You've heard of it. Maybe you've even tried it. And perhaps, you even loved it. It's called "Elfquest," one of the most successful independent comic book series of all time and at Comic-Con International in San Diego today, fans were elated to learn of a new series in partnership with DC Comics. Wendy and Richard Pini (known as 'Warp' to some) spoke with CBR News about the series, "Elfquest: The Discovery" and primed fans for the upcoming series.
"This very moment as we write, Elfquest is becoming an outrageous dream of beauty ... a fantasy comic miniseries about two quite different groups of magical beings discovering each other for the first time," said the Pinis when asked to describe the series. "It's a colorful, visual feast of Crystal Palace interiors and vivid undersea scenery evolved, in sequence, from the ongoing quest of the 28 year old graphic novel series: the quest of Cutter, chief of the Wolfriders, to find and unite all the lost elfin tribes on the World of Two Moons.
"They say trends go in cycles of 25 years. Elfquest was born back in 1977 when the world was very conscious of high fantasy. The 'Lord of The Rings' book trilogy was a super-hot bestseller, 'Star Wars' had just exploded on the big screen and the world of fashion had gone bonkers for 'fairy chic,' fanciful bellbottoms, pseudo-medieval vests and gypsy tatters. The timing was perfect for us to produce something that had never been tried before: a soap opera about the 'little people!' And because the timing was right, nothing could stop us ... not even our own inexperience in the world of self-publishing.
"Now, in 2005, the general public is once again jonesing in a big way for escapist fantasy and the supernatural. Ironically, 'Elfquest' is not benefiting so much from this cycle as it is from its ever-present manga art influence. Back when we were just getting started, no one quite knew what to make of 'Elfquest's' peculiar art style ... no one but the small-but-rapidly-growing cult that was just wild about Japanese anime and manga.
"Today, everyone who knows anything about the comics market knows manga fever is sweeping the nation. And everyone's trying to climb on the bandwagon. Well, Warp Graphics sort of invented that wagon (that is, 'American manga'), so Elfquest fits right in with the current rage."
For some time, it seemed that "Elfquest" eschewed the mini series in favor of graphic novels, but with "The Discovery" they're switching formats.
"Actually, it's more or less business as usual. Each Elfquest story arc was always presented in multiple chapters that were later collected into a volume or graphic novel format, thus getting double duty out of the work. 'The Searcher and the Sword,' which came out from DC Comics in 2004, was originally intended to run as a miniseries. But then the decision came down to present it as a self-contained, graphic novel length story. Wendy truly enjoyed the challenge and would be up for it again.
"'The Discovery,' like the entire Elfquest saga, has existed in rough treatment form for a long time. Were we still publishing the comics ourselves, through Warp Graphics, we would be bringing out 'The Discovery' as planned, a four-part miniseries that takes place three years after events in 'Searcher.'"
When asked if Warp is testing the waters for more mini-series or perhaps an ongoing, the couple laugh and reply, "Nice pun (you'll find out why). Our digest-sized manga reprint books have been doing very well. But after 13 volumes we'll have pretty much exhausted the classic Grand Quest material. In awareness of that, we have been in discussions with DC about focusing on new Elfquest storylines. This is pretty exciting because there are aspects of the elves' lives we haven't yet explored -- plus stories we already outlined years ago. An ongoing series is a distinct possibility. We'll just have to see how it all plays out."
Switching gears, fans were anxious to learn which characters got the spotlight in "Discovery" and the Pinis said readers will see some favorites ... but not in those words.
"You think we're just going to give all that away?! We planted some seeds in 'The Searcher and the Sword' and let's just say the harvest is coming!
"Hints? Well ... to pick up on your inadvertent pun ... we are certainly 'testing the waters' as we 'dance upon the waves' of creativity. Several of the most popular elves get a lot of focus this time around, as does a mysterious group of characters who've long struggled to remain hidden, but who find themselves 'outed' in a most unavoidable way. Plus someone we've seen before turns out to be an unexpected hero/villain, all in a gorgeous, new environment that Wendy, as illustrator, has been dying to tackle for years!"
For new fans approaching the series, the Pinis have suggestions before "diving in" (to continue the water puns), namely: "DC thinks it's very important, and we heartily agree, that any new material we produce for them be written in such a way that new readers are immediately drawn into the Elfquest universe without feeling lost. While this is a bit of a challenge, we think it helps keep the story in the moment. We don't waste time referring to incidents in past volumes unless it's absolutely necessary to the overall plot.
"That said, we recommend that readers of 'The Discovery' familiarize themselves with the previous graphic novel, 'The Searcher and the Sword.' Shuna, the human girl star of that storyline continues as an important character in 'The Discovery.' Also there's some foreshadowing concerning the role played by Cutter's son, Sunstream."
There's an "Elfquest" movie in the works as well and when asked about progress, they reply, "We live in hope, after all this time, that the powerful engine that is DC Comics/Time-Warner will give us that final, needed push over the hill into the magical land of Larger Media."
Live action or animated, you ask?
"Once upon a time, we felt that only traditional cel animation could truly translate Wendy's sensual drawings to the screen, but ever since Peter Jackson's epic interpretation of 'Lord of the Rings' we realize that any problems that might have existed with bringing a character to life via CGI, have now been solved. Literally, we're open to all possibilities and options. Animated, computer generated, shadow puppets, Claymation, stick figures...we don't care. We just want to see the elves bouncing around up there on the big screen somehow before we're carted off to the old folk's home."
If they could cast the people they'd like, Warp says they have a few people in mind, namely, "Wendy says Hugh Jackman-- she just wants any excuse. Richard says we should go with relative unknowns-- we want viewers to see Cutter and Skywise and Leetah, not 'Famous, currently hot actor trying to play the elf character.'"
There's no specific time as to when the series will hit stands, but Warp isn't complaining.
"DC is being sensible about when 'Discovery' will show up on their schedule. They've asked Wendy to have at least two fully drawn issues 'in the can' before they name a date, and we're working on getting those issues done as quickly as possible - all the while meeting our existing deadlines on the manga volumes. Let's just say that we're all shooting for an early 2006 launch."
If that wasn't enough for you, Wendy and Richard Pini were happy to tease at even more plans for the "Elfquest" world.
"The overall story, which always has been and remains under our complete control, is a full hero's journey. We know how it ends and we're always moving purposefully toward that conclusion, distant though it be. The clues we've planted are countless. There will be more.
"As for Elfquest the franchise: That's in DC's collective, capable hands. They know what they've got and they are not going to let it languish; we all want great things for Cutter and company. We're talking with them and there is progress. That's all we can share for now."
CBR Staff Writer George Tramountanas contributed to this story.