Thursday, April 19, 2012

Journey to Sorrow's End (1982)

     ElfQuest got started back in 1978.  I was introduced to it in December of 1984 by Michael Pempek.  He let me borrow the first graphic novel, and soon afterwards I was collecting the Marvel versions of the ElfQuest comics, had the first four graphic novels, issue #21 from WaRP Graphics (the almost no artwork, lots of background on how Wendy and Richard Pini made a go of it), the board game (wholly unplayable), and the role-playing game from Chaosism, Inc. (with the few supplements that were made for it).  I even had all of the Ral Partha produced miniatures, though I never dared to try to paint them.
Bearclaw vs. Madcoil
     The novelization of the first graphic novel – itself the compilation of the first five issues of the comic – arrived in 1982.  Published by Playboy for some odd reason.  During the summer of 1986, I managed to read it.  Probably the first book I read that wasn't an assignment or made to feel like an assignment (I remember there being a reading list some point in the elementary school years, and that I did the absolute minimum to keep myself out of trouble with it).  I knew the story.  I had read the story – as a graphic novel, in the Marvel  reprints (under the Epic logo) where sometimes extra material got added – already.  But I wanted to read it again.  And for it to be about reading it and not just looking at the cool looking, human-murdering elves.
     Jump forward in time almost 26 years.  I picked up my copy of Journey to Sorrow's End (1982), I guess one of the rare Ace printings to feature the original cover, for the first time since the early 1990s.  But I have been thinking about how much I really do miss the World of Two Moons and its elfin inhabitants.  It is also one of the few novels I have where it feels right to see an occasional illustration pop up.  Because it is, still, a very visual story.
     Unfortunately for me, what I imagined while reading the book again was simply the panels of the first graphic novel.  I shouldn't make that sound like a complaint.  I think that it is great that Wendy's artwork is forever in my mind, but there wasn't a whole bunch on the written page to draw that same imagery out.  If I didn't know exactly how the elves looked – or what a Zwoot was – I don't think the novelization would have been enough for me. 
Ral Partha mini of Kahvi
     At the same time, it drew me back into the story enough to get me all excited for ElfQuest again.  I even tracked down the two other novelizations of the later graphic novels.  Let me note my outrage here that there is not a fourth novelization, that in the novels there is no war with Guttlecraw's trolls, no reaching the Palace of the High Ones.  What the hell, man?!  No Kahvi?  No protective armor vs. the brawn of the larger trolls?  No Two-Edge?  No showing how all of it, the seemingly randomness of it all was shaped by an individual?  That the creators had a sense of story and that it played out, somewhat precisely, in the space of 20 issues?  It makes such a huge disconnect between the novels and their graphic novel sources that it troubles me to think about reading through them.
     Anyway, the whole of the ElfQuest catalogue – the comics that it – is available for free at  I cannot be clear enough in my hope that everyone at least take a look at the stuff from the Original Quest.  As for novelizations, I think Journey to Sorrow's End works in that it is both true to, and evocative of, its source material.  But it does not surpass it.  It just gives another format in which to enjoy it.

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