Elfquest

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Name: Elfquest
Abbreviation(s): EQ
Creator: Wendy Pini and Richard Pini
Date(s): 1978-
Medium: comic books
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: official site, official Twitter, wikipedia
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Contents

Elfquest is a graphic novel series created by WaRP Graphics, first published in 1978, depicting a race of elves known as Wolfriders set in the World of Two Moons, a world later called Abode by its inhabitants. Almost the entire run is available online at the Complete Digital Elfquest Online; what's missing is the original black and white edition, and parts of the WaveDancers spinoff that are caught in copyright conflicts.[1]

1981 ad for the graphic novels printed in Pegasus #5
1981 ad for the fan club printed in Pegasus #5

In 1984, Chaosium Games released the Elfquest Role-Playing Game, and there was also a boardgame put out by Mayfair games.

Wendy & Richard Pini encouraged fan activities and regularly attended conventions.

Comic History

The comic has appeared in many forms over the years.

The first issue was part of a magazine called Fantasy Quarterly, which was printed in black and white. The company failed immediately after the first issue was published.

After that, Wendy and Richard self-published, printing the first twenty issues in an over-sized black and white format, and later printing Siege at Blue Mountain in a smaller-sized comic-book format, though still black and white, which continued until the publication of Hidden Years in the 90s, when they began to print the issues in full color. [2]

After the first five issues had been published, Wendy and Richard decided that they wanted to show their fans how Elfquest looked in full color, so they worked with Donning/Starblaze to have them made into a full-color graphic novel. After that, for the rest of the twenty-issue run, Donning would bring out another graphic novel for each five-issue set. Once the first four books had been released, a special edition featuring all four books in a leather-bound volume was offered, though these were very limited in quantity and hard to come by, even at that time. These original graphic novels are no longer in publication as Donning is no longer in business, and they are very difficult to come by.

After Donning went under, Wendy and Richard set up a branch of WaRP Graphics called Father Tree Press and subsequently released a number of books, including reprintings of the first four graphic novels, and two new color graphic novels of Siege at Blue Moutain, soon followed by more graphic novels of the succeeding stories.

They also began to publish books--at first just novelizations of the first four graphic novels, but then they started an anthology series about Cutter's ancestors, titled The Blood of Ten Chiefs. Several volumes of stories were released before they stopped publishing the series. The stories were written by many fantasy and science fiction authors of the late 80s and early 90s.

After the comic industry crashed, WaRP pulled back on most of their products, and made simpler black and white versions of the stories that existed so far, and a few that had not been published to date.

For a full listing of the comics and graphic novels, see the article Decades In Print at Elfquest.com.

Alternate Elfquest

While in the planning stages, Elfquest went through many versions before becoming the elves that exist today.

  • Leetah and Cutter originally had two boys, Quickblade and Starjumper.
  • Starjumper was the original name that was going to be used for Suntop, but became the name for Skywise's wolf.
  • Leetah was actually her soulname, and she had a more "elfish" name as well--Morninglight.

Skywise

The biggest change, though, was to a character well-known and very well-loved by the fandom: Skywise. Originally, Skywise was going to die soon after the second part of the quest started.

At one point, Wendy told Richard about a particular scene where a thief tries to take something from Skywise. Originally, her intent was to have the thief drag him over the cliff as he falls, and that Skywise and Cutter would get one last chance to say goodbye as he hangs there by a root. (Issue #9) [3]

When she began to tell Richard more about the character, though, she mentioned Skywise's main character trait at the time--his fascination with the sky. Richard, who is an amateur astronomer, immediately said "He's my Elf. You're not going to kill him." And the rest was history. [4]

The Elf Tribes and Others

There are four "official" tribes in the main storyline, though a few more have been recognized over the years in various ways.

At the beginning of the story most tribes have no clue the others even exist.

The main four tribes:

  • The Wolfriders, the main tribe of the series, led by Cutter, who live in the forest and are skilled hunters. Most fans based their characters on this tribe, either creating an offshoot tribe, or having their tribe meet up with the Wolfriders. They also used the naming-scheme of the Wolfriders more often than any of the others.
  • The Sun Folk, a desert-dwelling tribe whose magic is stronger than the Wolfriders, with dark skin. Leetah's tribe, led by Savah also called the mother of memory.
  • The Gliders or Blue Mountain Elves, a race of elder elves who have become stagnant, led by Lord Voll and Winnowill.
  • The Go-Backs, a race with origins from the same tribe the Wolfriders were descended from who constantly battle with the trolls, trying to return to the High Ones's Palace.

