Dear Elf Friends,

Well, ElfQuest the Discovery Part 1, the comic book, is officially at your local comics shop (small kazoo fanfare).

As a package, by today’s definition, it is a comic book in every sense. The production values are slick, the color reproduction is, as usual, the best. (And I gave DC Comics some pretty tricky PhotoShop FX to duplicate!) But, as some of you have noticed and commented on, it does contain ads… some would say highly incongruous ones.

ElfQuest fans, over the years, got accustomed to Warp Graphics’ policy of placing ads (if any) at the back of the book so as not to break the mood or continuity of the story. As an independent publisher we could do that. But in every monthly or bi-monthly comic book title at today’s big mainstream companies you get thirty (or twenty-two, or twenty) pages of story interspersed with advertisements deemed appropriate for the average reader of a particular title. (In ElfQuest’s case, DC sees that reader as a teenager with MP3-player earbuds wedged firmly in place.) For sound business reasons, that’s how it’s done. And ElfQuest is part of that system, now.

Nevertheless, Richard and I did find several music ads in Discovery Part 1 entirely unsuitable for ElfQuest’s audience. We brought this to the attention of our friends at DC Comics and they stepped up to the plate, assuring us that issues 2 through 4 will contain only family friendly ads. We’re letting you know this so you understand no one’s running roughshod over us or our values.

OK… no more about the ads. Let’s focus on ElfQuest the Discovery. Richard and I just completed and turned in Part 2, which contains scenes of surprising emotional intensity. But on a lighter note, I’m most eager to hear your reactions to our cutest, funniest new character: Strongbow and Moonshade’s daughter, who is now three years old.

I’m not going to tell you much about her – not even her tribe name. Let that be a surprise. What I will say is that stolid Strongbow and Moonshade’s lives have been disrupted in a way which proves God has a truly wicked sense of humor. Or, as Skywise says, “Wonderful thing, Recognition. It knows… Oh, how it knows!”

As for the WaveDancers, they grow more dear to my heart the longer I work with them. Got any idea what it’s like to take over a group of characters largely developed by someone else? It ain’t easy.

In making someone else’s creation yours, the biggest mistake is to stick too tightly to the letter of “what has gone before.” You have to find the motivating theme, such as “adapt or die” (which for example might be applied to the Wolfriders). And you have to expand on that theme using your own style and approach. As long as you’re true to the characters’ essential natures, you’re free to do some re-inventing. You have to be. No one could write Superman or Batman these days if it were a requirement that every detail of those characters’ long, loooong pasts be addressed.

Back in the 90s, Richard and Kathryn Bolinger (and later, Vickie Murphy) worked out detailed character descriptions of the WaveDancers and their intricate inter-relationships. Kathryn’s character designs were gorgeous, but maddeningly complicated. One of the things you must remember when designing a character is that you’re going to have to keep it consistent from panel to panel. That’s why, as some of you may have noticed in DiscoveryPart 1, I’ve done a bit of streamlining on some of the sea elves.

As I researched the WaveDancer series in preparation for writing The Discovery, I was struck by its overall tone, which was very different from stories of the Wolfriders. There was a sadness… a wistfulness very appropriate to the shy mer-folk. They seemed to have a higher vibration than Cutter and crew, the best evidence of that being the delicacy of their emotions and the super intensity of their fears.

Fear, in fact, was the “a-ha!” that gave me a handle on the main theme of this tale of Recognition and clashing cultures. Constant fear of being found, of being caught – as embodied by the powerful character Surge – harks back to the emotions of the Firstcomer High Ones overwhelmed by the harshness of the primitive World of Two Moons. I completely understand and sympathize with the WaveDancers’ skittishness; but more, it’s a wonderful tool for maximizing story conflict.

That conflict superheats In ElfQuest the Discovery Part 3 as Wolfriders and WaveDancers meet for the first time. And when Cutter and Surge go toe-to-toe, all hell breaks loose. Those two have so much in common, the sparks just fly.

Can you tell I’m having a blast with this?


ElfQuest the Discovery Part 2 will be released toward the latter part of March. We hope you’ll let your friendly comic shop retailer know you’re anxiously waiting for it. Meanwhile, as always, we’re faithfully doing our part. The quest goes on!