All 6500+ pages of Elfquest comics online

The Beat comics blog reports that the complete archive of Wendy and Richard Pini's Elfquest comic book series is available online. The scan quality is excellent.
elfquest.jpgSpeaking of fantasy, one of the pillars of the fantasy comics genres is now available in its entirety to read online. ELFQUEST, Wendy and Richard Pini's saga of homeless elves and their passions and battles, first published in 1978, was one of the foundational hits of the emerging indie comics scene, and after many publishers, movie options and assorted dramas, it's still a good story. Very few indie comics have spawned such a devoted cult or influenced so many spin-offs and imitators. Wendy Pini really hit the right notes at the right time with a style equal parts Kelly Freas, manga, and Walt Disney. It wasn't for everyone, but for those whose wheelhouse it hit, it was THE thing, with spin-off RPGs, novels and filk songs. ELFQUEST is also one of the first American comics to really nail the urgency and drama of manga storytelling.
All 6500+ pages of Elfquest comics online


  1. It’d be cool if they posted it in a torrent somewhere, so we don’t all crush their servers and cost them a ton of bandwidth.

  2. This is old news… but having missed the boat the first time around, I killed several days reading the first saga.

  3. An online comic via Flash may as well be viewable only by looking through the door of my oven. Awkward, unenjoyable, and dissuasive. I wish I could relax on my couch to read it.

  4. This is super cool. And at least a year old. I finished re-reading (and reading a few I never got to) last Summer. Totally awesome of Wendy and Richard for doing this and doing it in such a professional manner, the quality is superb!!

  5. I wish I could relax on my couch to read it.

    Are there no more dead-tree copies? (Jeez, free stuff still isn’t good enough for people.)

    1. Free stuff is great if it’s not broken in a way that makes it useless to me.

      Karza says use my laptop. My laptop is a 17″ monster, hooked up to a bunch of peripherals in my office. I can’t really lie on my couch and hold that thing up while lying on my back relaxing, which means that if I want to read a flash comic I have to sit at my office desk and stare at my computer screen.

      I think it’s fantastic that the Pinis have put Elfquest up for people to read. I just wish there was some non-crappy way for me to read it.

      I’m not sure why people are ok with media dictating how the user should consume it. If Flash is a good way for YOU to read this comic, great. But there are others for whom it’s not. Delivery methods of content, free or not, should not arbitrarily reduce audiences via inconvenience.

      Free puppy= yay! Free puppy that can only walk north= no thanks.

      1. I was going to rag at you for criticizing something that’s been given to you freely, but really, it’s true: Flash is a horrible format for something like this.

        Not only can you not read it on your iPad or anything, but when this first came out I eagerly tried to cache a few dozen pages for reading on a car trip, and realized that with the Flash format I couldn’t.

        Of course, it’s quite possible that this is intentional. It’s all free, but, like music streaming on Grooveshark, they don’t want to give you a file format that allows you to easily save it to your computer and share it yourself.

        At least they programmed it so that each page is a different url, allowing you to bookmark or pass around links to pages.

      2. Elfquest is great fun. It’s generous of the Pinis to make them available this way. I hope they’ll put a fitting coda on the series some day.

        Dave McCaig, if you or others feel the authors would do better to release the complete comics in another form, you should write them and make a case.

        Personally, I found the Flash format a pain in the neck too. It slows my laptop down after a while, and finding my place again after a break is a pain. However, I didn’t find the Flash format too dissuasive. I devoured most of the Elfquest material in short order when I found the archive.

      3. wah wah wah. Lord – a new level of entitlement. It isn’t like they used some archaic format that requires you run an Amiga emulator to view it. Flash is very common format, the fact your laptop is too big or you haven’t gotten your tablet to run Flash isn’t their fault. You could also bitch that you can’t view it underwater, or after an EMP, or with the power out and your batteries are all dead. Nor can you read it translated into Sanskrit.

        They put it out there – all of it – non censored, free of ads, no annoying anything to pay – but of course it won’t make some people happy because their specific viewing preference isn’t catered to. Get over yourself.