Other tribes:

  • The Howling Rock Wolfriders - a sub-set of the original Wolfriders who followed Ember at the beginning of Kings of the Wheel, and remained with her after.
  • The WaveDancers - a water-dwelling race who used their magic to allow them to live underwater. Semi-recognized as an official tribe, currently in copyright conflict. [1]
  • Plains Tribe (no official name, often called the Plainsrunners) - from the Elfquest Role-Playing Game, but also from The Blood of Ten Chiefs anthologies. Has connections to both the Go-Backs and the Wolfriders in some stories.

The Elfquest Role-Playing Game also suggested Desert Nomad Elves, though none have been used in any official capacity, unlike the sea elves (WaveDancers) or plains elves (Plainsrunners).

The High Ones: Not a tribe in the way the others are, but a collective name for the original group of elves who arrived on Abode, and from which all elf tribes are descended.

Other Races:

  • Trolls, which came to Abode with the elves, and have since had a few tribes of their own.
  • Preservers, a pixie-like race which also arrived with the elves who have a special ability--their webs allow any creature or being wrapped tightly in them to sleep in a suspended state until unwrapped.
  • Humans, the original inhabitants of Abode, who are variously terrified of or awed by the elves.

Tropes

The comics themselves have many tropes woven into the fabric of the story, but some stand out more than others as fan favorites.

  • The elves themselves are Aliens From Another World, though few fan authors explored that fact beyond the Humans' reaction to the elves.
  • The Soulbond is a very common subject in fanfic, and in Elfquest, it has it's own name, Recognition. Recognition happens when two elves meet and realize they are destined to have a child together--for the Wolfriders, this means finding each others' Soul Name, the name that embodies their elf spirit. This can also lead to a Fuck or Die story if one or both elves refuses to give into the bond, as denying the bond causes the elves to sicken to the point of death if not consummated. Most Relationship Story fics are Recognition fics, often taking place when two tribes meet for the first time. This bond can also lead to Cut One and the Other One Bleeds stories, particularly if the two become Lifemates.
  • Another Tribe is also a very common trope in Elfquest fanfic. Because there are so few elves, most tribes are relatively small (10 to 50 members), and so Recognition between them is uncommon because of inbreeding. Which means that upon meeting new tribes, there is a greater chance of Recognition, and therefore more chances for angst to write about. This also tended to lead to the occasional fic where several elves from one tribe found themselves Recognized to members of the other tribe. Sort of an Elfquest version of Everyone Is Gay, but heterosexual.
  • Speaking of Everyone Is Gay, by decree of the Pinis, sex between elves is an open thing. Partners share each other, and three or more in a relationship is not uncommon. Nor are same sex partners. So in this world, it's more that Everyone is Bisexual.
  • Because of their calm stance on sexuality, it makes for a good deal more room for Gen Tropes. Examples:
    • Kidfic, whether dealing with a young version of one of the existing characters, or of the children of one or more existing (or even fan-created) characters.
    • Gen Bed Sharing and Gen Bathing are both extremely common in the series, particularly among the Wolfriders.
  • Camping is another common trope with one or a small group of elves travelling and eventually discovering another tribe, leading to Another Tribe? and/or Recognition stories.
  • Another fan favorite in Elfquest is Animal Transformation, despite the fact that only one character (possibly one or two more) in the series seems to have the actual ability. Many extended the ability beyond the animals of that world to other fantasy animals like Unicorns, Dragons, and other mythic beasts.
  • Futurefic and Pastfic are also common themes. Most Pastfic tends to focus on the stories surrounding Cutter's ancestors, particularly the ten chiefs that came before him. Futurefic takes on a number of forms, depending on how far into the series the writer has read. Most tend to focus on Ember and/or Suntop, but some focus on the far future, or even the elves leaving Abode once more.
  • Other common Tropes from the series and/or fanfic:
    • Body Modification -- Winnowill uses her healing powers to help shape Tyldak into the form he wants--true wings, not just the approximation of flight that gliding gives him. She is the most common user of this skill, but Leetah has the ability as well.
    • The Clam, particularly in the form of Rayek or Strongbow, though occasionally shown with Cutter as well, particularly after the events of Kings of the Broken Wheel.
    • Torture, usually a tactic used by Winnowill, though not just. A rarity in this fandom, but it does happen.
    • The Barbarian, usually in the form of Wolfriders or a similar tribe meeting a tribe like The Blue Mountain Elves or Sun Folk.
    • Mixed Breeds are another, if uncommon theme in Elfquest--Two-Edge is half-troll, half-elf, and Timmain has a son with a wolf.

