Be sure to make note of our new address, right up there in the heading. As of September 1, 1993, Warp Graphics moved offices and studio to new and larger accommodations. We're there now, waiting to hear from you!
Since we've begun seriously considering just what it will take to put together a sensible line of comics titles that will bind into an "ELFQUEST universe," we've noticed that people are writing letters that don't always refer only to a single ELFQUEST title. (Of course, so far there are only the two titles, HIDDEN YEARS and NEW BLOOD, but I can imagine that things are going to get very interesting with BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS and WAVEDANCERS.)
For example, in NEW BLOOD #8 there is a letter from Minta Manning, commenting on a story that appeared in NEW BLOOD #5, which happens to have been done by the current artistic team behind HIDDEN YEARS. And I have in hand a letter that is a reply to that letter, which makes a certain sense to me to print here. Still with me? Good.
I guess my point is that, starting right about now, we're going to let letters, replies, and the debates they engender, roam all over the various letters pages of the different ELFQUEST titles. Where the words fit best, that's where they'll be printed. Onward...
Got our batch of NEW BLOOD #7 a while back, and have done little but sit and flip through the pages smiling. We couldn't be happier with the end results, and hope the reaction of the fans is positive as well.
Which brings me to Minta Manning's letter, I guess. It seems we nearly lost you a fan over the cookpot gaffe in our first story. And I can understand a loyal fan being upset with our blunder. We were upset with it too, and if it had been brought to our attention before publication, we'd have gladly "fixed it." I wonder if it would be possible to make a change in the copy and art before the story is reprinted in the NEW BLOOD hardcover? I'm sure Gary would be willing to paste up a bit of greenery over the offending kettle - and changing the caption is easy...
We can even change rabbit to "ravvit" if you'd like, if that would be more in keeping with the ELFQUEST universe. As an old cartoon sailor used to say, "We aims to please."
But I know that we can't please everybody. I think no matter what we - or any of the Team Elfquest creators - produce, there will be some fans who are unable to accept anything but 100% Wendy and Richard. Just as some fans could never accept George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates, Bud Sagendorf's Popeye, or anybody but Steve Ditko's Spider-Man (even though the aforementioned cartoonists - and John Romita - did a damn fine job with those features). We knew that going into this project, and are prepared for a certain percentage of the fans to react negatively to our approach.
But our hope is that a larger percentage will understand and enjoy what we are doing. We hope that we, while admittedly not ELFQUEST experts, nevertheless have a good handle on the characters. I know that they seem alive to me on the page of our stories, and I find Gary's artwork vibrant, charming and full of - well, what would the elfin equivalent of "humanity" be? We are trying our darnedest to be true to established ELFQUEST lore, but we, being humans and not elves, will probably get a few more details wrong from time to time. That's where you guys come in. Let us know when we've blundered and we will be more than happy to fix what is wrong. We don't want to annoy the fans if we can avoid it.
I do want to say that many of Ms. Manning's complaints about NEW BLOOD #5 are valid, but they all come down to this: the artists of that issue are not as talented and as accomplished as Wendy. And if they were, they'd probably have been drawing their own darn comic for the past fifteen years. This is not to excuse some of the failings of the art - but it does put it in perspective.
And flipping through the book, I think it's a good, solid art job overall, with a few elements that could have used some improvement. But if you're going to include a few younger, less experienced artists in Team Elfquest (and I hope you continue to do so) there are going to be some rough edges here and there. And if those artists are worth their salt, they'll work to smooth out those rough edges - and one hopes the fans will be patient enough to support them while they do so. That process can be mighty gratifying - I can remember buying early (early!) works by some guys named Wrightson, Smith, Byrne and Staton that were all pretty damn rough, but somehow they managed to improve just a li'l bit along the way.
