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Elfquest #5, 1979.
Cover art by Wendy Pini.
|Publisher||WaRP Graphics, 1978–2003
DC Comics, 2003–2007
|Publication date||1978 - 2007|
|Writer(s)||Wendy and Richard Pini|
|Creator(s)||Wendy and Richard Pini|
|Elfquest Archives vol. 1||ISBN 1401201288|
|Elfquest Archives vol. 2||ISBN 1401201296|
|Elfquest Archives vol. 3||ISBN 1401204120|
|Elfquest Archives vol. 4||ISBN 1401207731|
Elfquest (or ElfQuest) is a cult hit comic book property created by Wendy and Richard Pini in 1978. It is a fantasy story about a community of elves and other fictional species who struggle to survive and coexist on a primitive Earth-like planet with two moons. Several published volumes of prose fiction also share the same setting. Over the years Elfquest has been self-published by the Pinis, then Marvel Comics, then the Pinis again through their own company Warp Graphics and more recently DC Comics. All issues of Elfquest are available online for free.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Background and setting
- 3 Adaptations
- 4 Awards and honors
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The first Elfquest story was published in the spring of 1978, in the underground comic book Fantasy Quarterly, published by Lansing, Michigan-based IPS (Independent Publishers Syndicate). That company folded after publishing the first issue of Elfquest. (Sandwiched between Elfquest's "Fire and Flight" parts one and two was a brief story written by T. Casey Brennan and illustrated by future Cerebus the Aardvark creator Dave Sim titled "Doorway to the Gods".) The quality of the publication was terribly disappointing to Wendy and Richard Pini. The cover was only slightly better than newsprint (the exterior was printed unglossed with a very limited color palette) and the paper used inside of the comic book appeared to be newsprint.
The poor quality of this publication convinced the Pinis that they could produce a higher quality publication on their own. After borrowing money in order to start WaRP Graphics, the Pinis started publishing with Elfquest #2 (published magazine size with glossy full color covers and a character portrait print on the back cover by Wendy; a format that would continue throughout the series' entire run). This story continued the Elfquest tale started in Fantasy Quarterly. Later, the Pinis' company WaRP Graphics would reprint the story from Fantasy Quarterly as Elfquest #1 with a new front cover and full color portrait print for the rear cover.
This series was one of the early successes that marked the establishment of a phase in underground comics at which a new market of alternative independent comic books emerged that were closer to the comics mainstream. Elfquest was also one of the first comic book series that had a prearranged conclusion. It was highly praised for its innovative themes. The fact that a female artist/writer (Wendy Pini) was the creative principal of the series was also notable.
The original series — generally referred to as "The Original Quest" or "OQ" — ran for 20 issues (spanning about seven to eight years in terms of the main storyline), released tri-annually. Color volumes (published as Books 1-4) followed. Two more series were published in a reduced format, but still in black and white: Siege at Blue Mountain (8 issues) and Kings of the Broken Wheel (9 issues), later collected and published in color as part of a second edition of the graphic novels as Books 5-8. The stories take place three years after the original quest.
Warp Graphics explosion and implosion
In the 1990s, the Pinis rebranded slightly (WaRP became Warp) and then began to publish multiple titles concurrently, many with overlapping storylines, introducing many new artists and writers to the series. The (initially) color titles New Blood, Hidden Years, and Shards for the most part carried the main storyline forward from the prehistoric to the medieval period of the World of Two Moons, now named Abode, occasionally featuring non-canonical stories. The historical background of the Wolfriders was filled out in Blood of Ten Chiefs, Two-Spear, and Kahvi. The future of Abode was explored in The Rebels and Jink, set at a time when humans have reached space and colonized other worlds and the elves have all but disappeared. A fifth tribe of elves, the Wave Dancers, was introduced only to be redacted from continuity. A one-shot issue re-introduced the sea elves with a new cast of characters. The first ten issues of Hidden Years were collected in two color volumes, Hidden Years and Rogue's Challenge (Book 9 in the continuity of the second edition of graphic novels). Selected stories from the first ten issues of New Blood were collected as New Blood and Bedtime stories. Towards the end of their runs, most of these titles reverted to black and white in North America, though some were published in color in Europe.
