/ Maja D'aoust / 3 pm Wed, Sep 19 2012
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  • ElfQuest and the secret history

    ElfQuest and the secret history

    The message of Elfquest is not only a creation myth but the eternal return: a story of magical beings raised by wolves and tied to intergalactic science fiction. One can only imagine the creators have a drinking buddy in the Illuminati.

    Editor's Note: Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) — Mark Frauenfelder

    Now, just so that you don’t come under the impression that I am one of those girls who only reads Dazzler and Cloak and Dagger comics, I actually have a very sophisticated comic collection, in real comic boxes, with sleeves and everything. I have my signed copies of Eightball, Kull the Conqueror, olde-schoole Crumb, X-Men, and yes, even some Todd McFarlane Spidermans. I have been to Comic-Con in all its dorky glory several times, before Snakes on a Plane had a booth there.

    Why would such a girl who knows about comics choose to write about Elfquest? Perhaps I have managed to seduce you into maintaining your eyeballs upon the visage of this portion of the internet. Now that it is a mystery suspense thriller.

    Elfquest, upon its surface, presents itself as a manga-ish, but not quite Japanese, hermaphroditic yet strangely sexual, primal Conan-the-Barbarian-meets-the-Smurfs kind of thing. If one were to simply glance through the pages, a scoff or a pfft! might escape the lips of the typical Pantera T-shirt clad comic enthusiast who picked it up.

    Well, let me tell you what is really going on in Elfquest.

    I mean, what is really, really going on.

    I mean what is OCCULTY CONSPIRACY goingy ony.

    Elfquest is telling the secret history of our existence.

    The Elfquest saga opens with a community of elves who are rather primitive, nature worshiping types and have a close affiliation with wolves.

    It is revealed early on in the story that in fact they are descended from the wolves. As in related to them. As in kissing cousins. In an inter-special shape-shifting very witchypoo voodoo taboo style type of predicament.

    For those of you following along, from the get go the story is, elves and wolves having sex, and making babies. Intrigue.

    Basically as the story unfolds, we discover that there was a species of elves before the wolf-elves that were their ancestors. These ancestors are referred to as the “High Ones.”

    The High Ones are long and thin with huge eyes, and essentially look a lot like the standard grey aliens, except super pretty and sort of David Bowie-y in their fashion sense. The High Ones had to leave their native planet due to a catastrophe so they all pack up into a space ship and head for better grounds. They end up on a very brutal uncouth planet with scary animals and human beings, where everything is very survival oriented, in stark contrast to their own very sophisticated and technological society they left behind.

    Most of the High Ones get wiped out, either by animals, trolls (of course!), or people and they get scattered all over the planet. This is where the Bestiality rears its furry head… One of the High Ones decides it would help them to be part of the world if she physically mates with it. She ends up shape-shifting into a wolf and mating with a wolf and having half–elf half-wolf babies. I mean, its what anyone would do in that situation.


    Eek, you say? Ew, you mew? Well this is not the first time something like this has been discussed. In the ancient Vedas from India, the Rishis come down to earth from the stars, the big dipper to be precise, and go willy nilly all over the place, some of them having sex with animals. And some of them shape shifting into animals and then having sex with each other, like for example the Rishi called Vibhandaka. According to the legend, he mated with a female deer that bore him a son, Rishi Shranga.

    But the plot thickens, look at ancient Greece. Do you have any idea how many animals Zeus changed into and then had sex with human females and then had children? Way more than was really necessary, that’s how many. One of my favs is Leda and the swan (resulting in the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux). Swan sex, undeniably sexy.

    And then there are always the gimpy not-quite-godlike folks made by gods and man (Centaurus) that then have sex with horses and make Centaurs.

    The Nephilim, same thing. Children of angels and man that go and breed with animals. It's in the Book of Enoch for those of you in the Jew crew.

    If I talk about Ancient Egypt and space men animal gods it will be an epic tome, so I will simply say, “Horus”.

    Screen Shot 2012 09 19 at 3 02 34 PM

    Around the world, through different cultures this story exists. Gods come down from the heavens, intermingle with beasts and we get these, like supermen with special powers.