And while (professional costumer) Ms. Manning's complaints about the way the clothing was drawn in NEW BLOOD #5 are, again, valid, they also remind me of an old segment from Late Night with David Letterman called "limited perspective" in which, for example, a shoe salesman would be called upon to review a current film, and would comment only upon the footwear worn in the movie. I'm also reminded of my horse-trainer cousin and her reaction to the movie version of "The Black Stallion". She hated the film because she was far too aware of the fact that a different horse was playing the title role, depending on the needs of the scene. Non-horse-expert me loved the movie and had no clue that there was more than one horse involved. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
I don't mean to make light of Ms. Manning's complaints - every reader's reaction is valid, and when someone cares enough to write, we ought at least to consider their opinion (though it has been my experience that there is the occasional nut who would be better ignored - like the guys who used to want to see Ms. Tree naked or tied up all the time!). I just hope that we Team Elfquest creators, while attempting to create authentic ELFQUEST stories, will be allowed by the fans to tell those stories in our own voices and through our own eyes. If we are pressed to simply imitate what has gone before, we will never be able to present anything but technically proficient series entries decidedly lacking the heart and soul of the originals. It is only by allowing us to present our own visions of ELFQUEST that we open the door to the possibility of creating something truly wonderful - the price we pay is that we might make a few false steps along the way. But that's what editorial guidance and the letter column is for...
Thanks for asking for our responses to this. I don't recall DC ever asking me my opinion about anything.
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For those of you who are wondering, we made a decision to use Minta Manning's letter as a capsule critique of ELFQUEST, because it was well written and reasoned. We hope that she doesn't mind becoming just a bit of a cause celebre as a result! We sent copies of her letter, along with comments of our own, to the writers and artists who are or will be working on Team Elfquest. Sometimes it helps to have a "view from without." After all, even editors sometimes suffer from "limited perspective" much as they'd like to have you believe otherwise.
Taking points in no particular order...
Mea culpa, the cookpot is mine. When Terry's (and Wendi Lee's) story came in, I saw that it had a cookpot in it. I also knew - it could hardly have been a secret! - that the story was an ELFQUEST takeoff on the tale of Hansel and Gretel. There are cookpots and/or ovens in that venerable story. So it was all right (and this is important) given the context of the story that there was a cookpot.
The context of the story? First and foremost, it's a NEW BLOOD story, and at least when we began that title, we made it clear that things could happen that might not be "the Way" as we've come to know it. The whole "what if" thing.
Also, and just as important to us here at Warp, Wendi and Terry suggested from the get-go that they wanted to do a series of "Elfquest Bedtime Stories." These would be stories aimed at younger readers who might just find some fun in the idea of favorite ELFQUEST characters acting parts from favorite fairy tales. We thought it a charming idea for two reasons. One, it was different, and different (at least in NEW BLOOD) is OK. Two, we've had requests generally from booksellers over the years for a "younger" version of ELFQUEST that can be sold in the childrens' section of a bookstore, rather than in science fiction or fantasy or humor. And, with the help of these "Bedtime Stories," as well as other, more childlike interpretations of ELFQUEST that we've seen, we are able to provide younger readers - and their parents - with just such a volume.
None of this is offered, of course, as an attempt to absolve yr. editor-in-chief from any sins of omission that he may have made over the last year or two. More than ever, what with ELFQUEST growing into a real, considered, natural storytelling universe, there is the need to keep all our wolves in a line. Details become more important; consistency becomes more important. Not to the point of anal-retention, mind you - I stand by every word of this month's editorial - but still we can't have characters wandering all over willy-nilly.
So to everyone, we're listening, and we're working on it. And be sure to follow all our various editorial ramblings as they wander from title to title and back again!
I have just read HIDDEN YEARS #8 and, as always, was moved to comment. The first thing that struck me was Rayek's repeated use of the affirmative "aye." It's a Treestump thing to say; Rayek never seemed to me to be the kind of elf who says "aye." Upon a second reading, I also noticed that Rayek says he "loves" Winnowill. I may be wrong, but I don't recall any elf saying the words "I love you" before. But this is just nitpicking.
