My publisher, one of whose jobs it is to know such things, told me that I ought not write editorials on matters that are too timely, as the words might not see print at the appropriate moment. However, there currently exists one bugaboo of both general and specific concern that's not likely to go away in a hurry, so it's fair game.
The issue is censorship, however it is labeled, and while the problem is getting to be a widespread one, it also affects those particular pleasures that you, the reader of this comic book, are likely to enjoy: comics, science fiction, fantasy.
Reaction to the earlier editorial on this topic has been gratifying, but I received one letter that admitted a problem of sorts. The writer said, "...I don't see how we can take a stand against such narrow-minded people ...Do you think that (they) would put a stop to important things like fantasy and comic books?"
To answer the explicit question, yes, I think that if the censors see any chance to lower their particular booms, they will. They have already begun. Here, a book has been removed from a library; there, a comics shop has been shut down. We no longer have the luxury of thinking, regarding some hazy future time, "Maybe they'll overlook us." The battle, on many levels, has already begun.
Then there is the implicit question: What can you do to take a stand? There is one answer I've not yet seen given, what with all the verbiage that's being spread around, but first, a caveat. Don't try to fight fire with fire; don't try to out-shout a zealot. Irrational people love it when you argue with them; since they know they're right anyway, they don't have to listen to you.
That's what you don't do. What you do is to be faithful to the spirit of the question. As Theodore Sturgeon always said, ask the next question, wherever it may lead your thoughts. Question authority, question ideas, question what's told to you -- even this. And do it for yourself, because no one else can do it for you, and you can't do it for anyone else. No one can think for you; no one can tell you what to think. Believe that. Build self-faith by questioning until you get to answers meaningful to you. You may not always have success with the self-righteous types mentioned above; their faith is seldom in themselves, but rather in rhetoric, and they can always hide behind that. But at least you'll know them for what they are -- and aren't. (And watch the ones who make the most noise; they have the most to hide. Right, Jim? Tammy? Jerry? Davey?)
Question those people. Read a banned book. Think a different thought. Take an issue and decide, inside yourself, your position on it. Once you commit yourself to who you are, no one can take that away. That's how you take a stand.
-- Richard Pini
ELFQUEST FAN CLUB. It suddenly occurred to me that I haven't yet mentioned the fan club anywhere in this series! Mea culpa! Well, let's correct that right now -- the EQFC has been around since 1981, has several thousand members worldwide, and is open to anyone who cares to join. The club publishes a quarterly newsletter, Lodestone, that contains news, announcements, art, poetry, you-name-it, all relating to the world of Elfquest. When you join, you get a new member's packet with membership card and certificate, a bunch of EQ stuff (button, bumper sticker, pencil, postcard), club handbook, and the latest issue of Lodestone. What does it cost to join? Just $10.00 ($20.00 outside of North America) -- and that's not for a year, that's for life! That's right -- you pay just once. Make out your check or money order to "Elfquest Fan Club" and mail to 5 Reno Road, Poughkeepsie NY 12603. And welcome to our world!
And now to your letters.
So, welcome back to the stand. This is my personal favorite comic and has been for some time. I'm glad to see you doing more with Scouter and Dewshine. I know Scouter can have a bad temper and carry a grudge, but I never thought I'd see Scouter at Skywise's throat. Why do so many tragedies fall on Dewshine and Scouter's shoulders? And do they know each others' soul names?
Ann Arbor, MI
No, they don't -- and that's the most tragic of all. They love each other, but Recognition, which opens the soul names of two elves to each other, happened between Dewshine and Tyldak -- and those two don't love each other. There are many complex feelings involved here, but love isn't one of them.
One of the reasons that Elfquest is so outstanding is your unique ability to rouse your readers' compassion toward the elves. I've just read #2 and it leaves me aching for the next one, hoping that some miracle will help Dewshine and Skywise. You don't spare your characters anything, do you? Dewshine was so proud of her independent Wolfrider spirit that she fought Recognition with Tyldak. Now she's a slave of Winnowill. Skywise shows that his feelings for Aroree are strong enough to make him break the den-hide and bring her to the Father Tree itself -- and she pays him back by kidnapping Windkin. He seeks out his "brother in all but blood," but Cutter looks as if he's going to say words that will hurt beyond mending. That's the kind of incident that leaves a great lump in my throat.
We hope that Cutter's actual reaction to Skywise's tale eased the lump a bit. It's all too easy to give in to that blind anger that comes with bad news; how much more love is shown by forgiveness.
The art as it tells the story is superlative. One technique I noticed you use twice in #2 is a sequence moving downward and leftward. It's wonderful how that economizes eye movement; instead of having to jump all the way to the left side of the page, your eye can just sweep back and forth. In this issue, it is effectively used on page 7 with Winnowill and on page 28 with Skywise and the humans. In each case the panels reading against the normal now seem to stand out from the rest and pull the eye along.