I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting, but that's a good start.

Fan Reaction

Fans reacted so well to Fantasy Quarterly #1 that Wendy and Richard knew they had to self-publish the rest of the series, and it has been the fans' reactions that have kept the series going for so long.

Fan response has always been encouraged by the couple. Their letters page was always full of conversations between the couple and their fans, and the two visited as many conventions as they could to spread knowledge of their series far and wide. It worked. Not only has the comic been published by WaRP Graphics, but it was also republished by Marvel Comics in the 1980s, gaining them an even wider audience than before, and then later reprinted by DC Comics in the 2000s. The comics have also been translated into many languages over the years, including Danish, Norwegian, French, and Russian.

Black and White Issues

Though the comic found an immediate fanbase, there was some backlash from the more mainstream comic collectors, who were used to all comics being in color at the time. Many felt that it suggested poor-quality work. Despite this initial impression, Elfquest continued not only to finish its initial run in black and white, but two subsequent series as well, all of which were eagerly accepted by the fan base.

Elfquest's success despite this backlash led other small companies to spring up, leading to a boom in black and white comics for a time.

Issues Fifteen and Seventeen

Though there had been moments of violence and sexuality in Elfquest before the fifteenth and seventeenth issues of the original series were released, few expected anything darker or more blatant than what had come before. When there was, there was a massive backlash against the creators for both issues.

The death of a major character in issue fifteen signaled a darkness to the books that many parents had not been expecting, despite the warnings that Wendy and Richard had made at the beginning of that issue. With issue seventeen adding a more adult spin to the story than had been seen in preceding issues, many people refused to continue reading, incensed by the sexual subject-matter.

Clubs

Fan clubs were often called "Holts," after the Wolfriders' name for their home in the forest. Club members often identified themselves by nature-based elf names, and tree- or leaf-based names for club newsletters were common. Most of these Holts tended to focus on fan-made characters or tribes over the elves or tribes from the books.

Web rings allowed clubs to find each other online.[5]

"Sendings" is the newsletter of the official fan club, and is now a part of the official Elfquest site.

List of Elfquest Fan-Created Holts gives the names of known holts, including links to webpages, if those are available.

Online forums

Elfquest had two official mailing lists, one for all discussions (EQUEST-L) and one specifically for posting and discussing fic (FANFIC). Both seem to be defunct now, although there are (currently broken) links to the archives on the official Elfquest website.[6] An Elfquest Usenet group, rec.arts.comics.elfquest, is no longer active but available as an archive.

Scroll of Colors, the official Elfquest forum, is currently active.

Zines

Gen

Gen, multimedia:

Filk

An entire album of Elfquest filk, A Wolfrider's Reflections, was authorized by WaRP Graphics[7]. Several other filksongs have been written about the world of Two Moons, including Heather Alexander's Wolfen One and Joey Shoji's (forgotten title). The first fanzine, Yearnings, contained several filksongs.

Mike Knauer has compiled a list of known Elfquest filk songs.

Websites

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Online gallery, scroll down to WaveDancers section, accessed 24 Sep 2010
  2. [1] The Decades in Print, Elfquest.com]
  3. The Elfquest Gatherum Volume 1 Decker, Dwight ed., The Elfquest Gatherum Volume 1., Poughkeepsie, NY, 1987
  4. The Elfquest Gatherum Volume 1 Decker, Dwight ed., The Elfquest Gatherum Volume 1., Poughkeepsie, NY, 1987
  5. Elfquest Fan Club Holts Ring, Sample EQ webring at Angelfire, accessed 24 Sep 2010
  6. Elfquest forum archives, official Elfquest website.
  7. ElfQuest Wolfrider Shop, accessed 24 Sep 2010
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