The story itself was great. Everything seemed to be in keeping with what we know of Rayek as a hunter. The scene where he carefully approached the exhausted buck was reminiscent of his encounter with a boar, minus the magic stare, way back in Sorrow's End. He still has that compassion for his prey although he realizes now that there is no honor in killing, either way.
The art is also good, albeit different. When those Wolfriders that were left behind gather to see what is going on, are the two next to Nightfall and Redlance, Suntop and Ember? They look so pale. That was the only problem I could see. I love the two page kill, culminating in Rayek howling. I could hardly believe my eyes, it's such a turnaround for an elf who once declared such a spectacle "barbaric." Perhaps now he has realized his need for acceptance, to be a part of something rather than to dominate. Still, I don't see Rayek riding a wolf any time soon.
Thank you, Wendy, for the beautiful centerspread! it seemed fitting, given Richard's editorial concerning the early years of ELFQUEST and its fans. It's nice to be reminded of a simpler time amidst the complexities of now. It's good to remember One-Eye, Woodlock, Rainsong, and even little Wing, all of whom are no longer physically present on the World of Two Moons. It's comforting to know that they're with us in spirit.
By the way, the preview for HIDDEN YEARS #9 is very intriguing, almost unbearably so.
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Only almost?! We must be slipping...
About the Cutter and Rayek duke-it-out thing, how exactly is that going to be done? I would think that Rayek has a little power. In HIDDEN YEARS #8 Rayek (so it says) is "seemingly powerless." But how was he able to raise the Palace in HIDDEN YEARS #4? If Rayek is powerless at least it will be a fair fight. And if Wendy is going to do the art, give her my thanks. And please consider making this a habit!
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Making what a habit? Having Cutter and Rayek pound the snot out of each other? Oh, and about powers and fairness in the upcoming ElfBash, be sure to read the Three Rules elsewhere in this issue...
After HIDDEN YEARS #7, can there still be any doubts as to whose ancestor Haken is? On page 7 he attacks his "enemies" using the full force of his powers (like Rayek in KINGS OF THE BROKEN WHEEL); On page 8 he crawls away wounded (like Winnowill in the original ELFQUEST); On pages 12-14 he sits on his throne (!) planning revenge, and exploits superstitious humans to attack his enemies (Winnowill in SIEGE AT BLUE MOUNTAIN); on page 21 he smiles scornfully (like Rayek just about any time he's got the upper hand) and immobilizes the elves with black sendings (again like Winnowill in SIEGE). Finally on page 22 he rejects love, just like Winnowill.
The price he pays for doing so is pretty gruesome. Timmain's attack on Haken is genuinely shocking - not least, it seems, to Timmain herself. Because in spite of all he did, she never stopped loving him.
How about the artwork? Some may say it's not as good as Wendy's, and I'd be inclined to agree, but hold the Vegematic. It took Wendy long years of damn hard work to get as good as she is today and it's been great fun watching her talent progress. And now we lucky EQ readers have the opportunity to watch the development of a brand new artistic team. Today they're good; tomorrow they'll be great. And hopefully by then they'll have their moons sorted out. As for Sarah's script, all I can say is that it captures the flavor of EQ, which is hard to define but distinct and recognizable. And crucially, it leaves the reader wanting more. Does Gibra succeed? Does Vol grow up to be Lord Voll? What about Blue Mountain and Winnowill? Yes, you'll tell us eventually, but the suspense, the suspense!
Another point: The story is narrated by Timmain, but to whom? I like to think she's telling the Wolfriders. It's about time they learned the whole truth about their ancestors. They have after all tended to regard the High Ones as awesome, godlike beings, but in many respects they are no more (or less) godlike than their descendents. There's a moral in there somewhere, I guess. More Firstcomers stories soon, please.
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That's it for this issue. Keep those comments coming in! Next time, more tattoos??? - RP