    The DEMI-GODS. This is a very weird story to find everywhere. Space men breeding with animals. Pretty specific.

    It really is the story of the superhero. Although many would argue, I say Elfquest is closer to a superhero story than most comic super hero stories. The High Ones, and most of the elves have magical powers in typical demi-god fashion. They can communicate telepathically. Some of them have crazy psychic abilities and can move stuff with their minds. Some of them can levitate and fly. But the crazier thing about the superpowers that the elves have is that they are all the same as the ones found in an ancient book called The Yoga Sutras of Patanjai. In this book the “siddhis” or powers attained through concentration are described. These super powers come from where? Oohhhhh the Rishis that mated with Animals described above. All the same superpowers as the Elves in Elfquest have.

    As it goes on, the “Quest” in Elfquest is articulated as the search, started by the wolf elves, to find all the other elf progeny and the last remaining High Ones. This quest becomes the driving force of the story and urges the elves to piece together their history, their ancestry, their identity. They travel around the world trying to find these answers, meeting different species of elves they didn’t even know existed, that were totally related to them. The message of Elfquest becomes not only the creation myth BUT THE ETERNAL RETURN. The inevitable, reflexive nature of the universe to send the thing born back to where it came. So elegant! So erudite! So not what you would think to find in an elf comic!

    So my question is, Were Wendy and Richard Pini SUPERGENIUSES???? These books were written before the internet, which means they would have had to do hella research to compile all that mythological currency to make elf comics. OR were they channeling some kind of AMAZING universal truth, which speaks to the origins of our species on the planet Earth???

    NewImageI mean, magical beings being raised by wolves can be found as easy as Romulus and Remus (who were born from a God and a Woman, p.s.), but to tie these into an intergalactic race, is some serious cogitating. Did they come up with it? Did they have a drinking buddy in the Illuminati?

    Or is it just a reality existing in the aetheric plane for any author to have come out of their brains if they sit in front of some paper.

    So, while many of you may have looked askance at the covers of Elfquest and assumed it was some kind of weird chick elf romance novel, instead what is hidden within the pages is how aliens with telepathic superpowers came down to a planet from outer space and had sex with animals to breed a new flesh.

    I was in the fifth grade when I discovered and devoured the Elfquest saga. And to this day it is burned into my memory as a searing tornado of magicy, elfy, eye candy-y moments that filled my mind with pleasure. The graphic novels are well worth the effort, if simply for no other reason than to marvel at the synchronistic sympathy displayed in the events with all creation stories everywhere. Although the High Ones didn’t seem to have a reptilian agenda, much like the modern day story of this creation tale we have grown so used to (via the god blessed internet conspirators) none the less, they recapitulate my favorite story, that there is no new tale to tell.

    (plus there is lots of elf sex romancey scenes).

    ElfQuest at Boing Boing

    Friendly Darkness
    In Wendy and Richard Pini's saga are the haunted echoes of utopian fantasy, removed from the epic to the intimate.

    The secret history
    The creation myths that bind all of us are at their most powerful when they're part of the plot, writes Maja D'Aoust.

    Fables are portals to other worlds, writes Heather Johannsen—and to new places in this one.

    A Girl at the 1978 Comic-Con
    A snapshot of comics culture in the year that ElfQuest made its mark

    Part 1 of the Final Quest Prologue
    An all-new tale, published first here at Boing Boing

    Read all 6500 pages of ElfQuest online
    Fans acquire ElfQuest film rights
    Columbia University acquires ElfQuest comic archives

    / / COMMENTS

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    1. The concept of connecting Elfquest to origin myths is awesome!! One problem, though, is that most of the “powers” elves have aren’t as a result of any interbreeding with WOTM critters. Of the mortal tribes, the High One powers are diluted, not strengthened, by their mortality.

      1. If you actually read the article, you will find it’s intelligent, well-thought and well-written and is meant to show Elfquest as a story that is more than pretty elves and fluffy puppies. Like Elfquest, the woman who wrote the words above deserves more than a biased glance at the cover and instead, deserves a deeper look. An open mind is everything.

        1. If it’s intelligent and well-written, then that will show through on its own.  All the first three paragraphs do is convince me the reader that she the writer views her own topic with enough embarrassment that she feels she needs to defend it right at the top.  

