There’s an undefinable quality about certain works of fiction. Some (mostly French people) call it “je ne sais quoi.” Some people call it “that certain something.” We geeks usually call it AWESOMENESS, and that’s what ElfQuest has going for it: total awesomeness.
The cool thing about ElfQuest, in addition to its tight storytelling, groundbreaking artwork, fandom community, and conceptual coherency, is the story of its creation. ElfQuest is the original web comic, 30 years before there was an Internet. It’s Indie publishing gone traditional, then back Indie, all before Indie publishing really meant anything. So we got awesomeness going on. Let me tell you what I mean:
The basic premise is as follows: Back in the day, on a planet known as the world of two moons, humanity was a collection of butt-scratching troglodytes. Suddenly, aliens with powerful magic and Elvin features descended from the heavens to explore this new planet. The primitive humans — groveling savages they were — were overcome by their fight-or-flight instincts. As a result, they beat the snot out of every last one of the enlightened elves.
The surviving elves — since this world dampens their magic — evolved over time into hunters and tribesmen, all the while keeping in the shadows and away from the dangerous humans and using the small amount of magic still at their command. Our story picks up generations upon generations later, when the elves have evolved to adapt to the hostile new world.
And that is quite a setup. I recommend starting with ElfQuest Archives, Volume I. Although ElfQuest started as a self-published black and white comic in 1978, it grew so rapidly in popularity that DC Comics agreed to republish ElfQuest as a full color effort, and eventually merged these issues into its archives imprint. Volume One will give you a good solid foundation, including the excellent artwork of Wendy Pini and highly skilled colors.
From there it’s time to read a prose work or two. ElfQuest is fundamentally a graphic experience, but the world is so rich a full of possibilities it supports plenty of other media. Any of the Blood of Ten Chiefs series will get you going. These are collections of short stories edited by Richard Pini himself, with help from fantasy genre greats Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey (of Thieves’ World fame).
Then head back to the Archives Volume II and III. From there you will have enough of a foundation to pick and choose where you want to go with this monstrosity of a self-publishing empire. Be forewarned that fans of ElfQuest are true fans. Most ElfQuest publications at this point are collectors items. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of interlibrary lending programs and rare deals at local used book stores to get these stories in your hands.
The other great news is that Wendy and Richard Pini, aka WaRP, are great stewards of their creation. If you visit elfquest.com you will get up to date on the latest in the world of two moons, and an intro into the fan base.
So, that’s what I recommend. Happy reading, and cosplay, and fan fictioning and whatnot!