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"ElfQuest" is one of the longest-running comic fantasy series ever. When creators Wendy and Richard Pini began their quest back in 1978, there weren't a lot of comic shops, even fewer conventions, and not a lot of women were making comics. Now their quest is over, and they're on a farewell tour, called, "40 Years Of Pointed Ears." For real. Here's NPR's Petra Mayer.
PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: "ElfQuest" is an old-fashioned comic. It isn't dark. It isn't gritty. It is what it says it is, a four-decade saga about elves.
WENDY PINI: The quest is to find out who this race of beings are.
MAYER: That's artist and co-creator Wendy Pini.
W. PINI: Where they came from and how they can best fit into this world that they are on that is not their true home.
MAYER: Pini's elves have big eyes, bigger hair and great abs. And they're so, so earnest. So it's easy to snark. But the comic is utterly addictive. Start flipping those vintage black-and-white pages, and you won't stop. And a lot of that is down to Pini's art, influenced by the Japanese manga artists that she loves. Wendy Pini was already a working fantasy illustrator when she started drawing "ElfQuest." It was 1978. The time was right. "Star Wars" was huge. "Lord Of The Rings" was on everybody's shelves. So "ElfQuest" seemed like a sure bet. But there was a problem. How do you sell a comic when there are hardly any comic stores? Greg Bennett is the co-owner of Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Md., and an "ElfQuest" fan, and he says that when the Pinis first started making their comic, big distributors just didn't exist.
GREG BENNETT: That's daring as heck because there was no way to get that stuff out there then other than to, yeah, go to conventions, sell it yourself, go store, to store, to store and hand-sell it.
MAYER: The hand-selling worked. "ElfQuest" took off. The Pinis say that in its '80s heyday, it was one of the first comics to make it into mainstream bookstores. These days, "ElfQuest" fans can be a little harder to find. But luckily for me, we have one here at NPR, Morning Edition supervising editor Melisa Goh. Goh has loved the comic since she was 11. She loved it so much, in fact, that she invented her own character.
MELISA GOH, BYLINE: Her name was Triller. She wore blue. She was a musician, which was a little bit risque in the elf world that I had in my mind because if you're an "ElfQuest" elf, you know that in the trees, as you please, on the ground, not a sound. So my character was a bit of a rebel because she liked to play music.
MAYER: It was actually kind of hard to pry that information loose because Goh says she's still traumatized by being teased for reading "ElfQuest" as a kid. Comic shop owner Greg Bennett says that did happen. "ElfQuest" was always a little outside the mainstream, and its fans were mostly women at a time that women weren't reading a lot of comics. So he sometimes had to deal with trash-talking customers.
BENNETT: And as a comic shop owner, any time I heard somebody doing that, I would always - first thing I would say is, well, did you ever read "ElfQuest"? And they would always say, well, no. I'm like, OK, well, after you go read it then come back and tell me "ElfQuest" is no good. And any one of them who actually took me up on it said, wait. You're right. This is really good.
MAYER: The last storyline, appropriately called, "The Final Quest," wrapped up earlier this year, 40 years to the day after the publication of the first issue. The Pinis aren't abandoning the elves completely, though. They're going to allow other creators to tell stories in their world. So I asked if they could drop any hints about what's next.
W. PINI: We know what you want to know.
RICHARD PINI: (Laughter).
W. PINI: So we're focusing on that.
R. PINI: There are two strong threads, and the fans just want those threads spun out.
W. PINI: I know. But we're not going to cater to them. We don't - just because we know what the fans want doesn't mean we're going to take the story that way.
MAYER: And if you want to join the quest, the early issues are available for free online.
Petra Mayer, NPR News.
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