          Furthermore, I’ve read Elfquest, and I think it does a damn fine job of “defending” itself by simply being a damn good comic– no qualifiers necessary

      2. I’m sorry, but I didn’t read the first part as demeaning of her gender or of stereotypically “girly comics”.

        I read it as a statement intended to establish her credibility as a scholar of graphic novels. I don’t blame her for doing it. If anything I think it was necessary, even though I also think it’s unfortunate that some people–most, if not all, of whom would be men–would make a lot of unfair, and wrong, assumptions because she’s (a) writing about Elfquest and (b) a woman.

        Then again I’m a guy who really loved Elfquest when I was a young teenager, so her gender and overall reading habits were of much less interest to me than her perspective on the story.

        1. By establishing that there is a line between women who like “the right things” and women who like those type of comics, she is supporting those unfair and wrong assumptions.

          1. Acknowledgement of attitudes that actually EXIST is no more condoning them than saying people keep slaves.  When things happen and you say they do, its not supporting them.


        I still have my original Elfquest graphic novels (before the horrible re-colored re-issues).  Still love them.  But the “I’m not a girl who only likes girl things so you should listen to me” opener was a total turn-off.

      4. God, really? We’re doing this really?

        Our suffragette grandmothers fought for recognition as competent workers and decision makers so that you can sit here spouting cisgendered privilege with such undue entitlement?

        This is like if a fan of African folklore saw an adaptation that wasn’t totally appropriated for European standards saying “Finally!” and the overrepresented white majority calling “reverse racism.” See also accusations of “playing the race card” and statements that the reviewer should ignore the subject of race and just enjoy a good story.
        It’s also like getting antsy if a gay person states openly that they’ve never liked straight sex, in detail, and assuming it’s some huge affront to straight people everywhere.

        The fact is, society EXPECTS you to like frilly froufy girly stuff, as it does me, as it does the original poster, and if a girl doesn’t, she actually has to state it in order to have it known. You can go around not saying a thing and the world will ASSUME you like EXACTLY WHAT YOU LIKE. 

        Also, society expects you to be less educated and less capable than a man, (you gonna get mad at every woman who cites her college education?) more dramatically emotional, (you gonna get mad at every woman who cites her own rationalism?) more in tune with nurturing and raising children, (you gonna get mad at every woman who cites her reasons for being childfree by choice?) more in tune with aesthetics and design, (you gonna get mad at every woman who cites her reasons for being disinterested in fashion?) and if a woman DOESN’T fit these social standards, she’s seen as a novelty AT BEST, and a defective female who hasn’t figured out “her place” AT WORST.

        This doesn’t mean that I think you’re a brainwashed Stepford wife who likes what she likes just because society tells her to. What it does mean is that YOU GET THE PRIVILEGE of not having to justify yourself to wider society in the particular case of “liking girly stuff,” because regardless of your education level/general competence/worldview/personal identity/actual, personal reasons for doing as you do and liking what you like, you are doing what society expects of you.Let’s make this clear now: there is nothing wrong with liking frilly, girly stuff. At all. There is nothing wrong with a girl liking it, and there is nothing wrong with a boy liking it. There is nothing wrong with a butch lesbian who likes Hello Kitty, there is nothing wrong with a straight, machismo guy enjoying My Little Pony, there is nothing wrong with a straight femme girl liking action movies with lots of explosions. There is nothing wrong with who you are, there is nothing wrong with liking what you like, AND NOBODY SAID THAT THERE WAS. I didn’t. The original poster didn’t. The only people here who have been stating and restating and regurgitating the idea that there is something wrong with liking girly stuff are the defensive cisgendered privilege holders in the audience.

        What IS a problem is when the privilege holders, the majority, get defensive of their position as if any difference in taste, any challenge of the status quo, is a direct threat against their own personal validity. This, UNLIKE YOUR TASTE FOR FRILLY GIRLY STUFF, is a response conditioned by society specifically to get everyone on the same page about WHAT OUR PLACE IS AND WHAT WE ARE ALLOWED TO LIKE. This idea that if one person expressively deviates from the norm, it compromises the personal worth and validity of anyone who doesn’t — that is a societal silencing tactic employed by a white, patriarchal, class based system that exists more as a collective than as any governing individual.

