Elfquest (or ElfQuest - fans have debated the correct punctuation for years) is a comic book property created by Wendy and Richard Pini in 1978. The basic premise is a fantasy story about a community of elves and related species who struggle to survive and co-exist on a primative Earth-like planet with two moons.
Elfquest #5, 1979.
Cover art by Wendy Pini.
Elfquest art copyright 2003
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Strictly speaking, the characters in question are not actually the creatures of folklore, but actually highly advanced alien beings who intended to explore the planet in search of others of their kind during the planet's medieval time period and assumed the form of the creatures for that purpose. However, a mishap disrupted the controls of their vessel and made them make a forced landing far earlier in time, in the caveman period. The inability to communicate quickly caused a catastrophic misunderstanding that brought on a massacre of the aliens and drove the survivors from their palace-shaped vessel.
The main story takes place centuries later where the elves and other beings have adapted with great difficulty to their home. The main characters are the wolfriders, a tribe of elves who became the rough equivalent of the Iroquois Native American nation of ferocious hunter/warriors who are closely allied with wolves who serve as mounts among other things. The Wolfriders also have some basic psionic powers like telepathy, healing and plant manipulation. In the current generation led by Cutter, their regular forest life - interspersed with intermittent conflict with superstitously genocidal humans - is lost when the humans set fire to the forest in retaliation for a previous battle. They seek refuge in the underground caverns of their sullenly greedy, but cowardly trade partners, the trolls. Originally the aliens' servants, the trolls' ancestors fled the crash site and became cave-dwellers.
The elves claim that the trolls owe them sanctuary, but the troll king, Greymung, feels humiliated 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 the finding of a piece of "magic" lodestone, which inadvertently acts as a crude compass, they make an extremely ardous journey across the wasteland until they encounter an oasis called Sorrow's End, populated by a sedentary elfin race called the Sun Folk. After an initial misunderstanding, the two races quickly unite in smooth fashion with each side willing to adjust to their new companions to their mutual benefit. The Wolfriders enjoy the benefits of a more sophisticated culture with revealing knowledge about the past and elders who have more advanced psionic skills while the Sun Folk benefit from a band of strong hunters and defenders of their desert refuge from humanity. The only major conflict is between Cutter and the Sunfolk's chief hunter, Rayek over the affections of Leetah, the healer of the colony, which is resolved in a fairly orderly fashion.
The sanctuary is eventually breached years later 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 close companion, Skywise, to try to find other Elf tribes to unite with to defend themselves against humanity. Later, Cutter's son, Suntop, receives a warning from the Sun Folk's elder about an evil to be avoided and the Wolfriders and Cutter's family set out to find the explorers.
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 that they can only begin to understand.
This series was one of the early successes that marked the establishment of a phase in underground comics when a new market of alternative independent comic books which were closer to the mainstream emerged. It was also one of the first comic book series which had a prearranged ending with the conclusion of the series, and which was highly praised for having an innovative theme about the acceptance of change. The fact that a female artist/writer was principly involved in the series was another outstanding element.
The original series ran for 21 issues (although the last issue consisted entirely of letters and behind-the-scenes material) and was followed by numerous sequels and spin offs under the WaRP Graphics imprint. Some of the later stories introduced other artists and writers and also included some "alternative" stories and self-parodies.
The original series was re-edited into 32 instalments 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. There have also been graphic novel collections in both color and black and white, as well as novelizations and original anthologies based on the series.
In March 2003 it was announced that after 25 years of self-publication the Pinis had leased all publishing and merchandising rights in the series to DC Comics, although the Pinis are expected to retain full creative control.
Elfquest: Wolfrider #1, 2003.
Copyright information as above.
DC's publication of Elfquest material began in July 2003 with The Elfquest 25th Anniversary Special, reprinting the very first issue of Elfquest with brand 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, which when complete will reprint the first eight graphic novel collections in glossy format with new coloring and lettering.
Meanwhile, September 2003 saw the publication of Elfquest: Wolfrider Volume One, the first in a series of 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.
A brand new story, Elfquest: The Searcher and the Sword, is announced as "coming soon" as of July 2003.
An animated film version has been in development, on and off, for at least 20 years. The official website has the latest details on the project.
if time permits i'd like to do a listing of maor elfquest series and graphic novel collections