IMAGE EXPO: Eric Stephenson's Keynote Address Set to Reveal New Projects
The news broke Sunday on the Two-Headed Nerd podcast that Ape Entertainment is relaunching Poison Elves, the fantasy series by the late Drew Hayes that ran from 1991 to 2004. Now in an interview with Robot 6, Ape CEO David Hedgecock discusses his plans for both new comics and new editions of the older material, and provides an exclusive look at some of the art for the new series.
Robot 6: As Poison Elves has been out of print for a while, can you give us a quick idea of what it is about and why it is important?
David Hedgecock: Poison Elves is Bauhaus Tolkien filtered through a rockabilly sense of style. Poison Elves is rock ‘n’ roll comics at its finest — dirty, messy, flying in your face, all energy and heart with an innate sense of craft applied that makes you believe in magic.
Poison Elves is the story of Lusiphur, an elf with an attitude. Lusiphur is a thief, an assassin, a force of nature that will wipe you clean from the map if you dare to call him foe. He has a disdain for authority and lives by a moral code that others might question (and often do). He is also the reluctant key player in a grand tapestry of events that may very well decide the fate of his world and all those who live upon it.
Poison Elves was one of the most successful black-and-white “indy” comics ever produced. In his time the creator, Drew Hayes, produced over 100 issues worth of material. The book spawned trading cards, statuettes, spin-off titles and more. It was a seminal work of the ’90s, a modern-day Cerebus if you will.
It has been over five years since Drew Hayes died. Why is this a good time to revive Poison Elves, and conversely, what took you so long?
The universe needed a moment to mourn. Everyone who was ever involved with Poison Elves, from fan to publisher, needed to take a moment and catch their breath. I think that has happened now. I think we’ve all had sufficient time to reflect on what Poison Elves was and what Drew Hayes meant to the book. Now it’s time to go about the business of honoring the legacy left behind by finishing the work that was started.
When Poison Elves came into the industry it was at a time when we still had experimentation and change and “New” things weren’t a threat but, rather, were welcomed with open arms. It’s time for that again. I think Poison Elves can help bring that thirst for wonder and exploration back to this medium.
What sort of negotiations did you have to go through to get the rights?
The approach was always more about IF we should do the book not CAN we do it. There were many days and nights spent in discussion about the appropriateness of this project and whether or not we could match the sort of energy and intensity that the original series had.
Robb Horan of Sirius Entertainment Group (the Poison Elves rights holders) and I literally sent a Manifesto’s worth of material to one another discussing the merits of the project and whether or not it was something that the fans and Drew, if he were alive, would want to see.
How did you assemble the creative team?
I knew Robb Horan would be the writer of the series within the first month of our discussions about the project. It was clear to me that he was the only person who could appreciate the scope of the project, who had the reverence for the material and still had the power to boldly go forward in new directions when it was needed.
Surprisingly, I don’t think Robb knew that until I told him he was the man for the job.
Robb is the keeper of the secrets. He knows just as much or more than anyone about what Drew was doing with the Poison Elves mythos.
At first, I thought Robb would just be plotting and we would bring in someone to assist with scripting, but Robb has proven beyond a doubt that he is up to the entire task. The story he is weaving is rich and exciting and will leave fans new and old breathless with anticipation from issue to issue.
The interior artist, Osvaldo Montpeller (Montos for short), is from the Alfredo Alcala school of comic art and is one of the few artists working in comics right now who still has a full appreciation for pen and ink. When Montos became available and expressed a willingness to join the team, I knew we had a complete package.
We have other members of the team such as Darick Robertson (THE Darick Robertson!) handling covers with Diego Rodriguez on colors. The first two covers are finished and they are stunning. We also have Keith Davidsen, another Poison Elves alum, joining Shannon Ritchie to create back-up story material to help bring readers up to speed on the PE world as we get rolling.
They are all, every one, powerful engines of creation.
Did Hayes leave an indication of how the story was to continue?
Drew left behind a copious amount of notes for continuation and completion of the Poison Elves series. While there is plenty of room for us to expand and move and play, we have an ending and we intend to eventually get there.
Who do you think the audience is for this comic — fans of the original or a new generation of readers?
You are also publishing new collected editions of the original comics. What will those be like?
Massive, digest-sized tomes with hundreds of pages in each volume (four volumes in all). If you are familiar with Terry Moore’s Pocket Book collections of the Strangers in Paradise series, we will be doing something very similar.
We want everyone to have access to the early material in a handsome format that is easily priced.
Will these comics have letters pages or a way for the audience and the creators to interact, as the originals did?
Absolutely. We will revive the letters page if there are enough fans who wish to voice their opinion. It was an integral part of the original series and we are excited at the possibility of bringing it back.
Will there be a digital edition?
Yes. We have big plans for the original material. It has never been released digitally and we are currently in the process of correcting that in a way that still feeds customers back to our retail partners in comic shops everywhere. Our success will come from comic stores; we know that and want to help them succeed.
What is the biggest challenge in a project like this?
I have such love for this book. It really was one of those defining things that pushed me towards a career working in this field. The hardest part for me is keeping a sense of perspective and trusting the people around me to tell me if something we are doing is too insular or not daring enough.
Outside of that, this comic is one of the true joys of my work right now. I am so proud of the book we are putting together and I can’t wait for people to see it.
How does this series fit into your publishing program at Ape Entertainment?
Ha! It doesn’t. At least not at the moment. We will be announcing a new mature-readers imprint here at Ape called Outlaw. Poison Elves will be the flagship title of that new imprint. In the months to come, we will be carefully adding a few projects to the imprint as people, hopefully, come to appreciate our abilities in that arena.
For the past few years, our focus has been growing the market through the all-ages category. I think, in many ways, we have succeeded in the goal. I think now we would like to add another layer to our publishing program and come back to the center and really give the existing fan base a book that is all the things they expect from a comic — action, adventure, romance, heroes, villains — and do it in a way that is fresh and exciting.
There seems to be a renaissance of 1990s comics lately, from the return of Valiant to Dark Horse’s new edition of Nexus. Do you see something in that era that is speaking to modern audiences?
There were some true gems published in the ’90s. I think many fans remember some of these books with great fondness. Reviving these properties is a good way to energize the fan base and get them thinking outside the “Big Two” again.