        And they turn each of us into their spokespeople by convincing us that difference of taste and opinion constitutes a threat. THEY, this faceless collective, is that Machiavellian friend that whispers to us “did you hear what they said about you?” in flagrant misrepresentation of whatever was actually said.Reread the opening to the above post. Reread it several times and listen to the inside of your head. That is the voice of patriarchy, the great gaslighter, begging you to be it’s spokesperson.

        1. haha omg you are so funny!
          MY reality, as the only girl, besides my sisters, reading comics in a small town was that I DID face those attitudes. THEY EXISTED for me, and I was laughed at and laughed at  by many, many people for liking elfquest.  I went up to several vendors at the first comiccon and asked for Elfquest only to be LITERALLY laughed at.  I had one boyfriend who refused to read elfquest because of his attitudes, and to me this was a tragedy.  So my point here is to acknowledge that fact and make fun of it with a joke, because it is ridiculous.  That you would in turn make this a stereotypical judgement is only more evidence that irony never sleeps.
          If you want to further the suffragist movement make tampon jokes, because tampons are really, really funny.

      5. Uh huh, which is not at all like calling yourself “ladies making comics” which acknowledges your gender in a stereotypical fashion.  Thanks for your ironic observation.

    2. To be clear, Timmain mated with a wolf ONCE and there was ONE offspring*, Timmorn Yellow Eyes, the first chief of the Wolfriders. Richard and Wendy have steadfastly refused other hybrid scenarios (another elf/animal or elf/human), because it would dilute the magnitude of Timmain’s sacrifice. The trade off for their mortality and weakened powers was the stamina and instincts to adapt and survive on a world where their powers were severely weakened. Over time, the various tribes that descended from the remaining immortal survivors saw their powers return. To an extent, the Wolfriders saw some of their powers return faster since they had a (meta)physical connection to the world via the wolves that the others didn’t have, but were less dependent on them since they knew how to hunt and defend themselves. Also, the High Ones have never been represented as gods, but as people who evolved over billions of years. Yes, they have powers, but are still people. The group that ended up on the planet EQ is set on were looking for signs of their others from their world. Richard and Wendy are geniuses, but also well-read people who took their collective knowledge and used it to tell their story in their own way. The Wolfriders are connected by DNA to their wolves, which allows them to speak telepathically with them, accept one another as part of the same pack and form singular rider/wolf bonds, but there’s no other elf on wolf sex going on. There’s plenty of elf on elf action, (male/female, female/female, male/male, 3-4-5 ways -usually involving Skywise) though, and it’s done in a mature, sensual way and gorgeously drawn.

      *It’s never been intimated that Timmain had other children, either other hybrid or purely wolf from the 8-10,000 years she stayed in wolf form until the end of the first war for the palace, but would re-iterate that the Pinis wanted it to be a singular act of survival lest it lose its gravitas.

    3. That you like Elfquest and want to write about it is great. But I’m really VERY tired of the “my female geek cred is better than your female geek cred” angle you’ve got here. “Girls” who read (and pay for) Cloak and Dagger and Dazzler have just as much cred as people who have signed copies of comics or comics in real sleeves. As someone who spends A LOT of time talking about the potential of the female audience for mainstream comics it just baffles me as to why you’ve chosen to draw a line in the sand among that audience. It’s dismissive and destructive.

      1. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I think though the author must of done that because she so used to other people giving her flak for reading things that they deem too “girly” so she’s trying to shut them down right off the bat. But I do agree with you and there shouldn’t be a stigma against female comic fans at all, regardless of what they read. Unfortunately though a lot of people like to judge :-/

    4.  Yeah, I think the author’s coming from a place where women are constantly having their tastes and reading habits and “geek cred” questioned, and having to constantly defend and validate it in a really male-centric comic book culture. After all that, one can’t really defend her for laying it all out up front. Of course she shouldn’t have to, but it doesn’t mean she isn’t almost constantly expected to.