Speaking of Skywise and the humans, I'd sure like to find out just what went on after what we've been shown. After freeing himself from his bonds, Skywise has managed to release Starjumper, retrieve his belongings, and receive damage to himself and his tunic. He must have had to fight the humans and, given his distaste for them, I wouldn't be surprised to find he'd killed them.
On the subject of dead humans, I wonder what became of the Bone Woman. Sure, she told the thief, "Do not fail in this or we are both dead," but it's too much to expect that she actually is. It appears that Nonna has taken her place of shamanistic influence in Olbar's tribe. Good for them.
I'd also like to learn how Nima, Tenchi, and Geru came to live with Nonna and Adar. "And you have been very busy!" -- hey, how fast does Cutter think humans gestate, anyway? I'm glad to see Olbar's casualness begin to break down Nonna's reverence for the bird spirits.
I'm also glad to see that Aroree keeps extra hats in her chambers. I always wondered whether they had spares. I'm also glad that Kureel didn't break her wrist, as she appears to be using it normally later on. So much gladness, yet much more sadness. Aroree says, "Forgive me" -- will they be able to? In trying to play fair with Winnowill she has dealt the Wolfriders worse than she could have if she'd tried. She denies her responsibility, yet the responsibility is hers alone. Dewshine and Winnowill could only have acted as they did, given Aroree's actions. Winnowill's look of malignant interest on page 12 is horrifying.
We asked Olbar about his erstwhile shamaness; all he did was to sweep his arms wide to take in the entire tribe and say, "No bones about it." Now, regarding Nonna and Adar's three children... Since you know that Elfquest is symbolic, and since you also know that Wendy and I haw no (flesh and blood) children, where do you suppose those three came from, hmmm? And while we're on the subject of the lady in black...
Lord W. and her followers are a bunch of elvish Nazis, that's what they are. It's especially obvious on page 26 of #2, where we see cruel Kureel serving as Goebbels and Gestapo to Winnowill's Hitler. But the Preservers are not fooled by all that idiotic nonsense about "racial purity"; they know who is a true elf and who ain't, which is why they stick with the Wolfriders and not with the nastybad flyhighthings. (By the way, it came as a shock that an issue so full of conflict and violence among the elves, and of friendliness between elves and humans, should end with a reprise of the old elf vs. human enmity.)
Salt Lake City, UT
"And she knows all elves with tainted blood must die."
Oh Winnowill, Winnowill, I knew you had bitchy you hadn't even used yet, but this "tainted blood" remark! Where oh where have I heard that before? Ten hateful little words that make "Winnie" come off like Hitler in a size A-cup. The Gliders always seemed to have overtones of neo-SS, with those black 'n' white getups and too-good-to-be-true perfection. It always amazes me how in comics as well as in real life those "blessed" with so much are always so ready to deprive others of their own kind. Strange how cruelty and insanity seem to come in such appealing forms.
Although I'm sure there may be few "elfers" who share my feelings, my gut reaction is still: If the ancestors of the Gliders had acted as obnoxiously on the Palace-ship as they do in Blue Mountain, I see why the trolls revolted. Who among us, no matter how lowly, likes being treated badly?
Also, I'd like to make a prediction. In time there may well be a total vindication of Two-Edge. He may prove to be the wisest, bravest, and most compassionate of the lot. Who knows, he might make a damn impressive ancestor for somebody.
I've enjoyed the first two issues very much and I like the speed at which you set everything up. I've only got two gripes. First, if Rayek really wanted to solve the riddle of Two-Edge, why didn't he go find Leetah and ask her to heal him? And second, why couldn't Strongbow -- and anyone else who wanted to know how things are in Sorrow's End -- simply travel on wolf? And when you've answered those (not difficult, really, I can almost do it myself: Rayek wants to solve the riddle himself and the Chosen Eight might spot any traveling Wolfriders -- anyway the problem of Winnowill remains) answer one more: Why weren't those answers mentioned by anyone in the first issue?
Well, you see, we put out the word early on: "Lisa's going to write in to us and supply the answers, so no one else say a thing." And here you are! Also, if you remember, it's no small journey from the Forbidden Grove to the Sun Village -- certainly a longer one than one or two Wolfriders and wolves could manage without a zwootload of supplies. Wolves died during the trek, way back when, from the troll tunnels to the Sun Village -- a shorter distance -- and no Wolfrider would risk that again.
