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To paraphrase Robert Frost, “Two lives converged in a yellow wood…”
Wendy Pini, born in 1951, grew up in Gilroy, California where her imagination was fueled by all forms of fantasy and mythology. Largely self-taught, her artistic talents had such eclectic influences as the turn of the century illustrators, film and TV animation, Shakespeare, Japanese history and legend, and modern comic book writers and artists.
Richard Pini was born in 1950 on the opposite side of the country, in New Haven, Connecticut. An avid reader from the age of three, he soon discovered the twin lures of science fiction and comic books. Also, a steady diet of hokey but satisfying “atomic age” movies fed a growing interest in astronomy and the ever-expanding horizons of NASA and its budding space program.
Wendy began exhibiting her artwork at science fiction conventions up and down the west coast in the mid-1960s, garnering awards and recognition. Meanwhile, Richard was honing his writing and editorial skills, scripting and producing sky presentations for the Hayden Planetarium in Boston.
In the pre-internet days of 1969, the two discovered each other through the letters page of a comic book, Marvel’s “Silver Surfer.” After a three-plus year cross-country correspondence and journey of discovery, they married in 1972. In 1974 Wendy began her professional career as an illustrator for science fiction magazines such as “Galaxy,” “Galileo,” and “Worlds of If,” while Richard continued to produce shows for the Boston Museum of Science and, later, taught high-school astronomy. In 1977 Wendy and Richard co-founded Warp Graphics and a deeply personal project – a sprawling tale of elves, trolls, and humans thrown together on a primitive world – was born. The following year, on February 28, 1978, ELFQUEST made its premiere appearance in print.
As the first continuing fantasy-adventure graphic novel series in America to be co-created, written and illustrated by a woman, ELFQUEST became a phenomenon in the comics industry, attracting an unprecedentedly large and balanced audience – equally female and male – from pre-teens to adults. Since the beginning, Wendy has scripted, drawn and painted a multitude of ELFQUEST comics and graphic novels, co-written and illustrated prose novelizations, produced calendars, portfolios and art prints, and provided cover art for a series of prose anthologies. Richard has aided and abetted in a number of different functions: co-plotting and scripting comics, editing, coloring, publishing, writing prose short stories, marketing, and web-mastering. Warp is a true partnership, each half’s skills dovetailing with the other’s. To date, over 20 million ELFQUEST related comics, graphic novels, and books have been sold worldwide.
Wendy has also worked for other publishers such as Marvel Comics, First Comics, Comico, Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated and DC Comics. She wrote and painted two graphic novels based on the 1987 hit TV series “Beauty and the Beast,” and supplied text and illustrations for an art book inspired by the writings of Michael Moorcock, titled “Law and Chaos.” More recently, she adapted Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Masque of the Red Death” into a massive, 400-page graphic novel, a futuristic retelling that is currently in development as a Broadway-style stage thriller.
As ELFQUEST approaches the completion of its fourth decade, Wendy and Richard have partnered with Dark Horse Comics to bring the ongoing saga to new audiences worldwide. (Marking another milestone, ELFQUEST is the only independent comic also to have been published by the “Big Three” of American mainstream comics publishers: Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse.) The newest chapter in the ongoing saga, “Final Quest” will see the completion of at least one major character’s mythic story arc.
In a way, the path taken by Wendy and Richard Pini echo the same classic hero’s journey, which always begins with the call to adventure. In 1977, the films “Wizards” and “Star Wars” were released within weeks of each other. Together they sparked a renaissance, in popular culture, of interest in fantasy and science fiction. Wendy, only for a moment, considered the possibility of working for “Wizards” director Ralph Bakshi (who was by then developing his animated version of “Lord of the Rings”). Richard threw down the gauntlet by pointing out, “You’ve got a ton of your own stories that are way better. Why don’t you tell one of those instead of working for someone else?” Wendy responded, issuing her own challenge right back, by outlining the basic outline of ELFQUEST – which was so intriguing that it prodded Richard into learning, on the fly and from the ground up, the business of self-publishing. The twin calls to adventure had been given.
Four decades later, the couple have set their sights higher than ever before, and the quest goes ever on.