Continuing storylines were collapsed together into a single anthology series introduced by the one shot Metamorphosis. The new series was simply titled Elfquest (Volume 2), and ran for 33 issues.
The series has also served as the basis for several novelizations and short story anthologies (some of which served as the basis of scripts in Blood of Ten Chiefs). The music CD A Wolfrider's Reflections is an album of folk songs based on elements from the original quest. Several collectibles, calendars, apparel, a role-playing game and figurines were sold over the years. The full-length novel ElfQuest: Journey to Sorrows End, which included both text and several black-and-white illustrated plates, was published by Playboy in 1982, and Berkley in March 1984.
In 1985, the original series was retold in 32 installments with some additional pages, and published by Marvel Comics's Epic imprint. This gave the series some much-needed mass-market publicity, although none of the sequels followed suit. Most of the additional material was incorporated into subsequent print collections and the online edition.
In March 2003 it was announced that after 25 years of self-publication the Pinis had licensed all publishing and merchandising rights in the series to DC Comics, although the Pinis retain creative control.
DC's publication of Elfquest material began in July 2003 with The Elfquest 25th Anniversary Special, reprinting the first issue of Elfquest with new computer coloring and lettering by Wendy Pini, and two short interviews with the Pinis. This was a taster for The Elfquest Archives, which began in November 2003. When complete, this series will reprint the first eight graphic novel collections in glossy format with new coloring and lettering. Fans have complained that the publication schedule is disappointingly slow. Volume 2 was originally scheduled to appear in fall 2004 but after some delays was finally released in March 2005, 16 months after Volume 1. Part of the reason for the delay is that Wendy Pini was undergoing hip replacement surgery.
Meanwhile, September 2003 saw the publication of Elfquest: Wolfrider Volume 1, beginning a series of bimonthly manga-sized black-and-white reprint collections which arrange the story into chronological order for the first time, beginning around 600 years before the events in the original series. Wolfrider Volume 2 is followed chronologically by Elfquest: The Grand Quest Volume 1, the first in a series reprinting the original storyline, including the additional art drawn for the Marvel version. In this series, the original artwork has been rearranged into new panel layouts for clarity in the physically smaller manga format, which sometimes involves Wendy Pini adding extensions to the original artwork. Unfortunately, sections of the original artwork are not included, for example in "ElfQuest: The Grand Quest Volume 11" the story involving Tyleet and her adopted human son Little Patch is not in the volume though later in Volume 13 Tyleet mentions Little Patch constantly while discussing the dream she had while encased for 10,000 years by the Preservers.
A newer book, Elfquest: The Searcher and the Sword was published in July 2004. Critical reaction has generally been favorable; the major criticism leveled at the book is that it is overpriced for its size (96 pages).
After the four-issue comic series Elfquest: Discovery, published in 2006, no more new stories appeared until the Final Quest (2013) - see below.
In March 2008 Warp Graphics began uploading previously published stories to the elfquest.com website, for reading on the web. They intended to make the entire series available online over the course of 2008, but the number of issues proved too numerous to upload within the deadline. Uploading of all comics was completed on March 13, 2009.
In October 2013, an Elfquest Special: The Final Quest one-shot was published by Dark Horse Comics. It includes the material originally seen at Boing Boing plus the rest of the Final Quest prologue. The Final Quest series is promised from Dark Horse starting January 2014.
Background and setting
The world where the series takes place, eventually called Abode by its human inhabitants, but originally referred to as the World of Two Moons, superficially resembles Earth. The geography is marginally similar, there are some unusual prehistoric survivals among the fauna, and in early storylines Abode could have been described as Earth with two moons. As the story moves forward however, and Abode's history develops, it becomes apparent that its human culture and technology is distinguished by the twenty thousand years of influence by the elves, who have left an indelible mark on human society, though their existence is unacknowledged and unofficially suppressed by the world government of Abode's future.
The elves of Elfquest are descended from highly advanced humanoid aliens called High Ones by their descendants. They had immense psycho-kinetic psychic powers  and did not die of old age. When their homeworld's resources were depleted by overpopulation, several groups of High Ones went spacefaring to explore the wider universe and to find new planets to settle. They controlled their egg-shaped vessels by telekinesis and were able to adapt to any ecosystem by shifting their own shapes and metabolisms. As companions, they brought two of the last surviving animal species from their home, both of which gradually evolved during the journey (and subsequent events) into two more races of sapient near-immortals: the insectoid Preservers and the simian-descended Trolls.
