The first graphic novel to explode out of the comic book marketplace & into bookstores was Elfquest by Wendy & Richard Pini. In many ways it was the model for some of the break out graphic novels we’ve seen over the last several years. Elfquest was self published under the Pini’s own WaRP Graphics company & supported by the network of comic book stores. Elfquest was an outgrowth of the underground Comics, but with a wider appeal, & it signaled the beginning of the Alternative Comics movement. Alternative Comics told stories with commercial appeal that weren’t published by the major comic book companies. Elfquest told an adventure story but it wasn’t a superhero story. The heroes were elves & the overarching story was a melding of fantasy tropes, fairy tales, & Native American lore. The black & white serial began in 1978, and was quickly collected into graphic novel form, making it into bookstores in 1981. Elfquest’s trajectory exemplified Will Eisner’s hope for the graphic novel form. Eisner saw the graphic novel as a mature work appealing to readers who had grown tired of superhero stories, but could still be interested in stories told in cartoon format. Elfquest went through many publishing incarnations. Originally published by the Pini’s own WaRP Graphics line, it was next reprinted in color by Marvel Comics’s Epic line in the mid 1980s, then again by DC Comics in the in the early part of this century, both in a collector’s archive edition & as a manga-sized series of books. Although it’s been around since 1978, Elfquest never gets old.
For more information on the graphic novel, read my book, Faster than a Speeding Bullet: the Rise of the Graphic Novel, available later this month.