        To use your puppy analogy. Oh a free puppy – yay! Oh wait, this one won’t retrieve ducks from lakes. No thanks.

        1. Mister44, nobody could reasonably expect the Pinis to have put their work online in a way that could be read with no power, and it would have taken them extra work to translate it into Sanskrit. But they could have put it online in a simple image format. Instead, they did the extra work of encumbering the images with Flash, which makes them less widely useful.

          Now, it’s possible (even likely) that the Pinis consider that lessened usefulness a feature, since it allows readers to get a taste of the work, while still providing a reason for many people to shell out for the physical books. (Like me! I find reading long works on my laptop painful. But not like me, because I’ve already got the old Donning/Starblaze editions of volumes 1-4, published back in the ’80s. But then maybe like me again, because there’s plenty of story after those volumes.)

          But it’s hardly ridiculous that people are annoyed when artists say they’re putting up work for free, and then wrap it up in a crappy, battery-draining, proprietary format.

          1. I guess I didn’t find my experience that crappy reading it in Flash. I do prefer the tactile feel of the physical books. The smell of pulp and fresh rain enhance the experience.

        2. “wah wah wah. Lord – a new level of entitlement”

          No sense of entitlement here. Just disappointment that the content has been provided in a way that does not afford me convenient access any place or time I’d want to access it. I mean, I’d LIKE to read it, I’m just not willing to sit at my desk for a zillion hours to do so, that turns it into work.

          Anyway, the real point is that just because it’s free does not mean I should rearrange my life to accommodate its format limitations. Inconvenient is inconvenient.

          “The smell of pulp and fresh rain enhance the experience.”

          I generally only buy physical media for reference, or if it’s artwork that was specifically formatted/printed to be seen on a particularly interesting paper stock or whatever. Elfquest, and more generally, monthly comic books don’t fit that criteria for me. For that sort of disposable reading I’d rather kill a pixel than a tree.

          Full disclosure here – I work in the comic industry and get a boatload of comps every month. Digital versions would sadly not be a viable replacement because I need to see how the comics look in print. These comics pile up fast (maybe 100 per month), and I try to avoid adding to this mammoth pile by buying as little extra physical product as possible.

  6. Someone will have/will be going to post it on torrent. One of the rules of the tubes. Just like how it treats censorship as a fault and routes around it, it hates locked formats and converts them.

    1. Absolutely. I just wish I could get the comic in a useable-to-me format via the Pinis’ site, and I also with they had a paypal button or something. I generally want to pay tribute to things I enjoy, and a little “pay tribute” button would make that easy for me.

      As it is, their site costs them money to maintain – with no ads, no donation button, or anything – and the content available on it isn’t really very useful to me.

      They obviously have their hearts in the right place, and there are lots of people that this delivery method works for. I just wish that it was accessible in more open ways and scored them money in the process. Win-win for everyone.

  7. I know I’m going to catch screaming holy hell for this, but I looked at a few issues, and while I found the stories interesting, I can’t seem to get beyond how horrible the artwork is. I know these are fantasy creatures, but the proportions are so ludicrous, the eyes and boobies all seem to be the size of bowling balls, and every creature has every muscle fully stretched at all times. Just not my cup of tea. Flame away, kiddies.

    1. Honestly, the art turned me off when I was collecting, thus I never checked them out back then. It gets better as it goes and you get used to her style. It isn’t bad – just different.

      1. I’ve always loved the feral style of the early ElfQuest comics. Later on it gets cleaner, more sterile, more anime/Disney. I love the early stuff.

  8. Wow! What other comic creators of the (arguably greatest) and one of the first indies ever that sparked a revolution in publishing have taken their entire output and enabled it to be viewed for free? 6,500 pages?!?! It’s nothing short of amazing.

    If you want to curl up with a good comic, buy them. They still sell several back issues on their site. I sold most of my stuff when I needed some cash on e-bay a few years back. That included the German versions I picked up in Switzerland in the late 80s as well as most of the original black and white WaRP Graphics issues.

    Or you could go to Amazon and order the large format anthologies, they make for good couch curling upping.

