As Tommy Lee Jones's character in the film "The Fugitive" said when he first came upon the train wreck, "My, my, my, my, my. What a mess."
ELFQUEST has been fortunate of late; we've gotten more good press in more venues than I can recall. But every once in a while, someone sends us some news that brings us up short. We received, from inker Barb Kaalberg (you've seen her work on EQ in NEW BLOOD and BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS), a review by one Tasha Robinson that appeared in the March 10, 1994 edition of The Daily Iowan, out of Iowa City.
Ms. Robinson does not appear to be happy with the direction that we've taken with the elves. She mentions Warp Graphics's plans to expand the number of ELFQUEST titles, and goes on to say, "But ELFQUEST's latest phase of expansion... is threatening the series' integrity. At this point, "ELFQUEST" has too many cooks, and the result is a very watery soup indeed.
While conceding that "(t)he new arrivals aren't all bad..." Robinson contends that "...they simply can't duplicate or replace (Wendy's style)." She allows that some of what the newcomers are doing is all right ("not anemic"), but savages the rest, particularly NEW BLOOD. Her main complaint seems to be that we here at Warp just aren't telling the same kind of story in the same way that we used to.
At first it might seem that this is just another in a thinning trickle of "it ain't Wendy so it ain't good" complaints. But what's really bothersome about this review is an underlying... malaise of some sort. I hesitate to use the words "hypocrisy" or "ignorance" because those imply some knowledge of the writer's state of mind, and since I don't know Ms. Robinson at all, I can't and won't make such ad hominem judgments.
Robinson paraphrases Wendy and me as stating that "...(the) series' central concept is growth, both emotional and physical." This is emphatically true. It's as true of our overview of ELFQUEST it is of our views on life. You grow or you die (or stagnate, which is the same thing).
Robinson then goes on: "It's sad to see that becoming an ironic statement on the series' nature, as the "ELFQUEST" creative spark grows into a clumsy conglomerate property." Grossly unkind assessment aside, I ask "Ironic"? Where on earth is the irony?? Does Robinson think that growth is a quick and painless process? Does she see evolution as "do the same thing over and over and over again"? I'd sure like to know, because the article as a whole seems to say so. And I can only imagine even the "old" Wolfriders, whom she seems to miss eery much, shaking their heads in puzzlement at such a notion.
Robinson concludes her review: "And it's even sadder to see a once-stunning, once-solid series slowly outgrowing its roots and its audience." No, I don't think so. Certainly not judging by the overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic feedback we get for all of the new series. No, I think what has really happened is that, sadly but realistically, ELFQUEST has simply outgrown one reviewer.
And now to our regularly scheduled letters...
Re: NEW BLOOD #14.
The past few issues of this title have been fantastic; however, now with Forevergreen it just got better. Dart, Mender and Windkin have been my favorite second generation elves, followed by Ember, Suntop and Tyleet. So this story focusing on Windkin is great.
Windkin is quickly showing his heritage while still in some part remaining a Wolfrider. The mix is truly unique and intriguing. I'm glad that this tide is focusing on the Sun Folk too, for they have been left out far too often. Hopefully after the Forevergreen is rid of its humans, the Sun Village can relocate there, which will eliminate the problem of roaming humans and the volcano erupting again. It would be interesting to see how the villagers would adapt.
I do have one request. I would like to see the six aforementioned elves go off on a quest of their own. Perhaps with the two brave WaveDancers running around in unknown territory? Anyway, it's just something I would love to see.
The World of Two Moons is a place where reality and fantasy blend to produce the perfect place for stories to be told. I wish to thank you for sharing this world with me and my family. I am looking forward to many further adventures.
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It might be some time before we see any splinter groups taking off on their own quests, much less run into Barmek and Sleia of the WaveDancers, but the future's heading our way one day every 24 hours, so who knows?
The way the colors in NEW BLOOD #14 were so much better than in #13 leads me to believe that something went wrong in the printing process of the latter? Or did Barry develop his use of color (particularly skin color shades) so much during the time between these issues? In fact, the color isn't the only improved thing. The overall look of the art was also up a level or two, both in terms of consistency and sheer looks. Great Strongbow-ish face on Dart! I find myself slowly beginning to accept Barry's version of the elves, and I have to say that his work in NEW BLOOD #14 was beautiful. The cover, to boot, was one of the best I've ever seen; words will not do it justice.
