Wendy and Pini, Richard
Wendy and Richard Pini
Born June 4, 1951 (San Francisco, California)
American author, illustrator
Born July 19, 1950 (New Haven, Connecticut)
American publisher, co-creator
Since their marriage in 1972, Wendy and Richard Pini have forged one of the most innovative and productive partnerships in the history of comic art. Their Elfquest series, which contains dozens of comics and graphic novels, was one of the first independently published comic series in the United States, and remains one of the most popular. Elfquest made comic book history for a variety of reasons. At the time of its first publication in 1978, it was one of very few comics written and drawn by a woman, and it created a world with a society and a history of exceptional complexity and depth. More, the Elfquest series created a bridge between the mostly male fans of science fiction comics and female fans who loved fantasy adventure stories and the complex plot development of Japanese manga.
Many comic artists have started out by self-publishing their work, but the Pinis took that idea a step further and created their own independent publishing company. Warp Graphics and its imprint, Father Tree Press, mostly focused on publishing the Elfquest series in a variety of innovative formats, though Warp also published other creative comic artists, making an important contribution to the independent graphic novel industry.
"The Elfquest world is a world we would all like to live in but a place we have to work to achieve."
Meet through the mail
Wendy Fletcher was born on June 4, 1951, in San Francisco and raised on a ranch in the northern California farming town of Gilroy. An isolated childhood motivated young Wendy to create
Elfquest (twenty-issue series). (1978–84).
Elfquest (thirty-two-issue series). (1985–88).
Elfquest: Siege at Blue Mountain (eight-issue series). (1986–88).
Graphic Novels and Collections
Elfquest (four-volume comic collection). (1981–84).
Elfquest Gatherum (1981).
Elfquest: Journey to Sorrow's End (1984).
Elfquest: The Blood of Ten Chiefs (1986).
Elfquest: Wolfsong (1988).
Law and Chaos: The Stormbringer Art of Wendy Pini (1987).
Elfquest: Fire and Flight (1988).
Elfquest: The Forbidden Grove (1988).
Elfquest: Captives of Blue Mountain (1988).
Elfquest: Quest's End (1988).
Elfquest: Siege at Blue Mountain (1988).
Elfquest: The Secret of Two-Edge (1988).
Elfquest Gatherum: Volume Two (1988).
Elfquest: Winds of Change (1989).
Beauty and the Beast: Portrait of Love (1989).
Beauty and the Beast: Night of Beauty (1990).
Elfquest: Against the Wind (1990).
Elfquest: The Cry from Beyond (1990).
Elfquest: Kings of the Broken Wheel (1992).
Elfquest: Dark Hours (1993).
Elfquest: The Hidden Years (1993).
Elfquest: New Blood (1993).
Elfquest: Bedtime Stories (1994).
Elfquest: Rogue's Challenge (1994).
A Gift of Her Own: An Elfquest Story (1995).
Mindcoil: Volume 14 (1999).
Reunion: Volume 12 (1999).
Jink!: Volume 13 (1999).
The Cry from Beyond: Volume 7 (1999).
Kings of the Broken Wheel (1999).
Quest's End: Volume 4 (1999).
The Secret of Two-Edge: Volume 6 (1999).
Captives of Blue Mountain: Volume 3 (1999).
Fire and Flight (1999).
The Forbidden Grove (1999).
Siege at Blue Mountain: Volume 5 (1999).
Rogue's Curse (2000).
Wild Hunt (2000).
her own entertainment, and she developed an active imagination and artistic skill at a young age. Her grandmother was a schoolteacher, and Wendy found a lifetime's worth of inspiration in the books in her grandmother's library. Writers like William Shakespeare (1564–1616) and Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) taught her the elements of timeless romantic adventure stories, while Victorianera artists like Arthur Rackham (1867–1939) and Edmund Dulac (1882–1953) showed her how to express sensuality and emotion through line and shape. From the richly illustrated fairy tale books of Andrew Lang (1844–1917), she learned about the magical creatures that have long lived in people's imaginations.
Fletcher taught herself to draw and write stories, and she began to create an elaborate fantasy world peopled with elves, wizards, and aliens from other planets. These childhood stories would later evolve into the world of Elfquest. When she was a teenager, Wendy began to read both American and Japanese comics and to practice in both styles, drawing muscular superheroes in tight spandex as well as the soft-eyed, delicate figures of Japanese manga. During the 1960s, she began to attend science fiction and fantasy conventions, where she displayed her art. In 1970, Wendy entered Pitzer College in Claremont, California, where she studied for two years.