How perfect can you get? Drama, action, treason. This is great! You told us in the Elfquotes column to "explore your own reactions" and to "give specific examples" about why we liked/disliked an issue. Well, believe me, I'm trying to explore my reactions, but all that comes out is GREAT! GREATGREATGREAT!! About the story: it seems that everyone is blaming one another. Scouter blames Skywise for this, Aroree blames Dewshine for that, and Cutter is going to blame (if not hurt) Skywise (whom I feel very sorry for). But do you know who I blame? Tyldak! It was his fault for using Dewshine's soul name openly back in old #13. He should've sent instead. But yet, he would never have met Dewshine if not for that silly quest. That means it's Cutter's fault! But then, it wouldn't be Cutter's fault, but rather Bearclaw and Joyleaf's -- no, no! That's a terrible excuse. Yeah, this is great -- I'm exploring my reactions!
Silver Spring, MD
But if Wendy and I had never met, then... so it must be the U.S. Mail's fault. Or maybe the Silver Surfer's. Or Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's. But then, if we'd not been born... Ah hah! Mom, Dad, 'fess up.
I'm very pleased to see that Wendy has two talented sidemen to do the inking and the lettering. Joe Staton does an excellent job in recreating Wendy's original pencil work. My only suggestion would be for him to study her "eye" work some more. The eyes are an integral part in conveying the mood and emotion of Elfquest and deserve only a half-ounce more scrutiny.
Janice Chiang's work has not gone unnoticed either. While I cannot conjure the sort of praise that would do her work justice, I do recognize that she must provide the sound effects for a world where there is no rock'em, sock 'em, or WHABOOM! Where the call of sending carries farther than rolling thunder. My compliments to both!
Winnowill seems to have changed. Is her robe longer? I always thought that she puts a "feather in her cap" after each trial in her life. I can only guess that when she loses encounters to those she cannot dominate, she trails more of her robe, hence, moving deeper into shadow. I used to be very sympathetic toward her character -- should I still be? In the past we could say that her actions were to "protect" Lord Voll and to preserve the sanctity of Blue Mountain. Now, she seems more ruthless and sinister than ever. I thought we might experience some of Winnowill's grief in her loss of Lord Voll; I thought we might learn more in retrospect of his effect on her. Perhaps we'll see some of that later.
I'd like to say some words about Aroree and Kureel. It would seem that the Chosen Eight have a rather child-like view of responsibility and loyalty. Witness that it is items like their talon-whips and uniforms and their mastery of the bond birds (ignoring the fact that they can already fly with little effort) that form the focus of their pride, not any service to other elves. For the Eight, and particularly for Aroree, it is a sad comment that they are taught to take life before they are taught to preserve, respect, or care for it. It seems growing up is a hard lesson to learn in the sheltered world of Blue Mountain.
Kureel seems to be that saddest form of patriot -- the blind follower. For him life will indeed be lonely, if he lives. And poor Aroree! Have they taught her nothing of the value of life? What of those irresponsible dreamers floating about the Great Egg? Certainly they must have some genuine knowledge about life that could lift Aroree out of the naive existence she leads.
Sgt. Brady L. Severns
Ft. Steward, GA
I picked up three perhaps meaningless threads from back issues which may or may not have some future relevance. Winnowill's reference to the tree-shaper who made the strangleweed net and then died in it -- tree-shaping seems an odd skill for the stonebound Gliders. Could he have been from another tribe of elves? Two-Edge's line to the injured Winnowill: "it begins again, mother." Again? And where did Ekuar come from? Possibly the Go-Backs, but in view of their origins and attitude toward magic, I doubt it.
Rayek is my favorite character. He and Skywise have more in common than they might suspect with their mutual hunger for knowledge. Please handle Tyldak gently; he's my second favorite (tied with Strongbow). I am certain he cares deeply for Dewshine. I never believed he left the Wolfriders voluntarily. Wounded, and shocked by Voll's death, he was swept away in the tide of the Gliders' departure. In making no choice, his choice was made. Besides, flightless he is a cripple and he would have died had he stayed. Now we find him side by side with Dewshine and their son. Being the first elf in Blue Mountain to father a child in centuries must be a powerful and moving experience. Let's see it, guys!
El Paso, TX
So Cutter went off and found Nonna and Adar. One thing: Why is he always leaving Treestump in charge? Why not Leetah? After all, she is his lifemate.
First, for all her experiences so far, Leetah is still a long way from understanding all it means to be a Wolfrider. Also, Treestump is still the eldest (he's over 800 -- the character sheet in the game is wrong) and so he's a natural to take over.
About Aroree. On the bottom of page 7, where she's taking Windkin to her chambers, she's wearing a hat. But in issue #1 on page 26 her hat falls off when Skywise ambushes her. Where did she get it? Are there extras scattered throughout Blue Mountain, or does she keep a collapsible extra with her?
Salt Lake City, UT
That frabbaschnabber hat again. You remember Egg? And Brace? And Door? Well, meet Hatrack, Blue Mountain's very own fedora-shaper, who has been created just for situations like this one. Sheesh.
Keep those letters coming in, and see you in 60!
-- Richard Pini