Robot 6

Exclusive first look at Ape Entertainment’s Poison Elves revival

Darick Robertson's cover for the first issue of the new Poison Elves comic

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.

Osvaldo Montpeller's variant cover

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.

Terry Moore's variant cover

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?

YES!

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.

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Comments

22 Comments

This is unexpected news. For it’s time, Poison Elves was a nice contemporary take on the fantasy genre with Drew Hayes dark sarcastic humor the drive behind it. As long as the character voices stay intact. this book will be a great read.

Thanks to Brigid and Robot 6 for covering the announcement and for taking the time to work up this interview. You are all very much appreciated!

GENERIC ERIC-
I’m a massive fan of Poison Elves and I am confident that we have kept the tone and voice of the book intact. As a teaser: anything that DOES feel different is on purpose and WILL be explained!

Oh my GOD!!!! This is the most unexpected but greatest news ever! Poison Elves has to be my favorite comic series of all time. I just recently filled the holes in my collection after stopping in the 90′s for whatever reason. Reading them from start to finish again really made me lament the series and the 90′s indy sensibilities. I really hoped but never thought we would get more. They have some big shoes to fill, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Totally made my day!

This, to me, is possibly the greatest comic book news ever! I LOVE PE and still think about Drew from time to time… I wish I could’ve been involved, but I am SO pumped it’s coming back! I am SO geeked out!

My love of Ape, my disappointment in this weekend’s news from one of the Big Two, and a longtime admiration for Drew and his work… This couldn’t have reached me on a better day.

I’m officially signed on for this. Having Darick on the cover… It’s like you think it’s my birthday or something.

DUHRIL- hooray! You made my day too.
Melanie- Thanks! Every day I get some new PE in my email. It is like Christmas 7 days a week. I can’t wait to share it with Everyone!
Corey- You and I must have the same birthday!

Not sure we mentioned it but- the first issue is already DONE. In the can. Finished. So, preorder #1 with complete confidence when the January Previews comes out at the end of the month!

Thanks D… i haven’t been in a comic shop in in months, and honestly i went a stretch of 3-4 years without ever stepping foot in a comic shop…TRUST me when I tell you, I will be there with bells on! This is the single greatest thing to happen in comics since drew started PE so long ago. His work has been an inspiration for a long time for me. To see his legacy carried on is a dream come true!

Digest size? Uh oh. I love manga, but English comics reprinted for digest size often have near unreadably small text. I don’t really dig comics made smaller.

Still, very cool to see Poison Elves continue.

Wow! What a great way to start a week. Best comic news in ages. My wife and I have been following Drew’s comic since I, Lucifer, and we had many a conversation with him. We were sad the day we heard of his passing, and we miss him all the time. I can not wait till this comes out. We will be there to pick up each issue, and hope that it continues for a long time. Rest In Peace Drew, you were a great entertainer.

Sam & Gina

I had mixed thoughts about this when I first saw the news a little while earlier at Bleeding Cool, but reading this more in depth piece about PE and seeing some more of the artwork has got me very, very excited for it. PE is one of my all time favorite series, and after Drew Hayes’ all-too-soon passing, I had contented myself with having the back issues to re-read and imagine where things could have gone. If the series can maintain the “voice” that Hayes created for Lusiphur and the cast, then it will be something truly special to have PE back on the comic racks. I look forward to seeing the first issue with great anticipation.

Melanie- I look forward to knowing that I won’t be the only person in a comic shop on March 20th waiting impatiently for my pull order. :)

PyschoGoatee- It’s the cheapest way for everyone to catch up. We want the old material to be EASY and AFFORDABLE to get. We have plans for some REALLY high end collections down the road but we need everyone to support these new versions first. I promise the digest looks good. I’ve seen the cleaned up scans reduced to the digest size and they read great.

Sam & Gina- I was too shy to ever walk up to Drew and hold a conversation with him. He was too far within my pantheon of ‘Comic Gods’ to have the guts to think of him as just another guy. I did get the nerve to briefly tell him how much I loved his work and how much it meant to me. I am eternally grateful for that.

Andrew- Glad to hear we have started to win you over already. Everyone working on the project is doing their level best to make great work. I hope you give us a chance on March 20th and that you let us know how we are doing once you see the finished product!

OMG This is the biggest news for me in years! VERY VERY excited and will be on the look out for any and all information regarding this! I will be ordering anything and everything with it! THANK YOU APE! I’ve been a huge PE fan since the mid 90′s and actually re read all my trades at least once a year! I’ve missed not having new Drewisms so much!

I think this is possibly the single greatest news I could have received about comics. Since Drew died I’ve really lost interest in comics, because PE was the voice I felt I could have had, the style and content and just presence of it spoke to so many people on so many levels. This is great news, I’m already excited about it and I can tell from the interview and the brief artwork that they have the ideal team.

Bravo one and all, bring it on.

Like all of the above, so do I. Will be waiting with antisipation.

Jake- I’ll count on you to help us spread the word! Thank you for your energy!
Harv- I know exactly how you feel regarding the old series and I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear the positive reaction from you and everyone else. We can’t be exactly like Drew, no one can, but we will be celebrating and honoring the PE legacy with all our energy and heart. I am so thrilled to hear that you and others posting will be joining us!
Chris V- thank you! Me too!

That is fabulous news to hear! I started to tear up after reading this! I just so happen to pull out the first issue of I, Lusiphur again yesterday to start from the beginning again. Now, after hearing such great news, it just gives me more reason to reread them again, so by the time I get to the end, the first issue will be out.

Any idea on when we can begin pre-ordering it?

Issue #1 will be in the January Previews out at the end of the month. There will be a full page ad for it. Tell your local comic shop you want one some time in January and you should have no trouble!

This is so friggin’ awesome!!! I’ve been a huge fan of PE since it began at Sirius. I knew something was up when I had a quick conversation with Robb over email at the begining of the year, but never dreamed it would be something this big.

Please tell me his daughter will reap some of the rewards from this. I promise to be there for as long as this goes on. I’m sure you guys with do Drew proud.

Issue #36 brought me into the comic book world of Poison Elves. After that, I got my hands on everything Poison Elves related that I could find. I never had the pleasure of meeting Drew Hayes, but it still hit my heart hard when he passed. I felt like he was a close friend from his books and all the starting notes I had read. To see his work being honored in this way, by people that knew him the best, warms my heart in ways that I cannot explain. I have no doubt these people can honor Drew (and Lusiphur) in the way it was meant to be. I’m very excited to see the project come to life and I’ll be one of the first preordering the new books. I can’t wait!

*continuation of above comment.*

We also have a group on facebook of some diehard fans of Drew’s work. We’d love to meet some new PE fans that are just as excited over the new books as we are.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ilusiphur/

Sara- the project has the blessing of Drew’s daughter. I would have it no other way.
Obduratekitti- thanks so much for your confidence. My hope is that we can turn this into one big PE celebration, in honor of Mr. Hayes, that we all get to enjoy right up to the end.

“It’s the cheapest way for everyone to catch up. We want the old material to be EASY and AFFORDABLE to get. We have plans for some REALLY high end collections down the road but we need everyone to support these new versions first. I promise the digest looks good. I’ve seen the cleaned up scans reduced to the digest size and they read great.”

Right on, cool to hear you’ll be doing other versions later. But I will say, I have the Mulehide Collection, and indeed some of the text can very small already. Just saying, I do think some of it will be hard to read in the smaller digest format. I know some full-size black & whites sell very well, like the Judge Dredd Case Files. So personally, I can’t support the digest versions, but I do look forward to the later versions you mentioned.

And needless to say, great news that you’re continuing this great comic.

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