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Turning Tides

In many ways it’s a strange and moving thing to paint the last pixels on the last page of a series you’ve been laboring on for more than half a year. Elfquest – The Discovery issue #4 is now completed, finishing a tale that, because of tight deadlines, seemed to us to whoosh by like the WaveDancers caught in Surge’s raging vortex. Strangest of all is the feeling of swimming up from the depths of an iridescent, light-and-shadow-spattered dream, for The Discovery has been a most mystical creative experience for me.

Never have I been so preoccupied with the play of light through water…how it softly illuminates from below and dazzles from above. And then, of course, there were the scenes in the Palace all bathed in the radiance of a non-specific source. As rays and beams and reflections of all kinds played their major atmospheric role in the artwork, so too did the characters and story elements reflect off one another in an impressionistic way new to me.

These are not the usual concerns of the average comic book artist, much less one responsible for a four-part mini-series published by a honking big comics company with minimal due-date wiggle room! Therefore, I have every reason to express oceans of gratitude that not once in three years of working for “the Man” have I been forced to compromise my vision as an independent artist and writer.

Because we could trust the superior quality of DC Comics’ pre-production and printing, you the reader could count on the underwater effects, right down to the delicate sheen of Snakeskin’s scales, coming out on the page almost exactly as I painted them in PhotoShop. Remembering back in the early 1990s to the hopelessly muddy first newsprint edition of the Elfquest – Hidden Years #9 1/2 Holiday Special (which, happily, got a much improved second showing in the Warp Graphics color graphic novel Rogue’s Challenge), I rejoice at how the better quality paper and precise computer coloring of today practically eliminate the possibility of such printing disasters.

But back to Elfquest – The Discovery as a mystical experience. Suffused with the mingled power of water and light, the sea has always symbolized the intuitive side of Man’s nature. I love the logic-be-damned WaveDancers…even Surge and his unbridled passions. To be submerged with them, as some of you have noted in your comments to us, is to be bathed in pure emotion. If The Discovery had a musical score it would be based on Debussy’s La Mer and Sirenes.

Because Part Four (due to be released mid-July) is the grand finale, it contains what I like to call some little “gifties” for you. Hints? Well…look for painted pages that are much more than comic book style outlines filled in with color. Look for a sudden turn of events at which some of you will say, “Ah! I knew it!” and others will cry, “No! It can’t be!” Look for the brief appearance of a character design from another corner of my imagination which has, at last, found its context and reason for being. Look for a lavish double page spread that will, soon, be made available to you as a fine art print. There’s more…but you get the picture.

When the collected Discovery appears later this year in graphic novel form, Richard and I hope you’ll find the story even more immersive in a single sitting. (Have I overdone the nautical references yet?) But anyway, now that I’ve come up for air (sorry! Can’t help myself!) many of you are naturally wondering, “What’s next? Where does the Quest go from here?”

First off, straight arrow, Elfmom needs a rest and recharge. Consider this: In an amazingly short amount of time we and our partners at DC Comics have produced fourteen digest-sized, black-and-white reformatted reprint books of the classic quest (including fourteen new covers and interior bridging art), plus the new The Searcher and the Sword graphic novel, plus three completely recolored and relettered Archive Edition volumes, plus, of course, the Discovery mini-series. And the only vacation I’ve had in those three years is a hospital stay for a hip replacement in 2004!

That being said, there’s rest and there’s rest. A girl can only take so much sun, sand and shopping! What rejuvenates me most is spending time turning fleeting ideas into full-blown projects, the inspiration for which may surprise you, dear elf-friends, because that inspiration is…

…you!

All three generations of you, in fact! How can mere words express how much you have meant – and mean – to Richard and me? How can we truly thank you for your endless gifts of energy, imagination and involvement? Years ago, before the advent of the internet, you used to send us handwritten letters of comment which we treasured and many of which we published along with our replies. We had a strong sense of connection with you then, as we do now, but in a different way.

These days the internet enables you to send us far, far more questions, comments, links and images than we can possibly acknowledge. The creation of Elfquest.com’s Scroll of Colors forum was and is a boon that enables the instant creation of all sorts of comment threads reflecting your interests and perspectives. (What? You haven’t joined the Scroll yet?! What are you waiting for! Go there and set up a membership – it’s free and it’s a ton of fun!) And as you know, Richard and I often follow these threads – especially Richard who pops up occasionally to clarify a point or referee a dispute and generally administer the forum. Yet I personally miss the days of being able to sit down and write a direct response to your questions about Elfquest’s art, characters and storylines.

The solution? Interactivity! As I write, Richard and I are devising a way for you to contact me directly and I’m making time for it. No kidding! By the time this editorial gets posted, look for a new addition to the Scroll of Colors called “Ask Elfmom.” In many ways it harks back to the golden days of letter columns where you could speak your minds and hearts before fellow fans – and me – and be acknowledged. Here’s how it works: You write an email to askelfmom@elfquest.com. Put “Ask Elfmom” in the subject line so I don’t overlook your letter. Craft your question. Hit “send.” And that’s it!

Don’t hold back. You can ask or say anything relevant to the Elfquest universe. Just please do so politely. (I’m a whiz with the delete button!) My choice of which letters to answer on a daily basis must, of necessity, be somewhat arbitrary, and there are no promises that everyone’s letters will get picked. But I’ll look for repeating themes so that one response serves many. Oh! And there’s one more little goodie “Ask Elfmom” will enable us to have some fun with…

How would you like to write to your favorite Elfquest character and possibly get a response? Yep! Send your burning questions to Skywise, Strongbow, even Winnowill via “Ask Elfmom” and (if I can catch ’em) I’ll worm out their answers and translate them back to you. Be warned, however. My translations will be accurate and therefore not necessarily as courteous as I know your letters will be. What can I say? These characters are elves and some of ’em aren’t exactly partial to humans!

“Ask Elfmom” is just the first of many ideas we’re kicking around to make the World of Two Moons more interactive and accessible on all levels. These are exciting – even revolutionary – times we’re living in and we’re determined to take advantage of all the possibilities. Creative energy never sleeps, so look here in the coming months for additions and innovations beyond your wildest elfin yearnings!


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