Elf Life is another of the second wave of comics I started reading (again, thanks to Clan of the Cats, which did a double-crossover with both Elf Life and Alice, though the archives are currently AWOL), and again, one that I put aside for a bit before returning to. I was bemused by its caption: Our elves have lives; a dig at the Pinis with Cutter and Skywise and the rest of their alien elf brethren who seemed too busy with their various conflicts and quests to bother living. And Elf Life was good. It was amusing and twisty and there were hints of an underlying story that crept along.
As with other comics, it too ran into trouble, when CarsonFire started having his real life intruding on the nice little fantasy world of webcomics. Updates started to fluctuate, and this was at a time when the storyline itself was turning darker and more dramatic. Carson tried to compensate with sections of text to tell the story. It was a decent enough concept… and if Carson had added small pictures to illustrate what he’d been telling, maybe it would have worked. Unfortunately, the text updates started coming more and more frequently, and combined with several hiatuses, I gave up hope and left.
(As an aside, I’d been thinking of doing something similar – turning the original Tangents webcomic into an illustrated story on-line. CarsonFire’s attempt at this was a sign that while it’s an innovative concept… it just doesn’t work very well. Reinder of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan also did this, though slightly differently, and again, it fell a little flat. I guess that webcomics are webcomics, and prose fiction is prose fiction. Combining the two just doesn’t work very well.)
And as with other comics, I would occasionally glance at Elf Life and see what was going on, but not stick around long. Until finally… Carson realized that his latest, greatest story was flawed. It was too grandeous, too overreaching, and it was not drawing in new readers. Indeed, Carson had only a core of readers left, not enough to help him make a living doing this work of love.
So he started over. Big-time.
Several cartoonists have started over. Hell, entire comicbook universes (*cough*DC*cough*) have hit the reset button. I myself was going to restart the web-comic that originally occupied these pages (don’t look for it, I removed it from the archives, evil writer that I am). But Carson decided to do something… innovative.
Instead of restarting the entire thing, CarsonFire just started telling the prequel of Elf Life, from when Baughb the Elf first appeared on Alfheim. Back in a time when Elf Life was actually funny and lighthearted. Carson also took what he learned artistically and applied it to the comic: the artwork is quite beautiful (and distinctive).
While the comic does diverge from time to time (like the short “Sprite Reads Comics” storyline which, while amusing, wasn’t quite what I expected with Elf Life) and has dark undertones, it continues to rise above the quagmire that was the Wedding Storyline. Carson has also stated he plans on continuing with this prequel, and later do the Wedding in a dead-paper comicbook format or the like.
Anyway, Elf Life is back, and well worth a look, whether you’re an old fan looking to restart, or someone new and wanting to read an interesting and innovative fantasy comic. The restart is just a couple months ago so it won’t take a week to catch up on.
Addendum Note: Elf Life has once again (as of 2008) been infected with prose, partly due to Carson’s problems with his back. Still, the archives are worth reading, as is the relaunched comics. As for the prose itself? I’ve not checked it out and am unlikely to do so. I remember the Elf Life of old… and I’ve seen this format fail more than once. Still, I wish Carson luck in this endeavor of his.