Halloween is coming up and as usual I’m left wondering if I’m doing it right. October 31st is probably the biggest celebration of the year in Honolulu. Since the seasons never really change in Hawaii it’s a lot of fun for us crazy islanders to have one night that just feels, well, different, from the monotone of tropical perfection. So, in true excess fashion, it is usually extended to a good two weeks!
I’m from a country (Norway) that didn’t really knew about Halloween until we learned about it from American TV shows towards the end of the 90’s. I threw my first Halloween bash at 14 with my three best girlfriends and we dressed up as vampires and ghouls, scared the pizza delivery guy and watched PG-13 movies because my mom was lame and wouldn’t rent me R rated ones. We were obsessed with the Friday the 13th series and I remember having to settle for some forgettable mind reader thriller instead. It was so embarrassing! Ha ha.
Fast forward 15 years and Halloween isn’t really about scary anymore – more like an equal dose nostalgia (like I indulged in above!) and being outrageous/sexy while getting really really hammered. And that’s why I think I’m doing it wrong. I use Halloween as an excuse to dress up as my all time favorite characters from the stories that shaped me.
This year marks the 30 years anniversary and the return of one of the most beautiful and soulful comics ever committed to paper – Elfquest! Wife-and-husband team Wendy and Richard Pini are behind this wonderful story that really made it ok for girls to like comics thanks to stunning drawings of gorgeous elves living in a world much like ours, only thousands of years ago, with two moons. The main protagonists are an elf tribe called Wolfriders, because they live in lush forests where their lives are intertwined with the wolves. Their beautiful and peaceful way of life is uprooted when an early incarnation of humans destroy their home by burning down the woods, and they are forced to flee into the unknown. This is how the quest begins – one tribe’s search for others of their kind in a world that increasingly does not belong to them. They meet so many unique and wonderful elf tribes along the way and the life of simplicity that they once knew in the forests become muddier and murkier as everything changes around them. It is a truly epic tale – of love and loss, of evil and power, freedom and the desire to belong, and whether to accept or fight the inevitable change that time brings.
I picked this up at the library when I was around 11. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the intended age group because at times it gets pretty graphic, both with violence and sexual content, but I’ve always been a relentless devourer of stories so I guess I was ready for it. Either way, I was hooked, along with my best friend. And now that I’m old enough to reflect back I realize it was one of the best thing my young self did. It’s natural that the stories we are exposed to as children play a large part in shaping our moral core. The concept of love is very liberal in the Elfquest universe. Because these characters are pretty much immortal they pass the time treating sex as fun, across gender and age (among adults), and they share partners even after connecting with their life mate with whom they can have children. Since I was too young to have any prejudice against homosexuality and polygamy (I barely knew what sex was outside of conceiving children) I immediately accepted this as part of the story – but more importantly, my young self also accepted it as a natural part of life. I think it is a so true that no one is born with prejudice in them, it is definitely something that is taught.
On a side note, I think it’s fascinating that Elfquest seems to have a particular intense following in Scandinavia, especially in my age group. If you check the #elfquest tag on instagram over half of the users are Norwegian and Swedish. Interestingly, Scandinavia is probably one of the most gay-friendly places on earth. I don’t know from personal experience so I won’t speak too confidently, but any time one of my friends have come out as gay no one I know raised as much as an eyebrow. Outside of congratulating them on their courage and be happy when they found a partner, it doesn’t affect me in any way and I think that’s how most people there feel. Could Elfquest have played a part in shaping those particular values of my generation in Norway? It’s an interesting theory. Bottom line is, stories are important. And I’m so happy and thankful that Elfquest is part of my story because I would be a poorer storyteller and story lover without it.
Which leads me back to this year’s Halloween. I’m pretty terrible at picking costumes because if they don’t look exactly like they do on film I won’t even bother. This year I actually have a dress from a movie set – a Roman dress from the TV show Spartacus – but turns out that actresses are really, really tiny. Like, really. So it doesn’t fit. I could always cop out and be Buffy pretty much every year – I’m already petite and blonde – so all you need is a leather jacket, stake, and witty one-liners. If I’m going for effort I wouldn’t mind dressing up like Harley Quinn and get my crazy villain on, but I didn’t feel like splurging $50 for a costume. Then I received my copy of The Final Quest in the mail and just like that my Elfquest obsession was back. It reminded me how rare quality storytelling has become in the mainstream media. So I pulled out my would-be Daenerys Targaryen costume from last year and some scissors. Half an hour later it kind of looks like a Wolfrider getup. DIY is a lot more fun. I almost felt a little crafty!
If you’ve never heard about Elfquest and you want to check it out, the Pinis have put up the entire series for free on their website. I ordered my copy of The Final Quest here, and I’ll definitely be signing up for the regular bi-monthly comic starting in January. So much fun to be buying $3 comics again!
What are you being for Halloween? Is there a story behind your costume? Let me know in the comments!
what a fun article, and it was featured by the Official ElfQuest page on Facebook (which is how i found this), so congrats!! i’ve been a fan of EQ since i was about 6 or 7, it has definitely helped to shape my life! so much that i even named my son Tam! i’m going to be Winnowill for Halloween this year, i’m hoping to finish my costume this afternoon. hope to see you around Facebook, if you’re on there! :)
Indeed! It makes me really happy to find Elfquest fans. It’s difficult to do the story justice in a few sentence summary, because just saying, “oh you know, elves traveling and trolls and war” sounds pretty played out. By now, the fantasy elements have been repeatedly re-interpreted in various media and stories, but the character development, plot points, and themes in the Elfquest stories are far more creative and thought-provoking than most! And it helps that the art is fantastic.
I agree with your analysis. I probably started this comic a little younger than you, maybe age 9 or 10. I just re-read the original quest and it’s as good as I remember from 20 years ago!
Thanks for your comment. It’s awesome to see that Elfquest impacted so many people at such a young age. My original Elfquest comics from the early 90’s are among my great literary treasures :)
Whoa! Kool stuff! :D