DC Elfquest Deal Ends

I’d put off reading the PW Comics Week piece on Wendy Pini’s new series from Go! Comi, Masque of the Red Death, because it sounded like it would be mostly promotional.

However, near the bottom, I noticed this little piece of news.

None of this means that Elfquest is going away, at least not yet. Pini has scripted the final arc, and she promises it will be a surprise. …

Pini and her husband Richard recently ended their agreement with DC Comics, which published Elfquest for the past four years. They will now be handling the Elfquest properties through their own company, Warp Graphics, and Pini said the last arc may appear as a Web comic or a print comic.

I suspect DC will still be allowed to sell out of their stock of books. I wonder which party initiated the end of the deal? The phrasing here suggests the Pinis, but I may be reading too much into that. Were sales not as expected? Were expectations reasonable for a decades-old property? Did the contract simply end, and no one wanted to renew?

I didn’t hear much of anything about the series after the initial announcement. I don’t even know how many books were put out. Bummer for DC, that they’d support the reprints but not get the buzz of the “final story”.

By the by, regarding Red Death, for a series said to be launching next month (as in two days from now), there’s a strange lack of information on it on Go! Comi’s website. Since their news section was last updated at the end of January, I guess that’s not surprising. It’s planned to be published “first as a Web comic and then as three full-color, 160-page print volumes.”


23 Responses to “DC Elfquest Deal Ends”

  1. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    DC published two volumes of Wolfrider, which was backstory. then they published 14 volumes of The Grand Quest, which was the main Cutter and family story from the original series and several of the sequels. They also published at least one new hardcover graphic novel. I think there’s also been two volumes of the original series as hardcover Archives too.

    and from what I can tell from the sales charts, none of it sold all that well. I was always surprised that they published as much of it as they did. this could easily be a mutually agreeable split.

  2. Tim O'Neil Says:

    I was always a little surprised that DC thought there was as much demand for the property as they obviously did.

  3. Kelson Says:

    DC has published three volumes of Elfquest Archives so far. From what I’ve read, the deal expires after the fourth volume (September?), which will complete the reprint of the original series.

    There was also a new miniseries last year, but after the disappointing graphic novel, I didn’t pick it up.

  4. Ralf Haring Says:

    As others have mentioned they published the bulk of their early material in two formats. The original run as 3 Archives (4th upcoming). The original run plus some extra bits as black and white digests. I at least saw the digest collections in regular bookstores.

    They released one original hardcover and a four issue miniseries, both of which didn’t seem to sell too well (in the direct market).

    Their editor, Bob Greenberger, was let go halfway through as well. I’m sure that didn’t help with an eventual decision for DC to divest themselves of the property.

  5. Nat Gertler Says:

    Ya gotta remember that ElfQuest used to do very very well in book form in the days before the general graphic novel boom. It was anime-influenced before the cultural mainstreaming of anime. It was elf-based fantasy before the movies made Lord Of The Rings much more widespread than it was before. Add that to a large array of existing material creating the potential for a depth of success, this was at least a worthwhile thing for DC to try.

  6. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    hey, Nat. I do remember how popular Elfquest was — I loved those original Elfquest book collections. I totally understood why DC took the chance on the franchise. I just never quite understood why they didn’t do more with it. they just threw it out there with no promotion. They obviously had a contract where they had to put out a certain number of books, so why they didn’t do more to bump the sales confounds me. Although learning that the original editor left does help explain that.

    it seems as though DC could have sold this to libraries rather easily for their graphic novel/manga collections. our local public library has a very wide selection of CMX manga — far more than their market share would indicate. So somewhere, DC is marketing to or making connections to the library market. Why Elfquest wasn’t hitched more to that wagon surprises me. As you said, it was already a proven quantity. publishers bring backlist into print for known authors all the time and resell older material again. but then again, asking a major comic publisher to act like a real publisher always seems to run into difficulties.

  7. Nat Gertler Says:

    I won’t disagree on the quality of promotion of this… at least in what I saw. Which doesn’t mean they weren’t properly hitting other markets that I didn’t see.

    Dark Horse just announced an ElfQuest statuette line.

