[The following editorial appears in Hidden Years #8 and New Blood #7. --MK]
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges, As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes."
"The Bean Eaters"
The metaphor of the aged movie idol who spends all of his or her remaining days lost in celluloid memories of days gone by is a disturbingly powerful one. Until last evening (April 5, 1993, for those who keep track) I really believed that such symbolism was ham-handed, laid on thick with a trowel. Reminiscence is all right, but real people don't do such things, don't get so lost. It's too much a cliché.
Clichés are clichés for a reason. The reason is, they're true. We keep forgetting that. We're none of us immune from them.
I had the task and opportunity to sift through fifteen years of memories last night, searching for photos and other bits of memorabilia to adorn issue #1017 of the COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, devoted to ELFQUEST's sesquidecennial anniversary. When we moved offices to our present location, nearly ten years ago, there were many sealed boxes that went straightaway into the basement, that remained shut and taped until last night. In addition to those cartons, there are all the ones that have accumulated in the years since. Somewhere in those many little cardboard tombs, I knew or suspected, were packets of photos and other trinkets that would perhaps provide me with what I needed to send to the editors.
Reminiscence is a black hole, in the best quantum tradition of Schwartzchild and Hawking. It'll draw you in before you're even aware of it. If you're not careful, or if you're easily given to emotion, you can stay stuck inside the "event horizon" with only accumulated mementoes as company.
Here, a thick wad of color photographs, held together by crumbling rubber bands. Over the years, a bit of moisture has gotten to them, making their glossy surfaces a bit gluey, so I must be very careful popping the individual prints apart. These frozen instants record the colorful chaos of the 1981 San Diego Comic Convention. During the masquerade, over sixty young people, dressed up as every elfin character Wendy and I had created to date, took over the stage like human confetti. I realized, looking over the record, that I recalled each and every face, each and every instant that the camera caught. "Where are you all now?" I found myself asking.
And here, another collection of photos, spanning several years, but all providing a catalog of gifts and homages that people had sent to us and the elves. A stained-glass recreation of one of Wendy's early Elfquest covers. A piece of leatherwork, tooled and colored into one of the characters. A birthday cake, decorated with sending stars and the wish for the celebrant to have "a howling good birthday." You craftspeople, are you still around?
And then there are the binders full of clippings, yellowing, from such diverse sources as the Wall Street Journal and what was then The Buyer's Guide to Comic Fandom, in its olden days. I found what had to be the first review that ELFQUEST ever got, back in 1978, when Warp Graphics published, for the first time under its own banner, ELFQUEST #2. I rediscovered the entertainment newspaper ad that swiped our characters to advertise the animated "Lord of the Rings" showing at a local movie house - what a chuckle that brought! I unearthed letters from people in and out of comics. Many are still with us; some have passed on; some have gone to other fields of endeavor. What a strange, naive time we lived in.
I think that's what struck me most powerfully as I worked my way through the packets and envelopes and boxes of distilled memory. We - Wendy and I and the other fledgling publishers and retailers and distributors of the time - really had no clue. We went as far as we could each day, in the direction of least resistance, and we learned as we went. There were no guides, there were no hidden agendas, there was no speculation. We all just did what we did because we loved it, because it was a thrill, and because we couldn't imagine doing anything else. It was, at times, barely controlled chaos but we thrived. There was room for chaos. I could, and often did, call Phil Seuling up the week before an issue printed and shipped and ask him how many copies he wanted, without benefit of purchase orders or any other such rigmarole. He'd tell me, and that was that. It was publishing à la Haight-Ashbury circa 1968.
There's no more space for that these days. I'm a far better businessperson than I was, Warp Graphics is a far better publishing company than it was. I don't regret any of that growth. But I do sorely miss the innocent joy of just being born, of new discovery. You can't go back in time, not really, but when you have a small mountain of memories in front of you in the quiet night, it's real easy to get sucked in.
That didn't happen, of course, but there's a bit of me that hasn't yet come out of that neverland of memory. Maybe it never will, I don't know. And if it doesn't, then maybe that's not such a bad thing either. I'd hate only to look forward, and not back. That's why I want to dedicate this anniversary reminiscence to everyone who ever stitched and wore an ELFQUEST costume, and let us know about it; to everyone who ever sent us a story or poem; to anyone who did something wonderfully silly like put ELFQUEST vanity plates on the family car, or paint a Wolfrider onto the gas tank of the Harley, or go a'questing in the state park. Are you still out there? We're not who we were back when, but I'd like to hope, the next time I go into the mental Way-Back machine, that bits of our long ago spirits remain, gathered together and howling at the double moons.
Richard A Pini