April 2005 – Where Things Are At (Moviequest)

This will be short. Once you’ve finished, you can click here to go back to the main movie page, and then browse the history of the many paths the EQ movie project has taken.

Almost from Elfquest’s beginning as a comic book/graphic novel, people were interested in turning it into an animated film. Studios large and small optioned the story, to try to develop it into a suitable screenplay (or television series). One thing or another would get in the way – and as often as not, it was our strong desire to see the movie done “right” (whatever we thought that was at the time). Most recently (May 2002), we got very close to the prize, only to have it yanked away by factors we could neither control nor influence. Having a film, being able to see the characters move on the screen, hearing the voices and music, these were very important to us. We wanted them very much. You might almost say we needed them – for without a movie, how could we truly consider Elfquest a success?

“Need” is a subtle trap. If you believe you need something in order to be happy or fulfilled, and you don’t get that something, then by your own definition you’re unhappy. A very subtle trap indeed! For a quarter century, we enjoyed success after success with Elfquest. We saw it become the first graphic novel series to break big time out of the comic shops and into the wider bookstore market, we saw it translate into novels and short story anthologies and audio books, we saw it hit bestseller lists and get rave reviews. And yet… and yet, without that holy grail of a movie, somehow all of what we’d accomplished just didn’t quite seem whole.

If there’s one underlying theme to Elfquest, it’s “grow or die.” After twenty five years of shepherding Cutter and company along every possible avenue that we could on our own, we made a decision to let someone else take the reins. (You can read about that here and here if you haven’t already.) It was a liberating leap of faith for us, for it meant that we could get back to the basics of storytelling, and let go of all the administrivial trappings of running the entire EQ world ourselves.

Including the big one of trying to make a movie.

DC Comics, as of February 2003, controls the license for any Elfquest film or television project that may come along. We no longer have the charge – and at times it has felt like the burden – of contacting the studios, or taking the meetings, or having the meetings be cancelled, or wrangling the contracts, or dealing with small-time companies who are looking for a bargain… Now we can let DC Comics (a part of Time-Warner) play the role of 800 pound gorilla and do those things for us. The upside of the current arrangement is that DC is a big company; they have resources and contacts and, frankly, clout that we don’t have – and we’re happy to take advantage of those things. The downside is that DC is a big company – and Time-Warner is even bigger – and projects proceed at a slower pace than they might at minuscule Warp Graphics, where the thought is often the deed (if the deed is possible).

But you know what? After twenty five years, we’ve finally reached a place where we’re comfortable with letting someone else drive the car, at their speed. In the two years since we signed the deal with DC, we’ve seen two gorgeous hardcover archive volumes, nine manga volumes, and one beautiful new graphic novel hit the stands. Not bad! Especially since on our own, we couldn’t practically have accomplished a fraction of that.

DC has earned our trust. Yes, they move more slowly than we might, were we in their shoes. But that’s OK with us; slow and deliberate can be good in this hectic world. We’re happy doing the work we’re doing, and we’re happy to be working with all the different departments and folks at DC, some of whom are well connected in the “movie biz.” Don’t get us wrong; we still very much want an Elfquest film. We just don’t need one, to use as a measure of our own success or happiness.

If, and when, there is news – about a movie, about anything – we’ll let you know, never fear. The (animation) quest still goes on. To paraphrase Suntop, it’ll be what it’ll be.