elfquest
Elfquest # 5, Warp Graphics
Elfquest # 5, Warp Graphics

Elfquest is an epic comic book series created in 1978 by Wendy and Richard Pini which I am very much attached to—I still have the collected  editions from the eighties, when I first discovered them. The art is colourful and distinctive, the characters are sexy, smart, and interesting, and the story a classic hero’s journey. Beginning with the adventures of the Elf tribe the Wolfriders, over the years the world of Elfquest became a sprawling, centuries spanning universe that incorporated a little bit of everything into the story.

The elves of Elfquest are actually an alien race who came to the World of Two Moons (eventually known as Abode) to escape the end of their own planet. These extraterrestrial elves are essentially immortal and have a wide range of innate psychic abilities including telepathy, telekinesis, levitation, shape-shifting, and healing.

Their ship appears as a shining palace to the Neolithic humans of the new world, and the Elves as, well, elves. The first meeting does not go well. Despite this, the Firstcomers (whose immediate descendants are known as High Ones) are eventually revealed to have profoundly influenced human folklore and culture although they are not credited with it. Instead they are hated and hunted, a situation which sets the stage for the Pini’s long saga.

***

Elfquest # 1, Marvel
Elfquest # 1, Marvel

Cutter and his Wolfriders are at the heart of Elfquest. Like all elves, Wolfriders are descended from the otherworldly, undying High Ones. But to survive on the alien World of Two Moons, their tribe’s foremother transformed herself into, lived as, and bred as a wolf. As a consequence the Wolfriders now have wolf-blood in their veins and a very long but still mortal lifespan.

The narrative of Elfquest begins when the Wolfriders’ forest home is destroyed and they must set out to find a new place to settle. Along the way they discover and intermarry with other elf tribes they never knew existed—the desert-dwelling Sun-folk, the sorcerous Gliders, the warlike Go-backs, and the aquatic WaveDancers. They encounter Trolls and Preservers, other species that came to Abode with the High Ones, and the humans who are native to the world. And they find the lost Palace of their ancestors with all its history intact.

***

The Pinis initially published Elfquest themselves through their company, Warp Graphics. The title was next put out by Marvel, then DC, and it is now published by Dark Horse Comics. The original series ran for twenty issues and was followed by two shorter series—the eight issue Siege at Blue Mountain and the nine issue Kings of the Broken Wheel.

Although the original quest officially concluded after these, during the 1990s the Pinis filled in many of the historical details, side adventures, and far-future events on Abode in a number of additional titles including Hidden Years, Blood of Ten Chiefs, Kahvi, and Jink. Dark Hose Comics is currently publishing Elfquest: The Final Quest series, begun in January 2014 and slated to run for 24 issues, that picks up the story of the Wolfriders shortly after the end of the original quest.

***

Elfquest 19, and some elf magic
Elfquest 19, and some elf magic

Like many cult favorites, Elfquest inspired a decent amount of spin-off merchandise with varying degrees of success. There were three novels (Journey To Sorrow’s End, The Quest Begins, and Captives of Blue Mountain) and five Blood of Ten Chiefs anthologies. An album of folk songs called A Wolfrider’s Reflections happened, although I won’t vouch for it.  Of course there was an RPG produced by Chaosium between 1984 and 1987. Board games were released in 1986 and again in 2015. A handful of action figures were produced. In the 1990s a failed attempt was made at an animated series, and a possible 2008 film announced by Warner Brothers never got off the ground.

But no matter about the misses. Elfquest is a well-loved property. Even before the relationship with Marvel, Kitty Pride wore an Elfquest tee-shirt and a sprite named “Pini” appeared in X-Men #153, and a scene from Elfquest showed up in the background of Fantastic Four # 242. Its strength has always been on the page, and the fact that it’s still going strong at Dark Horse speaks volumes.

If you’re not already familiar with Elfquest and the Pinis’ other work—and especially if you are– all issues published before 2014 are available for free online. Let the journey begin, again.

 

 

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

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Starfire Issue # 2, doing what she does best
Starfire Issue # 2, doing what she does best

DC Comics’s 1976 version of Starfire may now be a blast from the past, but she is not one of your regrettable superheroes. In fact, she has had a richer and more varied career than would be expected from a run that only lasted eight issues and three costume changes.

