The Dialogue #4: Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes

Published Monday, 14th of January, 2013. 17 minutes

Today, I had the good fortune of sitting down to talk to Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes, who have recently been given the movie and television rights to the ElfQuest franchise!

You can read the interview below or scroll all the way down to the bottom and press play to listen to it!

CSICON: We’re back again with another episode of The Dialogue, my name is Breki Tomasson. I’m joined today by Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes; hello!

Paula & Stephanie: Hi! Hi!

Paula: We’re just dancing to your intro music.

CSICON: It’s very nice, I know, I know; one of my favorite songs. So; the two of you are heavily involved in the Elfquest franchise. To our younger listeners, I suppose, could you just give us a very quick background on what is Elfquest?

Paula: Ooh, yeah! So, Elfquest is a comic book that has been around for thirty-five years as of this year. We’ve loved it our entire lives, but you can find out more about that, I suppose, in a second.

Stephanie: Exactly, both Paula and I discovered the series when we were about eight years old …

Paula: And it’s been a kind of a vanguard of the indie comic scene, in that it started off being self-published and then eventually it was picked up by Marvel and then DC and now about to announce another really big one but they’re not quite letting everybody know just yet, so we’re very excited to bring that out. It covers the story of the adventures of these elves, who aren’t – you know – Christmas elves, they’re more of the gritty, sexy, sort of in the woods-elves. If follows their search as they’re burned from their forest home by humans, for a new home. In that search they discover something that they didn’t know existed, that there are other tribes of elves out there. And then, ultimately, they attempt to reunite them with varying degrees of success.

CSICON: Personally, I was very happy to hear that there was somebody finally working on an Elfquest movie; much more than when I heard about Captain America, Iron Man, Batman or any of the comic book movies of late. Why do you think Elfquest resonates so much with its fans?

Stephanie: I think it resonates with its fans on many levels. Wendy and Richard Pini are really incredible visionaries and the art, first and foremost, that Wendy has drawn in these comic books is just so beautiful and I think a lot of people are really attracted to it for that reason, but also because of, you know, the stories of this grand adventure that Cutter and his tribe go on are, despite them being elves, they’re very human stories. We’re looking at the hero’s quest here. For Paula and I, all these female characters that we found when we were eight were great role models for us. It’s great to see female characters that didn’t have to be saved by men, they were leaders in their own right, so these graphic novels, these comic books of Elfquest really speak to people on a lot of different levels, and there’s something for everyone in them.

Paula: Yeah; they deal with problems that we recognize in our world now around us, and yet they deal with them in ways that I think we only wish humans would deal with them.

CSICON: That’s a very interesting perspective. It’s something that a lot of comic books don’t really do all that well.

Paula: Yeah; true. And they were definitely ahead of their time as they dealt with things that were a lot more taboo at the time and I think, as children coming to it and loving it our whole lives, it would be impossible for us to have been opposed to those things that parts of society looked down upon just because these characters we loved showed that it wasn’t a big deal. It helped us have an open mind. It really shaped a lot of – and a lot of other fans’ – view of love and the world and I thank both Wendy and Richard for that.

CSICON: Why do you think there hasn’t been an Elfquest until the two of you decided to tackle the project? I mean; there have been a lot of attempts, but none of them ever went anywhere.

Stephanie: There have been a lot of attempts. The property has lived at several different studios and indie producers as well for a number of years, and it’s always ended up in what Hollywood refers to as a development hell where the project stalls and eventually the rights lapse and return.

Paula: I think that was sort of what brought us into the fold. At around this time last year, when the WB didn’t re-up the option and the rights reverted back to Wendy and Richard, we were disappointed because, as all the other fans, we really wanted this to come to fruition on our screens and so we kind of sat back for a second and looked at why this hadn’t worked before. We identified a number of things, including the fact that up until recently, the only way they could have done this would have been animation. That’s the only way you could have brought a world to life that involves riding bulls wolves and telepathic sending and four fingers and all otherwise. So we only recently had the technology to make a live action version or a CGI version. Also, a movie is a possibility … We have the movie and TV rights, so we have options to look at as well.

We kind of looked at why it hadn’t worked in the film format before. People usually tried to fit way too much story into the ninety minutes to two hours, which requires cutting of characters and plot lines, and that loses a lot of what Elfquest is. So we aim to not do that.

Stephanie: Exactly, we want to really keep the heart of the story. There are so many fans, world-wide. This has been published in twelve different countries, in five languages, we want to please the fans who have been waiting so long to see Elfquest come to the screen in some way, but also the joy for Paula and us is the possibility of creating new fans and sharing with the world a property that we’ve loved almost our entire lives.

