SDCC: "ElfQuest" - 35 Years and Beyond

At Comic-Con International 2013, a panel was held to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the comic "ElfQuest." Joining creators Richard Pini and Wendy Pini were four people who've been inspired by their work: Boing Boing Managing Editor Rob Beschizza, professional animal wrangler David Mizejewski and "ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining" producers Paula Rhodes and Stephanie Thorpe. The panel discussed the history of "ElfQuest," as well as future projects such as a new series by Dark Horse Comics and plans for live-action adaptations.

Asking the audience to raise their hands if they were born in 1978 or later, Richard Pini said, "You have never lived in a world without 'ElfQuest.'" The first half hour of the panel featured a retrospective on "ElfQuest," how it inspired many fans over the years and had seeped into other areas of pop culture, with references in "The Mighty Ducks" cartoon show and "Beverly Hills: 90210." NASA's own Enclosed Laminar Flames (ELF) project was named by an "ElfQuest" fan that also gave the comic a nod by putting an elf on the official badge. Recently, years of unpublished artwork by Wendy Pini has been archived by Columbia University.

Concerning the future of the franchise, the panel pointed to Paula Rhodes and Stephanie Thorpe, who gained the film/TV rights to "ElfQuest" following their popular fan trailer in 2010. Rhodes and Thorpe will be part of an effort to expand the brand into a multi-platform franchise in the future. The duo was excited to consider future live-action adaptations, comparing "ElfQuest's" world-building and themes of family and morality to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Wendy Pini added, "I think people are getting tired of zombies and vampires. I think the elves are the new vampires. I think it's time."

Thorpe and Rhodes said they would not merely be adapting published stories but would create new tales that fit into the accepted canon. Thorpe said, "We very much want to stay true to the canon, but when you change the medium sometimes not everything works. But we will do our best."

Rhodes added that she looked forward to expanding the universe, focusing on characters that didn't get as much on-panel time in the comics as others, and addressing questions to which even Richard and Wendy Pini didn't know the answers. "We've been picking the brains of everyone we could and gotten some amazing responses ... We're going to spread into many mediums."

Since 2012, Boing Boing has published new online "Elfquest" comics, in which managing editor Rob Beschizza expressed a lot of pride. Continuing the resurgence of new "ElfQuest" material, Dark Horse Comics will publish a new bi-monthly series over the course of the next three years. Richard Pini said that this was a partnership and would not alter the atmosphere or themes that fans were familiar with, adding, "We love to collaborate." In 2014, there will also be a book released on Wendy Pini's art.

Wendy Pini spoke of how happy she was to see the future of "ElfQuest" in the hands of her fellow panelists, adding, "These are all our kids, because they've all been corrupted by 'ElfQuest.'" She also warned that the upcoming "Final Quest" story would involve some tears, though she wouldn't say whether it would be due to a happy ending or tragedy.The audience's enthusiasm was clear during the entire panel, with many dressed up as various elves. When the floor opened up to questions from the audience, some attendees merely wanted to share how they had been inspired by the ElfQuest stories to become storytellers or improve some aspect of their own lives.

"We opted not to have children, because we have given our lives and energy to 'ElfQuest' for 35 years," Richard Pini told the fans, who applauded the sentiment. "But any time someone says you inspired me or you helped me -- you're our kids. You are our spiritual and creative and artistic and wonderful kids. And thank you all for being that ... You are now our family, our tribe."

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