Friday, 14 February 2014

Divergent Roads: The Paths Of 'Cerebus' & 'Elfquest'

Richard Pini is the co-creator (with his wife Wendy) of Elfquest, the long-running fantasy comic series first self-published by Wendy and Richard in 1978 via their company WARP Graphics. The first issue of the new Elfquest story-arc The Final Quest is currently available from Dark Horse Comics. If you are new to Elfquest but interested to find out more, you can read the entire Elfquest back library for free at the official Elfquest website.

Wendy & Richard Pini, 2014

(from 'Twenty Years of Cerebus' in Comic Buyers Guide #1267, 27 February 1998)
CBG Associate Editor Brent Frankenhoff explained his request thus: "I thought it would be interesting for one of the two longest-lived independent comics publishers to comment on the other." Interesting, indeed. In the moments that followed that phone call, the following hooks sprang to mind: Robert Frost, calculus, Spider Robinson, Wimpy...

To explain: Science fiction and fantasy author Spider Robinson introduced me to the phrase "God is an iron." Follow it through: If one who commits a felony is a felon, and one who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, then... And it will certainly strike some as ironic that the co-creator and publisher of Elfquest is being asked to say a few words about the creator and publisher of Cerebus, because of the Wimpy factor. For those who've forgotten or never knew, Popeye's hamburger-loving sidekick was fond of entering a brawl with the words, "Let's you and him fight!"

If you follow certain of the discussions that ebb and flow online in some of the hundreds of chat areas (now that cyberspace is the meeting place of choice), you discover that not only do Dave Sim and I (or Wendy and I; it varies) hate each other but we are compelled to do so, because of the Robert Frost factor. That poet wrote, "Two roads diverged in a wood and that has made all the difference."

Twenty-plus years ago, Dave Sim, living in Canada, considered the pros and cons of publishing his own comic book, and Wendy and Richard Pini, living in the United States, did the same regarding theirs. Neither he nor we knew of each other. Dave's master plan was to produce 300 monthly issues, to deal with all kinds of issues personal and political, essentially by himself, come hell or high water. Our intent was simpler: We had a tale born of heart and family to spin and we wanted to spin it, however best we could, alone or with helpers. The two approaches - to the art and business of publishing - have always been different (though they were closer in the early days), and if Dave and Warp have locked horns at all in the intervening years, it's been solely over that. The alleged personal enmity probably sounds a lot harsher to the untrained ear, though, because of the calculus factor.

Elfquest #1-3 (WARP Graphics, 1978)
Art by Wendy Pini
Three centuries ago, both Isaac Newton and Wilhelm von Leibnetz developed the branch of mathematics known today as calculus. However, because Newton was more aggressive in promoting himself, his is the name more often associated with the "discovery". For the record, Dave didn't "invent" the independent comic book. Neither did Warp - though it was both Elfquest and Cerebus that shaped the form and success of our slice of the industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Also for the record, however, I can't think of anyone in this business - mainstream or alternative (or whatever label you want to put on what we do) - who has had more to say about the whys and wherefores of comic-book publishing and self-publishing than Dave Sim. Do I agree with everything he says? Nope. Do I admire and respect his ability to follow a path for two decades and to express himself forcefully and in an articulate manner, whatever the subject! You bet.

Some time early next decade, issue #300 of Cerebus will roll off the press (assuming we've all survived the "Year 2000" catastrophe that some predict). Dave Sim will finish what he said he would do 25 years earlier; he will have accomplished what very few in the field of comic art have ever done: walked a single, well defined tightrope over good times and bad, upheaval personal and professional. I think that's worth toasting with a shot of apricot brandy, don't you?

Elfquest: The Final Quest (Dark Horse, 2014)
Art by Wendy Pini

(Thanks to Michael Cohen for the copy of CBG #1267!)


Anonymous said...

I'm kind of amazed that Cerebus crossed over with the TMNT, Flaming Carrot, Spawn, and the Miami Mice, but not with the Elf Quest characters.

Nice to know that the majority of Elfquest is available on the web (legally)- haven't kept up with it for well over a decade so perhaps I'll take the time to catch up...

-Wesley Smith

JLH said...


Cerebus #52 has a back-up crossover with the Elfquest gang that's never been reprinted elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected!

-Wesley Smith