  8. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    one clarification on my last post — please note that I said MAJOR comic publisher. I believe that most of the small comic publishers do a very nice job of getting their books out there and keeping them available. If the Pinis can keep the material in print, I trust them to make the library and bookstore connections, remind people of how well the book has sold before — how popular it has been for decades now. Why a larger publisher with actual money and staff can’t do that is beyond me.

    For some reason, DC and Marvel just can’t get out of the periodical mindset very well.

  9. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 31, 2007: Shorter Journalista 11 Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson catches the fact that DC Comics’ deal with Wendy and Richard Pini to publish Elfquest books has come to an end, and ponders the ramifications of the news. […]

  10. Duncan McGeary Says:

    As a retailer, I’d have to say DC screwed up the format. 9.99 black and white digests or 49.99 Hardcovers were the two choices.

    If they had released full-sized, color albums (much like the original Donning and Warp albums) for 20.00 or 25.00 or possibly even 29.99, I could’ve sold the HELL out of them.

    Duncan McGeary
    Pegasus Books of Bend
    Bend, Oregon

  11. Leigh Walton Says:

    I didn’t see any promotion anywhere. These books seemed to have been tossed out into the void.

  12. comics212 » Blog Archive » Several short, random observations… Says:

    […] to add: Another short, random observation! Over at ComicsWorthReading, Johanna caught wind of the news that Wendy & Richard Pini, creators of Elfquest, and DC […]

  13. Fleen: Your Favorite Faux-Muckrakers Since 2005 » Things That Became Webcomics Says:

    […] jump to the web (cf: here and here), what of the Pinis, pioneers of the self-publishing movement? From Johanna Draper Carlson: None of this means that Elfquest is going away, at least not yet. Pini has scripted the final arc, […]

  14. Layla Lawlor Says:

    I hadn’t heard this, until a random bit of surfing brought it my way this morning. And though I’m not sure how things have developed since this was posted, I just keep being amazed at the Pinis’ marketing savvy and chutzpah. How many successful self-publishers would have had the guts to do what they did — turn their baby over to DC? And apparently, they managed to do so with generous enough terms that now they’re getting the rights back. I know the sales were disappointing for DC, but from a small publisher standpoint, having the whole run of the series come out in the small format and get shelved with the manga HAD to have given them a boost and brought their work to the attention of a whole new generation of kids who hadn’t seen it before. And now they have the rights back and can continue to market it as THEY want, to a brand-new and wide-open market that’s now at least somewhat aware of it. I don’t know if that was the plan all along, but even if it wasn’t and especially if it was, I’m seriously in awe of that.

  15. Nat Gertler Says:

    This was certainly not a first for the Pinis; they had previously licensed the work to Marvel, as well as Donning/Starblaze (I’ve never been quite clear on Apple Comics, whether they licensed the material to them or were part owners in that.)
    And DC has certainly been open to other creator-owned properties with terms that allow them to go elsewhere; the Will Eisner Library and Understanding Comics both come to mind.

  16. Elfquest Left DC Over Merchandise, Film » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the end of May came word that Wendy and Richard Pini ended their deal for DC to publish Elfquest, their long-running fantasy series. PW found out why: “We wanted to get into DC’s camp […]

  17. Layla Lawlor Says:

    “they had previously licensed the work to Marvel”

    Oh, thanks for the reminder, because I’d forgotten about that! Although Epic/Marvel was kind of its own thing, wasn’t it, an experiment in publishing creator-owned properties that Marvel tried and then gave up on?

    But you know, that the Pinis have been doing it for so long and so successfully, as well as continuing to do their own stuff, makes it stand out even more. As far as I know, it’s really rare for self-publishers to do that, although maybe it’s just because so few self-publishers have a property that a big publisher would be interested in — and actually WANT enough to be willing to buy only some some of the rights.

    I think this made an impression on me because I remember how many people made comments along the lines of, “Oh, this is the end of creator-owned Elfquest” when the Pinis made the DC deal. The usual they’re-selling-out spiel, in other words, except you know, that aspect of it is so often RIGHT, because so few creators actually go independent again with the same property after being signed with a publisher, especially a big one. But Elfquest is back to being creator-owned, and even though it IS certainly possible that DC booted them because of slow sales, it would still be interesting to see if this makes self-publishers a little more open to the idea of pursuing alternate venues for their work without quite so much of the “selling out” stigma.