    Or did you want the comics for free? Well in that case the Pinis are being quite stingy. Dang flash! Only one of the most pervasive formats out there. How dare they!?

  9. Ok, so, I agree that this is a wonderful thing, and I agree that Flash is an unpleasant format in which to read comics. Fortunately Flash is just being used to provide the image navigation: the images themselves are all stored with wonderfully consistent directory and file names, which means that even a trivial script can snarf ’em all. Lo:

    wget -qO- |
    awk ‘match($0,/showComic\([^)]+\)/) {$0=substr($0,RSTART,RLENGTH); sub(/^showComic\(./,””); sub(/.\)$/,””); sub(/\047,\047/,”_”); gsub(/ /,”%20″); print “” $0}’ |
    wget -i- -qO- |
    awk ‘match($0,/source=”[^”]+”/) {print substr($0,RSTART+8,RLENGTH-9)}’ > elfquest-list.txt &&
    time wget -cxi elfquest-list.txt

    Some small effort was put into the above to limit the number of necessary HTTP connections, in order to reduce the load on the server.

    The naming convention omits leading zeroes, so files sorted lexicographically rather than numerically will show up in the wrong order. Here’s one fix:

    find . -name ‘*-?.jpg’ | sed ‘s/\(.*\)-\(.*\)/mv \1-\2 \1-0\2/’ | bash

    From there, it’s very easy to pack the resulting directories into CBR or CBZ files, or whatever. For extra points, put up a simple page which hyperlinks into the archives; for extra bonus points, send that back to the folks running the archive with a very brief note about why a Flash-free interface is valuable.

    1. Hot damn – thanks! I’m sure I can find someone who can strip this for me.

      While I hate being inconvenienced myself, I’m more than ready to inconvenience my friends who use Windows.

  10. Gnomon, you are a wonder. I might go about making a javascript viewer. Maybe the Pinis would consider releasing the archive under CC-noncommercial

    1. Rob, I’m afraid that cURL doesn’t properly support the idioms used in the above. I generally prefer cURL’s more powerful switches, more regular behaviour, and more informative return codes; but in this case, wget’s easy support for operating on lists of input (-i-, -qO-), for mirroring directory structures (-x), and for continuing downloads where they left off (-c) puts it ahead for this specific task.

      You could replace those features with manual directory work and with multiple invocations of curl, but I wouldn’t feel right about firing upwards of 10k TCP/IP and HTTP sessions at a poor beleaguered server.

      I don’t generally use OS X, but I believe that may be the shortest path between you and a useful version of wget.

  11. Hey everyone, whoa just a minute!

    First, thanks for putting this “old news” back in the news.

    Second, please don’t ascribe to any sense of planning (or malice, or a desire to make your lives difficult) what can be laid at the doorstep of the simple wish to have a comics reader experience available at all. Keep in mind that the Elfquest comics went online early in 2009, when for most of the world, Flash was What There Was. The entire Apple vs. Flash hooraw didn’t surface until over a year later.

    Third, we are looking into making all that lovely content available to the iPad/iPod/iPhone audience even as I type these words.

    Fourth, while I know there’s not a goddam thing I can do about it (in response to the crowing about a torrent being made available in “less than two minutes”), I’m still old-school enough to resent someone coming into our house and taking our stuff without so much as a by-your-leave. You’re talking about the work of over half of two lifetimes as if it was a post-it note.

    For the record, I am not the RIAA-mindset, insisting that anyone should go through impossible hoops to access our work. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have put the stuff online in the first place. For free. (Or for a donation, thanks for the suggestion.) But geez, just a little respect, huh? Or is that unacceptably old-school?

    Anyway, I wanted to weigh in from the source before this thread went spinning out into the IMOsphere. Thanks for reading.

    1. Is there any actual way to buy this in mass-market-priced print? Poking around on your site, I found out-of-print books for $100 each…and t-shirts and coffee mugs. If you’d like people to buy it in print, might it not be a good idea to make it available and easy to find?

      Or is it there and I missed it?

