Couple weeks back BoingBoing had a guestpost by Maja D’aoust, praising the undersung artistry of Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest. I think this is right. Elfquest doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Proto-American manga, early independent comics self-publishing. Why doesn’t everyone who prides themselves about knowing comics feel obliged to have read a bit of Elfquest? I’m sure this is due in large part to geek culture bias in favor of fanboyish - as opposed to fangirlish - productions. (Dumb guy stuff can be the greatest stories ever told. Everyone knows that. But dumb girly stuff generally can’t catch a break. Chick lit just isn’t cool.) So I’m glad to see new Pini stuff presented on BoingBoing. More power to them!
Anyway, I bring a unique perspective to this issue because my daughters forced me to read them most of the online archive of Elfquest in nightly audiobook installments. (I think I managed to convince them to let me give up after “Two-Spear”.) I have seriously read a lot of Elfquest out loud, dude. And the main thing I learned is: it’s written quite well, as comics go. My daughters have also made me read them other comics. X-Men, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans. Most of that stuff doesn’t read out at all well, and very little reads out as well as Elfquest. Also, Elfquest is the sort of thing that you might think would be - erm - a bit inappropriate for really young children, what with high elves mating with wolves and all that. But if you’ve already read the kids Greek mythology - and a bunch of other mythologies I could mention - you know there’s no problem here, so long as you are judiciously indefinite about the mechanics of it, as the Pinis are. (There’s nothing explicit in these comics.) Little girls are uninterested in sex but are interested in babies, and animals, so stories in which strange creatures have hybrid family trees are interesting to them. It doesn’t end up being any more squicky than reading them D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths. (Not that I’m recommending you read your kid Elfquest, High Ones preserve us! That was a chore.)
It’s not the case that comics work as audiobooks to the extent that they are good comics, of course. Zoe is down with flu at the moment and I tried reading her some Tintin but it doesn’t work. Hergé is so good at storytelling in pictures that it’s hard to get the pacing right. Also, it sounds strange to read Snowy’s lines out loud. (Snowy ‘talks’ more than almost any other character, what with all those little asides.)
Atomic Robo reads out really well, on the other hand. As audiobook comics go, Robo is tops. Zoe gives it two thumbs up.
All Stan Lee stuff is just terrible. As Harrison Ford said to George Lucas: you can write this stuff, but you can’t say it.