You write in NEW BLOOD #13: "...and the counting of (the years) at last falls into hands of the immortals." What exactly does this mean? That the mortal ones die during that time? I guess it can't mean that, since Mender and Newstar are still alive. But then what about Bowki and Serrin? If they are dead, you wasted the six pages preceding that line I quoted! Don't do things like that! And tell me, why didn't Suntop get any older? We didn't see him sleeping.
And then for some outcries of astonishment, pertaining to #14: What, a human band of settlers led by a troll?!! What's the World of Two Moons coming to? Ooh, this is terribly exciting!
And Windkin captured by elf-worshipping humans? Absolutely despicably intriguing!
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You're right about one thing. You didn't see Suntop sleeping. Amazing what a wee shift in emphasis can do, no? And there's a really simple explanation for the "counting of time" episode you ask about. Some of the wolf-blooded elves made the choice to sleep. Some chose not to. Some lived. Some died. Each one did what was right for him/her. As far as the colors go, some of the improvement is Indeed Barry's doing, and some of it is the result of some new tricks we learned to do in the color separation stage. Every chance we get to learn something, we take it.
I just finished reading NEW BLOOD #14. Great cover. I liked a lot of the inside too. My only real complaint is that the story tries too hard to make itself fit into the existing chronology, so there are bits of it which feel stiff and artificial.
I really like Windkin's new look, and his personality. In some ways, I think he's your best defined character in this series. I think Dart would be runner-up, but there is still a lot you can and should do to define his character. I think Chot has a lot of potential, but I hope he doesn't end up as a two-dimensional bully type. Sure he's lazy, irritable and hard to get along with, but there's got to be more to him than that. Suntop, however, feels like the least developed of all the main characters. It's difficult to say why. Maybe because it's hard to believe in a character who never seems to get angry and who, despite his youth and innocence, always ends up being a kind of savior in critical situations. Kind of like the Wesley Crusher character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, who appears to be genuinely disliked by a lot of fans.
I really like the scene between Suntop and Dart where Dart says, "If you're going to test the 'bear,' wolf cub, be sure you're ready for whatever he may do." A very nice touch.
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From: Dorinda Hartmann
Subject: Re: Grrrr No. 1.
<<< Gr. I got the new HY - #14, I think... the one with a cover of Tyleet sitting in a tree, contacting a human. At any rate, the HY with Tyleet contacting a human - the woodcutter to be specific. My grr is a eery simple one, and not even a spoiler. I am rather impressed that Blair is finally giving Yun breasts - to a degree - but why does she have to look like Treestump with breasts?>>>
Acorn, could you explain a little further what you're talking about? The latest HIDDEN YEARS, the one with the cover of Tyleet sitting in a tree contacting the woodcutter, is HY #11. Being HY, it isn't drawn by Barry Blair, it's done by McKinney & Barnett. Also, Yun isn't in the issue.
I guess you're talking about the latest NEW BLOOD, #15, with the cover of Windkin tied up against the four-fingered hand statue. If so, I can't exactly see where Yun looks like "Treestump with breasts"-- she appears on page 5, panel 3, standing with Suntop, and she looks pretty nice there. Of course, that's just IMO. (The full-face and almost full-face pix of her 2 pages later at the bottom aren't quite as graceful, that's true. But at least she has Skywise's nose!) I always thought that many of the elves looked pretty androgynous, especially among the Go-Backs. Without knowing who a character is, and without seeing the character's body, telling gender from the face alone isn't always easy. Lots of the elves' faces look pretty evenly balanced between stereotypical "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics.
But hey, maybe that's just me...
And we will continue to keep all and sundry abreast of current developments In elfin physiology. Sorry. Couldn't resist. Next issue, I'll share with you the first version of Suntop's Forevergreen poem, the one I dashed off when Barry came in and said "We need a poem in five minutes!" See you in 30! - RP