Over the past few weeks I have been rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) from 2003, which is incredible, because I rarely rewatch anything unless a significant chunk of time like a year has passed or the media in question is a movie. In rewatch its a lot easier to pay attention to things in or about FMA like which actor is playing which character. At about 12 or more episodes in I realized that the name Sonny Strait, the actor who voices Maes Hughs, sounded familiar. Someday I will watch this series with subs.
At first I chalked the familiarity off to the fact that I had seen his name casually in the credits through the first watch through of both FMA and then Brotherhood, but there was something nagging me at the back of mind. If I hadn’t looked up Travis Willingham, the voice of Colonel Mustang, I never would have realized he’s played Thor in just about everything Marvel has animated in the past ten years. So, I looked him up and was very surprised by the results.
Sonny Strait, in addition to being a voice actor, script writer and director at Funimation, Sonny is also an Artist and colorist for Comic Books. Most of his 17 published works I’ve never heard of, but on that list are two comics that I have read many times; Elfquest: In All but Blood and Elfquest: Wolfshadow.
Sonny Strait did the art for two stories for and apprenticed as an artist under the main creator of possibly the longest running independently published comic book series of all time, Elfquest. While the stories he did the art for are not necessarily considered cannon, they are stories that I enjoy, and since they were written by the creator of the series they still hold merit. He is now the colorist for the currently running Elfquest: The Final Quest.
He’s a fair artist, an example of his work is this Elfquest poster he drew which you can find featured HERE. It’s supposed to have a Dragon Ball Z feel, I haven’t seen Dragon Ball so I can’t say if it does or not, but I like it! His work as a colorist on the other hand has been less then praised by fans as of late. Actually, most fans can agree that Elfquest: The Final Quest, the currently publishing comic he is coloring, has a lot to be desired in many areas.
Here’s where I stop talking about Sonny and this post turns into a bit of a shameless plug for my favorite comic book series of all time. Don’t worry though it all ties back into Manga.
Interestingly enough, this is not the only Manga and Anime related connection this series has enjoyed. Elfquest, first published in 1978, is hailed as the first Manga influenced American graphic novel. Many people will look at the art and see the ‘big eyes and small mouths’ and think that this is the only reason why Elfquest is given this distinction, but the story itself has the distinct and epic feel that at the time was only found in Manga.
The artist and main creator of Elfquest, Wendy Pini, was fascinated with animation and discovered Anime at a young age. Anime inspired her to create her own stories as a child that had slightly more dramatic and mature undertones then the comics being published at that time in the 60’s.
The art is inspired by the art nouveau movement, which grew out of the discovery of Japanese wooden block prints European Artists at the turn of the century. This is one of the reasons why it might have a bit of a Manga feel to it.
After having watched Anime and read some Manga I personally think that Elfquest’s distinction as being Manga inspired and Manga like holds up. It is a series that I would personally recommend for anyone that is a Manga and Anime fan (or anyone) to at least try.
Most people I recommend Elfquest to seem to shy away from the idea of reading the series, because most haven’t ever heard of it. Sadly, this isn’t so much due to the quality of the series as it is to the marketing strategies that the creators have used over the years. While the series has at times been reprinted through both Marvel and DC and is now being published through Dark Horse Comics, the creators seem to have a habit of burning those bridges when they move on and unfortunately, whenever discussions regarding a movie (there was talk with Disney at one time, some fans are honestly glad it fell through despite the publicity Elfquest would have received) or a television show occurred nothing ever came of them because compromises couldn’t be made.
Elfquest is about a race of aliens who took the shape of generic elves before landing on a planet and being attacked by the planets native primitive cavemen. After struggling to survive on this planet where they were stranded, known as the world of two moons, for countless years the tribe of elves known as the Wolfriders are driven from their home. The Wolfriders, a tribe of elves who bonded with wolves in order to survive, are the main protagonists through out most of the series, but they discover other tribes of elves as the series progresses.
For a series published in the 70’s and 80’s Elfquest had some great themes. The main them being interpreted as change is necessary in society and individuals for them to remain healthy. They must except change in their lives and take advantage of it for the betterment of all. Another theme one might find in Elfquest is a racial theme, mainly featured in interactions between elves and humans or elves and trolls. You will also find messages regarding sexuality throughout the series.
Elfquest is a beautiful work of art, with a story that digs deep and will pull at your heart and soul if you’ll let it. Unfortunately, the quality of the current series, Final Quest, is appalling in comparison to the works before it, with the story and art not holding up to the standards that fans are accustomed to. Since Final Quest is the most visible series we have had new readers come on board only to drop the series and they’ll probably never come back.
If you are interested in this series, after my shameless plug, I’m going to point you here. Nearly every single Elfquest story ever published, with the exception of the latest series, can be read for free on the official Elfquest website, something which can be looked at as another poor marketing decision, but something I am truly grateful for since I probably never would have read Elfquest otherwise. I suggest starting at the very beginning, since Elfquest is often very dependent on its previous history. I hope you find it to your tastes!
Here’s a video that showcases some of the art and story that was put out by the creators. Its a bit rough, since it was their first try and I honestly find the audio annoying at best, but I wanted to share it since I didn’t use many pictures to showcase Elfquest’s art.
nanowrimo blogging count: 2,676