Line of Beauty: stunning biography of fantasy artist Wendy Pini

Wendy Pini is most famous for Elfquest (above), but her artistic career spans fifty years of pop culture history, from weird lowbrow surrealism to yaoi pastiche. Line of Beauty isn't just a stunning art book covering decades in and beyond epic fantasy, but a powerful yet curiously tentative biography, drawing together threads from a childhood in the Californian sticks to the poisoned promises of Hollywood.

That it's so mysterious and unjudgmental (of her, at least) is most remarkable for the fact it was written by her husband, Richard Pini. His book is a crafty invitation to the worlds implied by her work, a mythos that seems misty and intangible even as its details take shape.

Born 1951, Wendy was a talent from early childhood, and we learn of the tensions and inspirations that flowed through her to emerge as a personal Elfame: adoptive parents whose emotional abuses hover on the margins of trauma; childhood obsessions and contrasts; and encounters with what were then rare oddities in rural America—manga, weird cartoons, the deeper magics of European and Japanese folklore—which she consumed voraciously.

Richard's access to private artwork and private fact far exceeds what a researcher might get to, but flags his story right off as both authorized and intimate. But while uncritical, the narrative stops short of hagiography: there's much evidence of unexpected turns and some evidence of friction in its creation. The focus is on Wendy's deep fascination with Hogarthian serpentine structures and sequential art (hence the title), and her artistic motivation and development. Read the rest