Landing on Abode some twenty thousand years earlier than intended thanks to interference by trolls engaged in rebellion, a group of High Ones are attacked by humans and scattered from their spacefaring vessel and home. Adjusting to a world where their powers and bodies are inexplicably diminished by the planet's influence, the High Ones and later their descendants face a harsh existence. In time, the scattered elves form tribes whose memories of their origins have become dim through the loss of living High Ones and most of their earliest descendants. The known tribes include (in order of introduction) the Wolfriders (forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers), Sun Folk (desert-dwelling farmers), Gliders (mountain-dwellers, only a few of whom hunt), Go-backs (formerly hunters, now primarily warriors), and the Wavedancers (sea-dwelling hunter-gatherers).
After journeying to many different worlds, one of these vessels came to Abode (known to its inhabitants as the World of Two Moons), where human civilization had reached a level comparable to Europe's medieval period on Earth. The humans' artwork and literature depicted angels, deities, spirits and other ethereal beings which suggested to the High Ones that others of their kind had previously visited that world. In order to facilitate contact with the humans and seek out more information about these previous visitors, before landing on the world the High Ones deliberately formed themselves like elves and reshaped their egg-vessel to resemble a beautiful floating castle that matched the native architectural idiom.
The palace itself consists of two main parts: the magical material of which it is made, and two magic scrolls that contain all the history of the High Ones. The palace is also where the souls of dead elves come together to spend the rest of their existence.
However, by this time the evolved simians (proto-Trolls) had become resentful of their subservient status. As the 'castle' began to descend, the simians violently rebelled, disrupting the telekinetic controls enough to hurl the entire vessel and its contents back through time to Abode's paleolithic era. Staggering out from the crash-landing, the High Ones found that their psychic powers were greatly weakened on Abode, leaving them unable to defend themselves from the prehistoric cave-dwelling humans who fearfully attacked them. Forcibly dispersed away from the massacre outside the palace-shaped vessel, many of the initial elf survivors soon died, unable to adapt to the hostile environment; the others gradually gathered into several widely-scattered tribes. The High Ones' evolved-simian servants also fled, mainly into underground caverns where they became larger and established themselves as the subterranean race of Trolls, treasure-seeking miners and metalsmiths whose original links to the High Ones were forgotten.
The main story begins 10,000 years later, with elves and other beings having adapted with great difficulty to their home. Each tribe of elves has its own set of adaptations and traditions, and most of them are unaware that any of the other tribes even exist.
The central characters are the Wolfrider elves, a tribe of ferocious hunter/warriors closely allied with wolves who serve as mounts, hunting partners, and friends. Their culture is roughly comparable to the Iroquois Native American nation. Within their founder group, a female High One named Timmain had been the only member to retain her shape-shifting ability. When winter came, Timmain shape-shifted into a wolf to hunt food for the starving elves around her. She sank very deeply into her wolf-form and eventually forgot her original identity, even mating with a native wolf to produce a half-wolf chimeric son whom she handed over to the Elves after teaching him as much as she could as a wolf. They gave him the name Timmorn Yellow-Eyes and he became the first Chief of the Wolfriders, bringing the wolf pack and the stranded elves together to form a close symbiotic alliance. Because of his mixed blood, Timmorn was mortal, unlike his progenitors. Timmorn then went on to sire many children, with both wolves and elves; as a result, the entire tribe and their bonded wolf pack can all trace their bloodline back to Timmorn in some way by the point at which the series begins. This mingling of wolf and elf blood produces unexpected results- aside from maintaining a feral, wolf-like mentality (known as the Way), the Wolfriders are the only elves who can, eventually, die of old age. In addition to the close bonds with their wolves, the Wolfriders also have some basic psychic powers like telepathy (known as sending), healing and plant manipulation. Because of the hybridization, their wolves also possess powers of telepathy, allowing Wolfriders to 'send' with their wolves.