CSICON: I think a lot of people discovered Elfquest – especially younger people – discovered Elfquest after they saw your fan trailer.

Stephanie: Wow, that’s great!

Paula: That’s absolutely been one of the highlights of our life so far, I would say. We have gotten so many messages and even personal face-to-face time with people letting us know that they’ve in love with this series or that, because they saw our trailer, we steered them towards the website, to discover the comics themselves. They’re falling in love with the world too, and so that’s been really wonderful to share it with more people; young and old, it seems to not pay attention to age nor any other demographic, it’s kind of universal.

CSICON: I remember reading Elfquest when I was … ten, maybe twelve years old, back in the late 80s, early 90s, and it’s really a comic that speaks to people on so many different levels. You can read it as a young person and take something away from it and read it as an older person and take something completely different away.

Paula: Yes, as you mentioned, we often laugh at the fact that we read this as small children, six, seven, eight, nine, ten-year olds, and yet it does have some very sexy and very dark subject matter, very graphic stuff on occasion! Yet, when we were younger and read it, that stuff didn’t phase us, it must have just not kind of hit home …

Stephanie: I think, as a child, you take what you want and your brain accepts what it can and glosses over the rest …

Paula: So when we read it as older kids …

Stephanie: … we were, like, “How were we allowed to read this?!”

Paula: That must be why we must be so depraved! All these elf-orgies and things; amazing! But yeah; it has different appeal for different ages.

Stephanie: Absolutely. We’ve had a number of male friends who have confessed to us, they were like “Elfquest was our sexual awakening in our early adolescence, and I feel like I can admit that to you girls, because you understand.”

CSICON: Yeah, I feel I must admit the very same thing.

Paula: *laughs*

Stephanie: There you go. It’s a very sexy comic, and we hope we don’t lose that sexiness as we translate it into a different medium.

CSICON: Sure. But; I mean, will it be family-friendly still, I mean; as the comics were, people could read them at a very young age and, like I said, take something completely different away, will it be something that the eight-year old children will be able to watch with their parents, maybe, or are you aiming at more of a PG-13 type audience?

Paula: We are … I’ll tell you without giving too much away. We have a plan A, that we are hotly pursuing, and that plan – should it come to fruition – would … The PG-or-not-PG:ness of it would kind of be determined by who we partner with – I guess, the distributor, but we don’t want to dull the edges of Elfquest, we don’t want to dumb it down, although there is the option – we see this as a huge franchise, it could be in multiple …

Stephanie: Medias. Platforms.

Paula: We could have, you know, the tent pole film or show, and then it could also have companion series that are animated for children. There’s an entire world to discover within Elfquest, and – without giving away plan A, because we don’t want plan A to feel less loved if we end up going with it – yeah; it’s exciting, and I think we, ideally, want to keep the edges of Elfquest sharp, but still introduce new fans to it – maybe not as young as we were when we were introduced to it …

Stephanie: And probably, one of the things that Paula and I are interested in doing, as well, is updating the brand. You know; these comic books started in the late 70s, and have continued until today with Final Quest being released weekly on Boingboing [here. – Ed. Note], the prologue to the new series, and Final Quest, that is about to come out. We’re looking at updating it, bringing it into the current market. A trend in comic movies, super hero movies, fantasy movies, television and films as well is a darker and grittier take on things.

Paula: Which is all there in Elfquest already, so we wouldn’t be changing anything, more just …

Stephanie: … bringing those elements out …

Paula: Yeah, which is … when we presented our idea to Wendy and Richard, in order to get the rights, they were really excited with our take on it, because they saw that we were staying true to the heart of it and yet making it really accessible to current audiences.

CSICON: Without giving too much away, are you going to be telling a completely new and original story or will it be based on the original comics’ story lines?

Paula: We hope to tell the original stories …

Stephanie: And keep it based on the comic books; which isn’t to say that there isn’t room for ancillary material and the ability to delve into characters that are well loved by fans that they didn’t see enough of.

Paula: A lot of that exists; I mean, they entire backstories for Kahvi and other elves, so it’s all there, it’s such a huge, rich, deep world, so we look at all those possibilities.

Stephanie: There are hours and hours of content and libraries of stuff for us to go through and really create a whole world out of this, which brings us back to what we touched on before, that the comic books are continuing and that big announcement is coming and, as well, this is a project that can exist on multi-platforms.

CSICON: I understand you’re not shooting quite yet, but how far along in pre-production are you?

Stephanie: We are at the beginning of pre-production.

