Wendy and Richard Pini’s stories have touched for all of these years. Elfquest really does give you a sense of community as depicted by the close-knit nature of the Wolfriders. I’m glad you liked this post and that it touched upon those valuable moments.

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