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Interview: Wendy Pini

Artist and Creator of Masque of the Red Death and Elfquest

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Audry Taylor and Wendy Pini at Yaoi-Con 2008

Audry Taylor and Wendy Pini at Yaoi-Con 2008

Courtesy of Go! Comi

In the '70s, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were creating the X-Men, Iron Man... all those great characters you see in movies nowadays, these guys went to war. They were guys who had families that they needed to support. These were guys who lived; they had different jobs, they interacted with all kinds of people, and they had to struggle in their lives.

Now this fourth, fifth, sixth generation of people who grew up in front of their computers, playing video games, they don't know about that struggle. How can you write a superhero story if you haven't fought for something that you believe in? That's what a superhero is.

Q: That's true. People like that rarely deal with real life and death situations.

Wendy Pini: If you can just attack anyone anonymously on the Internet, where do you learn heart? Where do you learn courage? Where do you figure out, this is who I am, like it or not? You learn it by doing.

I recently read an article in O Magazine about Mary Wilshire. She's an old friend who has been in the (comics) business as long as I have. She was best known for drawing Red Sonja in the '80s.

In the article, she talked about her background, and described her family environment, and I thought, 'Holy crap! That's very similar to how I grew up!' An alcoholic father, her mother committed suicide when she was very young. She had to grow up real fast and take care of her brothers and sisters.

I grew up with an alcoholic father. My mother died when I was 26. My brother left home when I was 12. I got the brunt of all of my parents' problems, until I escaped when I was 19. I had to re-raise myself.

So what that tells me is that women who grow up in a survival situation, they grow up fast, gain guts, have a vision and feel compelled to tell their story.

Mary's choice was to work at a big company. My choice was to start a company. But either way, the fact is that she has survived in this business as long as she has -- that's not easy. This is not a system where, at the end of your service you get a pension.

You see these amazing, amazing old gentlemen in artists' alley at comic conventions selling their original art because they need the money. This is pretty unforgivable. But this is the way the industry is -- it's an industry for young guys, and it always will be.

Any woman who wants to survive in this business needs to get over herself, think of herself as one of the guys and get on with it. You can't bring feminist crap into this. You'll just get attacked. If you want to be attacked, well, fine. But if you want to work, give in, be one of the guys, respect them, respect yourself and don't expect them to take care of you emotionally, because they won't. That's the advice I'd give to any woman who wants to get into this business now.


CELEBRATING ELFQUEST'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY ONLINE

Q: It's hard to believe, but 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of Elfquest! Time flies.

Wendy Pini: Elfquest is now available as a digital comic, so everyone can enjoy it. This was Richard's idea, as a way to celebrate Elfquest's 30th anniversary. He said, 'Let's just put everything we've published online!'

It's available on Elfquest.com. We opened it up in mid-March 2008 and as of October 2008 we’ve received close to 57 million hits and over twenty million individual page views. Can you believe it? The importance of what Richard did for Elfquest this year with his brilliant idea to put everything online can’t be overstated. An entire new generation of online readers is evolving as a result.

I get feedback from 30-, 40-year olds who say 'I read this when I was 10!'They're re-reading the stories and seeing the layers of meaning that they didn't see when they were kids, but now understand them differently as adults. 'I didn't know that's what the story was about!'

Q: To me, Elfquest is timeless in many ways, even considering that it's been over 30 years since it first came out.

Wendy Pini: Not everyone feels that way! Some think that it looks cheesy! (laughs) If you just look at the surface, of course the bellbottoms and fur vests came from the '70s! I was a product of my time! Naturally, the designs I did reflect the '70s and '80s. I have no regrets about that. But some people discover it now, and think that it looks cheesy.

Q: So now that the DC Comics deal is over, are you looking for another venue, other ways to present Elfquest to new audiences?

Wendy Pini: Well, as many folks now know, just days after we spoke in June, Warner Brothers announced its pending option of film and other licensing rights to Elfquest. The announcement first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter and was instantly all over the Internet.

Optimistically, production will begin sometime in late 2009. How long will the movie take to complete and will it be live action or animated? We don’t know. But we’re posting all of the up-to-the-minute news we’re allowed to post at Elfquest.com. So please come visit us there to learn more than you’ll probably ever want to know about all things elfin.

Also, as of a few weeks ago, the first episode of Masque of the Red Death Volume Two went up in the web comics section at gocomi.com. I’m committed to finishing it so that the book can be released in time for San Diego Con 2009. Wish me luck!

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