Let’s talk today about Elflord a little bit, since a relaunch of it is currently being Kickstarted by the people here at Outland Entertainment. This was probably Barry Blair’s most popular project, I think because of the popularity of the fantasy genre.
Tonally, this comic had a lot in common with the old Rankin-Bass adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There is a general feeling of lightheartedness to the story, but there is a great deal of darkness that lurks just beneath the surface. Like Tolkien’s hobbits, the elves of Blair’s stories reflect a childlike innocence that becomes corrupted by the world around them. It is almost as if this is a metaphor for adulthood or something
I will freely admit that there are some uncharitable reads of the Elflord stories, due to the youthful and androgynous manner in which Blair drew his elves…and the situations that he sometimes put the characters into, but I think that is being uncharitable to Blair.
Fantasy was in the air for comic creators at this point in time, probably due to the rising popularity of the Conan and Red Sonja books and magazines put out by Marvel, in addition to the above mentioned Rankin-Bass cartoons. DC Comics was also doing new fantasy titles like Arak or Amethyst over on their side of things. Not only was Blair doing Elflord, but there was the humorous Trolllords comic from Apple Comics (also one-time publisher of Elf Quest) and The Realm from Arrow / Caliber Comics. Not to mention the granddaddy of elf comics: Elf Quest. Much like in fantasy literature, each of these comics had their own approach to fantasy. Elflord blurred a lot of the genre lines by taking parts from more Tolkien-esque high fantasy and the more swords & sorcery approach of writers like Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan).
A lot of the visceralness of the Elflord comics are taken from the swords & sorcery tradition. Characters get drunk in taverns and find themselves in brawls, taking a page directly from the works of Howard. While at the same time, there are immensely huge events happening with kings and nations and powerful magics that provides the backdrop for the stories of the individual characters. Yes, Elflord did draw heavily upon the inspirations of Elf Quest for this, but at the same time Blair filtered all of these concepts through his own imagination to create something unique from its inspirations.
Whether in the classic Elflord stories, or the upcoming Elflord Reborn comics, fans of comic fantasy will find something of interest in the worlds of these comics. There are well-developed characters, with unique personalities, and a rich world with a deep history. There is action. There are intrigues. There are stories that draw in the reader and suck them along through the adventures of the characters. If you are a fan of fantasy literature in comics and you haven’t yet read Elflord, you are certainly missing out on a great adventure.
Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.
Check out last weeks’ posts: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton, Barry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton, Barry Blair's Samurai by Christopher Helton!
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