Meanwhile, on the other coast of the United States, Richard Alan Pini had been born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 19, 1950. Richard was a bright student who developed a keen interest in both science and science fiction and began to collect science fiction comic books when he was a teenager. In 1969, when Richard Pini was a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, he answered a letter he had read in the mail column of a Marvel comic called The Silver Surfer . The letter was from a young woman on the West Coast named Wendy Fletcher. The two began to correspond, and within months they had met and formed a strong bond. In 1972, after Richard graduated from MIT with a degree in astrophysics, Richard Pini and Wendy Fletcher were married.
Start WaRP Graphics
The Pinis began their married life in Boston. Richard worked as a lecturer, photographer, and special effects technician at the Hayden Planetarium, while Wendy began a freelance career drawing for such science-fiction comics as Galaxy, Galileo, and Worlds of If. In 1977, the two decided to work together to create and publish a comic series based on the fantasy world of elves and sorcerers that Wendy had been creating since her childhood. In order to make sure that their work would be published just the way they wanted, they started their own publishing company, calling it WaRP Graphics, from the first letters of "Wendy and Richard Pini." (During the late 1980s, the Pinis dropped the capitalized letters and began calling their company Warp Graphics.)
The first Elfquest comic appeared in 1978, a time when public interest in fantasy and science fiction was high. The film Star Wars, with its unique mixture of medieval knights, new age spirituality, and futuristic technology, had just been released and was wildly popular. Many young people had also rediscovered J.R.R. Tolkien's (1892–1973) fanciful Lord of the Rings trilogy, first published in 1955. In this atmosphere, the Elfquest stories were eagerly received and quickly became popular for their own sake. By 1981, Elfquest comics were selling in record numbers around the world.
In 1979, the Pinis moved to the upstate New York town of Poughkeepsie, where Richard took a job with IBM, but in 1981, he quit to work for Warp full time. Working together, the Pinis partnership became strong and supportive. While Wendy did the writing and drawing for the series, Richard consulted closely about plot development and learned how to run a publishing business. This setup was an important part of Elfquest's success. Many writers and artists have difficulty finding publishers to print and distribute their work. Even after a publisher accepts their books, writers and artists still often have to struggle to make sure that their ideas are not changed in the publishing process. Having a publisher who was also a trusted part of the creative process made Wendy Pini's job of creating Elfquest much easier. "Richard learned publishing by the seat of his pants," Wendy Pini noted on the Elfquest Web site. "Neither of us knew anything of publishing, but after being turned down by Marvel and DC, and after a run-in with an unscrupulous Midwestern publisher, Richard figured it out. It is and was his business ingenuity and problem-solving ability which makes Elfquest the small press giant that it is."
The Elfquest series turned out to be an enormous undertaking. Starting with comic books, the series grew to include dozens of graphic novels, all telling different stories about the history and culture of elfinkind on the World of Two Moons. Combining a science fiction tale with an adventure/fantasy saga, the roots of Elfquest lie in an advanced alien race who come to the double-mooned planet for exploration and crash on the surface during a Stone Age-like period. After thousands of years, these aliens have evolved into many tribes of elves who struggle to find each other and survive the dangers of their planet, not the least of which are humans, who hate and fear the elves.
The series begins with "Fire and Flight," which introduces the Wolfriders, a tribe of fierce hunter elves who have a deep spiritual bond with wolves, which they ride like horses. Humans destroy the Wolfriders' forest home, forcing the elves to journey to find a new place to live. Led by their chief, Cutter, they face many dangers and adventures on their long trek, and they discover for the first time that there are other tribes of elves on the planet. Cutter's dream then becomes to find all the scattered elfin tribes and join them together.
The many other volumes of Elfquest expand on elfin history and culture in a wide variety of creative ways. Some tell the stories of elves that have small roles in the preceding volumes, some take place in ancient history, thousands of years before Cutter's story, and others take place in the far future. A Gift of Her Own, published in 1995, is not a comic, but an illustrated children's book about a human girl on the World of Two Moons, while Jink!, published in 1999, is the story of a descendant of the elves, centuries after Cutter's time, who seeks to learn why there are no longer elves on the planet.
