This past February, fan-favorite fantasy series Elfquest ended its initial 40-year run with a 24-issue series titled The Final Quest on the anniversary of its debut in 1978. Launched in an era when American independent comic books existed firmly in the underground of the industry, Richard and Wendy Pini's epic story followed the World of Two Moons populated by all manner of mythical races, with multiple tribes of elves among them, including one led by the long-running series' protagonist, Cutter.
The Pinis sat down with CBR at Baltimore Comic Con to talk about ending their expansive story, how the series has stayed relevant over four decades, taking the book to different publishers over the years and teasing what's to come next.
CBR: It’s been seven months since the last issue of Elfquest hit, almost seven months to the day. How has it been putting the series to bed after 40 years?
Wendy Pini: Well, it’s not like it’s been put to bed. The victory tour we’ve been on these past seven months has been, for me, like one long standing ovation. The reaction of the fans has been amazing, very positive, and Elfquest still feels very alive to us. I mean, just because we ended a story arc, it’s alive in the hearts of the fans and it’s alive in our hearts and we know what’s coming next.
Richard Pini: Yeah, a lot of fans have had heart attacks at the title “Final Quest,” like “oh my God, is Elfquest coming to an end?” And, like we’ve said from the start, a major story arc that’s taken us 40 years to tell is concluding but, as you already know, there are future stories in the world of Elfquest. So, how can Elfquest possibly end? As far as putting it to bed, we’ve known this end was coming for decades.
Wendy: Yeah, we planned this story ahead for many years, for more than 20 years.
CBR: To that point, what surprises, what twists and turns took by surprise in The Final Quest? What surprised you as the storytellers behind this that kind of caught you off guard and took you in unexpected directions?
Wendy: Well, certain characters jumped into sharper focus that had been kind of background or secondary characters and, all of a sudden, played a rather major part in the story. We found characters kind of waiting in the wings that we were like,“oh, we can use them!” Like Kimo was quite a humble, secondary character.
Richard: Suddenly, he got thrust into the spotlight in a very crucial moment! One of the things that surprises us even though the story has been “put to bed” for seven months now is just how relevant some stuff that we came up with 10, 20 years ago is today. When we look at the world in terms of politics, gun violence and discrimination and polarization, we just wanted to tell a story that was a kind of life lesson 10, 20 years ago and suddenly it’s in the headlines every damn day.
Wendy: Elfquest was born in the Nixon, Watergate, hippy-lovechild peace-love era; bell bottoms and leather vests -- and the elves reflected all of that. And we thought that by now the stuff that we were putting into our stories about racial prejudice, homophobia, violence, guns, weapons used against each other, we thought we’d be done with it by now in 2018, and here it replayed except bigger and more awful. Just harsher because the internet and everything, you just hear it everyday now. So the fact that [what] we planned 20 years ago is so relevant today, like gun violence, kind of surprises us, wishes it wasn’t so, but kind of makes us glad that Elfquest can be relevant and address modern issues.
Richard: More readers of Elfquest have been coming to us in the last six or seven months saying, “You have really spoken to my condition” than in the last seven years. And that’s, on the one hand, gratifying, but on the other hand very sobering to realize that it needs to be expressed now more than it ever did.
Wendy: Absolutely. Times have changed and there were things that we were more subtle about in the past and just couldn’t write about until we put it in the spotlight in The Final Quest.