Superman may hail from a distant planet out in the universe, but a new Elfquest “star,” created specially for the task, will be the first comic book character to accompany a NASA experiment into near-Earth space.
The experiment, scheduled to lift off on mission STS-87 on November 19, 1997, is designated “ELF,” which stands for “Enclosed Laminar Flames,” a study of the behavior of combustion under microgravity conditions.
The high-flying elf, dubbed “Starfire” by both Warp Graphics, publisher of Elfquest comics, and NASA Lewis (Cleveland), the sponsor/manager of the experiment, was designed by Elfquest artist and co-creator Wendy Pini. Graphics artists at NASA completed the task by incorporating the cartoon art with symbols and text representing the experiment itself.
Dennis Stocker, leader of the NASA Lewis ELF team and avowed Elfquest reader, contacted Warp Graphics publisher Richard Pini in August, 1996, requesting Warp’s assistance in designing a logo for the experiment, perhaps “lending” an Elfquest character to the cause. Because artwork used by NASA is copyright-free, none of the existing characters could be used. The solution? Create a new elf, who would embody the goals of the experiment in particular and the spirit of the space program in general. (Read Dennis Stocker’s account of the creation of the “ELF” logo here.)
Of the opportunity afforded “Starfire” to blast off into space, publisher Richard Pini said, “I’ve always been a space buff, and if I can’t be on the Shuttle myself, this is certainly the next best thing. Wendy’s elves originally came from space; now one of them gets to go back!”
Wendy Pini currently resides in Los Angeles, overseeing development of Elfquest as an animated property. Richard Pini resides in Poughkeepsie, New York.
February 1, 2003 – In Memoriam STS-107