Elfquest is not only the story of a complex alien culture; it is also a story with lessons to teach. Drawn with vibrant, "up-close" manga intensity, Elfquest points out the devastating destruction caused by human intolerance, and it also celebrates the virtues of the brave, loyal, and persistent elves. However, even among the elves are tribes like the "Go-backs," who are rigid and prejudiced. Over and over again, the series explores one central theme: change is unavoidable in life, and if one is to survive, one must accept and adapt to change. This mature and complex theme is part of what made Elfquest unique among American comics at the time it was first published. There was great power in using an alien culture to explore these fundamental, human themes.
On the Elfquest Web site, Richard Pini describes the reasons for using elves as the characters for the series: "I know that Wendy has always loved the mythical 'little people,' and there has got to be a reason why every culture in the world has their own 'little people' or 'spirits'.… They represent a very deep archetype—the spirit. They are more than human, yet less than angels. Wendy has always been very much in tune with that. As to why we use elves in Elfquest, it's that we want characters that are human enough and beautiful enough so readers can identify with them. But we also want characters that are alien enough so readers know that this is not happening down the street."
After the release of the first twenty-issue series, the Pinis took a break from the intense work of producing the comic. Those first issues were done in black and white and then re-worked in color and re-released several times, first by Marvel comics, then by Warp again, then by Donning Starblaze, who collected them into four volumes. During the mid- to late 1980s, the Pinis again began releasing new Elfquest anthologies. They kept their ideas fresh and original by beginning to work with other sci-fi and fantasy writers, such as C. J. Cherryh (1942–) and Piers Anthony (1934–). This brought new ideas and energy to the series, although the Pinis have always been careful to keep artistic control over any Elfquest material.
Beyond Elfquest: Wendy Pini's Other Works
Wendy Pini is best known for her work on the Elfquest series, but she has produced several other respected works. The foundations for these works were laid early in her life. While still a teenager, Wendy fell in love with the work of novelist Michael Moorcock (1939–), an influential British fantasy and science fiction writer. She began a correspondence with Moorcock, who became a mentor in her own career as a fantasy writer. During her years at Pitzer College, Wendy centered her academic work around creating an animated film based on Moorcock's work. Though the project was never completed, WaRP published the art and text in 1987 under its Father Tree Press imprint. The resulting book, Law and Chaos: The Stormbringer Art of Wendy Pini, not only contains some of Wendy's most creative and energetic artwork, but also offers revealing insights into her personal and artistic philosophy.
During the late 1980s, a live-action television show based on the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast was produced by CBS. Pini loved the poignant romance of the story and thought that the television version showed exceptionally high quality. She wrote and drew two graphic novels based on that show, in hopes of boosting the show's popularity. The series was cancelled, but Wendy Pini's Beauty and the Beast novels remain popular with critics and fans.
Throughout the history of Warp Graphics, Richard Pini has made very creative use of various formats to showcase the Elfquest series to the best advantage. For example, during the 1980s, when comics were becoming a popular medium, he released hardcover versions of Elfquest that could be placed in libraries. These hardback Elfquest books would become the first graphic novels to be sold in major bookstores. During the 1990s, when comic popularity fell, Warp stopped production of the hardback books and re-released the Elfquest stories in inexpensive black-and-white comic versions to make them more accessible to young fans.
Fans continue to eagerly await the release of new Elfquest books. Even school librarians and critics praise Wendy Pini's rich and delicate artwork and the subtle complexity of her storylines. In March 2003, the Pinis sold publishing and licensing rights to Elfquest to comic publishing giant DC, while still retaining creative control over their work. For many years, the Pinis have also worked hard to create a film version of Elfquest, but production has been postponed several times.
For More Information
Pini, Wendy. Law and Chaos: The Stormbringer Art of Wendy Pini. Poughkeepsie, NY: Father Tree Press, 1987.
Sanderson, Peter. "Further Conversations with WaRP." In Elfquest Gatherum: Volume Two. Poughkeepsie, NY: Father Tree Press, 1988, pp. 45–56.
"Elfquest: Wolfrider Volume I: Review." Publishers Weekly (December 15, 2003).
Scordate, Julie. "Talking with Wendy and Richard Pini, the Team Behind Elfquest." Library Media Connection, Volume 23, pp. 46–50.
Elfquest. http://www.elfquest.com/ (accessed on May 3, 2006).
"Elfquest." LeufBookList, http://www.leuf.net/ww/wikibook?ElfQuest (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Lambiek Comic Shop. http://www.lambiek.net/pini_wr.htm (accessed on May 3, 2006).