Paula: I would say … I don’t know how familiar you and your audience are with this stuff; we’re not aiming to do an indie film in the sense that we did the trailer; these are two totally separate beasts. The trailer we made, without any intention of getting the rights, that stands alone as our fan interpretation of … obviously, there are no male characters in that, because we needed to put our own legal spin on it as the studio held the rights to it at the time and we happened to know all these ladies that looked like the elves, so we played to our strengths there and protected ourselves a bit, but of course, for this next project, it would involve male characters, as would be needed for all the story lines.

Stephanie: That’s the biggest thing that we want to reassure fans about, that you will see Cutter and Skywise, the male characters ..

Paula: Right, it was not a trailer for whatever we will be making. We’re in the looking-for-our-partners, basically, seeing who we’re going to team up with, to bring in to the next phase, because this isn’t going to be some little … as amazing as it was and as much fun as we had and as proud of it as we are, this isn’t us going into the woods with our friends to make a trailer again, even though all the people involved, we should stress, are professionals and we’re blessed to work with them, this is going to be a much – we’re hunting a much bigger game here, so this isn’t something where we get to just dive into pre-production and hand-sowing costumes.

Stephanie: We’re at the very critical juncture of assembling our team and making sure we have; other than Paula and I, who are very important, there are other members of the team who we want to make sure we get the right people involved, who understand the series and this property …

Paula: … and who can get us in through the right doors, to get to the right platforms. But you know, it’s been really exciting, the people we’ve been meeting with and vetting so far, there are a lot more Elfquest fans than we knew …

Stephanie: And we love it! We love it when they come crawling out of the woodwork …

Paula: That’s who we wanted to be! We wanted to be the lightning rod for them to rally around!

Stephanie: Exactly! And if you’re an Elfquest fan out there, feel absolutely welcome to contact us online; we make ourselves available. You can reach me at TheStephThorpe on Twitter, or on my Facebook page, and we also have an e-mail as well, or reach Paula at …

Paula: @Paula_Rhodes, and I have a web series, OfficialPaulaRhodes.com, where they can find all my other stalkable stuff.

Stephanie: Oh, and my website, TheStephanieThorpe.com will also get you to our e-mail, just look.

CSICON: Great; all of these links will be in the show notes for our listeners. … So, what is – final question now – what does the schedule look like now, and what can fans expects to see in the next couple of weeks or months?

Stephanie: Well, we’re very thrilled that all this is coalescing in what is Elfquest’ 35th anniversary, thirty-five this year, so over the next couple of months, hopefully, Paula and I have some big announcements about …

Paula: Who to team up with, who our team will be, …

Stephanie: Who our team will be and other fun things that will hopefully really get the brand of Elfquest out there and accessible in different ways.

Paula: Yeah, I guess if people aren’t familiar with the film and TV world, things move a lot slower than you think they do, so although in the web series we were able to announce in September, have the funds by January, start filming in February and have it ready to debut in April, that’s the speed of light compared to the film industry.

Stephanie: We nearly killed ourselves in March to make that happen.

Paula: And that was for five minutes! So; this – I wouldn’t expect cameras to be rolling on something like this for well over a year at this point, depending on who we team up with, because it’s a lot bigger cogs that we’re having to turn, but we’re really excited about that, because that does mean that we’ll be able to get it to a much wider audience.

Stephanie: Exactly. And then, things that will be happening in the next few months, because of the 35th anniversary, Wendy and Richard will be appearing at a lot of conventions, Emerald City Con up in Seattle; they’re at Albuquerque ComicCon right now this weekend and they’ll be back at ComicCon in the summer as well.

Paula: And we’ll be floating around here and there as well, that does .. we tend to make some ComicCon appearances.

Stephanie: No; we wouldn’t miss it.

CSICON: All right! Well; any final words you want to share with us before we say good bye for today?

Stephanie: We just want to – I guess we just want to thank all the fans for their support, …

Paula: We’re two of them!

Stephanie: We’re two of them; we wouldn’t be here and we’re just so excited about the future and …

Paula: If they have concerns, ideas, exciting people that they want to put us in touch with, by all means, reach out to us, we’re pretty accessible, let us know; we’re definitely listening.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Paula: I will say that the thing that is funniest about the trailer is that some people do seem very confused about the fact that it’s not the trailer for the project we’re doing. I’d just like to stress that and do your research; we’ve done a lot of interviews on that and we’re happy to share any of them with them before they get too worried that there won’t be boys. I promise, there will be boys.

Stephanie: And as I said many times before, I’m looking forward to those casting sessions with their shirts off, *laugh*

CSICON: All right! I hope I can talk to you again, maybe in a year or so when things have moved along.

Stephanie: We’ll definitely keep you in the look as developments come down the pike.

CSICON: Oh, brilliant. All right; well, thank you very much and I’ll talk to you later!

Paula: Thank you!

Stephanie: Wonderful! Take care!

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