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I have recently taken on the idea to submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read everything ever printed and don’t claim to know it all. I have read and own everything on this list as well as a large amount more. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors, but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even non comic fan can pick up and possibly enjoy. Last week featured Blacksad> by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido.
Number One: Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini.
Deciding between this and Blacksad as number one caused me quite a bit of pain. Blacksad really is the comic that every other comic wants to be but on the point of "here’s an epic story as opposed to various tales of adventure".. I chose Elfquest for its singular effort at storytelling. Sure, the adventures of Cutter and his tribe could, and did, go on in both previous and subsequent stories. But the quest for their home was perfect.
Chased out of their home by humans, the Wolfriders accidentally find another tribe of elves, and upon discovering their common ancestry embark on a journey to find their original home. Along the way Wendy deals with race issues, war and loss, sexuality, family, and the bond of love and friendship. There is a great depth in her writing as character growth and development drive the story. The art is very good and there’s a magic, not just that the elves posses, but in all of the work that Wendy produces to bring this story to its end.
Escapist in nature, it couldn’t be more relevant to the daily lives we lead. Wendy and Richard Pini self published this story starting in 1978 and Elfquest continues to be a hit for its rabid fans based on the quality of the production. WaRP became a pioneer in self publishing and Wendy herself developed a huge fan base among females in a mostly male dominated industry.
I certainly didn't plan it this way but as I look at this entry, preparing to submit it, it occurs to me that one of my absolute favorite moments as a child revolved around this. Every Christmas my brothers and I would be allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. On one particular year the gift I opened happened to be the Starblaze editions of Elfquest volumes 2, 3, and 4. I'd already read volume one in comic form having discovered it in the Marvel Comics prints. Yet these new gifts were undiscovered joys and as I lay in my bed reading into the wee hours, I couldn't care less about Santa at that point, I still remember the magic of some of those scenes. At first Strongbow was my favorite. His quiet brooding strength, in my young eyes, was reminiscent of Han Solo, and he certainly had a scene of such strength of will that no other elf could do what he had. But in maturity it's Cutter, and his strength of character. His poise and confidence are what I find comforting now. The final argument though, is that every one of these characters from "The Tribe" are one's I would like to (and am proud to) have in my life. This is a family in every sense of the word and at the end of the day I am glad they're a part of my life and I'm happy to share them with my children.
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hardcovers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.