  18. Nat Gertler Says:

    I think that Epic should count as more than an experiment that Marvel tried and then gave up on; even if we just count the standard-dimension comics issued under that imprint, it ran from 1982-1995. (Counting it from the start of Epic Illustrated magazine — the first issue of which had an ElfQuest universe tale — brings it all the way back to 1980.) That’s a respectable run, and the sun set on it at a time when many other things were going by the wayside.

    But yes, the Pinis have been doing business wisely along the way. They’ve never struck me as folks for whom self-publishing was some sort of moral position, just one that was a good choice for business at some points. ElfQuest did not start out self-published.

    There really isn’t that much activity in the traditional-comics-format self-pub market these days (alas), and those who have made it through that route seem to have been willing to cut deals with publishers where it suits them. Bone went to Image, came back, and then had a reprint deal with Scholastic while continuing doing original material on a self-pub basis. Strangers In Paradise had some sort of reprint/art book with a mainstream publisher while continuing new material. And… well, really, what’s still going with any substantial background behind it? Supernatural Law, although it comes out quite slowly these days. I’m not quite sure if Jane’s World is still doing standard issues. Finder dropped the issues for web release, although still doing collection books.

  19. Layla Lawlor Says:

    Epic lasted that long? I really didn’t know that; thanks!

    It’s true that traditional self-published comics aren’t all that prevalent these days. I think it’s a lot more common for self-publishers to skip floppies and go straight to TPBs — e.g. Carla’s Finder (which you mentioned) or people like Jane Irwin and Paul Sizer.

    I think the web has a lot to do with that. There’s some really gorgeous stuff being done in webcomics nowadays, and for a brand-new self-publisher just starting out, I think it’s a lot more appealing than trying to scrape up money for a press run.

  20. Malin Says:

    Hi! In Norway elfquest has been published in small pocketbooks, without colors though. I bougth every book who came out, 26 all together! But now, theyre not selling anymore. And I cant understand if its finished or not? The last book told the story about when Rayek took the magic castle to the future and landed among the “modern” humans. He flew Leetah away from the twins and they got into a figth in the air, they bouth fell down into a house of straw made by humans. But I cant settle with that!? What happens next? Is Cutter and Leetah really never going to meet again? Thats a crappy ending! There has to be more books! But how many all together? Where can I find them, and more important, where can I buy them? Hoping for answers, if not on all the questions, maybe some! Hugs from elquest lover, Malin in Norway!

  21. Ralf Haring Says:

    Malin, it looks like they stopped publishing in Norway in the middle of the “Kings of the Broken Wheel” story. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Elfquest_publications for more info. Right now, those stories are only in print in black and white, digest format from DC comics starting with this volume: http://dccomics.com/graphic_novels/?gn=4039 . WaRP’s deal with DC is ending, so the reprints there won’t be extended too far.

  22. Malin Says:

    Hi Ralf, thanks for answering so quick:)

    Okey. I have written a letter to the company who publishes Elfquest in Norway, theyre called “Egmont publishing house”. They have published the books like you say in black and white prints, but only to vol. nr. 26 wich is called “The circle ends”. Heres the link to Egmont, so you can see all the elfquestbooks they have published:

    http://www.serie.no/default.asp?ID=482&catID=213&productName=Alvefolket

    Its a Norwegian page but I guess the frontcovers are the same everywhere:) I still havent found out how many books there are after vol. 26 “The circle ends”. But I have bougth a book called “Elfquest, the discovery” on a online store now, called comic.no. Its 4 books gathered in 1 book, and its about when cutter discovers the water-elfs, also calles the wawedancers!

    When I found this book I knew that the quest has to go on after vol. 26, but I dont know where I can buy it. So if you or anyone else knows? Please send me a link so I can support Wendy and Richards hard work in the making of these books.

    Hugs from Malin, Norway.

  23. Ralf Haring Says:

    See the wikipedia link I posted. You are missing everything form 1992 (when Kings of the Broken Wheel neded) through 2004 (you bought the most recent one, The Discovery).

    You can find out a lot more at the official site http://www.elfquest.com/pubs/DecadesInPrint.html and at WaRP’s message board http://www.elfquest.com/forum/




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