    2. I’m really happy to see how positively this thread has turned out.

      ElfquestRAP, I look forward to reading the series, and look forward to hitting that payment button.

  12. It just isn’t fair that it uses Flash! How could they not spend the time and money to make it absolutely up to date in every way?

    I know, how about you (yes you, for whom Flash is an abomination) volunteer your time, energy and resources to re-code it in the Format of Your Choice, and then gift that to the EQ site. You get what they want, they get free website work, everybody is happy.

    Torrenting doesn’t count- that’s just making virtual photocopies and sending them out into the world with no ties to the original work.

    1. Eleri, that’s an excellent suggestion, and I’m working on that now. I’ve got a macro processor skeleton set up right now which generates bare indices which use the thumbnails on the site for navigation, rel= links for navigation, and uses pre-fetching to load the next two and the prior one image to whichever page you’re on. (I don’t think this will work with non-Mozilla browsers, so I’ll probably have to supplement my bare, cache-friendly version with something also based on JavaScript)

      It’s been a while since I’ve looked into CSS media selectors, but when I get a chance I’m going to see whether it might be possible to use those to torque the bare HTML into a more pleasant experience for desktop browsers and the iPad.

      I know this corpus is simply enormous (that’s part of why it is such a wonderful thing!), but it would be utterly fantastic if there were a way for people to contribute bounding boxes for per-page panels and speech bubbles, and to augment those with transcriptions of the contents of those outlines. Resources like OhNoRobot are wonderful, and ones like the Sandman Annotations ( are simply invaluable; wouldn’t it be grand to be able to grep the entirety of ElfQuest as well?

      ElfquestRAP, I feel like I owe you an apology. My intention for posting my code snippet above was not disrespect; rather, I meant precisely the opposite. ElfQuest is one of those comic series which has been around for so long that I feel guilty for not yet having read it all. When I heard about the entire archive being online, I leapt at the opportunity to archive it locally – too often has sudden popularity caused treasure troves like this to be snowed under by sudden load spikes! My intent was respectful preservation, not inconsiderate freeloading.

      The timing of documenting my methodology was not well chosen: I should have waited for the original traffic spike to subside first. It would also have been wise to craft my version to shuttle traffic through the Coral cache. Mea culpa.

      Thanks again for the wonderful library. How should I reach out to you when (or rather, honestly, if) I come up with a useful static navigation structure? Should I put it up on Gitorious, or would you prefer something more private?

      1. What you’re talking about sounds good and hopeful and definitely of interest. Just keep in mind that the most recent computer/video game I really understood was “Little Brick Out.” (Not entirely true, but not so far from the truth as many might like to imagine!) If you don’t mind – at least at the beginning stages – drop me an email or find me on Facebook. I’m all for making the Elfquest experience available to as many people as possible. And hopefully making a few shekels along the way as well.

      2. Gnomon, I already have static html pages that are just img links to all of the jpegs, one page for each story line. I created them back in 2008 when they first posted this content (and there was no flash, just plain html linking directly to the images, so it was trivial.) Looks like they haven’t moved the images even if they’ve updated the navigation to them, so I’d be happy to share my pages. I originally built the pages so that I could just scroll through the images without having to keep clicking next, but one they existed, it was easy to use sitesucker to download them all (10,815images, totaling 3.3GB)

  13. I’m grateful that Richard and Wendy posted all of the ElfQuest Saga online period! I’ve been a reader of ElfQuest since issue 4 came out. There were quite a number of issues I didn’t get to read after the original series. It was fantastic that I was able to go through the entire series and re-read what I’ve loved for 30+ years, and read for the first time issues that made me remember why I’ve loved EQ for those 30+ years!

    Thank you so very much for ElfQuest!


  14. I encountered Richard and Wendy Pini at a con in 1990. When Wendy asked me who I wanted a sketch of, I distinctly recall her being pleased when I requested minor supporting character Shenshen and saying something along the lines of “Oh, I haven’t done her in a while!” One of my proudest geek moments. No, I don’t have the sketch anymore; catharsis required that I ditch it at some point. But the memory remains…

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