      1. I fell in love with EQ years ago…25 (or more) years ago, actually.  I have (mostly) standard “girly” taste in comics- as in, I enjoy the main ones, but don’t collect them- but have some mad love for Evil Ernie and Sandman.  I also RPG, cos-play and my SW “ruler” is probably longer than a lot of people in the SW fandom (men).  I ~guarantee~ my ST “ruler” is longer than most.

        Despite the truth in what LMC and DCwomen are saying- which is that we shouldn’t ~have~ to list our “street cred” with the guys…we generally do in order to get people to listen to us. Instead of beating each other up with “I’m offended that you listed your “cred” …” we should be REJOICING that society is loosening up on those boundaries even as we type all of these replies to each other.

    5. Maja! You dear, wise soul! You cracked the code! After 35 years a reviewer has finally figured it out on their own!

      After being exposed at age ten to the Buddhist teaching “The Journey West” (in the form of an anime called “Alakazam the Great”) I also read that other great myth featuring the Monkey King, “The Ramayana.” Then on to beloved “Mahabharata” and “Bagavadghita.” Later came Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Such learning expands you and never leaves you. When I told Richard the story of Elfquest in 1977, I had the unconscious influence of these marvelous spiritual quest/hero’s journeys of my childhood to help me craft the tale.

      Your comparisons to other great creation myths were so smart, so right on and such a delight to read. I know your review will stimulate some to seek out these ancient myths and legends and discover for themselves – as you wisely point out – there is nothing new under the sun. And that lack of newness doesn’t matter because repetition is one of the best ways to pass on Life’s lessons.

      Is Elfquest “the secret history of our existence?” Well, as I said in some long forgotten interview, it’s certainly a rambling, rambunctious metaphor for it. Why do we, as discarnate spirits, ever choose to incarnate and come here? Because this is SCHOOL! And when we graduate we RETURN! “Elfquest – the Final Quest” is about graduation…those who do and, perhaps, some who don’t.

      All that plus lots of elf sex romancey scenes, for sure!

      Love, joy and thanks from Wendy Pini

      1. Wendy, you and Richard are super geniuses, and if I could point that out to at least a few people it’s my pleasure.
        Elfquest is such a source of joy to me.
        AND magically enough, I had NO IDEA that Elfquest was going to BE ON BOING BOING when I wrote this, and then THE FOLLOWING WEEK the announcement was made that you guys would be posting on here, so it was a delightful synchronicity!!!
        I LOVE ELFQUEST and am so glad to see that it is RETURNING!!! and always will ;)
        Much Love

    6. Thanks for commenting, Wendy.  I studied comparative mythology in college, and I was happy to realize that I was already familiar with most mythic cycles and themes because of my Sci Fi/fantasy and Graphic novel fascination throughout my teenage years.  I mean, seriously, if you have memorized the Elfquest Canon and the Star Wars Trilogy, you are well on your way.  The mythic themes of our favorite stories definitely helps give them impact, but Elfquest is more than that to me.  It has helped define with beauty and honesty the kind of person I want to be and the world I want to live in.  Thank you for that.

    7. Oh wow.  My first thought reading was, “This sounds much like Joseph Campbell’s observations and work,” and then I scrolled down to see Wendy Pini confirming it.  Best thing I’ve read all day.

      As for ElfQuest and female stereotypes, well, I was introduced to EQ by my wife when I met her about 14 years ago.  She wasn’t the first geeky girl I’d dated, but she’s practically the last (unless you count daddy-daughter dates with my J-pop loving daughter).  Sure, I’d seen plenty of female geek/stereotypes that included EQ, anime/manga, and fan fiction.  But my wife was well acquainted with the Marvel universe, and out at the movies, she’d often say, “That’s not how it was in the comics.”  She’d been playing D&D longer than I had and once upon a time, with her parents no less.  I married into a gamer family.  I’d hit the jackpot, IMHO.  Basically every so often I write chiding fanboys to stop resisting and love their fangirls, especially since many (like my wife and I) were around when Geek and Nerdy Wasn’t Cool.

    8. I grew up with Elfquest and absolutely love it still, cvan read it over and over again. The story is one of the best I have ever found and so well thought through, the drawings magical

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