The central storyline, beginning with the series known as the Grand Quest or Original Quest, focuses on the tribe during the leadership of their eleventh chief Cutter. At the start of the story, the Wolfriders' regular forest life - intermittently interspersed by conflict with superstitiously genocidal humans - is lost when the humans set fire to the forest in retaliation for a previous battle.
The Wolfriders seek refuge in the underground caverns of their sullen, greedy, cowardly trade partners, the trolls. The elves claim that the trolls owe them sanctuary because of all the ways the Wolfriders have helped them over the years, but the corrupt troll king, Greymung, feels humiliated for being held at knife point by an elf and plots revenge. The elves are taken down a long tunnel toward what the trolls claim will be a land of bright promise, but is actually a trackless desert. Then their guide seals the tunnel behind them. Desperately inspired by a piece of "magic" lodestone they obtained from the trolls' caves that acts as a crude compass, they make an arduous journey across the wasteland until they encounter an oasis called Sorrow's End, populated by a tribe of sedentary, agrarian elves called the Sun Folk.
The Sun Folk
Compared to the Wolfriders, the peaceful Sun Folk have retained more knowledge about the High Ones. However, there are some psychic phenomena which have remained more common among the Wolfriders than among the Sun Folk, such as "Sending" (telepathic communication), and "Recognition", a powerful involuntary compulsion to mate with another elf; this mating is guaranteed to produce offspring who are more powerful than either parent. This powerful impulse can be resisted with difficulty, but at the cost of great personal stress. If the two individuals are not temperamentally compatible, they may part ways again as soon as a child has been produced, but otherwise they may form a lifelong pair-bond as "lifemates."
Cutter's partner in Recognition is the Sun Folk's beautiful and powerful Healer, Leetah. She immediately rejects him as a savage barbarian, especially since she is already partnered to her village's haughty chief hunter, Rayek. The love triangle between Cutter, Leetah and Rayek is the main focus of much of the first part of the story. Cutter and Leetah eventually become lifemates; bested by Cutter in a ritual trial and displaced as sole hunter and protector by the Wolfriders, Rayek leaves the village.
Once this conflict is resolved, the two tribes quickly unite with each side willing to adjust to the other for their mutual benefit. The Wolfriders enjoy the benefits of a more sophisticated culture with greater knowledge, while the Sun Folk benefit from a band of strong hunters and defenders of their desert refuge from humanity.
Six years later, the oasis sanctuary of Sorrow's End is breached by a handful of starving humans who approach the oasis. Although they are sent on their way (probably to die of thirst), Cutter realizes that more could follow and decides to take action. He goes on a quest with his soul-brother, Skywise, seeking other elf tribes as allies against humanity. Later, Cutter's son, Suntop, receives a warning from the Sun Folk's elder Savah, The Mother Of Memory about an evil which Cutter must avoid. (Savah, who is close to being a High One herself, possesses a magical ability known as "going out" where her spirit leaves her body in attempts to connect to other Elves. In this way she was also able to briefly contact Rayek after he left Sorrow's End.) The majority of the Wolfriders escort Leetah, Suntop and his twin sister Ember on their journey to deliver Savah's warning to Cutter and Skywise.
Continuing their quest, Cutter and Skywise learn of the existence of another elf tribe dwelling in a place called Blue Mountain. This previously unknown tribe, consisting of tall, thin, graceful elves, is known as the Gliders. They treated humans like any other prey, until a human shaman made her way near the peak of Blue Mountain and sang and talked to them. The Gliders then agreed not to hunt humans, if they in turn received offerings and worship. The humans then worshiped them as "spirit-gods".
The Gliders claim to be original High Ones and are nominally led by an ancient elf named Lord Voll. wanted them to have a safe home, thus their rockshapers built a home inside Blue Mountain after the memories of the Palace of the High Ones. After Lord Voll's lover and confidant Winnowill created the Chosen Eight - a group of hunters that rode the Giant Hawks that nested in Blue Mountain - no one but those hunters left the mountain. They are a conservative community that has degenerated into insular decadence, dominated by the seductive, sinister Winnowill, who was once Voll's consort but who now has her own agenda.