For the record, DC is really fond of that name. The Starfire of which I speak is the second of three heroes to bear the name—the first being a male character who morphed into Red Star, and the third being the freewheeling Teen Titan otherwise known as Koriand’r.

Written originally by David Michelinie (who wrote prolifically for both DC and Marvel) and drawn by Mike Vosburg, this Starfire was introduced with her own title in August, 1976.

While essentially human and not possessed of specific superpowers, Starfire was still quite exotic. According to her bio, her mother had been “white”, and her father “yellow”, and Starfire herself is a blue-eyed, black-haired, pale-gold skinned beauty.  (Now, I’m going to speculate a little about her very specific parentage—she was introduced just after the US got out of Vietnam, and right about the time the impact of all the left-behind Amerasian children began to be felt and dealt with. Just my thoughts on the inspiration for her appearance.) Her fantastic looks were in fact the source of much male leering and pawing during her run–no matter what species the male.

Starfire # 6, fighting the good fight
Starfire # 6, fighting the good fight

The set-up for Starfire’s story, in brief, is this: according to the DC Wiki, Starfire belongs to the New Earth universe (sort of). She was born on an unnamed planet ruled by factions that control both technology and magic and where humans have been enslaved by the alien Yorg and Mygorg races. Starfire was bred from slaves and raised from infancy as a pet by the Mygorg chief Sookaroth. Because of her incredible beauty, she was intended to become his “bride” upon reaching eighteen. Unfortunately for Sookaroth, just before that happened Starfire made her escape with a rogue human war-priest, Dagan. Dagan taught her to fight. Then, of course, they fell in love. Sookaroth naturally hunted them down, tortured and killed Dagan, and inspired Starfire—now a warrior with serious sword, archery, and hand-to-hand combat skills–to put together a rebel army to overthrow their slave-masters.

By the time her story unceremoniously ended, Starfire had advanced to using laser pistols, hovercraft, teleportation, and supercomputers as well as the usual medieval weapons and trappings in her fight for human freedom. Readers were left hanging at the end of issue # 8 with the promise of a new installment that never came.

So there was that disappointment. But even with an undefined place in the DC Universe and without a title to call her own, DC kept their second Starfire around.

Starfire # 8, the last of her
Starfire # 8, the last of her

After her title’s demise, Starfire still showed up to lend an occasional hand to other superheroes. In 1978 she made an appearance in the also-short-lived Star Hunters (which, surprise, was also written by David Michelinie). In this adventure her planet is finally named as Pytharia, and Starfire is revealed to be one of the Champions of the Sornaii—a heroic aspect which Michelinie intended to connect her to Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion. Again, an interesting storyline was left unresolved when the title folded.

After a two decade hiatus, Starfire had a couple of fleeting mentions in Swamp Thing #163 in 1996 and Starman # 55 in 1999. Then she turned up again in 2010, ready for action, in several issues of Time Masters: Vanishing Point (created by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund). There Starfire met and fought beside Booster Gold, Green Lantern, and Superman, among others, during an epic quest to find Batman—even though she technically should not have survived the Crisis on Infinite Earths, especially since she didn’t make it through the DC Implosion.

So while the Starfire comics are few and not worth very much in the collectors market, there is something about the character that has inspired multiple comic creators to keep bringing her back, if only for a name-check or a couple of panels. And we may yet see Starfire again. It’s hard to keep a good time-hopping, Crisis-surviving, possible Eternal Champion-being swordswoman down.

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

And as always, please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section!

New York ComicCon 2015
New York ComicCon 2015

As Bill mentioned in the latest Nerdgoblin podcast , a few of us made a trip out to the 10th New York ComicCon this past Thursday. Now, the last con I attended featured bootlegged copies of Heavy Metal and Rocky Horror on VHS. It’s been awhile. Things have changed. Cons have gotten bigger, brighter, and more popular, and the NYCC is one of the biggest.