Cut off from new impulses, the Gliders' culture turned in on itself. They created intricate art, such as the Egg of Six Spheres, which recorded the elves' history, but stopped growing. For millennia no children were born. Some of the rockshapers were put into permanent trance, and do nothing but fulfill a certain function. Winnowill manipulated Voll, so that his plans to leave Blue Mountain again never grew to fruition. Lord Voll came to believe that the elves were doomed to wither, and that there would never be any children born. Only the arrival of the Wolfriders with their children and the Preservers could wake him up. He was then determined to return to the Palace of the High Ones as soon as possible - but was killed before reaching it, leaving Winnowill as new Lord of the Gliders.
The Gliders rarely venture out of their mountain except for the "Chosen Eight", the tribe's hunters and (if need be) warriors. Although they have their own powers of psychic levitation, the Eight ride massive birds with whom they share a strong bond, similar to that of the Wolfriders and their wolves. As the Wolfriders search for Cutter and Skywise, Strongbow shoots down one of the massive birds for food. Enraged at the death of their mount, the Gliders attack the Wolfriders and imprison most of the tribe within Blue Mountain. Winnowill then tortures Strongbow for the death of the bird, while Leetah, Ember, and Suntop hide in the "Forbidden Grove" which is the home of the Preservers. Nightfall and Redlance also manage to escape imprisonment, and stumble upon Cutter and Skywise shortly after Cutter and his family are re-united. One-Eye, also not captured, lurks around the base of the mountain surviving on the humans' unknown generosity.
Dewshine, much to the dismay of her and her tribe, becomes Recognized by one of the Gliders named Tyldak. Tyldak has been reshaped by Winnowill to resemble a bird himself. Both fight the Recognition at first, but eventually give in and Dewshine becomes pregnant.
Winnowill put all Gliders but the Chosen Eight into deep sleep, and attempted to use their magic powers to shape Blue Mountain into a vessel to leave the World of Two Moons. This plan was foiled by the Wolfriders. The already re-shaped Blue Mountain shattered, and nearly all Gliders were killed - as a people or tribe, the Gliders do not exist anymore.
What follows is a difficult but enlightening journey, in which the elves' most basic assumptions about the world are turned upside down as they meet humans who are more good than they ever hoped, elves more evil than they ever imagined, and trolls more aggressive than they ever feared. Throughout these adventures, Cutter and his companions learn about the world and themselves in profound ways.
The Go-Backs are the fourth and last Elf tribe encountered during the Original Quest. Originally a migrating tribe, the Go-Backs are named after a sudden desire to "go back" to the palace of the High Ones. The Palace has a strong pull on all elves once in range, the Go-Backs were the first to stumble on it since the High Ones were driven away. First appearing to save Cutter and his followers from a war party of trolls in a snow-bound tundra, the Go-Backs are arctic-dwelling elk-herders, bearing about the same resemblance to Sami as the Wolfriders do to Iroquois and the Sun Folk to Mesoamericans (that is to say, mainly in costume). They are highly warlike and hardened, being locked in continual strife with the trolls who bar their way to the palace. They have a prejudice against "magic", but not to the extent of persecuting its users. The Go-Backs, so removed from magic, no longer rely on Recognition to procreate. They provided the bulk of the military strength that allowed the completion of the first quest, and lost half their numbers in doing so.
The High Ones
The High Ones were an advanced race, resembling the aliens known as 'greys'; they were stranded on Abode after their ship, the Palace, was sabotaged from within and crash-landed. There are few, if any, known High Ones remaining on Abode, though they live on in their descendants, the Elves, Trolls and Preservers.
Besides an unofficial homage in Marvel's X-Men #153 (Kitty Pryde wears an Elfquest T-shirt throughout the issue, and a sprite named "Pini" appears on p. 16), Elfquest has been adapted into a range of media.
While not an 'adaptation' in the strictest sense of the term, Piers Anthony's 13th Xanth novel Isle of View introduces a character named Jenny Elf, a Wolfrider who was magically brought to Xanth from Abode after a tragic accident. Jenny Elf, by the author's own admission, is a tribute to a young girl who was paralyzed by a drunk driver. Jenny Elf continues to be a character in subsequent Xanth novels. Warp Graphics published the first volume of a graphic novel adaptation of Isle of View entitled Return to Centaur.