I dislike large crowds, so why not jump back in with the NYCC? I tagged along to take in as much of the sensory overload as I could process while our fearless leader worked hard documenting the event. Armed with some random advice from a few young veterans (The food is expensive and terrible! You’ll have to wait on line to get wristbands to buy ComicCon exclusives!), I waded into the fray.

As a fan without a specific focus, I did my best to show up with few preconceived expectations and a willingness to learn what the NYCC is all about. I had no real plan of attack, just a few events of interest I had made note of. I went on the lightest day for attendance, got there nice and early, and was pleased to find the line to enter moving quickly. Competent, friendly staff helped considerably. And by noon, the venue was packed.

NYCC Big characters, big crowds
NYCC Big characters, big crowds

There was an excellent vibe for a space that full of people. In spite of the omnipresent warnings that cosplay is not consent and a list of what constitutes harassment, the NYCC felt very safe. Everyone seemed to be happy to be there, united in a common cause.

Let’s face it. The con would not exist without the cosplay. The crowd was filled with multiple iterations of the Joker and Harley Quinn, Deadpool and Daenerys.  But some of the more memorable costumes I saw there were singularities. There was a gent dressed as multiple Johnny Depp characters (Jack Sparrow’s bandana, Tonto’s crow, Edward Scissorhand’s scissors, Willie Wonka’s coat, Hunter Thompson’s sunglasses…), the Weeping Angel, Cruella deVille, the Bride, Aquaman, and a two-year old Hulk complete with giant fists.

Since my planning was minimal, I spent the morning on the vendor floor and the afternoon in Empire Stage panels.

The vendor floor was huge. I was told to get swag, but was too overwhelmed by the sheer amount of swag available to make any rational decision about it. All I bought was a new set of dice (they are beautiful—marbled red with gold numbers). I took a few pictures, soaked up the atmosphere, and had a fantastically great time looking around. Then, on to the panels!

NYCC WoW booth
NYCC WoW booth

The Star Wars Rebels panel was the most professionally run of the three I saw, and served as a lead-in for the season two sneak previews later in the evening. The panelists were all pleasant and open, but Sarah Michelle Gellar was exceptional—warm, modest, and happy to be there for the fans.

The Walking Dead panel was a misfire. The only panelist to show up was Robert Kirkman (perhaps the promised other Special Guests were eaten on the way over?), and he was sorely lacking in the warmth and charm departments. But the room was packed, and we got a look at the cover art for issue #150 before Friday’s special screening of the show’s 6th season opener in Madison Square Garden.

The last, most anticipated, and most disappointing panel I stayed for was the Game of Thrones: Panel of Ice and Fire. The only complaints and dissatisfaction I heard from any fans was here, because of the mishandling of the audience. The participants were on point, and the panel started exactly on time, yet the waiting crowd was not let in until it had already begun. And unlike the earlier panels, staff was not available to make sure all the seats were filled—so there were empty seats scattered throughout and a mass of fans left standing at the back. The panelists were terrific, though. Natalie Dormer was sharp and witty even though she had spent the day doing photos and autographs. Keisha Castle-Hughes came across as very sweet, and Finn Jones seemed to be having a good time. Fan Q & A quickly devolved into variations on “So, if you could bring back one dead character…?”, but the three actors gave all the questions a fair shot.

NYCC Heading Home
NYCC Heading Home

There was still a night full of panels and screenings ahead, but I chose to head out while I was still coherent. There was so much to process. Even though I was ready to go I regretted not being able to come back the next day. I missed more than I saw, and I had enough of a taste to want more.

As to the things I learned about attending the NYCC (which fit with what A.J. Hernandez learned here ):

  • There are lots of giveaway items available from the big vendors.
  • If I had talked to more people there, I would have gotten more pics and free swag.
  • The Javits Center knows what it’s doing.
  • I won’t pack so much food and other stuff–it gets heavy quickly.
  • I need to allow at least two days for the con. There’s too much just to see, never mind the panels.

I inadvertently skipped Artists’ Alley entirely (and Danielle Frazetta with it), and only gave a cursory glance to the book vendors and authors (I know, I know). There was not enough time to hit any of the off-site offerings, either. And never mind the weekend events.

So, next year, I’m going back with a better game plan, some experience—and in costume. See you there!

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

And as always, please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section!