In 2008, Warner Brothers announced its intention to bring the Elfquest saga to the big screen, with Rawson Thurber serving as writer and director. The format (live action, CGI, or traditional animation) is yet unknown. It was confirmed on Elfquest's official Facebook page that Warner Bros said "no." The reason being that Warner Bros didn't want the film competing with their film "The Hobbit." In 2013 there are rumours of recapping the project on behalf of the producers of a fanmade trailer which appeared a few years ago.
Animated video series
In the early 1990s, an ad for a multi-volume animated adaptation of Elfquest appeared in the comic. A few issues later, the Pinis told readers they'd withdrawn from the deal, and that readers should ask for refunds. Those who didn't, eventually received a 50-minute VHS tape from Abby Lou Entertainment, copyright 1992. Covering the first volume of the book, it consists of color still images taken straight from the comic, some minor animation, and spoken dialogue.
Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes produced a short web trailer entitled Elfquest: A Fan Imagining. The Pinis donated original art for the fundraising campaign, and lent an original dress to the production. The short premiered at the Screen Actors Guild in April 2011 and the cast featured such names as Taryn Southern, Casey McKinnon, Jessica Lee Rose, and more.
Between 1984 and 1987 Chaosium published the Elfquest RPG. A licensed tabletop Elfquest RPG was produced by Chaosium in 1984, utilizing the Basic Role-Playing system which had first appeared in the game Runequest and some original illustrations by Wendy Pini, including the character sheets.
Both the role-playing game and the comics themselves have sprung a number of online games (mostly MUSHes).
A brief action figure line was produced, featuring Cutter, Leetah (with a small Petalwing figurine), Picknose, and Tyldak. A proposed second series that would have included Skywise among others never reached production.
There exists an Elfquest board game which has the game play mechanic of tile laying to build the board as the game proceeds. Players play one of four elf tribes as they try to find the elf homeland or the troll tribe that tries to prevent the elf players from finding the homeland long enough until they can 'build a dome' over it.
Awards and honors
- 1979 Ed Aprill Award (New York Comic Art Convention) - Best Independent Comic
- 1979, 1980 Alley Award
- 1980 Small Press Writers and Artists Organization - Best Artist (Comics), Wendy Pini - Best Editor (Comics), Richard & Wendy Pini
- 1981 Phantasy Press Comic Art Awards (Woody Awards, in honor of Wally Wood) - Best Alternative Comic
- 1983 Small Press Writers and Artists Organization - Best Comic
- 1983 Heroes Award (Heroes Aren't Hard To Find) - Best Black and White Magazine
- 1984 New York State Jaycees Distinguished Service Award (Wendy & Richard Pini)
- 1985 Balrog Award (Sword and Shield Corp. of Denver, CO) - Best Artist (Wendy Pini)
- 1986 Fantasy Festival Comic Book Awards (El Paso Fantasy Festival) - Best Alternative Comic
- 1987, 1988 Skywise (Elfquest character) inducted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology freshman class
- 1989 Golden Pen Award (Young Adult Advisory Committee, Spokane, WA)
- Sanderson, Peter (July 1985). "Say Hello to Elfquest". MARVEL AGE,.
- "Digital EQ", http://www.elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics3.html
- WARP graphics also published a nonintegral "OQ" #21 in 1984.
- "Decades in Print", http://www.elfquest.com/pubs/DecadesInPrint.html
- Wendy Words - June 21, 2004
- Digital EQ: Online Comics
- Introducing Elfquest at Boing Boing!
- Perrin, Steve (1989), Wendy and Richard Pini's Elfquest The Official Roleplaying Game, Chaosium Publications, p. 178, ISBN 0-933635-54-0
- Claremont, Chris (w). Uncanny X-Men #153 (January 1982), Marvel Comics.
- Elfquest Digital Comics
- Elves gather at Warners, Hollywood Reporter, July 9, 2008 (subscription required)
- Miller, Liz Shannon (October 1, 2010). "Creator-Blessed ElfQuest Fan Film Crowdsources Funds". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
- "SAG New Media Department Presents The Premiere of "ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining" Wednesday, April 6" (Press release). Screen Actors Guild. 5 April 2011.
- http://popgalaxy.com/blog/2011/apr/07/frame-rate-elfquest/[dead link]
- MIT Freshman Picture Book, 1987 and 1988